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Coronavirus Update

How IVHQ is keeping volunteers safe amid the coronavirus outbreak

The outbreak of coronavirus, officially named Covid-19, is attracting worldwide attention.

As a volunteer travel company with programs in China and elsewhere in Asia, IVHQ and our local in-country teams are proactively taking precautions to ensure our volunteers in the region minimize potential health risks. We take our responsibility to keep volunteers safe seriously and are acting in accordance with the advice of relevant authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States.

IVHQ has temporarily closed our volunteer program in China in response to the coronavirus outbreak, in line with the recommendation to avoid all foreign travel to China. All IVHQ volunteers have now left the program and none are suspected to have contracted the coronavirus.

Volunteers who have booked to travel to China from now through May have either cancelled their trip, postponed their plans or have transferred to programs in other destinations. We will reassess the conditions for later start dates - and re-opening the IVHQ China program - on an ongoing basis, and contact volunteers accordingly.

IVHQ programs in countries with confirmed cases
Other than China, IVHQ has programs in 11 countries that have had confirmed cases of the coronavirus. These countries are the United States, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Italy, Spain and Australia.

These countries are all considered safe to travel to. WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is quoted as saying there is “no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade.” Volunteers are encouraged to contact IVHQ with any questions or concerns.

Other destinations
We are actively monitoring the spread of the virus, particularly in regard to other countries where we have volunteer programs. All IVHQ programs are taking extra precautions to detect, monitor and isolate any cases of the coronavirus, in accordance with the advice from international authorities. There have been no reported cases of the coronavirus on any IVHQ volunteer program. Volunteers are being encouraged to take preventative measures, such as regular handwashing, as a precaution.

To minimize the potential risk of cross-infection to other individuals, any volunteer, local in-country staff member or head office staff member who exhibits any of the following symptoms should immediately inform the relevant local health authorities and place themselves in self-quarantine:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Any other symptoms that might typically be diagnosed as influenza

As always, there is a great need for volunteers to contribute to overseas communities on our projects. However, we will never compromise the safety of volunteers traveling abroad. We have placed more than 112,000 volunteers abroad in the last 12 years and take pride in our unmatched safety record.

Our advice for individuals seeking travel guidance is to consult national authorities as recommendations differ from country to country and personal circumstance. The advice from health authorities is that all travel outside of China is able to be carried out as normal and currently we recommend that volunteers booked to travel over the next few months continue with their plans. However, any volunteer who is unsure about their trip should contact their IVHQ Program Manager.

IVHQ has worked through global health events in the past, such as Ebola between 2014-2016 and Zika virus in 2017. Currently, the vast majority of confirmed coronavirus cases are in China and the number of cases outside China remains low.

IVHQ will continue to proactively monitor the situation as it develops and make decisions accordingly. Should our position or precautions change, we will proactively contact all impacted volunteers. Any volunteer, or prospective volunteer, who would like to know more can contact the IVHQ Team.

Simon Birkenhead