• COVID-19 – Safety Policy document

    As of August 20th…

    The health and safety of our candidates and students, staff and teachers are always our main priority at Best Programs and we are monitoring the COVID-19 crises daily. Given the increased attention around the COVID-19, we’d like to share an update on the precautions we are taking, in the form of this Safety Policy document.

    Our Safety and Risk Management Team at Best Programs is monitoring COVID-19 on a daily basis. As a successful international education provider for transformational and experiential travel for more than 20 years, we’ve learned a lot about travel risks. Every year, we manage risks and questions related to travel, diet, well-being and health for hundreds of travelers. It’s normal to feel anxious about new risks when information is still developing.

    We encourage you to reduce that anxiety by balancing media coverage with expert sources of information while you are considering travel plans. We here at BEST aim to take a measured approach combining most up-to-date information with personal choice, and offering ongoing flexibility with program payment and application deadlines. We rely on the expert advice of the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and International SOS. We are also keeping a close eye on current trends in the student travel industry related to COVID-19. The FORUM on Education Abroad and Pulse, organizations made up of full-time international health and safety staff at US colleges, universities, and study abroad organizations have advised us to remind our students and parents that:

    1.  students are not typically members of the population who may succumb to a virus like COVID-19 unless they disregard social distancing measures or have compromised immune systems
    2. unlike typical travelers, students are supported on the ground at their various study sites by professional staff, faculty, and others who work to assure that students are provided information, assistance, guidance, and help when necessary

    With the above in mind, our live, onsite programs in Spain, Cuba, Russia and Tallinn, Estonia will continue to run as scheduled for early fall and early winter start dates, with enhanced health and hygiene practices in place however for earlier participation we have online language classes and internships at a 50% discount which can be done from any location.

    TALLINN, ESTONIA:

    • As of June 1st, Estonia has opened its borders for the persons with no symptoms of disease, from a Member State of the European Union, the members of the Schengen area or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – but quarantine requirements may apply (in the case that their country of origin demonstrates the coronavirus infection rate exceeding 15 persons per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days as per this official data).
    • Foreign citizens without symptoms arriving in Estonia for work or studies are allowed from any state with a work/study visa, however for EU citizens and for a few more states, no visa is required. Upon arrival foreigners are subject to 14-day restriction of freedom or a series of COVID tests. No emergency procedures are currently imposed in Tallinn and generally in Estonia but many businesses have chosen to work remotely. 2+2 rule is a recommendation, as well as general sanitary awareness. For more information regarding the COVID-19 situation and restrictions in Estonia, please visit the website in English managed by the Estonian Government.
    • In the latter case, a person entering Estonia signs the ‘restriction of movement confirmation’ at the border. The signed document will state that the person is
      • aware of the restriction on movement and
      • obligated to stay at their residence or place of accommodation for 14 calendar days (nature getaways, running or bike rides avoiding contacts are allowed).
    • Some facts for individual tourists and travel professionals about traveling to Estonia
        • 1. It is safe in Estonia. The government has established requirements on which the guidelines for various companies providing tourism services are based. The most important among these is a requirement for people to disperse. Dispersion is required as of June 19th in all public spaces, such as stores, service points and public-use spaces.  Dispersion must also be ensured at public events. Cash and reception desks are often equipped with physical barriers (screens).
        • 2. Wearing a mask depends on individual’s own risk assessment. It is not obligatory to wear masks in Estonia. However, the Health Board recommends wearing one in public indoor establishments and for those travelers, who due to their age or general health status might be at a higher risk of infection. Masks are sold in every pharmacy and there is sufficient stock. Some bus and/or flight operators may require on international routes the passengers to wear masks (or scarves in some cases) while onboard, but this is not mandatory when traveling in public transportation within Estonia. Generally, the restrictions imposed on the quarantined are mild and wise due to a low population rate in the country. For example, you can go to run or ride a bike during your 14 days self-isolation without coming into contact with other people.
        • 3. Medical care in Estonia is available and professional. During the virus spreading period, medical care in Estonia has been effectively organized, and the capacity of hospitals or their ICUs has never been exceeded. Today, both the treatment of those infected with the virus and the usual scheduled patients are working as planned, the number of infected people is well under control and the number of hospitalized patients has remained below 40 for weeks. Hence May 26th, there is no single COVID patient in Estonia needing intensive care.
        • See more here.

    SPAIN:

    On May 23rd Spain’s Prime Minister announced that foreigners will be allowed to enter the country starting in July with no quarantine restrictions. This ruling is still in effect with certain restrictions and guidelines. Please check out this information to see what applies to you particularly. As of August 18th Americans are allowed entry in only specific circumstances.

    CUBA:

    To resume international flights and receive foreigners, Cuba will rely on the recommendations of international organizations such as the UNWTO and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the experience of other countries, which are implementing, as in Europe, “a responsible reopening”. As of August 10th there have been resurges in Cuba and foreigners are not allowed entry possibly until December.

    RUSSIA:

    As of August 18th Russia has a Global Level 4 Health Advisory – Do Not Travel. For detailed information see here. Bestprograms has converted its programs in Russia to remote internships and Russian language classes via Zoom or Skype until the borders reopen at the end of 2020 or 2021.  For more information: russia@bestprograms.org or see here.

    Since the start of this evolving situation, we at BEST Programs committed to making decisions with a steady and calm hand. We have been focused on ensuring we are not succumbing to pressure to make quick decisions on behalf of our students, and instead allowing them, as adults, to make informed decisions on behalf of themselves. Because health and safety are central and vital to all that we do at BEST, we have been daily reviewing and communicating with our expert representatives the ground abroad. We will leave it up to each candidate and their family when to plan for traveling.  (As of today, August 18, 2020, approximately 50% of our candidates have delayed their start dates while the rest are participating virtually.  For more information see this page.)

    BEST and its partners around the world are committed to remaining open for business in a safe and thoughtful way which best benefits our candidates’ carefully built programs and their future goals participating in said programs!

    Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the information above or our overall approach to health and safety.

    Sincerely,
    BEST Programs
    www.bestprograms.org
    best@bestprograms.org
    Phone: +34 637543900

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