Last updated October 26, 2020
Today’s Status, Looking Towards Spring 2021 — Blue
Nicaragua has not been hit as hard as many Central American countries. The virus has taken its toll, but other factors (like fewer international travelers before the virus) have been an advantage for this particular Humanitarian Program. Flights opened in September and the number of daily new cases has been on the decline since August. We will continue to watch, but we are very optimistic about a Spring 2021 semester here.
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 Nicaragua again (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know). Also, this info changes often. Our goal is to keep things current with weekly updates, so check back frequently.
Airports in Nicaragua have reopened and visitors are allowed in as long as they have proof of a negative COVID-19 test (taken within 72 hours of arrival). This was a big roadblock for the Fall 2020 semester, so the airports opening is a good move for Spring 2021.
You don’t need a visa to enter Nicaragua, so that’s something we don’t have to worry about waiting for.
In March, many US airlines suspended flights to Nicaragua. Flights and entry policies into Nicaragua (which were originally planned to resume in July) were pushed back until September. Now in October, airports are open and are allowing visitors. Most airlines will resume U.S. to Nicaragua flights this month.
Travelers must present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Those who present a positive test are also allowed in, but are subject to contact tracing for 14 days and must not have any respiratory symptoms.
The virus trends in Nicaragua are proving tricky to track, and we have had to rely on local contacts who are there as well as some NGOs committed to monitoring the virus (who are relying on contributions from many volunteer healthcare workers and private citizens).
There’s a lack of testing capabilities so the reports are mostly estimated based on information from other countries and the observed hospitalization rates. Managua (the capital city) was hit the hardest, while Granada (where ILP volunteers live) has not reached the same levels. The main hospitals that ILP volunteers use have not exceeded capacity.
Starting in about August, the daily number of new cases started decreasing significantly and overall the growth rate of the outbreak is doing well after a very difficult early summer.
Because the country did not institute a lockdown, public schools have been in session and that’s looking like it will continue. Over the summer, private schools closed voluntarily based on their own assessment of the risk of the virus. The educational center where ILP volunteers teach in Granada voluntarily closed in March out of an abundance of caution, but is opening this fall and is planning on being open for a Spring 2021 semester in January 2021.
We’re waiting to hear back on what restrictions are in place right now — Nicaragua’s an interesting case because until recently, the government didn’t regulate ways to stop the spread of the virus and even now there have been hardly any government imposed restrictions.
Out & About
The government is now recognizing the virus as a health threat and some restrictions from the government have been put in place. Previously there were no government-mandated restrictions and only socially-imposed self-restrictions.
In-country travel is allowed, but will be considered on a case by case basis (which has been the situation for past semesters). We’re hopeful some of the same adventures and activities will be available for upcoming volunteers, like visits to colorful markets, volcano trekking, hiking in thick jungles, and soaking up time on Nicaragua’s beautiful beaches.
ILP volunteers usually travel around Nicaragua during their semester, and love to visit Panama and Costa Rica. We’ll be taking a peek at what things are like in Panama and Costa Rica as things get closer.
Okay, now what? Should I still apply for Nicaragua?
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!