‘Traveling to Bangladesh very risky’

Bangladesh remains among the countries ranked highest for Covid-19 risk by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the US national public health agency lowered restriction levels of 110 other countries and territories.

Bangladesh is currently on a “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” rating which discourages all travel to, and recommends travel only for fully vaccinated individuals, according to the CDC website.

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The CDC’s new ratings, first reported by Reuters and posted on the CDC website on Monday, include 61 nations that were lowered from its highest “Level 4” rating, the agency confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday.

An additional 50 countries and territories have been lowered to “Level 2” or “Level 1”, a CDC spokeswoman said. Countries ranked lowest for Covid-19 risks now include Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Iceland, Belize, and Albania, reports Reuters.

Among those now listed at “Level 3” are France, Ecuador, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Honduras, Hungary, and Italy.

The other South Asian countries which are currently on “Level 4” in the list by CDC are India, Pakistan, Nepal, Maldives, and Sri Lanka.

The US State Department said it had updated its recommendations to reflect the recent methodology update, but noted not all ratings were revised because of other factors including “commercial flight availability, restrictions on US citizen entry, and impediments to obtaining Covid test results within three calendar days”, Reuters reports.

REVISED CRITERIA

The CDC said the change of ratings came after it revised its criteria for travel health notices. The CDC said it also revised its rating for the United States to “Level 3” from “Level 4”.

The agency said the new criteria for a Level 4 “avoid all travel” recommendation has changed to 500 cases per 100,000 from 100 Covid-19 cases per 100,000.

The agency added that many countries have lower ratings “because of the criteria changes or because their outbreaks are better controlled”. The CDC said it expects more countries to get lower, more favorable travel ratings.

Other countries being lowered to “Level 3” include Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Libya, Panama, Poland, Denmark, and Malaysia.

Many of the countries that now have lower ratings remain on the US government’s list of countries subject to severe travel restrictions — and most have been subject to the restrictions since early 2020.

The United States bars nearly all non-US citizens who have been to China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, India, South Africa, Brazil, Iran, and the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls within the 14 days of traveling to the US.

Asked why the United States is maintaining the restrictions even though some countries that now have low infection rates are subject to them, while others with high rates are exempt, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday the issue was subject to “an interagency conversation, and we are looking at the data in real-time as to how we should move forward with that”.

Reuters reported on Tuesday the Biden administration is forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union, and the UK to determine how best to restart travel safely after 15 months of pandemic restrictions, citing a White House official.


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