I've always had a problem with headlines, which all too often distort or even contradict the content of the story they purport to summarize. It's similar to my frustration with book covers that make me wonder if the artist actually read the book itself. Even knowing this, it's all too easy to judge a book by its cover and to get our news from the screaming headlines. To get any useful information, we have to dig deeper.
On the other hand, it's possible that our State Department has simply gone mad.
One of Porter's travel websites led him to the handy(?) State Department website for its current travel advisories: a categorization of the world's countries into
- Level 1 Exercise normal precautions
- Level 2 Exercise increased caution
- Level 3 Reconsider travel
- Level 4 Do not travel
A glance at the associated map reveals that we consider the rest of the world to be a very, very dangerous place and should probably just stay within our own borders. There are thirteen places marked Level 1, the safest level, including Paraguay, Bhutan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Zambia, and Togo. Not exactly places high on my list of comfortable vacation destinations. Perhaps we should go back to The Gambia; our Gambian friends can take comfort in knowing that their country is one of those few getting our State Department's blessing, along with neighboring Senegal.
On the other hand, Switzerland is Level 4. Do. Not. Travel. More than 300 other countries are given this worst possible rating, include North Korea, Afghanistan, and the Central African Republic.
I am a lot happier that our daughter and her family are in Switzerland rather than North Korea, Afghanistan, or the Central African Republic. What do you think?
Fortunately, the website allows you to click on individual countries and get more detailed information about the advisories.
- Do not travel to North Korea due to COVID-19 and the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention of U.S. nationals.
- Do not travel to Afghanistan due to civil unrest, armed conflict, crime, terrorism, kidnapping, and COVID-19.
- Do not travel to the Central African Republic due to COVID-19, Embassy Bangui’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens, crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping.
- Do not travel to Switzerland due to COVID-19.
Methinks our State Department could do with a finer gradation of the Level 4 warning.
Here's another interesting anomaly: Liechtenstein has a travel advisory rating of Level 3. So if you can get there, you are considered safer than in neighboring Switzerland or Austria, each at Level 4. However, they make no suggestions as to how one might get to Liechtenstein without travelling through either Switzerland or Austria, given that Liechtenstein has no airport (though they do have a helipad). Perhaps one could parachute in, though that does introduce risks of its own.