GAFS - COVID-19 Updates

Situation Update (3 January 2022)

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of our entire 2020 and 2021 seasons, but vaccines are now being distributed worldwide and we are currently planning for a great Summer 2022! We expect international travel restrictions to be eased considerably before May 2022, and so we currently believe that we will be able to run our 2022 season as planned. In order to protect each other and the communities within which we live and work, we will almost certainly require all students and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before course commencement in May 2022.

In the meantime, we will continue to track COVID-19 case figures, vaccination rates, and travel restrictions, and we will disseminate this information to prospective students via this webpage and via email updates through our 2022 Mailing List. Here is a graphic showing the 7-day rolling average of new cases per 100k in Ireland, in the UK (our nearest neighbour), and in the USA and Canada, the two countries where most of our students come from:

The Irish government currently requires all passengers arriving into Ireland to have a negative or ‘not detected’ COVID-19 RT-PCR test not more than 72 hours before their arrival in Ireland. Passengers arriving from all non-EU/EEA countries are requested to restrict their movements for 14 days but the mandatory 12-day hotel quarantine system has been wound down. Canada and the USA were on Ireland’s mandatory hotel quarantine list for several months, but were removed from the list on 18 June 2021 and 28 May 2021 respectively.

After a slow start, the Irish vaccination programme is running very well and the percentage of residents now fully vaccinated has surpassed comparable vaccination rates in the USA, the UK, and the EU average. The vaccination booster programme is also running well, with about half of vaccinated adults already boosted, and vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 will start soon.

Proposed Strategy

With regard to the procedures we may adopt for the summer, we are considering our options on several fronts:

    • We are likely to require documentary proof of vaccination (or possibly proof of recovery from COVID-19)
    • We may require documentary proof of a negative COVID-19 test in the days before travel
    • We may require everyone to wear masks in our bus (our van in North American terminology).
    • We may seek to limit student numbers in our apartments, putting 2 or 3 students in each 4-bed apartment, instead of the usual complement of 4.

I must stress that these are all possible courses of action and our strategy will depend on the prevailing circumstances – nothing will be finalised until mid-March or April at the earliest.

Booking and Refunds

Students can be slow to book their courses due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, so it may be useful to outline our refund policy here.
  1. Students have always been able to cancel their planned participation in any GAFS course for any reason – our standard refund policy is to offer a 90% refund to all students up to six weeks before course commencement, and this remains our ‘bedrock’ policy – we try to do better where possible, but this offer is always there
  2. If we are forced to cancel a course due to COVID-19 restrictions (or any other international crisis that is outside of our control), we will try to offer 100% refunds to the students on that course
  3. If we run a course as planned, but a student booked on that course cannot enter Ireland due to a government-imposed travel restriction, we will offer a 100% refund to that student

In summary, our standard 90% refund is available up to 6 weeks before course commencement at a minimum – in 2020 we improved this offer to allow students to cancel closer to the start date (due to uncertainty caused by COVID) and we subsequently issued 100% refunds when we were forced to cancel the courses.