Across the world many of our school and university partners have been impacted by the spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China. As it’s taking its toll on our host communities too, we empathize with everyone that has been affected and will continue to offer our support as we get through these times of uncertainty. Until the risks of Covid-19 are understood and contained, we understand the hesitation of traveling with students and, as always, the safety of our participants must be the number one priority.
The decision to hold educational travel programs activities is made by institutions, faculty, teachers, parents, and students themselves. GROUND Asia staff have been trained to help our schools and universities make these decisions by providing them with up-to-date information about the Coronavirus.
For groups who are traveling with us over the coming months, we have implemented the following measures across all of our programs to reduce the risk where possible:
Based on World Health Organization advice, we have trained our guides, coordinators, and drivers on proper handwashing techniques. They are also happy to pass this knowledge on to students and traveling educators, instructing them to each wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. During our programs we have adjusted routes to ensure that there are frequent opportunities to wash hands throughout each day, particularly before meals. Our guides will also be equipped with additional soap as well as extra alcohol-based hand sanitizers for times when hand washing stations are not available. Medical professionals recommend that Covid-19 antibacterial disinfectant should contain between 70-80% alcohol to be effective
Adjusted the routes of our programs to avoid crowded, higher-risk areas. With the Covid-19 incubation period being prolonged between 14-24 days, we understand that schools must model their safety protocols in accordance with WHO recommendations. There may be some components of a program we decide it’s best to remove entirely. For example, we avoid visiting open-air “wet” markets where they sell animals or freshly butchered meats, and we have changed our itineraries to visit popular sights at quieter times of the day. While it’s a shame to have to miss out on a part of the program, making some small changes could reduce the risk to our students and staff that allow the rest of the program to go ahead. The changes impacting your educational program will be discussed with educators beforehand.
Trained our guides and coordinators on how to follow WHO guidelines for respiratory hygiene: this involves coughing or sneezing into the crook of your elbow. Using tissues and disposing of them immediately to prevent the spread of tiny droplets of the virus. We will advise our groups to exercise social distancing whenever possible: maintain a distance of at least 1 meter to people coughing or sneezing. Our guides will also remind students that it’s important to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands, as it is one of the easiest ways to pick up viruses.
As with all of our programs, in the event someone does fall sick, our guides and staff have comprehensive information regarding local healthcare facilities where our participants can access adequate treatment. That information has been updated to include designated hospitals that are equipped to handle coronavirus cases.
GROUND Asia realises that Covid-19 has put educators in a tough situation. The teachers and faculty we work closely with extol the benefits of educational travel programs, and no one wants to see their students miss out on such an impactful experience. But as with any activity, the benefits need to be weighed against the risks. We appreciate that for some the risk associated with Covid-19 is too high, and that will result in the postponement of programs. In the event that a group does decide to postpone their program, GROUND Asia is working closely with our partners and suppliers to reduce any negative financial implications for our groups.
Along with everyone else, we are hoping that swift and effective measures will significantly reduce the spread of Covid-19 as vaccines are being developed. GROUND Asia will continue to gather more information and closely monitor the situation locally and will be in touch with our schools and universities regarding our upcoming programs. As we progress through this situation and try to make sense of the uncertainties, we wish all of our partners good health!
GROUND Asia partners with communities across Asia to assist in their sustainable development. The communities we work with are our clients. To meet their expectations, we empower them through mutually beneficial programs to ensure their development needs come first.