(CNN) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday moved three high-profile destinations into its highest-risk Tier 4 category for travel.
Hong Kong and New Zealand have spent much of the pandemic in virtual isolation with relatively few infections and have been hailed as Covid success stories. However, the Omicron variant caused massive spikes in cases in both places.
The CDC places a destination at the risk level “Level 4: Covid-19 very high” when more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants are recorded in the last 28 days.
To recap, the destinations added to Tier 4 on March 7 are:
• Hong Kong
• New Zealand
All three destinations were previously listed at Level 3, considered “high” risk.
The number of cases worldwide has been falling since peaking in late January, but experts warn the pandemic is not over.
CDC: avoid Tier 4 destinations
London is an international tourist favorite and the UK’s largest city, which has been in Tier 4 since last summer.
Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
There are around 135 destinations currently in Tier 4. While the number of places in the “very high” risk category has fallen slightly since surpassing around 140 in February, there are still more places in the category. level 4 than in all the other categories combined. .
The CDC advises avoiding travel to Tier 4 countries. The CDC’s thresholds for travel health notices are based primarily on the number of Covid-19 cases in a destination.
Other favorites for tourists stuck in Tier 4 include Canada, Egypt, France, Greece, Peru and Singapore. The UK has been there since July 2021.
Changes at Level 3
Mexico, with Bahia Principe beach in Tulum pictured here, went from level 4 to level 3 on Monday.
Rodrigo Arangua/AFP via Getty Images
Tourists looking for news that go in the right direction will find it at this level.
The Tier 3 “high” risk category – which applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 population in the past 28 days – saw six additions from various locations around the world on Monday. They were:
• Green cap
• United Arab Emirates
Levels 2, 1 and unknown
On Monday there was good news for people dreaming of a trip to Africa.
Destinations with the designation “Tier 2: Moderate Covid-19” have recorded 50 to 99 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population in the past 28 days. Nine destinations representing all sections of the continent moved to Tier 2 on March 7:
• Equatorial Guinea
• The Gambia
Last week, all of these destinations were at Level 3.
Africa continued to be a bright spot with the Tier 1 category as well, including popular safari and cultural favorite Kenya.
To be at “Level 1: Covid-19 low”, a destination must have registered fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 28 days. Eight places went to level 1 on Monday:
• Ivory Coast (Ivory Coast)
• Republic of Congo
The only destinations now listed at Tier 1 outside of Africa are China and Taiwan.
Finally, there are destinations for which the CDC has an “unknown” risk due to lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places where war or unrest is going on. The CDC has no news additions to the category on Monday.
Tanzania, Cambodia, and Macao are some of the most visited places currently listed in the unknown category. The CDC advises against travel to these places precisely because the risks are unknown.
Medical expert weighs in on risk levels
Transmission rates are “a benchmark” for travelers’ personal risk calculations, according to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.
“We are entering 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,” Wen said in mid -February.
“You have to interpret level 4 to mean that it is a place with a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go there, you are more likely to contract the coronavirus,” said said Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, Wen said. “Other people will say, ‘Because I’m vaccinated and boosted, I’m willing to take that risk.’
“So it really has to be a personal decision that people weigh knowing that right now the CDC is categorizing the different tiers based on community transmission rates, and basically just that,” Wen said. “They don’t take into account individual circumstances.”
Top image: An aerial view shows buildings in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels district on May 25, 2021. (Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)