Last updated July 31, 2020
Today’s Status, Looking Towards Fall 2020 — Yellow
We’re excited that China is reporting success with containing the virus, keeping numbers low, and returning to the routine of daily life (with some adjustments and changes). Many tourist hot spots have been reopened for months which is another bit of good news. Foreigners just can’t get into China right now (it’s a change we’re anxiously waiting for).
Check below to get more details on some key aspects that we’re watching. Each of these components help us determine when we’ll be able to send volunteers to China again (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know). Also, this info can change frequently. Our goal is to keep things current with weekly updates, so check back often.
Unfortunately, China isn’t open to the majority of foreigners right now, including US citizens. There’s no timeline for when that may change, but we’re crossing our fingers it’ll happen sooner than later.
We’ve had volunteers teaching in China for the past 20 years who have absolutely loved their experience with the culture and exploring the beautiful country. We’re so anxious to hear when they’ll be reopening their borders and welcoming in foreigners again!
In order to teach in China, our volunteers are required to obtain a visa for the semester. Because foreign travel is restricted, it’s no surprise that China is also not processing visas for foreigners right now.
At the end of June, Delta became the first major airline to resume flights to China. On June 25th, their route from Seattle to Shanghai started back up which was very exciting. Throughout July it’s expected that they’ll resume multiple weekly routes between the US and China, with limited seating and precautions. It’s a hopeful sign borders will ease up and visas will follow (and we can start up a program here again).
China has seen major successes over the past several months with their extremely strict lockdown measures and containment efforts during the worst peak of infections back in February. International SOS has listed them in the “Green” — they only give this listing to countries who have limited activity with a minimal number of new reported cases per day. This is a huge success for a country we love so much.
As of August 4th, China has 0.01 active cases per 100,000 people. Even with uncertain reliability of testing numbers, our contacts in China confirm that hospitals are open and not near capacity anymore, and restrictions have been eased. When cases are discovered, the Chinese government has been one of the most strict, so easing restrictions is a particularly good sign.
As the country opened up, many schools across China opened in phases, with all students back by the end of May. They’re being quite cautious: daily temperature checks, social distancing, spacing desks apart, wearing masks, etc, are all now a part of a typical school day.
The outbreak in Beijing (in mid-June) did put a wrinkle in reopening. Beijing immediately pressed pause on in-person classes to limit further potential cases. Schools around the country (outside of Beijing) are still in session and we’re hopeful programs in Beijing continue once the nation feels more comfortable with the already successful containment efforts.
Stores, museums, parks, and even public transportation have been opened. We’re seeing a trend that in China when there’s a local outbreak, it’s responded to quickly and very strictly rather than responding later at a nationwide level. It’s proved to be successful and we’re happy to see so many daily activities opening back up.
Out & About
Everyone in China is required to use a contact tracing app with daily check-ins and a daily approval code for activities. The approval code is necessary for activities ranging from travel to buying something at a store. If someone you have had contact with comes down with the virus your approval to do some activities may not be given that day.
China has been in a re-opening phase for months now and locals have been taking full advantage after country-wide quarantines. So many of our longtime favorite spots have reopened, with new safety parameters in place like capacity limits, temperature checks upon entering, and the requirement to wear a mask.
Here are just a few of the updates we’re hearing about:
Feb 28 — Zhangjiajie National Park reopened to visitors. It’s a NP found in a remote part of China that’s perfect for hiking — it’s widely considered a favorite destination for both locals and our volunteers. The town reports things starting to return to a more familiar state with businesses reopening as well.
March 2 — Tianmen Mountain (in the town of Zhangjiajie) reopened cable car access to the mountain.
March 24 — Sections of the Great Wall, including Badaling (the most popular for visitors), reopened.
March 25 — The Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an reopened.
April 4 — Mount Huangshan reopened. They saw a tremendous amount of visitors opening weekend and authorities urged travelers to see other sites because capacity was at its max the first few days.
May 1 — Beijing’s museums, including the capital’s famous Forbidden City, reopened.
May 1-5 — During China’s national Labor Day (a 5-day holiday), Suzhou extended hours for it’s most popular areas to help stagger the crowds.
May 11 — Disneyland Shanghai reopened with a few restrictions.
Trains and domestic flights are operating, however there may be sporadic closures. As an example, train routes to and from Beijing were canceled when an outbreak in the city occurred in mid-June.
In previous semesters, ILP groups did not leave China due to single-entry visa restrictions. So this aspect of the experience won’t be affected by the virus. We’re just happy that China has so much to offer as far as vacations go, there’s really no reason to leave during the semester!
Okay, now what? Should I still apply for China?
If you’re thinking “that’s all really good to know, but what does that mean for me?” we have some good news to share: time is still totally on your side.
We’ve seen policies change without notice that have made the difference between us thinking we’ll need to wait longer and helping us determine that a Fall 2020 semester in that location is something we’re pretty optimistic about. Sometimes that has happened in the span of just a couple of weeks or even in a single day. Departures for Fall 2020 are still weeks off and a lot could be decided before departing … and even more could change for Spring 2021 volunteers.
So we say start your application now so that you’re ready when the time comes. We are going to need volunteers who are ready to go right when things change for the better, which is why we think it’s a good idea to have your application in (even if things potentially look uncertain right now). Time really is on your side.
We’re also here for all of your questions. We’d love to talk about deferring to a later semester if things still need more time or finding a country right now that’ll be a good fit for you. You can bet that once things open up, you’ll be the first to know!