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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 travellers about the impact of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on international travel. 

“We understand the worry in association with the recent Coronavirus outbreak, however, I want to assure you that you’re in great hands with us. The health and safety of our volunteers and interns is always our top priority. We’re in constant contact with the WHO, FCO and local embassies globally, and our staff receive daily updates and health advice. With this information, we adjust our safety strategies if necessary as well as keep you informed if anything changes.

With these types of unforeseen situations, we believe it’s important to be flexible. We’ve relaxed our terms and conditions and waived our amendment fees for all first-time changes. This means that if you have any hesitations or the advice of local authorities change, you can change your dates, project or destinations without any administration fees. We want you to have total peace of mind about your project and safety.” - Greg Thomson, CEO

To ease your concerns, we’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions with our responses below. Please feel free to contact us for more information.


How has Projects Abroad responded to Coronavirus?

We’re not accepting any bookings to start projects in China until after 1 May. We’ll 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’re 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’ve daily contact with our dedicated in-country staff members. They’re providing us with regular updates from their local authorities. We also receive updates from the FCO, WHO and other state advisory bodies. 

If your project is affected by any changes implemented by local authorities, we’ll change your project, destination, or postpone your project without amendment fees. 

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

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 sanitiser or face masks if in busy areas

Coronavirus can lead to pneumonia and those that have been affected are mostly older 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 COVID-19.

Should you still book a trip with Projects Abroad?

Yes. 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. 

We also take care of your safety in numerous ways while you’re abroad with us, not just during times of crisis. We keep in touch with you every step of the way to keep you safe and informed, from the moment you sign up until you fly back home. 

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

Can I change projects, destinations, or postpone my project?

We’ve relaxed our terms and conditions and waived our amendment fees for all first-time changes. This means that if you have any hesitations or the advice of local authorities change, you can change your dates, project or destinations without any administration fees.

If you or your family are particularly worried, we’d 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’s 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. 

What if I have already booked my flights? Can I change them?

If you’ve booked your flights through us, our travel team will help reroute your flights if you were previously meant to travel through China. They’ll also take every precaution to avoid booking flights transferring through the Chinese region.

“All volunteers and interns who’ve booked their flights through us can be assured that our travel department takes every precaution. We keep up-to-date with the latest coronavirus news to pre-empt any possible situations our volunteers might face. The coronavirus has impacted air travel for people all over the world. Because of our expertise and connections with international flight agencies, our travel department is up to speed with the best way forward" - Terri Peters, Senior Travel Consultant

What is Coronavirus?

COVID-19 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. 

COVID-19 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.

Where can I find more information

The World Health Organisation has created this informative video to explain what is known about COVID-19, with links to further information in the video description. 

The Foreign Commonwealth Office provides up to date information about the UK 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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