US Will Extend Do Not Travel Order To Cover 80% Of Countries

In a bid to clarify its messaging, the State Department is reviewing its ‘do not travel’ order, beefing up the list to bring it in line with that of the Centers for Disease Control. The Department notes that as many as 80% of the world’s countries are likely to be added to the list, making hopes of an international summer vacation this year increasingly slim.

American 777-200ER
A staycation is looking like the best plan for summer 2021. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Clearing up confusion

To date, the advice from the US State Department has sometimes been in conflict with that of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For example, popular vacation hotspot Mexico has been ranked a level 4 destination by the CDC, meaning do not travel. But, at the same time, it has been ranked level 3 by the State Department, which means travel should be reconsidered but not necessarily avoided altogether.

In a bid to clear up this confusion, the State Department is reviewing its guidance to offer more clarity on where it is considered safe to travel at present. However, it’s not going to be a welcome outcome for those wishing to plan a summer trip, as the majority of the countries in the world will be added to the ‘do not travel’ list.

In a statement, the State Department said,

“As travelers face ongoing risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State will begin updating its travel advisories this week to better reflect the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s science-based Travel Health Notices that outline current issues affecting travelers’ health.

“Our advisories also take into account logistical factors, including in-country testing availability and current travel restrictions for U.S. citizens.”

Delta flight attendant
The Department will advise against travel to most of the world. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Currently, just 34 countries are on the ‘level 4: do not travel’ list. These include Brazil, Kenya, Tanzania and Russia. However, that number is going to seriously increase with this latest update.

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80% of countries to be added

While the State Department says it is working to bring its guidance in line with the CDC, it seems it could even exceed that threshold. The CDC currently has about 100 countries out of almost 200 on its level 4 status. But the State Department said in a statement that it expects to add around 80% of the world’s nations to its ‘do not travel’ order. It said,

“After this update, approximately 80% of countries will have a Travel Advisory Level of 4: Do Not Travel. This does not necessarily indicate a change to the current health situation in a given country. It reflects an adjustment in our system to give more weight to CDC’s existing assessments.”

Southwest plane
80% of countries are expected to be included. Photo: Getty Images.

80% would suggest that as many as 130 countries could be placed on the list, more than even the CDC has listed. While the Level 4 Travel Advisory does not make traveling to certain countries illegal, it is the strongest indication possible that the US does not support people visiting those countries. The State Department continued,

“We continue to strongly recommend U.S. citizens reconsider all travel abroad, and postpone their trips if possible.”

It’s not certain yet which countries will be added to the list.

Delta B767-400ER
Delta is the US’ top widebody operator by flights this summer. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

US airlines increasingly reliant on domestic markets

While the discouragement of travel is unwelcome for the aviation industry, US airlines have aligned a safety net for exactly this eventuality. All the major US carriers have been noted to be beefing up their domestic schedules, with some even laying on widebody service to maximize their appeal and profit-making capabilities.

The domestic US market is huge, and with plenty of vacation-worthy destinations within reach, the staycation market is likely to blossom this summer. Nevertheless, with almost 40% of US citizens having received at least one dose of the vaccine, there may be some who choose to ignore state advice and make the most of the borders that are slowly opening up.