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US peace corps leaving Tonga amidst coronavirus pandemic

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 19/03/2020

More than 50 US peace volunteers will be leaving the country this afternoon after receiving an urgent request from the US government to return as soon as possible amidst fears of the coronavirus pandemic.

Peace Corps Tonga Country Director – Anna Todorova says, they received an urgent request from their agency’s director to suspend global operations on the 15th of March, so they have enough time to evacuate their volunteers across the world, Tonga included.

“It is a very difficult time for us and this is the first time we would have the volunteers leave and disrupt their work and leave behind some of the important assignments in the school that they worked with. We understand that a lot of this is happening because of the unprecedented outbreak of the COVID-19 virus which very fortunately, have not yet reached Tonga and we have not yet a case here but have globally created a lot of problems with the logistics – with the travel schedules, with medical services and has made it virtually difficult for the support system to keep the volunteers who live and work abroad, safe and productive. “

The 53 peace corps in Tonga operated in Tongatapu and the outer islands, in strengthening the teaching of the English subject in primary schools throughout Tonga. Of these volunteers, some of them were recently sworn-in last year.

“I would like to assure you that the Director has made it very clear that these evacuations are temporary suspensions of the volunteer activities in the country – that we are not closing the post and the program and we would be ready to return to normal operations when conditions permit. Our host country national staff will remain in their current positions because they play a critical role in every element of the Peace Corp mission especially in such crisis. We are also grateful for all the experiences – I’ve talked to a lot of volunteers, and they’ve said they have so much regret having to leave Tonga – they have made great friendships here – and we hope that we would be able to return one day.”

These 53 volunteers will be leaving the country today, through Fiji.

© Radio and Television Tonga News