World News

State Department rolls out new global travel alert system

State Department rolls out new global travel alert system

The department's newly-redesigned hub for traveler information, travel.state.gov, will host all travel advisories, recent alerts issued for each country, and an interactive map in mobile-friendly formats.

New Straits Times reported that the US' improved version of the four-level travel advisory programme based its ranking on the security situation in each country.

The travel warnings given by the U.S. State Department come in four levels, with Level 1 for normal precaution, Level 2 for exercise increased caution, Level 3 for reconsider travel and Level 4 for "Do Not Travel".

"So we've done away with travel warnings and alerts, we've done away with emergency and security messages because, again, that was something people didn't always understand the difference [between], and we have gone to a travel advisory [system] for every country-including Antarctica".

Besides Malaysia, Canada and Australia, other countries in the same category include Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, Kazakhstan, and New Zealand. Turkey, Russia and Venezuela are considered Level Three.

United States citizens are advised to avoid travel "due to serious risks to safety and security". Bernier-Toth said US embassies were given the new rankings ahead of time so they could notify the governments of the impending change. "Terrorist attacks and violent civil unrest are possible in the state of Jammu and Kashmir", the advisory says asking Americans to avoid "all travel" the state. The Department of State advises that USA citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so.

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Michelle Bernier-Toth, head of Overseas Citizens Services, said the changes were made because so few people understood the distinctions in the previous, broad rankings.

US citizens are not banned from traveling to level 4 countries. The flow of tourists from the U.S. grew 27 per cent over the last four years in 2016.

But some of the other country ratings may raise eyebrows - or worldwide anger - even if the State Department says it is only presenting existing advice in a new format.

The full travel advisory for Greece can be found here. They also advised against travel to Manipur.

North Korea is also Level Four, with the additional restriction that U.S. law prohibits American travellers from using their passports there, effectively banning visits.

"We reduced staffing in Havana, and every time we do that we release a travel warning, which is reflected in our current Level 3 for Cuba", she said.


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