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Coronavirus 2020 - Projects Abroad response

By Projects Abroad | 07th February, 2020

In recent weeks, we have had many questions from upcoming travelers about the impact of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on international travel. We have compiled some of the most common questions and our responses below. Please feel free to contact us for more information.

What is Coronavirus?

2019-nCoV is a newly identified strain of the coronavirus which is thought to have spread to humans from a live animal market in Wuhan, China. While thousands have been affected by the virus which causes respiratory illnesses, governments across the world have responded quickly. 

2019-nCoV has garnered much attention particularly as it is a new strain of the virus and therefore much has to be learned about its properties, origin and transmission. Dealing with the virus effectively is so challenging because of uncertainty caused by this lack of research. However, many experts agree that the common flu (which causes 35,000 deaths a year in the USA alone) poses more of a public health concern.

How has Projects Abroad responded to Coronavirus?

We are not accepting any bookings to start projects in China until after 1st May. We will review this date as more information becomes available from the Chinese authorities, World Health Organisation (WHO) and Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO). 

Our staff teams in both Shanghai and Beijing are closely monitoring all advice from local authorities and updating our Global Operations Team frequently. They are all safe and following local precautions too. 

Several other destinations have imposed preventative travel restrictions on anyone who has been in China in the last 14 days. This is country-specific and updated frequently.

In every country where we operate, we have daily contact with our dedicated staff members in destination. They are providing us with regular updates from their local authorities. We also receive updates from the FCO, WHO and other state advisory bodies. 

If the advice of local authorities changes, any travelers booked onto an affected program can change their destination or postpone their project, even at short notice. We will waive all amendment fees in these cases. 

Our flights team are avoiding booking flights which transit through mainland China, and helping to reroute flights which involved stopovers in the area.

We've also donated several thousand masks to help people in China to protect themselves from the Coronavirus:

Our team in Thailand helped us find 1,000 surgical masks. In Kenya, our colleagues helped Chinese volunteer, James, buy 3,000 surgical masks. All masks are donated to hospitals in China, as a donation from Projects Abroad. We really appreciate this donation during hard times in China.

- Molly Yang, Recruitment Director for Projects Abroad China

Box of masks donated in response to the Coronavirus

Is it still safe to travel?

Yes, the overwhelming majority of cases are found in Hubei province in China. Cases in other countries are being treated in specialist units. 

We continue to recommend normal travel safety precautions such as:

  • Ensure you receive all the recommended vaccinations before you leave
  • Maintain hand hygiene
  • If you feel unwell, isolate yourself and contact local medical assistance
  • Use hand sanitizer or face masks if in busy areas

Coronavirus can lead to pneumonia and those that have been affected are mostly people with underlying health issues. While this virus has had a huge impact in China, the international impacts have been quickly addressed and contained. While a new virus rightly causes heightened concern and attracts a lot of coverage, the relative numbers of people affected outside China are small. The common flu affects thousands more each year. Recovery rates are improving the more we learn about 2019-nCoV. 

Should you still book a trip with Projects Abroad?

Yes. If any authorities change their advice and a project is affected, you can change destination or postpone your project with no amendment fees. 

If you or your family are particularly worried we would recommend you choose a destination in Africa or Latin America. No cases have been identified in either continent, and travel to these areas remains unaffected. All airports, transport, and tourism are operating as normal across these continents, with local authorities not making any amendments to official travel advice.  

In times like these it is important to continue to support local economies in a safe and structured manner. Please contact us if you would like advice on choosing a destination. 

The WHO has convened with governments all over the world to contain the spread of this virus. We hope and expect that authorities will have the virus contained soon, and our thoughts are with those affected. 

Based on current information regarding this outbreak, and our experience and analysis of previous outbreaks of a similar nature, we currently do not anticipate that our projects will be affected during Summer 2020. 

Projects Abroad is a leader in regards to travel safety. The health and safety of our volunteers is paramount and our staff are being updated daily on reports and health advice. 

Where can I find more information

The World Health Organisation has created this informative video to explain what is known about 2019-nCoV, with links to further information in the video description. 

The Government of Canada provides up to date information about the government’s travel advice for all our destinations.

Please feel free to contact us if you would like any help choosing a project or are concerned about international travel plans you have already made.

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