The Americas remain the epicentre of the pandemic, with more than 20 million cases, or 53% of the global total, as of 14 August. Mexico and Peru are each rapidly approaching half a million infections, and Colombia trails close behind. Chile, with over 378,000 cases, accounts for the highest cumulative incidence rate (with 20 cases per 1,000 people) followed by Panama (with 18 cases per 1,000 people, as of 14 August).
With border restrictions remaining in place throughout most of the region, confinement measures are being adapted to the situation on the ground in each country or region: In the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, the strict lockdown continues, even as measures have been eased in some parts of the Chilean capital, Santiago. Similarly, Belize reinstated confinement measures, even as Costa Rica reopened its air borders to international tourists from Canada, the UK, and the EU. In Guatemala, around half of municipalities are on red alert, including those where UNHCR is present.
Still, despite the restrictions, the population movement persist throughout the Americas. The Nicaraguan government allowed the entry of 148 Nicaraguans who had been stranded for two weeks at the border with Costa Rica after they produced documentation showing they had tested negative for COVID-19. Around 230 Cubans, including some asylum seekers, have amassed at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border in a bid to carry on their northward journey. Venezuleans leave their country, heading to Colombia or futher afield – to Ecuador, Peru or Chile – sometimes via informal crossing routes that increase their protection risks. At the same time, other Venezuelan refugees and migrants are heading home as a result of the pandemic. Colombian authorities have said that as of 10 August, some 96,000 Venezuelans had returned to their country.
Canada announced new pathways to permanent residency for asylum-seekers in the healthcare sector who have worked on the frontline of the country’s COVID-19 response. The decision, which recognizes the contribution that refugees and asylum seekers have made to Canada’s health response, is expected to benefit persons of concern to UNHCR across the country. In Brazil, the northern state of Rio Grande do Norte responded to the health crisis by approving an Emergency Program for Social Assistance in that will benefit refugees, stateless people and migrants. Peru suspended its title validation requirement for foreign health professionals, thereby making it easier for Venezuelans to join the Andean nation’s pandemic response. Thanks to the change, which took eect on 15 August, foreign graduates and specialists are now able to work in public hospitals without having obtained either the title validation or a temporary authorization from the professional boards or colleges.