Last updated October 19, 2020
Today’s Status, Looking Towards Spring 2021 — Blue
Tourist borders opened in July and travel is starting to resume here, however we’re being very cautious about the virus and overall healthcare situation. In this Humanitarian program, our volunteers live and serve in poorer neighborhoods where the virus has really taken its toll. Our friends in the DR are anxious for when ILP volunteers will be able to come back, but we’re considering all factors before that can happen. Recent info from our contacts in DR (and the officially reported numbers) is that the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths has been on the decline for several weeks now. We hope that will continue through the Spring 2021 semester.
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 the Dominican Republic again (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know). Also, this info can change often. Our goal is to keep things current with weekly updates, so check back frequently.
Borders are open, with flights and tourism returning to the island on July 1st — a really happy update, since borders closed in the middle of March to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Beginning in September, randomly selected travelers are subject to a COVID-19 breath test, instead of presenting a negative test-upon-arrival. Before departure, all travelers will need to fill out a Traveler’s Health Affidavit which states you haven’t experienced symptoms in the last 72 hours. Everyone entering will need to get their temperature checked — Passengers who present symptoms or whose test results are positive will be isolated at authorized locations.
No visa is required for visitors or ILP volunteers, so that’s a go!
Flights aren’t an issue, with many airlines reporting more and more flights to this island nation. American Airlines and Delta are just two airlines that have added more and more itineraries to airports in the Dominican Republic.
Plan on new changes like having your temperature checked before/after getting on the plane and wearing a face mask on your flight.
The virus trends in the Dominican Republic are proving tricky to track. Also, the number of cases are not spread out equally across neighborhoods. Poorer neighborhoods (like those where ILP volunteers live) tend to have higher rates of people with complicating health risks, tend not to follow restrictions that help reduce the spread of the virus as closely, and tend not to seek institutionalized medicine as readily.
In neighborhoods where volunteers live, the virus (which seemed much higher than reported cases earlier) seems to have peaked and is gradually declining. We’re hopeful that trend will continue through the fall for a program in spring.
There are fears that attribution standards are inconsistent. Testing capacity and accessibility is limited, and local hospitals are still mostly full.The rate of increase in virus numbers was high over the summer and at the end of July, started declining to lower levels again. In DR, we watch both the official numbers reported by the government as well as information from our Local Coordinators about what they are observing and information they receive from contacts in the healthcare system in their area.
As of October 19th, the nation reports 193 active cases per 100,000 people.
The pandemic has hit tourism and the economy in the Dominican Republic extensively. Many people in the poorer neighborhoods, like where volunteers live during the program, have been reduced from poverty to subsistence levels. The volunteers and all the good they bring (above and beyond teaching English) is sorely needed now in the DR. We hope and pray that conditions will allow the program to return soon.
We’ve been in close contact with our friends in the Dominican Republic and have been told that all schools in ILP areas will be open for online classes only, with no in-person teaching. There is not a timeline for when this will change — we expect this will continue at least through September.
Many tourist sites are open, which means resorts, beaches, and snorkel tours. Stores and businesses are open and the strict curfew has been removed. Daily activities, like public transportation, are getting back to normal which is good news for locals and incoming tourists. This will go a long ways in getting the economy moving again.
Out & About
Hotels have been opened for tourists since the beginning of July, with parameters in place like temperature checks when you check in. Tour agencies are also following safety and protocols like maintaining 50% capacity on snorkel tours and other island adventures. Plan on social distancing on the beach and in other locations, and respecting the maximum group size (10).
The curfew hours are still in place, but aren’t as strict (they are now 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM during the week and until 11:00 PM on weekends).
Travel and tourism are open, which means visitors can soak up everything we love about this little island. Take a trip to stay in a treehouse village, swim in blue lagoons, go ziplining in the jungle, find the best beaches for snorkeling and more. We’ve been talking to our Local Coordinators in the area who let us know that places like Sosua, Caberete are open which are favorite spots for our ILP volunteers.
Typically, ILP volunteers have so much to explore in the Dominican Republic they don’t leave the country. Some island hopping to other countries might be a possibility, but we think you’d rather find your favorite beach, go horseback riding to waterfalls, and spend Saturdays snorkeling and trekking through the jungle — all of that (and more) can be done without ever leaving the DR.
Okay, now what? Should I still apply for the DR?
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 Spring 2021 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 Spring 2021 are still weeks off and a lot could be decided before departing … and even more could change for Summer 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!