The State Department Has Issued Its Highest Level Travel Warning Against… Antarctica

It took until late December 2020 for the first Covid-19 case to be identified on Antarctica when 36 people contracted the virus at Chile’s Base General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme. In total about 60 cases have been reported cumulatively out of a population of less than 5000. Still, that’s just over 1% of the population, compared to nearly 10% of the U.S. population that has tested positive for Covid-19.

The CDC says “avoid all travel to Antarctica.” This week the State Department upgraded the region to level 4 – its highest travel warning, usually reserved for places like Yemen.

The warning says you should exercise caution because of “environmental hazards posed by extreme and unpredictable weather.” However that was the case before this change in warning status. The State Department now advises against travel to 80% of the world, and they say that’s part of aligning their warnings with those of the CDC during the pandemic, but both acknowledge they do not even know the level of Covid-19 in the area.

This underscores how utterly useless public health officials have made their pronouncements which is sad, since a pandemic is when we need good advice the most. And they’ve upgraded these warning levels even as the CDC recognizes the reduce risk of travel for those who have been vaccinated and when over half the adult population in the United States has received at least one shot of vaccine.

Now, if the advice is ‘don’t take a cruise if you aren’t vaccinated’ that’s one thing and more than reasonable. But listing a highest-level travel warning for Antarctica as though it were Wuhan last January or downtown Kabul just seems silly, when the CDC says it doesn’t even have information that might justify such a move, doesn’t it?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Does any one take this idiots seriously?…unelected, barely regulated bureaucratic dolts drunk with power…sadly, there are the paranoid, low information people who hang on every word uttered…what an absurd way to live!

  2. They are destroying their own credibility with nonsense like this. If they would honestly evaluate real risks they could be taken seriously. But really, putting Antarctica on the same level as Afghanistan, Yemen or Chad is simply absurd. We need credible information and this is not it.

  3. What a joke – when Antarctica and Bermuda are level 4 the ratings lose all credibility.

    Traveling when and where I want (fully vaccinated) provided US Airlines fly there and I can get in.

    The State Department (and CDC) can sit on it and rotate!!

  4. I’m sure there was some bureaucrat who spent days drafting a report on why Antartica should be a Level 4…..

    Still waiting for these clowns to waive the covid testing requirements for re-entering the US when vaccinated. Tired of having foreign, non-qualified medical workers sticking foot long q-tips in my brain.

  5. A case of the blind leading the blind. Or maybe, the inmates are running the asylum.

    Or maybe, “stupid is, as stupid does”…..

    Which is it?

  6. Hey but at least we don’t have that guy who occasionally says something mean on Twitter amirite! Fools…..all of them. Better settle in, the plandemic is going to last until the midterms at the very minimum but in reality much longer than that.

  7. I will take my chances in Antarctica over a NYC every day of the week, a bonus is Antarctica smells better.

  8. This has nothing to do with actual data, and everything to do with politics.

    Bad orange hair lady says that every country on the planet is now as dangerous as Yemen, Somalia, and Chicago, inflation is rising, the national debt and taxes are rising, there are space blanket shortages in Texas, arugula shortages in the military, ghost guns are rampant, SpaceX launches are cancelled more often, more police shootings of dangerous border crossdressers, and much to George’s dismay, Michigan is reopening before 117% of the population in that state has been vaccinated, and claims that this is definitely the fault of Trump policies…

  9. There are always inefficiencies in a bureaucracy that makes for an amusing mention…I guess it’s a slow news day.

    I would rather the CDC say don’t travel to Antarctica than stay silent while our leader wonders out loud about drinking disinfectant.

  10. Outside of the period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey haven’t seen levels this high during the pandemic. And outside of that same holiday period, New York hasn’t had this many new cases since spring, and Florida not since the summer. Maybe people shouldn’t be rushing out to travel huh? The country is heading into another surge and yet you continue to ignore it and attack health professionals every chance you get. Don’t worry Texas will soon be part of the surge because that is the pattern that Texas gets hit after these other states. I noticed Texas discovered a mutation that is antibody resistant. All the more reason people shouldn’t be travelling until case counts are brought down.

  11. How many hospitals in Antarctica have respiratory support or ICU units? Try none! There are no hospitals in Antarctica. It goes both ways. Discourage travel because there is no way to provide care. The biggest risk to scientists in Antarctica, is someone bringing in diseases. But this also applies to almost all other countries as well. The US cannot have people travelling all willy-nilly and bringing another variant into the US.

    Also, US has 135 million people who have received at least one Covid vaccine dose. No where close to half!

    Sorry, Gary, this is just a pure political post.

  12. JohnB is right about being careful there. Three years ago I took a very small ship from Ushuaia, Argentina and we landed twice a day by Zodiac rafts on the peninsula as far as 65 South. (If you want to visit just be aware that taking a ship of any significant size means that nobody is allowed off at all.) It was an outstanding experience and what impressed me was how careful the guides were to make sure nothing was disturbed. You couldn’t even take a pebble or leave snow piled up. So being really cautious about bringing illnesses to the hard working scientific base people makes some sense.

    But still this sounds absolutely crazy. The Antarctic Tour Operators Association, in cooperation with the governments with bases on the continent, won’t allow people in until this mess subsides so the pronouncement is unnecessary (it’s also getting into winter there when nobody casually visits anyway). It is grandstanding and pointless. Fortunately State recommendations like this don’t have any legal force, so their warnings can be taken for whatever one considers them to be worth. Which in this case is not much.

  13. We’re not supposed to go to Antarctica during “our summer” better known as their winter? You mean we can’t vacation in pitch black darkness in 90 MPH winds and at 100 below zero? Damn.
    Guess I’ll do 30a instead. Glad the inept government is watching out for us.

  14. I am a points and miles nut for many decades. We are dying to travel again but sure don’t want to die due to traveling. We are both vaccinated, but my wife does not trust that that will ensure we won’t get sick. Plus, the thought of being stuck overseas or getting hospitalized with covid overseas is enough to keep us home right now…..even if other countries would accept us. I am glad the CDC and the State Dept. are putting out advisories. People can do with them as they will. We have lost 2 brother in laws to covid and a friend. A nephew in NYC who is a nurse got it early on and had an awful time getting better. Same with a woman doc in NJ who is in the family. We have almost 600,000 dead from this in the country right now. We could have handled it way the hell better from the onset and throughout…….including right now! Makes me want to cry for all those who have lost a loved one. This is not politics…..the virus and death are not political.

  15. If you actually read the warning, it talks about “The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Antarctica” and further states that “If you decide to travel to Antarctica:” “Obtain comprehensive medical insurance that includes medical evacuation.” and “Travel with a professional guide or organization.”

    It sounds to me that all the State Department is saying is we are not able to provide any help if you get COVID in Antarctica, we’ve warned you which makes 100% sense to me. Too many people take the risk and then expect the government to bail them out. Let’s be honest, going to Antarctica is a risky, there are no hospitals there, it takes days to evacuate someone, and I certainly don’t want my tax dollar spent on someone who

  16. Even before the Rona, no one really paid much attention to these. This sort of ridiculousness will just cement that view.

  17. Hey Bill, feel free to stay home. Secondly, all of your ‘data’ is inaccurate. Cases across the country are down 10% week over week. So this ‘fourth wave’ you folks hope for to prove some kind of point isn’t happening. Be well.

  18. I’ll add that Paul is right but then this is meaningless again. You don’t get on a tour that lands on the continent unless you meet their requirement to have evacuation insurance because it can cost $100k to get someone out. So there’s absolutely no need for State to repeat this. Granted a few people go there on their own–in the South Shetlands we met an Australian family with their own sailboat–but folks who do things like that presumably know what they’re getting into. But this is all moot as at this point U.S. citizens cannot get into Argentina or Chile so there’s no way to cross the Drake Strait anyway!

  19. Bill,

    Feel free to emerge from your basement when you feel comfortable. At least this time you didn’t lash out making ignorant racist claims about the people traveling, hopefully you took a step back and realized all the twisted hate you were spewing. I call that progress!

  20. The US wants to be able to say it’s discouraging Americans from traveling abroad at this time, and this is one way to do that.

    Discouraging international travel for a couple of months may buy the country enough time that ending up with massive injections of potentially more troublesome “foreign” variants may be the right thing to do at this point when within 90 days we could have enough properly vaccinated Americans to achieve something close to vaccine-driven herd immunity. — if the still not vaccinated public is fully cooperative.

    By the way, the healthcare facilities situation abroad at this time may well be good enough reason to try to dissuade Americans non-essential travel abroad. If you go to visit India and get in a car accident and then are in such condition that you need hospital care, good luck with getting a hospital bed of your own or even access to an oxygen supply that doesn’t displace locals from facilities/service/care/supplies needed by the locals.

  21. Discouraging international travel for a couple of months may buy the country enough time to avoid ending up with massive injections of potentially more troublesome “foreign” variants, and thus may be the right thing to do at this point when we are within 90 of having enough properly vaccinated Americans to achieve something close to vaccine-driven herd immunity. — if the still not vaccinated public is fully cooperative in getting vaccinated.

  22. Papa Joe has to please his power base. They love scaring folks to keep their power. Papa Joe knows he only won the election due to Trump incompetence on the pandemic……

  23. Hold your horses – all you Antidisestablishmentarians. Rating corvid-19 risk in Antarctica as high as Yemen has to do with the availability of medical treatment in case you contract the virus.

    What is this big fascination with people not being elected – only elected folks have the ability to make decision in the public interest? What about expertise – the US federal civil services have some of most brilliant people I have had the opportunity of working.

    Let aircraft manufacturer do their own verification because they are smarter than the non-elected quality controls expert at the FAA – over 300 people in 2 crashes pay for it with lives.

  24. But China is level 3, much less danger from a government that has lied to the world for 18 months.

    Thailand was just raised to level 2, despite the dictator pushing the panic button and locking down half the country.

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