COVID-19 + Spring 2021 Updates

Last updated October 26, 2020 — Quick heads up! If you’ve visited this page before, clear your cookies and cache before viewing to see the most updated version of this website.

What ILP programs are opening back up? Are volunteers abroad right now? Are you taking applications?


If you’re asking these things, you’re not alone! While there are still things that we’re waiting on, we want to keep you in the loop on what we know right now. There are several factors we’re watching that all need to line up before we officially reopen a semester for Spring 2021 — maybe borders just opened, but we have to wait a bit longer for visas. Or maybe reported cases of COVID-19 have been quite low, but the schools where our volunteers teach at aren’t back just yet. In several cases, we’re just waiting on one or two things.

Don’t worry if a country isn’t green yet. These country colors aren’t the final decision for Spring 2021. It’s just a way for you to quickly visualize where we’re at today. Things can change day to day, and we’ve moved countries from Blue to Green in a span of three weeks. Many times, obstacles or restrictions we’re waiting on are removed without much (or any) notice, so our goal is to update this page weekly for you. Keep checking back for updates. Make sure you hover over each country and click to read more because we have a behind-the-scenes look at everything on a separate, country-specific page. You’ll find tons of info about the factors we’re watching for that particular country. 


Play around with the map to get a quick overview, or you can click on these links below to go directly to each country’s page to find specifics on that location.



Country Color Key
Green : Everything is looking really good to fall into place for the Spring 2021 semester (Some currently have volunteers there for Fall 2020)
UkraineMontenegro, and Costa Rica

Blue : Things aren’t set yet but we’re getting closer and optimistic that things will be ready before Spring
ThailandRussiaUgandaRomania, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Nicaragua

Yellow : There are still a couple of things holding us up but we’re hopeful they’ll happen by Spring
China, Lithuania, and Vanuatu



Updates + Announcements
Did you know we relay news articles about things happening around the world that may affect our programs? Check it out here!

Big Updates

After border closures and a tight policy against foreigners entering since March, a recent announcement in Uganda is clearing some roadblocks that prevented a Fall 2020 semester. Recently, President Museveni announced that commercial flights to Entebbe Airport would resume October 1st, Travelers with a negative PRC COVID-19 are welcomed in. Another bit of very happy news? Schools are looking to reopen, beginning in the middle of the month!

There are still some details being sorted out, but having airports reopen, visas being processed, and schools reopening are noteworthy steps in the right direction for a Spring 2021 semester in Uganda. Based on these updates, we’re moving Uganda from Yellow to Blue which is something we’re very excited about (and think you’re pretty thrilled to hear, too).

Previously we let you know that back in March, US passport operations were significantly reduced (basically emergency applications only). You could send an application in, but there wasn’t much of a timeline for when your passport would be processed.

The latest update is that passports are being processed more quickly, back to their 10-12 week timeline at many processing centers. Plus, applications can also be expedited (something not previously available). 

We have loved seeing international travel slowly open up again — and having these updates about the passport process feels like a pretty good sign they’re getting ready for US citizens to start traveling again.

In September 2020, we reopened a couple of our European programs, allowing a Fall 2020 semester to take place in both Ukraine and Montenegro. We were able to send a smaller group to Ukraine and our standard sized group for Montenegro. You can keep an eye on how those volunteers are doing on our Instagram account, @ilpadventure. We’re thrilled to be able to continue with these programs for Fall 2020 and are hopeful they’ll continue for the Spring 2021 semester (along with a few other countries!).

In August, Costa Rica started allowing travelers from select US states. Over the last few weeks, more and more states were added to that approved list. However, as of November 1, the country is allowing travelers from all US states! We’re optimistic about a Spring 2021 semester at this location after that recent announcement. 

Way back in March, the State Department had a blanket Level 4 travel restriction on every country, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Travel 4 advisory came with the warning that US citizens should avoid international travel due to the impact of the virus. We are very happy to see that that Department has returned to evaluating the situation on a country-by-country basis.

In a recent press release, the State Department outlines the following: “With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with Levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions”.

The department also reminded travelers to closely monitor the health and safety conditions of the country you’re wishing to visit.

As a reminder, the State Department makes their evaluations on a whole host of elements completely independent of the virus situation. For example, China is rated at Level 4, but not due to the spread of the virus (visa and flight restrictions account for that evaluation, with additional factors). China currently has very low and limited number of virus cases.

Something else to keep in mind? There are additional factors that contribute to the State Department rating. A country may have a higher number due to a certain area of the country which is off-limits for our ILP volunteers. See how that works?

Because so many countries are handling the impact of the virus in different ways, we’re happy to see the State Department considering those factors to help make their evaluations on a country-specific level. It’s certainly a step forward for the world of international travel.

FAQ

Yep, we are! We’re currently accepting applications for all of the 2021 semesters (Spring, Summer, and Fall).  On September 1st, applications for Spring 2022 opened up, so that semester is open as well.

Oh, and remember that the country colors on the map above are only showing where we’re at right now, and are geared towards the Spring semesters with January/February departures. All countries are fair game for applications and there’s a good chance you’ll still get in for a few Spring countries, but for some countries, things are looking particularly good if you’re thinking about later semesters.

Head here to start your application online.
We’re also accepting applications for Head Teachers!

Yep! We currently have volunteers in Ukraine and Montenegro for the Fall 2020 semester.

There are full-time teachers in both Taiwan and Thailand as well, as part of the Professional Teaching program. It’s similar to our volunteer program because you’re helping children learn English using the ILP method, but you’re employed by the schools and there are certain requirements (like having a degree).

We’re as close to saying yes as we can … but the map doesn’t show any official decisions we’ve made. We’re still going to watch things right up until the moment of departure (and of course, throughout the semester while you’re there as well!). So it’s a tentative yes.

This pandemic has been fluid. We’ve seen countries who have done very well at minimizing the spread of the virus have another outbreak (and then work quickly to contain it again). We’re never done evaluating things. We’re actively watching how our countries are doing every day and it’s been a huge focus for us since March. Countries are marked Green because if all goes as expected, we’ll be able to send those ILP groups out right on schedule for a Spring 2021 semester. (Yeah, you can go ahead and do a happy dance!)

Nope, it definitely doesn’t mean that. It just means that we’re still waiting on a couple of things that are out of our control, but we’re really hopeful based on the progress that’s been happening the last few months.

Countries can change from Blue to Green overnight and even from Yellow to Green in a matter of days. Because things can change so quickly, we’ll be making weekly updates to this page (and we’re hopeful we will have lots of changes to make — there are lots of signs that travel is opening up again).

The pandemic has really taken its toll on many countries, including the US as you know, and everyone is anxious to get to a point where life gets back to “normal”. Every country is different, so definitely go take a look at the country’s page for more (just hover over the map and click on the link). We’re going into a lot more detail there on what progress has happened and what’s holding us back right now.

As the world is slowly opening back up to travel and tourism, you can bet there are multiple studies out there to help answer this question — is it safe to head off on a long flight? What’s the risks of getting COVID-19?

According to a new report, the risk is small and even smaller since so many precautions have been put in place since the outbreak of the pandemic. Back in March, a German research team reported on the health status of 102 passengers who boarded a flight in Tel Aviv, Isreal to make the 4.5 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This was all before more extreme lockdown measures and requirements (like passengers and crew members wearing masks or decreasing crowding in the aisles). The case takes an interesting turn when researchers realize 7 people on that flight had tested Positive for COVID-19 upon landing. And what about the other passengers on the plane, who had been on the flight with the infected passengers?

Only two transmissions occurred on that flight, according to researcher Dr. Sandra Ciesek, of the Institute for Medical Virology at Goethe University in Frankfurt.

“ (E)ven with no attempts to prevent spread, [the] spread was limited to only those in close proximity. Plus, nowadays with a better understanding of viral transmission, and recognizing the importance of masking and social distancing as possible, the likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 to someone on an airplane is very low,” says Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of Infectious Diseases of Mount Sinai in New York.

The measures airlines are taking are exactly what epidemiologist Glatt reports: social distancing while on a plane (and in the airport) along with wearing a mask is going to decrease the risk of contagion while flying.

Sorry for sounding like a broken record, but it’s still too far out to say. There’s still quite a bit of time before Summer 2021 and future semesters, so you have that in your favor. All signs point towards changes (hopefully for the better) before that time.

Right now, this page is focused on Spring 2021. Around February, we’ll switch over to Summer 2021 (and so forth). The closer we get to your semester, the more information we can give you.

Head here — we put together the number of active cases (per 100,000 people) for each of our ILP countries, as well as numbers for the US so that you can get a feel for what those numbers mean in comparison. We’ll keep updating this as frequently as reports come out so that it’s fairly up to date.

Oh and just a heads up, these numbers are according to the country’s estimate. Yes, we realize this depends on accurate testing and reporting, and the numbers for many countries are not particularly reliable. Reported cases are just one of the factors we’re considering when it comes to opening a country for a semester. Some of these country numbers are more reliable than others, but actions like closing borders right away have proved to be an important factor in keeping numbers as low as possible. We’re also in close communication with our in-country contacts who are able to provide some perspective and insight for us on a local level.

The pandemic has taken its toll all across the world and no country has been immune, they’ve just seen the affects in different ways. Many countries have done very well at slowing the spread of the virus and reported cases have been low. We have loved seeing them slowly (and successfully) open up over the summer.

In some areas where we have Humanitarian Programs, businesses temporarily closing has been particularly hard on the economy. Some governments are able to provide assistance (sort of like those stimulus checks we got in the US) but it’s very minimal. We’re seeing communities band together and really step up to help each other — it’s been so inspiring. Our Local Coordinator in the Dominican Republic is known in her neighborhood as the go-to person when you need help, and does so much, particularly through this pandemic. She’s been an incredible resource, just one of many. There have been fundraisers going on since May to help provide food to families in the neighborhood but on-going support is still needed. Check that out here if you’re interested in learning more and helping out.

And that’s just one example. The same can be said about so many of the Coordinators we work with. We talk to our Coordinators often to see how things are going in their country and we keep hearing that everyone is so anxious for the ILP volunteers to come back.  The kids you help all across the world are saying things like, “When are we having the fun classes again?” “When are my teachers coming back?” “I miss my ILP teachers!”

Having ILP teachers abroad creates jobs and income for so many people in every country. We work with many locals to help us manage the program on a local level, and volunteers patronize so many businesses by shopping at markets, going to their favorite smoothie stand on the daily, and going on safari tours. Everyone is in agreement that travel needs to happen in a way to keep everyone safe, but trust us, they are all so excited for the time you can come back.