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COVID-19: Health experts warn international travel still too risky

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 47) -- While COVID-19 vaccination numbers in Minnesota continue to rise, health officials warn we are not done with the pandemic yet.

As infection spikes continue to hit other countries, international travel, especially for those not yet vaccinated, is still risky. One of the main concerns health officials have is the possible spreading of different COVID-19 variants.

"Even as we make progress in vaccination in places like Minnesota, there is still a lot of virus circulating globally," said Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Minnesota health officials continue to discourage international travel, especially for unvaccinated people.

"The unfortunate pattern we've seen is that variants developing elsewhere in the world tend to spread to new locations when people travel," Ehresmann said. "And then these variants gain a foothold in our communities."

In the last week, MDH identified 65 cases of the P.1 Brazilian variant, 88 cases of the B.1.351 South African variant, and 6 cases of the B-1651 variant found in India.

MDH reports nearly a quarter of the people infected with a variant the agency interviewed, reported traveling internationally.

"These travel associated cases underscore the reality and risk of travel, especially international travel during a global pandemic," Ehresmann said.

And despite being a popular travel destination for many in our region, MDH says Mexico remains a high risk destination.

"The virus is still out there circulating and mutating," Ehresmann said. "And to go back to the forest fire metaphor that we've used before, in many parts of the world, it's burning hotter than it is here. That makes it very important to be cautious and aware before traveling."

And due to the current outbreak situation in India, travel restrictions from India to the United States are now in place.

Sarah Gannon

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