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With the Omicron variant rampaging all over the world, it can be a tricky business to figure out your travel plans, especially if you need to go abroad. You may well ask yourself—is there any ready-reckoner I can use to gauge the prospective safety level of the destination I am headed to?

Your closest bet to procuring such a list or guide would be the COVID-19 travel health notices for international countries issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These advisories and warnings are graded into four levels according to the level of incidence and severity of COVID-19 in the respective nations. The four levels are:

Level 1

  • The CDC classifies a nation as a Level 1 destination, if the COVID-19 threat is low, corresponding to an incidence rate of less than 50 per 1,00,000 population over 28 days.

  • The CDC advises travellers to be fully vaccinated before heading out to these countries.

  • As of January 7, 2022, there are 41 countries that have been classified as Level 1. These include India, Pakistan, Hong Kong, China, Bhutan, Philippines, UAE, Taiwan, among others.

Level 2

  • The nations categorised under Level 2 of CDC’s classification system carry a moderate COVID-19 risk, equivalent to an incidence rate of 50-99 per 1,00,000 population over 28 days.

  • The CDC advises people to fully vaccinate themselves before going to these countries. However, it also clearly states that unvaccinated people are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, and therefore, unessential travel should be absolutely avoided. If travel is absolutely essential despite health concerns, the CDC recommends an appointment with the doctor before any plans are made.

  • As of January 7, 2022, there are 23 countries in this level. Nepal, New Zealand, the Madeira Islands, Cuba, Costa Rica, Madagascar are some of the nations that have been categorised as Level 2.

Level 3

  • Level 3 nations show a high risk of the spread of COVID-19 infection—exhibited by an incidence rate of 100-500 per 1,00,000 population over 28 days.

  • The CDC’s two instructions for travellers are that they should be fully vaccinated before travelling to these countries, and that unvaccinated people should absolutely avoid unessential travel.

  • As of January 7, 2022, 47 nations have made it to the list of Level 3 countries. These include the likes of South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and more.

Level 4

  • Currently, this is the maximum threshold of the CDC ranking system. The countries that are part of this level have a very high risk of COVID-19 contagion—corresponding to an incidence rate of more than 500 per 1,00,000 population over 28 days.

  • The CDC’s simple, unequivocal message regarding Level 4 nations is: avoid travelling to these destinations.

  • As of January 7, 2022, there are a whopping 83 nations on the CDC’s Level 4 list of nations. It is made up mostly of European nations popular as tourism hotspots—Finland, Norway, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom are some of the big names on this list.

There are also a number of nations (42, as of January 7, 2022) whose COVID-19 status the CDC has been unable to ascertain due to lack of sufficient recorded data or information. It has classified these nations as Level Unknown, with the instruction that people visiting these nations should ensure that they are fully vaccinated or completely abstain from travelling, if unessential. Afghanistan, Singapore, Syria, Yemen, Canary Islands are some of the names currently featured on this list.

While individual nations may have their own mandatory directives regarding the nations you are permitted to travel to or not, the CDC’s four-level system is a handy, perhaps even life-saving, tool to ascertain the general COVID-19 status in many countries, which can help you make or alter plans accordingly. Please note, however, that the CDC keeps revising these lists frequently—so, keep checking them regularly to stay up-to-date. You can find the entire list of all the levels and the nations under them here. To know more about the different criteria based on which the CDC classifies the nations under different levels, click here 

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