A Level 4 advisory is generally reserved for countries at war or with similar national disruptions

By Hannah Chubb
March 19, 2020 07:05 PM
Advertisement

On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. State Department raised their global travel advisory to a Level 4 — the most severe — in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

This advisory applies to all international travel, and urges Americans traveling abroad to return home immediately. It goes a step beyond the previous advisory, which merely suggests Americans reconsider travel abroad. Level 4 is generally reserved for nations in the midst of war or similar national disruptions, according to the New York Times.

“The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19,” begins the statement on the State Department website. “In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.”

They warn that returning to the U.S. may become increasingly difficult in the coming days and weeks, as countries (including those who do not yet have confirmed coronavirus cases) continue to implement travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, close borders and prohibit non-citizens from entry — oftentimes with little advance notice.

“Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips,” the statement continues. “If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite time frame.”

Martin Schwartz/PEOPLE

The State Department’s decree also provides several guidelines for citizens who decide to travel or are currently abroad. For example, they suggest having a travel plan that does not rely on the U.S. Government for assistance; checking in with cruise lines, airlines or other travel providers for updated information; and visiting Embassy webpages for updated restrictions related to the virus.

RELATED VIDEO: Editor’s Note: PEOPLE’s Coronavirus Coverage and This Week’s Issue

In addition to this advisory, President Trump has imposed a series of bans restricting travel between the U.S. and many other countries. On March 11, he announced a ban on travel for non U.S. citizens traveling from much of Europe. He excluded the U.K. and Ireland at first, but then added them to the list starting March 16.

The President also announced on Wednesday morning that his administration had agreed with the Canadian government to close the countries’ shared border to most people — except for trade — in response to the pandemic.

As of Thursday afternoon, at least 149 deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to COVID-19, the New York Times reported, with more than 10,000 people testing positive nationwide.

Globally, there have been at least 221,000 cases and 9,200 deaths as of Thursday afternoon, according to the Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.