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19 Mar 2020 | 04:01 PM UTC

US: State Department issues Level 4 travel advisory for all international travel March 19 /update 28

US Department of State issues Level 4 travel advisory on March 19, advises against all international travel due to ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic

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Event

On Thursday, March 19, the US Department of State issued a Level 4 travel advisory, its highest-level travel alert, urging citizens to avoid all international travel due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Citizens who are currently abroad but reside in the US have been advised to return home immediately, if possible.

On Wednesday, March 18, President Donald Trump announced that the US and Canada would close their border to nonessential travel to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the border closure could be implemented as early as Friday evening (local time), March 20. 

To date, there are over 11,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term. 

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.