Last updated July 9, 2021

Today’s Status, Looking Towards Fall 2021 — 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 since last year which is another bit of good news. There are just serious restrictions on who can and can’t enter China right now that prevent ILP from re-opening at the moment.

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.

Getting There

After being closed to most foreigners for over a year, China is now allowing visitors, with a couple of requirements (for those traveling for work or certain service missions from a select group of countries). Initially, things were only open to those who have been vaccinated with a shot manufactured by Chinese companies. It was a complicated issue because Chinese-made vaccines aren’t available everywhere (like the US).

However, in April 2021, Beijing started to accept vaccination records from people seeking to enter China who have been inoculated in the United States with COVID-19 shots made by US drug makers, which signals an easing of requirements for those looking to travel to China.

Travelers must show proof of vaccination upon arrival, as well as two negative Covid-tests (PCR and antibody test) taken within 48 hours of arrival. All inbound passengers are required to quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival.

In order to volunteer in China, our volunteers are required to obtain a visa for the semester. Only limited visa types are being processed right now, and those visa types do not include visas for ILP volunteers. We are not sure if that visa type will be reinstated in the near future (or at all).

Flights from the US to China have been going on since about June 2020. However, for travelers from the US, the visa processing restrictions and limitations have prevented the large number of people from traveling to China who were traveling to this country before the pandemic.

Daily Life

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 2020. 

As of July 9th, China has 0.0 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 in areas without breakouts. 

After cases of the variant were detected in Guangzhou, the city went into lockdown in early June of this year: cancelling transport, classes moved online, and restaurants shifted to takeout only as citizens isolate themselves at home. The same occured in July, in a border city known as Ruili.

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.

As the country opened up, many schools across China opened in phases, with all students back by the end of May of last year. 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.

Stores, museums, parks,public transportation, and even Shanghai Disneyland have been open for months. As China has celebrated big holidays millions of tourists have traveled around the country visiting favorite destinations and cities within China like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City in Beijing, the streets in Shanghai, and several others. Our friends living in China say that for all intents and purposes, daily life and travel are back to normal within China.

Out & About

China instituted a digital vaccination certificate for all citizens who want to travel between provinces. The digital certificate is available on WeChat, a popular social media platform, and will record the individual’s current vaccination status as well as recent Covid results. 

Everyone in China is also 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 over a year 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, booking tickets in advance, and the requirement to wear a mask.

China has been able to open up their country early on by strictly handling the virus by specific location. That meant that in February and March of last year, favorite National Parks reopened (like Zhangjiajie and Tianmen Mountain, as well as sections of the Great Wall and the Terracotta warriors in Xi’an). Through the spring and summer of last year, other locations opened up and saw thousands of local tourists visiting spots like Disneyland and Beijing’s museums. Now, things are returning to a new sense of normal with the safety parameters outlined above.

Trains and domestic flights are operating, however there may be sporadic closures. As an example, train routes and flights to and from Guangzhou were cancelled when an outbreak in the city occured in June 2021.

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 need to wait longer to open a semester, and deciding to send volunteers there. Sometimes that has happened in the span of just a couple of weeks or even in a single day. A lot could change for our Fall 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!