In the months of June and July, several RMRP countries reopened borders that had been closed due to COVID-19 containment measures and/or eased entry restrictions for Venezuelans. Key developments in this respect included:
In Brazil, starting on 23 June, for the first time since March of last year, Venezuelans could enter the country legally and those who previously entered irregularly could apply to regularize their status.
Colombia re-opened its border with Venezuela on 2 June (although this did not lead to any significant subsequent increase in entries or exits).
Chile re-opened its borders for the first time in four months on 26 July, but only to Chilean nationals and fully vaccinated foreigners. Newly arriving Venezuelans must still obtain consular permits to enter the country legally.
Trinidad and Tobago re-opened its borders in July, and Curacao began to allow tourists to enter in June, although the border with Venezuela remained closed and Venezuelans required visas prior to entry.
Meanwhile, also during the reporting period, several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean experienced a second or third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with increasing active case rates and deaths in countries such as Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay. Other countries saw active case rates decline in July, including Bolivia, Uruguay, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago. A number of countries made important advancesin vaccine campaigns, including outreach to and inclusion of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, while other countries struggled to obtain sufficient doses of vaccine. Highlights in the COVID-19 context from the 17 RMRP countries include:
In South America, in June Argentina was among the countries with the highest number of daily cases of COVID19 and related deaths globally. It implemented a cap of 600 citizens and resident foreign nationals who could enter daily, and suspended the entry of foreigners for family reunification purposes, including Venezuelans. More than half of the population was at least partially vaccinated by the end of July. Bolivia crested a third wave of the pandemic in early June, at times with more than 3,000 new cases a day, which lessened by the end of July, with approx. 14% of the population completely vaccinated. Brazil was the country with the second highest absolute number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the world by 29 June, at 514,092, which rose to 554,497 by 30 July. Only approx. 19% of the population was fully vaccinated by end-July. Meanwhile, on 19 and 20 June, Operation Welcome began the COVID-19 vaccination of indigenous people from Venezuela sheltered in Boa Vista. COVID-19 active cases in Chile soared to over 7,000 new cases / day in mid-June, but then dropped by end-July to under 1,000 new cases / day. Chile reached approx. 65% of the population fully vaccinated by the end of July. In Colombia, the national government issued Decree 744 of 2021, modifying its national vaccination plan to require a census of all persons who do not have an identity document issued by the Colombian Government. Meanwhile, the country carried out large-scale vaccinations of pregnant women, in which refugees and migrants from Venezuela were able to participate regardless of their migratory status. By the end of July, approx. 24% of the population was fully vaccinated, and 8,798 vaccines had been applied to Venezuelans in Colombia. The Government of Ecuador began “phase 3” of its vaccination program in July, which includes all foreigners, including refugees and migrants from Venezuela no matter their migratory status. As of 31 July, the Ministry of Public Health reported via a public dashboard that 6,792 refugees and migrants had received their first vaccine doses. Hospitals in Paraguay were saturated with COVID-19 patients in June, and by end-July, just 5% of the population had been fully vaccinated when, owing to a lack of vaccines, the country was required to suspend its vaccination campaign. In Peru, the Ministry of Health coordinated with local authorities to remove barriers accessing COVID-19 vaccinations for refugees and migrants, including those relating to difficulties in proving residence and low return rates for second doses (up to 73% were not returning for a second shot, a challenge also identified among host communities), particularly in Lima and Tacna. As of 13 July, some 40,000 doses of the vaccine had been applied to Venezuelans living in Peru. Finally, in Uruguay, after the country’s worst moments of the pandemic in April and May, cases declined dramatically in June and July as the result of an intense vaccination campaign which included a registry of asylum-seekers and migrants without an Uruguayan identity card, in order to include them in the vaccination plan and resulted in approx. 64% of the population being fully vaccinated by end-July.
In the Caribbean, after a decrease in active cases in June in countries like Aruba, Curacao, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, the month of July brought dramatic increases in active case rates in Aruba (620% increase) and Curacao (1,734% increase), while active case rates declined in Guyana, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago. By end-July, approx. 61% of the population of Aruba had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, in a campaign including Venezuelan refugees and migrants; 50% of the population of Curacao was fully vaccinated, and 4,144 refugees and migrants had received their first doses; 37% of the population of the Dominican Republic had been fully vaccinated; 17% of the population of Guyana was fully vaccinated; and approximately 14% of the population of Trinidad and Tobago was fully vaccinated, with Venezuelan refugees and migrants being included in the country’s mass vaccination exercise.
In Central America, by end-July, Panama had fully vaccinated approx. 16% of its population, and the country’s Ombudsman’s office issued a statement about the difficulties and logistical challeenges of providing access to vaccinations for all refugees and migrants in a situation of human mobility; Costa Rica began its mass vaccination campaign for everyone over age 20, including refugees and migrants with legal residence holding a DIMEX card; and Mexico had fully vaccinated approx. 20% of its population and began vaccinations for people aged 40-49 at the end of July, including refugees and migrants, although access for Venezuelans continued to be complicated by a lack of adequate documentation. (See additional information in “Platforms’ Response” below.)