In light of the recent declaration by World Health Organisation (WHO) of COVID-19 as a pandemic and global escalation over recent days, YWAM Medical Ships has taken action to restrict the involvement of short-term international volunteers flying in to join the upcoming ship outreach dates 20 March to 5 April, and to postpone the two outreaches scheduled between 10 April to 17 May.
We have been closely monitoring the novel coronavirus over several weeks now, receiving daily reports from WHO, information from our partners in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and travel advisories from various governments. As we are all aware, the situation is constantly evolving.
Along with the global community, we were all hoping for a different outcome, but now need to pull together to respond confidently and proactively to the pandemic context.
Based on current information, YWAM plans to go ahead with Outreach 4 from 20 March to 5 April, focused on essential maternal-child health activities, in collaboration with local health workers and with a team of personnel already in country only. As the situation is rapidly evolving, these plans may be further modified over the coming days.
Our goal together is always to strengthen PNG. Our prime driver for cancelling outreach for inbound international travellers is a desire to do all we can to protect the nation from imported cases of COVID-19.
In addition, every volunteer – short or long term – is precious to us and the health and wellbeing of this team is another prime reason for taking this difficult but necessary decision. Changes in flight availability and border closures are highly unpredictable and could make travel exceptionally complex at this moment.
While a pause in operations comes with very mixed emotions, we are confident that under these unusual global circumstances, this is the best way we can work toward our goal of supporting a healthy Papua New Guinea.