The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in countless ways, but while it may have seemed like things were starting to turn in the right direction at the beginning of the summer, unfortunately, the surge of new cases brought on by the Delta variant has changed that. Now, previously removed restrictions are being put in place once again. Some local health departments have begun suggesting that even vaccinated people should be wearing masks indoors, and in a major decision that could have a serious impact on your vacation plans, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department have warned Americans not to go to certain countries where the Delta variant is surging, Reuters reports.
On July 26, the CDC announced that it had raised Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, and Kyrgyzstan to its top "Level Four: Very High" COVID risk assessment level. That same day, the U.S. State Department issued "Do Not Travel" advisories to the same countries. The moves also saw the CDC elevate Cuba to Level Four, where the State Department had already issued a "Do Not Travel" warning.
While the advisories don't act as an outright ban on movement, having a Level Four designation means that people should "avoid travel to these destinations," according to the CDC's website. The agency strongly urges that anyone who absolutely must travel to the high-risk locales should be fully vaccinated before doing so.
The news comes just a month after the CDC lowered the alert levels on 110 countries and destinations while global cases were dropping and as the agency changed its risk assessment methods, Reuters reports. It also comes a month after Spain announced it would reopen its borders to all American tourists after initially placing a ban on unvaccinated visitors from the U.S.
The latest advisories also come just one week after both the CDC and State Department issued an identical warning against traveling to the U.K. News of those elevated travel advisories came on the same day Britain went forward with the elimination of most COVID-related health precautions in the midst of a national surge.
But it's not just heading abroad that remains difficult. On July 26, the Biden administration announced that it wouldn't be lifting the travel restrictions for citizens of certain countries that have been in place since January. The current rules prohibit entry into the U.S. for most foreign nationals who have been in the U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, Iran, China, and 26 countries within the European Union within the past 14 days. India was also added to the list of countries in early May.
"The more transmissible Delta variant is spreading both here and around the world," Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters during a press conference on July 26. When asked about when authorities might lift the controversial travel restrictions, she replied: "I don't have a timeline to predict for you because it's all about what success we have at getting more people vaccinated, getting more vaccines out to the world, and fighting the virus."