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  • Writer's pictureTravelOctopus

The problem with this Level 4 Travel warning situation ...

Once upon a time the #statedepartment website was one of my very first go-to resources for information on starting to plan an international trip. Their country destination pages are a wealth of information for things like how many blank passport pages you need for entry, and whether you require an international driver’s permit to rent a car. The country fact sheets are also very helpful in determining what currencies you may need, what languages are widely spoken, and if there are considerations relating to religious sensitivities or code of conduct that as a respectful world #traveler you should always know.

I also personally register for the State Department’s STEP program, which files your information with the closest consular offices in the region that you’ll be traveling. This does two things: one, provide you with regular emails about the situation in the region - which can be helpful in letting you avoid demonstrations or regional political gatherings - and two should there be a natural disaster or other catastrophic event while you are nearby the US government is aware of how many of its citizens may need assistance and repatriation. All good things to know, right?

So, Pre-pandemic the extreme Level 4 - Do Not Travel warning was limited to countries that pose a genuine threat to the safety of Americans or where emergency services could not be guaranteed. For example, Iraq, Syria and North Korea, three countries that I would concur with not visiting at this time because of the goings on there. However, this latest news about the State Department’s application of that Level 4 rating has me very frustrated. I know that we are battling a global pandemic and there are concerns for the introduction of new strains and the exchange of vaccine resistant mutations, but I think this needs to be clarified in a manner that is separate from classifying a country alongside Syria and North Korea. There has always been a “health” section in each country’s listing. There have also always been country specific pages listed on the #CDC website alerting to unique diseases or conditions there (like when Zika was a thing, remember that sweet little virus, where’d he go?). So for the smart #travelplanner or #traveler that information is out there, accessible, and separate from concerns about political safety. We didn’t really need this list updated. Plus, it seems to be in direct conflict with the CDC loosening restrictive recommendations.

So listen government agencies, if we’re gonna do this, you two need to stay in your lanes. CDC, you take health, State, you take the other kinds of citizen safety. Do what you both do well and people will learn from you and make informed decisions. Some of us will go places responsibly and support economies in need and some of us won’t yet, but this conflicting approach & random system that puts Antigua and Iraq in the same category just means we’re going to start ignoring you both.


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