On Thursday, in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. State Department lifted the Global Level 4 Health Advisory. The Global Advisory, initially put in place on March 19, 2020, advised U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Level 4 is the State Department highest advisory.
“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with Levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions,” the State Department said in an announcement.
This approach will provide U.S. citizens with more detailed/specific information about the current status in each country, the Department said. Carl Risch, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, according to The New York Times added the move would allow officials to better guide people about conditions in specific countries, taking into account other potential hazards, such as civil unrest, and natural disasters or terrorism.
Many countries now have a Level 3: Reconsider Travel advisory, still “due to COVID-19.” Several destinations, such as Fiji, French Polynesia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Thailand are at Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. Macau and Taiwan are both Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions—the only two destinations with the designation.
The decision does not mean Americans are again free to travel the globe. Many countries still have a ban on U.S. travelers due to the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country (currently just shy of 5 million cases, the most in the world).
In related news, the State Department also announced on Thursday that it’s resuming passport operations in phases. As of August 3, there are six passport agencies and centers in Phase Two and 12 agencies and centers in Phase One of our reopening plan. There are 26 such agencies. Phase One means there is limited staff and appointments are limited to life-or-death emergencies only. Phase Two has additional staff and is still only processing for life-or-death emergencies, but with less delay. Phase Three (no agencies or centers are at this level) would have a full return to staff and limited appointments for customers traveling within two weeks.
The State Department has averaged about 205,000 passports issued per week the last three weeks. Typically, it would routinely surpass 1 million.
This article originally appeared on www.travelagentcentral.com.