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U.S. lifts travel advisory even as world remains skeptical of Americans

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The Trump administration lifted an advisory against overseas travel imposed in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, though the move’s impact may be limited since many countries still restrict Americans due to high rates of infection in the U.S.

“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice,” the State Department said in a statement ending the global travel advisory for now.

U.S. airline stocks jumped on the news, and the S&P Supercomposite Airlines Industry Index rose 1.9% at the close in New York. American Airlines Group Inc. led the gains, followed by Allegiant Travel Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc.

President Donald Trump is pushing for a return to normal activities, from schools to workplaces, to revive the devastated U.S. economy. But Karen King, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for overseas citizen services, told reporters that “there was no pressure.” She said the decision to ease the advisory was made in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Parts of Europe, Africa and Asia are now listed at Level 3, for “reconsider travel,” while New Zealand, which has essentially eradicated the virus, is listed at Level 2, for “exercise increased caution.”

China, which has largely brought the virus under control, is still listed as Level 4 — for “do not travel” — because of “travel and quarantine restrictions,” according to the State Department website. Trump regularly assails the government in Beijing for failing to prevent the spread of what he calls the “China virus” that originated there.

The State Department raised the global travel advisory to Level 4 on March 19, an unprecedented move as the U.S. and the rest of the world sought to bring the virus under control.

In the months since, the U.S. travel advisory has looked increasingly irrelevant because the virus continues to spread at a faster rate in the U.S. than in many other nations. A European travel ban against Americans remains in effect, and non-essential travel to Canada is severely restricted. Other nations require Americans to quarantine on arrival.

Globally, there have been more than 18 million cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and more than 700,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The U.S. accounts for about a quarter of deaths despite having 4% of the world’s population.

That ranks the U.S. No. 4 in the world in deaths per 100,000 people, behind the U.K., Peru and Chile, according to Johns Hopkins University. India recently surpassed the U.S. in reporting the highest number of new coronavirus cases per day, Johns Hopkins says.

Many months into the pandemic, U.S. efforts to get the virus under control are still hamstrung by testing delays and shortages. While the president and the CDC have stressed the importance of reopening schools, many states and regions that had begun the process of reopening sectors of the economy, like Texas and California, have partly reversed course.

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