The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added five countries to its list of Level 3 ‘high risk’ travel destinations for COVID this week. The five new countries are South Africa, Lesotho, Antigua and Barbuda, and Taiwan.
South Africa was previously on Level 2 and Lesotho on Level 1.
New omicron sub variants of COVID have led to a rise in infections in SA, where there were 300 cases recorded per day early last month. Last week this number was up to 8 000 cases per day, reports Associated Press. According to the sacoronavirus website, 5 096 new cases were recorded in the daily statistics yesterday (May 17). The CDC has added SA to its ‘high risk’ list of countries due to the rise in cases.
The CDC website says it uses Travel Health Notices (THN) to alert travelers and other audiences to health threats around the world and dispense advice. It determines the COVID risk level for a country based on the incidence rate, which is the cumulative number of new cases over the past 28 days per 100 000 people.
The CDC maintains a list of countries sorted into four levels of COVID-19 severity: Low, Moderate, High and Special Circumstances/Do Not Travel. It also includes a designation for ‘COVID-19 Unknown’, which it currently applies to 52 countries.
It updated its COVID-19 THN system on April 18. Level 4, which used to be the high-risk category but is now reserved for Special Circumstances/ Do Not Travel, is no longer based on COVID-19 incidence or case count alone. It is reserved factors such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, and healthcare infrastructure collapse. There are currently no countries listed as Level 4. Level 3 ‘high risk’, Level 2 ‘moderate risk’, and Level 1 ‘low risk’, are still primarily determined by 28-day incidence or case counts.
The CDC advises travellers to SA, and other Level 3 destinations, to ensure that they are up to date with their vaccinations and to avoid travel to these destinations if they are not. Travellers with a compromised immune system are advised to take extra precautions, even if they are fully vaccinated, when travelling to high-risk destinations.