WASHINGTON • The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has eased travel recommendations for more than 110 countries and territories, including Singapore which ranks among places with the lowest risk for Covid-19.
The health protection agency's new ratings saw 61 countries that were lowered from its highest Level 4 rating - that discouraged all travel there - to where travel is recommended for fully vaccinated individuals.
Another 50 countries and territories have been lowered to Level 2 or Level 1.
Countries ranked lowest for Covid-19 risks now include Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Iceland, Belize and Albania.
Among those now listed at Level 3 are France, Ecuador, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Honduras and Italy.
A US State Department official said it is in the process of revising its travel advisory to reflect the CDC changes.
As at early Tuesday, it had lowered its ratings on more than 90 countries and territories, including for Japan.
On May 24, the State Department had urged against travel to Japan, citing a new wave of Covid-19 cases before the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin on July 23.
The warning raised concerns and prompted the White House to reaffirm its support for Tokyo's plan to hold the Games this summer and for US athletes competing there, despite a new wave of infections and a low vaccination rate in the host country.
Foreign spectators have been banned, and organisers are expected to make a decision late this month on domestic spectators.
The CDC said the change comes after it revised its criteria for travel health notices. The CDC said it has also revised its rating for the US to Level 3 from Level 4.
The key countries and territories now on the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) revised Covid-19 risk alert levels and guidance for travel.
LEVEL 4 (VERY HIGH)
Guidance: Avoid travel to these destinations. If you must travel to these places, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.
Destinations: Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Iraq, the Netherlands, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Sweden.
LEVEL 3 (HIGH)
Guidance: Make sure you are fully vaccinated before travelling to these destinations. Those who are not vaccinated should avoid non-essential travel to these places.
Destinations: Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
LEVEL 2 (MODERATE)
Guidance: Make sure you are fully vaccinated before travelling to these places. Unvaccinated travellers who are at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19 should avoid non-essential travel to these places.
Destinations: Bhutan, Cambodia, Finland, Guam, Kenya, Mauritius and Uganda.
LEVEL 1 (LOW)
Guidance: Make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel to these countries and territories.
Destinations: Australia, Brunei, China, Hong Kong, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The agency said the new criteria for a Level 4 "avoid all travel" recommendation has changed from 100 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people to 500 cases per 100,000.
The CDC added that many countries have lower ratings "because of the criteria changes or because their outbreaks are better controlled". It expects more countries to get lower, more favourable travel ratings.
Many of the countries that now have lower ratings remain on the US government's list of places subject to severe travel restrictions - and most have been subjected to the curbs since early last year.
The US bars nearly all non-US citizens who have within the previous 14 days been to Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, Britain and the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls.
Asked why the US is maintaining the warnings where some countries with low infection rates are subject to restrictions, while others with high rates are exempt, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said the issue is subject to "an inter-agency conversation, and we are looking at the data in real time as to how we should move forward with that".
The US is also forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Britain to determine how best to safely restart travel after 15 months of pandemic restrictions.
"While we are not reopening travel today, we hope that these expert working groups will help us use our collective expertise to chart a path forward, with a goal of reopening international travel with our key partners when it is determined that it is safe to do so," a White House official said, adding that "any decisions will be fully guided by the objective analysis and recommendations by public health and medical experts".