The World Council of Churches (WCC) is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID19 (coronavirus), including canceling or postponing certain meetings, limiting travels, closing the Visitors Programme through April, and offering online communication in lieu of person-to-person gatherings.
In a letter to staff, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit commended their important work, commitment and competence. “We also do the work with some risks,” he wrote. “Now we are in a situation where we together have to handle the risk related to COVID 19.”
The WCC will do what is relevant and necessary to avoid spreading the virus to others who can become seriously ill, Tveit stated. “We have to do it to protect those in our constituency who live in contexts with health systems that would struggle to handle such an outbreak,” he said. “We also have to avoid that our work is blocked by absences and quarantine measures, here or elsewhere.”
He also reflected on the many who suffer from health conditions and epidemics in many contexts, where their lives are threatened every day. “Let us act in solidarity and in good faith so that also we can raise the awareness of the sufferings of others and be faithful in our work and prayer for more attention to them,” he wrote.
Professional travel and large meetings have been suspended except where essential. WCC staff are urged to follow wash their hands frequently with soap and water; practice respiratory hygiene; and maintain a social distance of at least two metres between themselves and others. If they feel unwell, they are to stay at home. In case of a fever, cough and difficulty in breathing, they are to seek medical care early, and call in advance to a health provider.
Staff can also avail themselves of the possibility of teleworking for one day a week, and avoid commuting to work during crowded hours.
The leadership of the WCC Central Committee decided to postpone the full WCC Central Committee meeting, once slated for 18-24 March, along with the Executive Committee meeting that was to precede it in light of concerns about and implications of the current international spread of COVID 19. Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca has been appointed acting WCC general secretary beginning 1 April as Tveit leaves the post.
WCC leadership postpones central committee meeting in light of coronavirus, WCC press release 28 February