COVID-19: COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout the country, and health centers are full. In Quito, Ecuador’s capital, the positivity rate grew to 30,11%. In Tulcan, the main point of entry of Venezuelans, authorities decreed “Red Alert,” imposing restrictive measures to prevent contagion. To prevent the spread of the virus, borders will be closed until 1 March. On 20 January, the first 8,000 doses of vaccines arrived in the country they began to be administered to health workers, with several allegations of irregularities in their implementation.
BORDER MOVEMENTS: Despite the border closure, the number of Venezuelans entering Ecuador from Colombia increased significantly. Refugees and migrants continue to arrive through irregular paths, exposing themselves thefts, extortion, sexual violence, and exploitation. Up to 2,500 Venezuelans transit daily at Tulcan’s Bus Terminal, heading towards Peru. Even if buses are supposed to operate at 30% of their capacity, they are departing full. In Lago Agrio, newly arrived Venezuelans identified at the bus terminal increased from 30 to 80 daily. In other cities, such as Ibarra, shelters and community kitchens are full. At the southern border, a humanitarian situation is developing as more Venezuelans are sleeping rough in Huaquillas, waiting for Peruvian authorities to reduce border enforcement measures.
PROTECION CONCERNS: Requests for assistance and asylum from newly arrived venezuelans and Colombians arriving from Nariño, Putumayo and Buenaventura continue to rise. Most urgent needs remain shelter and food, followed by legal assistance. In Ibarra, requests for legal advice and support for Venezuelan SGBV survivors have also increased. In Lago Agrio, face-to-face cases assisted by UNHCR were all re-entering Ecuador after returning to Venezuela at the beginning of the pandemic. UNHCR has identified Venezuelans begging in parks and avenues at high risk of exploitation and abuse.