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Updated Guidance for International Travel by UNC Students, Trainees and Faculty

June 21, 2021

While the vaccination campaign is bringing COVID-19 under control here in the US, the pandemic continues to create heightened risks for international travel, in particular to countries with low resources for providing health care and/or low vaccination rates. In addition, variants of concern continue to emerge, placing some health care systems under great strain and claiming many lives (more lives lost globally in the first half of 2021 than in all of 2020). As deans and others weigh the required certification that the benefits to UNC of the proposed international travel exceed the risks, these elevated risks must be front and center in making judgments.

In practical terms, this means that travel to destinations of concern should, in many cases, be delayed or deferred. The benefits to UNC and beyond of travel for such purposes as conducting essential humanitarian activities, COVID-19 vaccine or treatment trials, or other life-saving activities may receive special consideration.

Why should travel be restricted?

  • COVID-19 and recent variants are spreading rapidly with still unpredictable morbidity and mortality
  • Travelers who become ill with COVID-19 or another illness may not be able to access health care and certainly not the level of care available in Chapel Hill
  • The evolution of COVID-19 variants of concern does not allow us to predict the quarantine trajectory. A place that currently allows travel may suddenly “lock down,” leaving personnel stranded
  • While we know that travelers who are fully vaccinated reduce their risk of suffering severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, we still do not know the durability of the current vaccines and cannot, with confidence, rely on vaccines to ensure protection against emerging COVID-19 variants

In summary, as decision-makers weigh the risks of travel against the benefits to UNC’s educational and research mission, the elevated risks of travel must be given all due consideration.  Current conditions still call for a highly restrictive UNC international travel policy.

This will be re-evaluated monthly as the situation evolves.