The Peace Corps is telling its volunteers around the world that it is suspending all operations globally and evacuating all volunteers in light of the spread of the new coronavirus.

In an open letter to volunteers posted Sunday on its website, the federal agency’s director, Jody Olsen, says the decision follows recent evacuations in China and Mongolia due to the outbreak. Olsen says that with evacuations now underway at other posts and travel becoming more challenging by the day, the agency decided to expand the suspension and evacuations.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread and international travel becomes more and more challenging by the day, we are acting now to safeguard your well-being and prevent a situation where Volunteers are unable to leave their host countries,” Olsen says.

Olsen says the posts are not closing and that the agency looks forward to returning to normal operations when conditions permit.

The letter says country directors would be providing more information to volunteers.

The Peace Corps was established in 1961 during the Kennedy administration as a government-run volunteer program serving nations around the world. Its website says volunteers perform community work in more than 60 countries today and that more than 235,000 Americans have served in 141 countries since its inception.

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