Since 1 January, 2021, more than 19.7 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Americas, and over 475,000 people have died from the illness, according to PAHO/WHO. Throughout March, transmission remained intense, with an average of around 1 million new cases reported every seven days. Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Paraguay reported the highest death rates in the region. Several countries in the region, including Uruguay and Cuba, are experiencing worse outbreaks in 2021 than any they grappled with at any point throughout 2020. Despite COVAX’s deliver in March of more than 2.5 million doses to 17 countries throughout the region, vaccination campaigns have shown little progress in Latin America and the Caribbean.
With elections taking place in several countries, social tension and xenophobia have emerged amidst protests against government mismanagement of the pandemic response, including vaccine-related scandals.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC, stated in March that the coronavirus pandemic is causing an unprecedented rise in poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 22 million people entering the ranks of the poor in 2020.
As infection rates rise, countries are tightening border restrictions. According to UNHCR’s monitoring of the pandemic‘s impact on protection, by the end of March, 10 countries in the region were denying access to asylum seekers, while five other countries have kept in place existing restrictions that make exceptions for asylum seekers. In some 17 countries in the Americas, the asylum system is either fully or partially operational.
Learn more in the COVID-19 Platform - Temporary Measures and Impact on Protection.
In a press release on 1 April, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, IACHR, expressed its concern about the growing militarization of borders and restrictions on access to territory and protection procedures in the Americas. The IACHR noted with particular concern cases in which the armed forces were being increasingly relied upon to ensure compliance with containment measures, including borders closures, in countries such as Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru.
The United States’ Department of Homeland Security announced that it was extending Temporary Protection Status to Venezuelan nationals through September, 2022. As a result, an estimated 320,000 Venezuelans who can demonstrate continuous residence in the U.S. as of 8 March, 2021, are now eligible to apply to live and work legally in the country for 18 months.
By 31 March, UNHCR and its partners had provided assistance to 5,346 asylum-seekers attempting to enter the U.S. under the Migrant Protection Protocol - MPP scales down.