The State Department relaxed its travel advisory for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, while still urging heightened caution and keeping in place restrictions the Trump administration imposed last year.
A travel notice the State Department posted Thursday assigned a “Level 2” warning to Cuba, recommending increased caution, spokesman Noel Clay said. It replaced an advisory that previously gave Cuba a “Level 3” warning, meaning travelers should reconsider their trips.
The most stringent warning, Level 4, warns against any travel. The lowest, Level 1, advises travelers to take normal precautions.
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Mr. Clay didn’t specify why authorities eased the warning on travel to Cuba. “The Department undertook a thorough review of the risks to private U.S. citizen travelers in Cuba and decided a Level 2 travel advisory was appropriate,” he said.
The U.S. reduced staffing levels in its embassy in Havana last year after numerous employees were sickened by what officials have referred to as targeted attacks against U.S. personnel there. More than 20 American diplomats suffered symptoms including dizziness, concussions and hearing loss.
The U.S. also evacuated Americans from Beijing after similar reports of unexplained symptoms.
U.S. officials have not yet determined “the cause or source of the attacks and the investigation continues,” Mr. Clay said.
But the attacks have occurred primarily in residences of U.S. Embassy staff and appear to target government personnel, Mr. Clay said, as opposed to travelers. Still, the department continues to post notices on its website urging Americans to avoid specific hotels in Havana.
The updated advisory also counsels Americans traveling in Cuba to move immediately to another area should they experience any “acute auditory or sensory phenomena.”
Staffing reductions remain in place at the U.S. embassy in Havana, and family members of American personnel aren’t allowed there. While the embassy is able to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens, Cubans seeking U.S. visas must travel to Guyana for consular services.
The Trump administration last year tightened restrictions on U.S. citizens’ business ties with and travel to Cuba, including eliminating a category created by the Obama administration that had facilitated tourist travel by individuals. Most Americans traveling to Cuba now must do so as part of groups.
Advocates of increased travel and engagement with Cuba applauded the easing of travel restrictions after earlier criticizing the administration’s new restrictions.
“Cuba continues to be one of the safest countries in the world to visit,” said Collin Laverty, president of the international travel agency Cuba Educational Travel. The downgraded travel advisory “is a breath of fresh air in a highly politicized process of confusion, anxiety and speculation, which led to an excessive measure by the State Department,” he said, referring to the travel restrictions added last year.