Home Tourist attractions CDC adds Malaysia to Tier 4, its highest-risk travel category

CDC adds Malaysia to Tier 4, its highest-risk travel category

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(CNN) — On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added four more entries to its growing list of high-risk destinations for travel, including multicultural Malaysia.

The CDC places a destination at the risk level “Level 4: Covid-19 very high” when more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants are recorded in the last 28 days.

Before the pandemic, Malaysia was a travel hotspot, renowned for its beaches, cuisine, mix of cultures and the cosmopolitan capital of Kuala Lumpur.

The four destinations added to Tier 4 on February 22 were:

• Bhutan
• Brunei
• Iran
• Malaysia

All four destinations were previously at the “Level 3: Covid-19 high” risk level last week.

Tier 4, the CDC’s highest, now has over 140 slots, illustrating the wide range and rapid spread of the Omicron variant around the world this year. At the beginning of January, around 80 destinations were listed there.

Tier 4 now has more destinations than all of the other CDC categories combined.

CDC: avoid Tier 4 destinations

Mexico has been one of the easiest places to visit throughout the pandemic, but is now at level 4. Pictured: People enjoy the beach in Cancun on October 8, 2020.

Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC advises travelers to avoid vacations in Tier 4 countries. The CDC’s thresholds for travel health notices are based primarily on the number of Covid-19 cases in a destination.

The CDC does not include the United States in its advisory list, but it was color-coded to Level 4 on Feb. 22 on the agency’s travel risk levels map.

Last week, South Korea and French Polynesia were among the destinations added to Tier 4.

Mexico, Canada, France, Peru, Singapore and Spain are other favorites for tourists stuck in Tier 4 for even longer. The UK has been there since July 2021.

In its broader travel guidelines, the CDC recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully immunized.
South Korea moved to Tier 4 on February 14.  Here, visitors pose for photos at Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul on July 3, 2020.

South Korea moved to Tier 4 on February 14. Here, visitors pose for photos at Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul on July 3, 2020.

ED JONES/AFP/AFP via Getty Images

Medical expert weighs in on risk levels

Transmission rates are “a benchmark” for travelers’ personal risk calculations, according to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

“We are entering a phase of the pandemic where people have to make their own decisions based on their medical situation as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” Wen said in mid -February.

“You have to interpret level 4 to mean that it is a place with a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go there, you are more likely to contract the coronavirus,” said said Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, Wen said. “Other people will say, ‘Because I’m vaccinated and boosted, I’m willing to take that risk.’

“So it really has to be a personal decision that people weigh knowing that right now the CDC is categorizing the different tiers based on community transmission rates, and basically just that,” Wen said. “They don’t take into account individual circumstances.”

Changes at Level 3

New Zealand, which weathered much of the pandemic in virtual isolation with relatively few infections, was moved to the “Level 3: Covid-19 high” risk level. He was previously at the risk level “Level 2: Moderate Covid-19”.

The Tier 3 “high” risk category – which applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 population in the past 28 days – saw three additions to the total on Tuesday. They were:

• Namibia
• New Zealand
• East Timor

The move was good news for Namibia, a desert nation in southwestern Africa. It was previously at Tier 4. The small, isolated nation of Timor-Leste, which shares an island with Indonesia in its vast archipelago, has moved from Tier 1.

Levels 2, 1 and unknown

Destinations with the designation “Tier 2: Moderate Covid-19” have recorded 50 to 99 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population in the past 28 days. On Tuesday, the CDC moved the safari favorite Kenya at Tier 2. It was previously at Tier 3. Currently, CDC Tier 2 is an isolated location with only four destinations in the category.

To be at “Level 1: Covid-19 Low”, a destination must have registered fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 28 days. No new destinations were moved to Tier 1 on Tuesday. There are currently only five destinations in the category. This includes China, which just hosted the Winter Olympics.

Finally, there are destinations for which the CDC has an “unknown” risk due to lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places where war or unrest is going on. There was a new addition to this category: the Madeira Islands, a Portuguese territory in the North Atlantic.

Tanzania, Cambodia, and Macao are some of the most visited places currently listed in the unknown category. The CDC advises against travel to these places precisely because the risks are unknown.


A cruise ship waits for people to board before departing PortMiami on December 31, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

A cruise ship waits for people to board before departing PortMiami on December 31, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On February 15, the CDC lowered the risk level for cruise travel from Level 4 to Level 3, where it remained on February 22.

The Tier 3 designation urges travelers to “ensure you are up to date with your Covid-19 vaccines before traveling on a cruise ship.”

The agency still advises avoiding cruise travel if you are not up to date on your vaccinations or if you are up to date but at increased risk of serious illness from Covid-19.

For cruise travel, the CDC’s main criteria for assessing the level of risk are the number of new Covid-19 cases among crew and the trajectory of cases among crew over the past 14 days.

Level 4 means more than 2,000 cases detected among cruise ship crew in the past 14 days. Level 3 is 1,000 to 2,000 new cases. Tier 2 is 500-999 new cases and Tier 1 is below 500 new crew cases.

More Travel Considerations

Transmission rates are important to consider when making travel decisions, but there are also other factors to weigh, according to Wen.

“Transmission rates are a benchmark,” Wen said. “Another is what precautions are needed and followed where you are going, and then the third is what you plan to do once you get there.

“Are you planning on visiting a lot of attractions and going to indoor bars? It’s very different from going somewhere where you plan to lay on the beach all day and not interact with anyone outside. “other. It’s very different. It’s very different levels of risk.”

Vaccination is the most important safety factor for travel, as unvaccinated travelers are more likely to get sick and transmit Covid-19 to others, Wen said.

“Unvaccinated people remain at high risk and really shouldn’t travel at this point,” she said.

People should wear a high-quality mask — N95, KN95 or KF94 — whenever they’re in crowded indoor settings with people whose vaccination status is unknown, she said.

And it’s also important to think about what you would do if you became positive outside of your home. Where will you be staying and how easy will it be to take a test to return home?

Top image: This photo taken on February 14, 2019 shows the Petronas Twin Towers and the city skyline from the observation deck of Kuala Lumpur Tower in Kuala Lumpur. (Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images)