(CNN) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its “high” risk category for five-seat travel on Monday and halted its Covid-19 program for cruise ships.
The agency said on its website it would continue to issue guidelines for cruise ships, but its voluntary cruise ship monitoring program ended on Monday.
In its separate list of Covid-19 travel advisories, the South American countries of Colombia and Paraguay moved to the Tier 3 “high” risk category along with Iraq in the Middle East and Kosovo. and North Macedonia in the Balkans.
The designation applies to places that have had more than 100 cases per 100,000 population in the past 28 days. Levels 2 and 1 are considered “moderate” and “low” risk respectively.
Kosovo climbed two rungs this week from Tier 1. The other four were previously ranked at Tier 2.
To recap, these five destinations received “high risk” designations on Monday:
• North Macedonia
There were approximately 115 destinations at Level 3 on July 18. Level 3 locations make up nearly half of the approximately 235 locations monitored by the CDC.
Level 4, previously the highest risk category, is now reserved only for special circumstances, such as an extremely high number of cases, the emergence of a new variant of concern or the collapse of healthcare infrastructures. health. Under the new system, no destinations have been placed at Tier 4 so far.
Learn more about cruise ships
The CDC’s cruise ship color status page, which on Friday listed most ships sailing in U.S. waters as “highly vaccinated” and color-coded orange, has been removed.
The orange designation indicated that the reported cases of Covid-19 on board had reached the CDC’s investigation threshold (0.3% or more of the total number of passengers and/or crew). The color status system changed from green to yellow to orange to red, with red status triggering additional Covid precautions.
The CDC said on its website that the color-coding system “depends on each cruise line having the same Covid-19 testing standards, which now may vary from cruise line to cruise line.” As a result, the cruise ship color status webpage has been retired.”
The agency said it would continue to provide testing recommendations to cruise lines and that ships would still report Covid cases to the CDC. Passengers can contact cruise lines directly to inquire about outbreaks on ships, the agency said.
The CDC said cruise lines have the tools and guidance to manage their own Covid mitigation.
“In addition, cruise passengers have access to recommendations that allow them to make informed decisions about cruise ship travel.”
Learn more about Level 3 travel advisories
The agency continues to make weekly updates to its Covid-19 travel advisories.
Much of Europe has been stubbornly lodged in Level 3 for months with the summer travel season in full swing. As of July 18, the following popular European destinations were among those remaining at Tier 3:
• The Netherlands
These aren’t the only high-profile locations that fall into Level 3. Many other destinations around the world fall into the “high” risk category, including:
• South Korea
Cape Town – with its stunning mountains, beaches and clear blue waters – is a travel hotspot in South Africa. The nation is now at level 2.
Dereje Belachew/Adobe Stock
Destinations with the designation “Tier 2: Moderate Covid-19” have reported 50 to 100 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population in the past 28 days. The CDC designated seven new Tier 2 seats on Monday:
• Ivory Coast (Ivory Coast)
• El Salvador
• South Africa
Six of the seven locations are in Africa.
The move was good news for Eswatini, Lesotho and South Africa, which all moved up from Tier 3.
Gabon, Ivory Coast and Mauritania all increased their risk level from Level 1. El Salvador, a Central American country, also increased by one risk level.
There are nearly 20 places in the “moderate” risk category this week.
To be listed as “Tier 1: Covid-19 Low”, a destination must have recorded 49 or fewer new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 28 days. A new location was added to the category on July 18: Liberia.
There are more than 35 places in the “low” risk category this week.
Indonesia, India and the Philippines are among the most popular places in the “low” risk category this week.
Finally, there are the destinations the CDC has deemed “unknown” risk due to a lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places where war or unrest is going on. Only one place was added to this category this week: Sri Lanka.
The CDC advises against travel to these places precisely because the risks are unknown. Other destinations in this category that generally attract more attention from tourists include French Polynesia, Hungary, Macau and the Maldives.
There are nearly 65 locations listed as “unknown” this week.
Medical expert weighs in on risk levels
Transmission rates are just a “benchmark” for travelers’ personal risk calculations, according to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.
We have entered “a phase of the pandemic where people have to make their own decisions based on their medical situation as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” said Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor. in Health Policy and Management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
There are other factors to weigh in addition to transmission rates, according to Wen.
“Another is what precautions are needed and followed where you are going, and then the third is what you plan to do once you get there,” she said.
“Are you planning on visiting a lot of attractions and going to indoor bars? It’s very different from going somewhere where you plan to lay on the beach all day and not interact with anyone outside. “other. It’s very different. It’s very different levels of risk.”
Vaccination is the most important safety factor for travel, as unvaccinated travelers are more likely to get sick and transmit Covid-19 to others, Wen said.
And it’s also important to think about what you would do if you became positive outside of your home.
Top image: A night view of Cartagena de Indias, a popular coastal city in Colombia. (singer/Adobe Stock)