The highest Level 4 travel health notice has been issued by the US State Department urging American citizens not to travel to the Philippines at this time, citing health concerns due to Covid-19 as reason.

US citizens were issued the same advisory on travel to Cambodia and Lao PDR, while a Level 2 status was given to Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

In its updated travel advisory, the State Department also maintained its Level 4 warning against the Sulu archipelago and Marawi City on threats posed by violent extremism, as well as the Level 3 alert extended to Mindanao due to the incidents of crime, terrorism, civil unrest and kidnapping in the island.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued Level 4 Travel Health Notice for the Philippines due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country,” the State Department said.

“There are restrictions in place affecting US citizen entry into the Philippines,” it added.

As travelers face ongoing risks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the State Department earlier announced it will begin updating its travel advisories this week to better reflect the CDC’s science-based travel health notices that outline current issues affecting travelers’ health.

This update will result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4 warning which exhorts Americans to avoid travel to about 80 percent of countries worldwide.

“This does not imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country but rather reflects an adjustment in the State Department’s Travel Advisory system to rely more on CDC’s existing epidemiological assessments,” the State Department said.

In its Traveler’s Health notice, the CDC said travelers should avoid all travel to the Philippines.

“Because of the current situation in the Philippines, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants and should avoid all travel to the Philippines,” the CDC said.

The US embassy in Manila said on April 26 all airline passengers to the US aged two years and older must provide a negative Covid-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel.

Travelers to the US are required to provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from the coronavirus 90 days before travel.

In the Philippines itself, only a few foreign nationals are authorized to enter the country. Manila has enforced a travel ban against foreigners, including Americans, on leisure trips and has yet to show signs that it will lift the policy soon.

Last week the government came out with a list of foreign nationals excluded from the travel ban. Until April 30, members of the diplomatic community, foreigners involved in medical repatriation or humanitarian missions, foreign seafarers under the Green Lane program, among others, may enter the country.

The Philippines has the second highest number of Covid-19 infections in Southeast Asia, behind Indonesia, with a total of 953,106 cases as of April 13.

Tourism Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told reporters she understands the decision of the US government to enforce every measure necessary to protect its citizens from Covid-19.

Puyat also said travel advisories change depending on how the situation develops. She argued the vaccination program that the government is rolling out will play a key role in restoring tourist confidence in the Philippines in spite of the risk warnings issued against it.

Last year the US was the second largest source of inbound arrivals with 211,816, next to Japan with 338,877. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, arrivals from the US grew by roughly three percent to 1.06 million, from 1.03 million in 2018.