(CNN) — The 2021 summer travel season has started full of hope and promise, but every day two words threaten to bring it all down: delta variant.
This more transmissible variation of the new coronavirus was first detected in India in February, just as the United States and some other places around the world were starting to really prepare their vaccination efforts. It turned out to be a race against time: vaccines against the delta variant. And like every other wave of the pandemic, travel is feeling the impact of covid fast and hard.
From new travel advisories, published this week, to Google searches on the subject over the past 24 hours, it is clear that the delta variant is causing growing concern and disruption for governments and would-be travellers.
New United States Travel Advisories
On Monday, the US State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new warnings for five countries, citing rising covid-19 cases:
– Cyprus (Level 4: Do not travel)
– Israel (Level 3: Reconsider the trip)
– Kyrgyzstan (Level 4: Do not travel)
– Portugal (Level 4: Do not travel)
– Spain (Level 4: Do not travel)
The warning against travel to Spain is particularly important as it is one of the most popular destinations in the world.
However, as of Tuesday, these five locations were still allowing American tourists entry if they adhere to certain restrictions, according to State Department listings. This is happening even as the US faces its own delta variant outbreak.
Other places that advise not to visit
Spain and Portugal join a growing list of popular travel destinations in the “Tier 4: Do Not Travel” category, which is the highest on the State Department scale. Level 4 is also the highest alert for the CDC.
Some of the other Tier 4 locations from Tuesday that have traditionally been popular with travelers around the world:
– Argentina (which has been closed to most international tourists during the pandemic)
– Brazil (which has had a liberal policy on visits despite being one of the countries most affected by the pandemic)
– Maldives (these islands in the Indian Ocean dependent on tourism allow most visitors except for some South Asian countries)
– The Netherlands (which opened its doors to American travelers on June 24 and welcomes most of Europe; see the complete list of “safe countries” for the Netherlands here.)
– South Africa (many countries will not allow visitors if they have recently been to South Africa)
– United Kingdom (the CDC warns that even if you are fully vaccinated, you are at risk of contracting and spreading variants of the new coronavirus)
You can view the complete lists of State Department and CDC Level 4 through Level 1 (low risk) advisories here.
White House: Existing restrictions will remain in place for now
More evidence of growing concern and its effect on travel:
On Monday, the White House decided to keep existing coronavirus travel restrictions in place, press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“We will maintain existing travel restrictions at this stage for several reasons. The more transmissible delta variant is spreading here and around the world,” Psaki told reporters. “Driven by the delta variant, cases are increasing here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and it seems likely that they will continue in the coming weeks.
The announcement came as the Biden administration came under increasing pressure from the travel industry and US allies.
People who have been to Brazil, China, the European Schengen area, Iran, India, Ireland, South Africa and the United Kingdom in the past 14 days are being refused entry to United States.
What people want to know: at least on Google
If you want to know what’s going on in the collective minds of people, just check Google searches. The delta variant is an uptrend.
Global searches: Around 1:30 p.m. Miami time on Tuesday, Google Trends showed a 100% increase in searches for the term “delta variant travel restrictions” over the past 24 hours worldwide.
Other increasing research around the world has focused on restrictions for particular locations, with Victoria (Australia) and Mexico leading the way.
The Australian state of Victoria is set to end its fifth lockdown on Wednesday, even as it tightens the border with neighboring New South Wales, according to The Guardian newspaper. (Victoria has the city of Melbourne, while Sydney is in New South Wales.)
Australia has maintained some of the toughest travel restrictions in the world since the start of the pandemic, only opening up to New Zealand on April 19. But this “travel bubble” was fragile, collapsing again on July 23.
Mexico, on the other hand, had the opposite response. It was, and still is, one of the easiest countries to visit.
Its land border with the United States has been closed for more than a year, but air traffic arrives from all over the world. You don’t even need to provide a negative PCR test result or quarantine upon arrival. Mexico was at “Tier 3: High” on the CDC’s advisory list.
People around the world were also looking to the United States for guidance on broader concerns about searches for “US international restrictions.” o “CDC Restrictions” which has also increased over the past day.
American research: Search queries from the United States are mostly directed overseas. Currently, very few US states are imposing restrictions on domestic travel despite the sharp rise in infections among the unvaccinated.
There was a 450% increase in searches over 24 hours for the term ‘Spanish travel advisory’, boosted by Monday’s announcement. And also great picks for more general international searches, like “Can US citizens travel to Europe?”
The answer to this second question varies by country and day, as restrictions are constantly changing. But most of Europe, including heavyweights like France and Germany, opened up to US citizens earlier this summer and remained open on Tuesday despite the blocking US travel ban still many Europeans.
UK searches: In the United Kingdom, the United States and Greece were those of most international interest.
For British travelers wishing to visit the United States, the ban remains in place for them.
As for Greece, it was one of the first European countries to reopen. It is open to travelers from the UK and many more around the world. EU and Schengen countries can visit, as well as places like Canada, China, Japan, the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
In the UK, there has been a huge increase in search interest, of over 2,600%, regarding Scotland’s plan to offer free bus travel to young people. It would be for people under 22 from January 31, according to the BBC.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Kate Sullivan contributed to this story from previous reports.