United States upgrades advice for travel to New Zealand to 'reconsider travel'

The United States has upgraded its advice for travel to New Zealand and is now telling citizens to "reconsider travel" here.

The US State Department uses a four-tiered travel system to provide country-specific advice to citizens planning travel.

New Zealand was previously at level 1, meaning "exercise normal precautions''. However, as of Thursday, that has been upgraded to level 3 - "reconsider travel".

The specific advisory on the US State Department website says: "Reconsider travel to New Zealand without prior authorisation from the New Zealand government. Entry restrictions are in place to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand".

The US Embassy in New Zealand said the reclassification "is in no way a reflection on New Zealand’s COVID-19 response".

Other than a handful of individuals linked to the border, Aotearoa has not recently recorded any community cases of COVID-19 and has no restrictions or lockdowns in place as many other countries do. Our response to the pandemic has been acclaimed globally, with just 2243 cases of the virus confirmed here.

"The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recognises there is a low level of COVID-19 in the country," the embassy says.

"Changing New Zealand’s Travel Advisory level does not indicate that the US Government assesses the level of COVID-19 risk has gone up in New Zealand. The US CDC’s assessment of the COVID risk in New Zealand remains the same."

It explains that the State Department is telling citizens to "reconsider travel" as New Zealand's borders are closed to almost anyone who isn't a Kiwi resident, citizen or close family member.

The change in advisory isn't unique to New Zealand. As a result of updating its travel advisory rubric, the US State Department says about 80 percent of nations will now have a level 4 "do not travel" advisory.

"A Level 3 Travel Advisory is not unique to New Zealand," the embassy says.

Other countries under a "reconsider travel" advisory include Australia, Japan, China and New Caledonia.

"The COVID-19 pandemic poses a dynamic threat, and therefore our advice to US citizen travelers requires frequent updates to ensure we are providing the most timely and accurate information," the embassy says.

"To this end, the Department of State reviews CDC data, travel restrictions and other factors on a weekly basis to evaluate the appropriate Travel Advisory levels worldwide."

The US Chargé d'Affaires Kevin Covert said the US wants to be consistent with New Zealand messaging.