Much like your travel insurance plan, national COVID-19 alert systems and Covid travel advisories are designed to help prepare and protect travelers as they journey from their home country to their destination countries. While you may understand how the Covid threat is measured and assessed in your own country, the assessment metrics might be different in your destination country. As the highly transmissible Delta Variant of Covid causes spikes in cases and surges in hospitalizations globally, here’s how some of the world’s leading health authorities measure risk of Covid exposure and what it means for your travel plans.
CDC’s Covid Alert System
The CDC’s Travel Health Notices is a classification system that measures, among other health concerns, Covid in the U.S. The tiered system aligns with the U.S. Department of State’s classification system and receives it’s Covid data from the World Health Organization (WHO). The Covid travel alert system has 4 levels:
- Level 4 (dark red): Very High. Avoid traveling to these areas.
- Level 3 (red): High. Be sure you’re fully vaccinated before departing for these areas. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel.
- Level 2 (orange): Moderate. Unvaccinated, high risk travelers should avoid nonessential travel to these destinations. Be sure you’re fully vaccinated before traveling to these countries.
- Level 1 (yellow): Low. Make sure you’re fully vaccinated before traveling to these areas.
- Level unknown (gray): This means that the country in question did not provide their Covid data to the WHO. The CDC advises travelers to treat these countries as Level 4 destinations.
Countries and their Covid statuses
Level 1: China, New Zealand, Australia, Bermuda, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia
Before you head off to unwind in Bermuda or take a mini-tour of Eastern Europe, check the CDC’s travel health notices to make sure the country is open to tourists. New Zealand, for one, has no plans to reopen to foreign travelers until 2022.
If the country you’re making plans for ranks at a Level 3 or 4, it’s especially beneficial to purchase travel insurance with a Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) benefit. This ensures that while you’re in one of these higher risk areas, you’ll be covered for medical costs related to Covid or any other new illness or injury. CFAR allows you to cancel your trip while still receiving reimbursement for prepaid travel expenses.
The UK’s Stoplight Systems
While the U.S. bans certain countries from entering the country due to their Covid threat, it doesn’t have a tiered system to denote which countries are welcome, which countries can enter with restrictions and which countries can’t enter at all. On the other hand, the UK has a public Covid classification system designed to minimize the threat of Covid to the UK. This system reveals who’s free to travel to the UK and who isn’t. The UK’s Stoplight System consists of three colors: Green, Amber and Red. Here’s a look at what each status means for both foreign travelers and UK residents:
- Green: Low cases; high vaccination rate
- Amber: Moderate number of cases and vaccinations
- Red: High case rate. Lower vaccination rate; these countries are banned from UK entry
For returning UK residents as well as fully-vaccinated tourists from countries on the Green list, entry into the UK is relatively easy. You just need to show a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of departing the UK and take another test with negative results by Day 2 of your arrival.
The only difference between the requirements for foreign visitors from countries on the Amber list compared to requirements for countries on the Green list is that everyone coming from an Amber list country must also quarantine at home for 10 days upon arriving in the UK. As long as British citizens and residents returning from an Amber list country are fully vaccinated, they do not need to quarantine.
Foreign tourists who have been in a Red list country for ten days prior to attempting to enter the UK will be denied entry. Only British and Irish nationals or those who have residence rights in the UK will be allowed to re-enter. And there’s a stiff protocol in place for these travelers:
- One pre-departure COVID test with a negative result
- Upon arriving in the UK, passengers must quarantine in a hotel for ten days, an expense of about £2,285 per person. Arrangements must be made before departing for the UK.
- One PCR test on Day 2 and Day 8 of quarantine; both tests must be negative.
Countries and their Covid statuses
Green: Canada, Iceland, Turks & Caicos Islands, Barbados, Bermuda
Amber: United States, British Virgin Islands, Greece, France
Red: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Egypt
Like other classification systems for Covid threat, the UK’s system can be very volatile. Your country may be cleared for entry one week, only to be barred from entry the next. So it’s important for travelers to the UK to keep up with the latest classifications. This uncertainty highlights the need for travel insurance with a CFAR benefit.
Mexico’s Internal Stoplight System
Mexico is made up of many states. That means that Covid levels can vary wildly from state to state, just like in the U.S. To help tourists and locals alike assess their risk of exposure to Covid in Mexico, Mexican officials set up an internal stoplight system. This color-coded system mimics the traditional traffic light:
- Green: Low risk of contracting Covid; functions and activities have returned to a pre-pandemic normal but you still must practice Covid-safety protocols like hand sanitizing and mask wearing.
- Yellow: Medium risk of contracting Covid. Essential and nonessential activities and functions have returned to normal and most businesses are operating with regular hours. Again, Covid-safety measures still apply.
- Orange: High risk of Covid exposure. Essential activities and functions are running and non-essential activities and services are running with capacity limited by 30%.
- Red: Maximum risk of Covid exposure. Avoid traveling to these states. Only essential activities and services will be running and residents are advised to stay inside.
Countries and their Covid statuses
Green: Chiapas is the only state that Mexican health authorities deem safe enough to belong to this category.
Yellow: Yucatan, Tabasco, Coahuila, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Chihuahua
Orange: Sonora, Durango, Zacatecas, Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo, Oaxaca, Veracruz
Red: Sinaloa, Nuevo León, Guerrero, Jalisco
These levels are subject to change, so before you make a plan to tour the Mayan ruins in Palenque, check the Covid color status for the most up-to-date information.
Covid alert systems are designed to keep citizens and tourists well informed about their risk of being exposed to the Delta variant and other Covid strains. Although these systems of colored and numbered levels might be confusing, it’s important information to have. Before you set off on your next trip, take the extra time to search out your destination country’s alert level. Remember, safe travel during the pandemic is all about being prepared.