United States of America: Dominica's COVID-19 status is unknown
A recent update of Dominica's COVID-19 status by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has left diasporan Ian Prosper in a pickle.
Two weeks back, the Texas resident says when he went to purchase a ticket to come home in mid-September, he quickly received a notification which says that the destination had been flagged as an "unknown" risk for the COVID-19 pandemic and that travel should be avoided, "If you are not up to date with your vaccines," which he isn't.
Given the nature of his job and the fact that he lives with his family of seven, which includes his 78 and 84-year-old parents, Prosper informed the Sun that he is contemplating holding off the trip.
"I'm at a crossroads because I would like to visit during that for a mini-reunion, but I know if I do, then I'll have to quarantine for at least a week, which is an added expense I don't believe I'm ready to take on," he said.
In mid-August, the CDC, which is the national public health agency of the United States, ranked Dominica among a few of the destinations which they advised against travel precisely because "the risks are unknown."
According to the CDC's website, level unknown Travel Health Notices (THN) are determined if a destination has insufficient data to make a THN level determination.
"Insufficient data means that the destination does not provide data or that the provided data are non-representative of the COVID-19 situation in the destination, making an accurate THN level determination difficult," CDC's official website said. "This situation includes destinations with low COVID-19 incidence and low reported COVID-19 testing levels."
With Haiti being the only other Caribbean country in this category, the health agency advises that should someone still wish to proceed to travel to these islands, they should get up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.
In instances where the traveller is not, and may be having difficulty accessing health care during travel, the website strongly urges potential visitors to the island to "avoid travel to Dominica."
The advisory went on to urge those who suffer from a weakened immune system or are at increased risk for severe disease - even if they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines- to talk with their clinician about their risk, and consider delaying travel to Dominica.
At the initial start of the pandemic, the ministry of health and wellness provided updates on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic on the island weekly. However, during the past few months, the local statistics have become nonexistent.
Government announce pre-arrival testing protocols
The Sun attempted to speak to a representative from the ministry to find out the reasons for the change in updates; however, our reporters' attempts to do so were futile.
As of last week, Cabinet has advised approval of the removal of pre-arrival testing for unvaccinated travellers, the removal of testing on arrival for symptomatic travellers; including removal of pre-arrival testing for unvaccinated travellers, and removal of testing on arrival for symptomatic travellers.
Back in April, the CDC overhauled its rating system for assessing Covid-19 risk for travellers.
The other categories include Level 3, or "high," which is now the top rung in terms of risk level and applies to places that have had more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.
Level 2 and Level 1 are considered "moderate" and "low" risk, respectively while Level 4, previously the highest risk category, is now reserved only for special circumstances, such as extremely high case counts, the emergence of a new variant of concern or health care infrastructure collapse.
CDC reviews case data reported to the World Health Organization to determine a destination's COVID-19 THN level.