As the global COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) outbreak continues to unfold, our number one priority is protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of our participants across the world. We are committed to monitoring the situation closely, maintaining open communication with our AFS network organizations and participants, and making decisions that will best protect them.
As you have no doubt seen, the COVID-19 outbreak is both dynamic and uncertain. Our AFS teams are working diligently–through close collaboration with our network organizations in 60 countries, government agencies, members of our on-the-ground volunteer network, participants and their families–to continually assess the impact of the virus on our programs. We have more than 70 years of experience in coordinating international exchanges across the globe, often in uncertain times, and will bring that experience to decisions we make as we adapt to changing circumstances.
Where necessary, AFS may suspend exchanges to certain countries or regions, as we did for programs in China and Hong Kong, and Italy. Moreover, as the outbreak continues and new contagion centers are added, AFS may make the decision to return students home earlier than expected. In every case, while regrettable, our decisions are informed fully by our values, our mission, and our safety pledge. Once a decision has been made to suspend a program, we will contact all affected participants, their families, and host families.
AFS will do everything it can to ensure that participants who are sick do not travel. This means complying with mandatory temperature checks at airports and other measures enforced by the Italian government; and that participants returning to their home countries understand that they must follow local public health mandates and recommendations that help stop the transmission of COVID-19.
Beyond altering our programs and certain program-related activities, our network organizations are ensuring that everyone involved in an AFS program is aware of the healthy practices outlined by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control.
IF YOU OR A MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY IS CURRENTLY ON AN AFS PROGRAM: We understand this may be an unsettling time, but please know that our robust, dedicated and skilled response network is standing by to accommodate your loved one should conditions change, such as changes to their school schedule/availability or a heightened outbreak in their host country.
IF YOU OR YOUR CHILD ARE PREPARING FOR AN AFS PROGRAM THIS YEAR: The representatives in our network organizations are standing by to answer your questions and to help accommodate you in any way that we can, including helping to identify a new destination if the program has been or is likely to be suspended.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT COVID-19: As information surrounding COVID-19 is rapidly changing, we encourage you to visit the websites of the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control,European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and your national Ministry of Health advisories for more information.
We will be in regular contact with our participants and families as their situation evolves. If you have immediate concerns, please reach out to the AFS Organization in your country. As always, thank you for your confidence and trust in AFS.