The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul worldwide is joining the efforts of national and international health authorities to fight and minimize the effects of the pandemic sparked by the new Coronavirus outbreak (Covid-19).
The National Councils are responsible for guiding Vincentian grassroots activity on this issue, and many Councils are actively involved in various countries.
However, given the international scope of the Society, the International Council offers some recommendations and guidelines for Conferences, Councils as they interact with some of the special works of our Society, particularly in day-care centers, homes for the elderly, foster homes, shelters for the homeless and, above all, in home visits.
It is worth mentioning that there are much more harmful diseases than Covid-19. However, due to the wide dissemination, this disease has had a great social impact and has impacted the economy and tourism in many parts of the world, as well as resulting in death.
The Council General’s recommendations are as follows:
- Home visits
Extra precautionary measures and care for personal hygiene must be taken during home visits, especially when coming in contact with the people assisted. Each Superior Council will, on a provisional basis, ascertain the frequency of home visits, provided that the service offered to those in need is not compromised. Other forms of contact may be adopted on a temporary basis.
- Charitable works
Close attention must be paid to the general recommendations with regard to cleaning, hygiene and disinfection in the works undertaken by SSVP, especially those where the target population is more vulnerable to the new Coronavirus, such as the elderly. With regard to visits to relatives or friends, the basic recommendations of hygiene set out by the health authorities shall be adopted. In rooms, parishes and other places where the Vincentian Conferences are held, conditions of strict cleanliness and hygiene must be observed.
- Ongoing social projects
The very same general recommendations shall be applied to the ongoing social projects carried out by Vincentian Conferences around the world. All safety protocols set out by the health authorities in each country must be followed.
- Members and volunteers
In all charitable activities, both active SSVP members (brothers and sisters) and volunteers shall take extreme precautions to avoid contagion: hands should be washed before and after each contact, and social distancing observed (at least, one meter, as recommended by the World Health Organisation).
- Employees of special works supported by the SSVP
The aforementioned recommendations shall be adopted. Those responsible for these special works shall provide employees with what is needed to fight the virus: masks and hand sanitizer, among other products.
- Councils’ headquarters
The employees of the Societ’s headquarters shall observe the set of recommendations developed by the relevant authorities to prevent the spread of the virus. Each work, through consultation with the respective Council, shall take appropriate precautionary measures, while ensuring continuity of services: telecommuting, flex schedules or shift work.
- Cancelling or postponing meetings and other events
At each Council’s discretion, and if it deems it appropriate, activities, meetings, celebrations, ceremonies, seminars, plenary sessions, pilgrimages or other events may be cancelled or postponed. If not vital, it is recommended that they be postponed.
In the event of temporary suspension of activities within the Conferences, Councils or special works, all those related to the SSVP shall be duly informed, especially those in need, volunteers, fellow members, members of the clergy, etc.
- International trips
Leaders of the Council General (especially Regional Vice-Presidents and Zone Coordinators) shall assess, with calm and caution, whether institutional visits scheduled in the 2020 agenda should be maintained, postponed or cancelled.
- Nairobi 2020
To date, the Council General International’s annual meeting is to be held in Nairobi (Kenya), from 9 to 14 June 2020. The Council General will meet in April to further consider whether or not to hold this event.
- Headquarters in Paris
The Council General’s Secretary General, fellow member Marie-Françoise Salésiani Payet, is taking all necessary measures to guarantee the best working conditions for the employees at Paris’ headquarters, in accordance with the guidelines established by the French health authorities.
- Final message
The 16th President General, Renato Lima de Oliveira, asks the whole international Vincentian community to remain calm, without panic, fear or despair. In the age of social media, there can be much fake news and misinformation. The guidelines provided by health authorities in each country shall be strictly observed.
Should any doubt arise with regard to this issue, the Council General International is at the disposal of all Superior Councils. Our Ombudsman General, fellow member Alfons ten Velde, is available at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us pray together for the end of this pandemic. Prevention is of paramount importance.
I wish the international authorities would make the same efforts to end poverty and increase solidarity among peoples! Let us pray.