Which ILP Programs Are Reopening?

Are volunteers abroad right now? Are you taking applications? When are programs opening back up? We have the answers to the questions you’re asking, all in one place.

So many things have been changing for every one of our ILP countries and we know you’re pretty anxious to hear updates … While there's several things we're waiting on to help us determine when programs will be reopening, we really wanted to find a way to keep you up to speed and let you in on information that we have week to week. So we put it all in one place, mapped everything out, and are giving you a behind-the-scenes look at it all.

We have a main page complete with all of our ILP countries mapped out + some FAQs we’re sure you want the answers to. On the map, you can easily click into each country and read more about how things are looking: everything from opening borders, potential flights, visa policies, schools reopening, and what travel could look like. 

Fall 2020 has begun and volunteers in Montenegro and Ukraine are back! Right now we're making updates on that page looking towards Spring 2021, but we’ll be changing and updating the information for the Summer 2021 semester in the coming months, and for future semesters after that — as long as we need to be.  You’ll want to keep an eye on this webpage, which we’re updating often. 

We’ve been working so hard behind-the-scenes to help figure out what life is looking like for our countries around the world and when we can have ILP semesters again  — and we are so excited to share all of this hard work with you. We hope it’ll help answer some major questions and keep you more informed about the countries you already love.

Check it out here.


Some exciting updates for Uganda!

October 5, 2020 

We’ve been anxiously awaiting a government announcement about schools reopening and flights restarting for the country of Uganda. These decisions have been pushed back for months, since things really shut down in March. However, in a recent update from President Museveni sounds like a step in the right direction for a Spring 2021 semester in this country. 

First off, the Entebbe airport is set to reopen October 1, resuming regularly scheduled flights. There’s also a change to the tourist policy, once again allowing travelers as long as they can present a negative PRC test result taken within 72 hours of arrival. There are still some details that need to be sorted out logistically (like if all travelers would be required to stay in select hotels for the duration of their stay), but it sounds like a good step. 

Another bright spot of news? Schools will be reopening, beginning October 15. There are still some details that are pretty unclear about how that will operate (and potentially impact our volunteers) but having schools reopen and flights to Uganda resuming sound like two major elements that encourages a semester in this country soon. 

Read more here and on our COVID-19 update page for Uganda.


Is It Safe To Fly On A Long Distance Flight?

August 20, 2020

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? 

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? 

"We discovered 2 likely SARS-CoV-2 transmissions on this flight, with 7 index cases," researcher Dr. Sandra Ciesek, of the Institute for Medical Virology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, stated in the report. Only two transmissions occurred with no attempts to prevent the spared of the virus. 

“(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.

 Read more here


ISOS Says These ILP Countries Have Decreasing Or Limited Virus Activity

August 10, 2020

We’re happy to see a few ILP countries managing the virus well enough to achieve Blue or Green status, according to ISOS. 



Green status countries are those with limited activity, either with no reported cases (while still testing for the COVID-19 virus) or have a minimal number of new daily cases — maybe there are just a few sporadic or small clusters to handle. ILP countries like Uganda, China, and Thailand are all labeled as green, same with Taiwan (where ILP has  professional teaching program). 
 

More good news? A couple of other ILP countries are Blue, meaning they’re right on cusp of getting to Green. Blue countries have Decreasing Activity, which means they haven’t reached outbreak status, or have a moderate (and controlled) number of new cases. Blue countries are also those who have a decreasing virus trend, supporting decreasing numbers for two weeks. Nicaragua and Haiti join the list of Blue countries, as well as handful of favorite vacation spots like Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Norway, and a few more. 

These ISOS reports are maintained by a whole host of medical and health professions, citing sources and gathering data from the  World Health Organization, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individual Ministries of Health, and others. 

Get a map of each country’s outbreak status here


State Department Lifts Level 4 Travel Bans (Hooray!)

August 6, 2020 

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. 

Read more here


What Does Virus Testing At The Airport Look Like For Travelers?

July 30, 2020

As more and more countries are figuring out how they will be welcoming back tourists and travelers, we’re seeing a variety of approaches. Some countries are publishing a list of approved countries who can skip a test or quarantine, while others are completely cutting off flights. Quite a few are implementing a “test on arrival” program which sounds like a good step for travelers everywhere, especially American tourists. 

Around the world, a few nations are deciding to institute mandatory testing for every traveler, while some are requiring a test only if you’re traveling from a high-risk country.  According to one article, “the idea behind airport testing is that passengers land, take a quick test and wait for the result. If it’s negative, isolation ends.”
 

No matter the requirements, the procedure is basically the same (using a swab test). Some airport testing units can process results in a matter of hours, while others have a 72-hour turnaround period. Russia is boasting one of the fastest tests, advertising that results will be processed within an hour, meaning the whole procedure (including paperwork) to take just 75 minutes. 

There are a handful of airports rolling out this strategy, including those in Germany, Russia, Ukraine, France, and Iceland, among others. We’re hoping to see more and more success with this strategy which would only open up more borders for travelers everywhere. 

This update is particularly pertinent for American travelers. As long as infection numbers continue to rise in our country, it seems likely that testing upon arrival will be required if you’d like to travel abroad to nations who require a test for travelers from “high risk” countries. However, it’s definitely a good update for those of us excited to start using our passports again. 

 

Read more here.


Thailand (+China and Uganda) Reach Green Status!

Updated July 16, 2020 (Initial article posted May 28, 2020) 

With the world charting the outbreaks in each country, we love hearing that Thailand has been deemed “Green” according to International SOS (ISOS). That green status is defined as “Limited Activity” which means no reported cases (with ongoing testing) or there’s a minimal number of new cases per day (sporadic or small clusters). It’s really the best place a country can be, before moving to Yellow, which means all cases are imported (aka, there are zero cases or the ones they have didn’t originate in that country). 

Previously (as reported in May), ISOS had Thailand on the list of “waning” countries as far as COVID-19 outbreaks go. Waning countries had less than 100 cases a day and have had declining case numbers of COVID-19 for two weeks. ISOS has revised their classification system to color code, but the message is the same: this Green status is another step forward in Thailand’s reopening and returning to a new definition of normal, that’s for sure. 

Thailand joins a few other Green countries including China, Uganda, Estonia, Fiji, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Taiwan, and a few others. We’re hopeful even more will reach that Green status, but are so happy to see a few ILP countries (and vacation spots) on this list! 

These ISOS reports are maintained by a whole host of medical and health professions, citing sources and gathering data from the  World Health Organization, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individual Ministries of Health, and others. 

Get a map of each country’s outbreak status here


They’re Processing U.S. Passports Again!

July 7, 2020

Ready for something we are absolutely stoked about? You can apply and get a passport again — hooray! As of July 6, four processing agencies moved into Phase 2 which means more staff are allowed to process applications (Since March, passport operations have been severely reduced). There are only 3 Phases, so it’s a big move to upgrade to Phase 2. 

Right now, those who need a passport in the next 72 hours (or for an emergency) are still getting first priority, but more staff mean more people to sort through other applications that have already been received + new apps. 

There are still some delays, but according to the US Department of State, “applications will be processed on a first in, first out basis, beginning with the oldest applications received.” And they have a lot to process. Last week, (June 25 to July 1), agencies received 133,000 passport applications, and had 1.51 million passports waiting to be issued. They report that these numbers are pretty typical compared to last year, but having limited processing means things are going to be delayed. 

Even though things may take a minute, it’s a really good sign for travel to see passport agencies opening back up. 

How Long Until I Get My Passport? Can I Check My Status? 

The State Department isn’t publishing the projected wait time, just that you should expect delays. However, you can check the status of your passport online (or call  1-877-487-2778) if you have already submitted an application. So you know, "Not Found" means your application is in transit to one of the passport agencies and "In Process" means your application is with the Department of State and will be reviewed as staff return to work in phases. 

How Do I Apply For A Passport? 

To apply, you have to make an appointment at an acceptance facility or renew by mail now. Plan on observing strict social distancing and wearing a mask at all times when you head to one of those facilities for your appointment. That link makes it really easy to find an acceptance facility close to where you live + their contact info so you can set up an appointment. 

Another Happy Update 

This change in passport processing is really good news for more than a few reasons — as more and more passport agencies are opening up (which is determined by the State Department), we are thinking that maybe it’s a sign that the International Do Not Travel Alert is about to change, too. It’s been in place since March and hasn’t budged despite decreasing virus cases and borders opening in dozens of countries.  More and more agencies opening up mean more and more passports are being issued. There will likely be an influx of applications once the travel alert has been reduced, so we can only wonder ... is moving into Phase two a sign that they're preparing for that?

Recent statements from the US Secretary of State also sound like maybe a change is on the horizon. In a recent press conference, Mike Pompeo mentioned “I'm very hopeful that I’ll be able to travel to Europe here in just a handful of weeks” to have some in-person discussions with European leaders about the state of a few political concerns. 

Pompeo also addressed the restrictions Europe currently has on restricting travelers from US from traveling to certain countries, stating that “we’re working European counterparts to get that right”, focusing on the fact that we “want to make sure it’s science-based, health-based, that our transportation team, Homeland Security team, as well as the State Department, deliver a process and set of tools so that not only are nations comfortable opening their borders up again, but individuals who are making the choice to travel are comfortable”. 

He stated, "We need to get our global economy back going again.  There’s enormous destruction of wealth that’s created, and poverty yields bad health outcomes in many parts of the world.  We need to get our economies back going again."

Read the full press conference here.

The State Department has published a lot of helpful resources on applying for your passport so be sure to check up on the FAQ to get questions answered and get more info on the phased reopening here.  

Image via the US State Department's Passport Processing Site

What Countries Are Set To Welcome Back Tourists?

May 30, 2020 

There are some good signs for anyone who’s ready to pull out their passport and plan a trip or two. There are still travel restrictions and advisories in place, but several of our favorite countries are making strides to reopen and invite tourists back, some as early as this summer. Here are just a few of the countries sharing some good news: 



The dreamy island of Bali has big plans to invite tourists back to their lush jungles and postcard beaches, preparing the nation to welcome travelers starting in October. The island depends heavily on tourism and is striving to continue to keep their COVID-19  infection rates low to allow their plan to move forward. Bali has been a favorite vacation destination for our volunteers living in Thailand, so that’s one country we’re particularly happy to hear about. 

Thailand is also focused on bringing back tourists at a slow and steady rate. Already, plans to open major attractions like the Grand Palace in Bangkok and the Walking Street + Market in Chiang Mai are good signs. The country’s first focused on domestic travel but is looking to open to international travel if infection numbers remain low. 

Greece is another favorite vacation destination for our ILP volunteers living in Europe, and they’re looking to open up to tourists as soon as it is safe. A tourism period is set for June 15, where summer hotels are open and accepting reservations. Regular ferry service from the mainland to several islands has resumed, with parameters in place to encourage social distancing while on the ferry and for the restaurants once you arrive.

Germany has been eyeing a strategy to slowly open their country to tourism and are making some hopeful strides. Travel between Austria and Germany will be relaxed starting June 15, with officials yet to decide if travelers from Turkey, the UK, Iceland, Norway, and others will be allowed. 

 

The country of Mexico is gearing up to accept travelers in the coming weeks. Mexico is opening in regions, with one of the first set to open up in June. The popular beaches, resorts, and restaurants, found in Tulum, Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and others will kickstart the return of tourism in Mexico.  Domestic tourism is encouraged first, but some officials are hopeful the international tourists could return as early as August or September. 

Want to hear more good news? Those are just a few of the countries making strides to reopen which is certainly something we’re very happy to share with our fellow travelers! 

Get more information here. 


Uganda Continues To Keep Cases Low

May 29, 2020 

This African nation is one of the best prepared countries to keep the number of COVID-19 cases low, likely because it already has experience handling other, more dangerous outbreaks. Over the years, Uganda has not only been hit but been able to expertly handle a few diseases. Ebola, Measles, Yellow Fever, and the Marburg Virus, just name a few that have afflicted Uganda in the past. According to one article, “health officials say that gives Uganda an advantage over other countries in their fight against COVID-19.”

Case in point? The number of COVID-19 cases has remained exceptionally low, just 281 cases reported on May 28th. Despite having a population of over 42 million, the nation only hit 100 cases in early May — and 89% of those 100 cases were tracked to be imported cases via truck drivers. 

Uganda’s been able to achieve such a high level of control thanks to lockdown measures, testing people in quarantine, and public health campaigns. The government even worked with a popular singer to produce a song to raise awareness about the health and safety standards in place, with clever lyrics outlining social distancing and reminders to wash your hands frequently. 

Since March, the country has been on a strict lockdown, controlling borders, only accepting cargo planes, maintaining a civilian curfew, and only allowing essential businesses to remain open. Now, President Yoweri Museveni is feeling optimistic, stating “We have somehow tamed the virus. It is high time we ... start slowly and carefully to open up, but without undoing our achievements.” 

So far, a handful of shops (like hardware stores and warehouses) can be open, mechanics, insurance providers, and restaurants who can provide take-away meals have been allowed to open. 

Schools, universities, places of worship and other public gathering are to remain closed, as a continued effort to slowly reopen the country and control the spread of the virus. Borders also remain closed, but the world is hopeful that Uganda will continue to cautiously reopen in the safest way possible. 

More information can be found in a few places: this article and this article, in this report, and this video


Show Previous EntriesShow Previous Entries