Mexico may seem like the perfect winter getaway for U.S. travelers. The weather is warm and health requirements during the pandemic are lax relative to other tropical destinations.
Unlike many other popular travel spots, Mexico’s rules for visitors arriving by air are not onerous, according to the U.S. Embassy. While they may be subject to health screenings, tourists from the United States do not need to show proof of a negative test or undergo quarantine if they fly into the country. Nonessential travel by land, including tourism, is not allowed at least through Dec. 21.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said recently that citizens should avoid all travel to the country, citing the “very high level” of coronavirus.
Airlines are adding flights for the season, however. American Airlines is starting service to two new Mexican cities — La Paz and Loreto — later this month, and adding new seasonal routes to Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. United is adding more flights to seven of the country’s beach destinations this winter.
And travel search company Kayak says three of the most-searched destinations for the holiday season are in Mexico: Cancun, San José del Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. (Still, Mexico isn’t immune to the travel woes the rest of the world is suffering. Airfare-booking app Hopper says winter search demand for the country is down nearly 50 percent compared to last year.)
The CDC designated Mexico — and 175 other countries and territories — as “Level 4” coronavirus destinations when it revamped its system for travel health notices on Nov. 21. Previously, the CDC used a three-level notice system. Mexico had been a Level 3 destination at the time; the agency recommended travelers avoid all nonessential travel.
Destinations with more than 200,000 people get a Level 4 designation based on their incidence rate and new case trajectory, according to the CDC. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that Mexico has seen 188,581 new cases over the past month and 14,187 deaths.
Authorities are sending a mixed message on Mexico: Unlike the CDC, the U.S. State Department eased its advisory for the country back in September, lowering it to “reconsider travel” from “do not travel.” The CDC’s travel notice is only focused on health-related issues, while the State Department uses “a broader set of risk indicators,” according to the department.
“This means that in some instances, the Department’s advisory for a given country will reflect a different level than the CDC’s notice for that country,” the State Department said.