Which countries have ‘very high’ COVID risk? CDC adds more

The CDC warns travelers to avoid 133 international destinations as more countries have been added to the agency’s level four “very high” COVID-19 risk category. 

The CDC warns travelers to avoid 133 international destinations as more countries have been added to the agency’s level four “very high” COVID-19 risk category. 


If you’re looking to plan an international trip, it’s important to know that the majority of travel destinations worldwide are considered a “very high” COVID-19 risk compared with others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seven countries were added to the CDC’s highest risk category — level four — on Feb. 7, and the agency is urging everyone to “avoid travel to these destinations.”

Now, a total 133 travel spots make up the level four COVID-19 category with the newest additions being Armenia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Israel, Japan, Libya and Oman, according to the agency’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations.

This comes after the CDC upgraded 12 destinations to level four on Jan. 31 including Mexico and South American nations such as Brazil, Chile and Ecuador.

“If you must travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel,” the CDC says.

Despite the high number of level four countries and international destinations, this is not the highest number since the pandemic began.

“In late 2020 and Summer 2021 there were more countries at a Level 4,” CDC spokesperson Nick Spinelli told McClatchy News in a statement.

Destinations in the level four category have had more than 500 positive virus cases per 100,000 people in the past 28 days, according to the agency.

The other travel risk categories are level three, with a high COVID-19 level comprising 52 destinations; level two, with a moderate COVID-19 level making up five destinations; and level one, with a low COVID-19 level and eight destinations.

The CDC’s four-level system is similar to the State Department’s four-level travel advisory system that also includes details on COVID-19 risks as well as safety threats to American travelers.

For example, Israel is also considered “level 4” by the State Department — meaning “do not travel” — due to COVID-19. However, the department also warns to “exercise increased caution” there “due to terrorism and civil unrest.”

The CDC also lists 39 destinations as having unknown COVID-19 levels, including Afghanistan, Antarctica, North Korea and Syria.

In early January, the CDC categorized roughly 80 locations as level four, according to CNN.

The agency categorizes each destination using “COVID-19 data reported by the World Health Organization and other official sources,” it says on its website.

The warnings about countries and international territories with COVID-19 risks are part of the CDC’s Travel Health Notices that alert the public about health and natural disaster threats across the globe.

All international destinations with a COVID-19 risk level are found on the CDC’s interactive map here.

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Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the southeast and northeast while based in New York. She’s an alumna of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously, she’s written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.