Since it was initially reported on 31 December 2019, the illness known as Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has spread rapidly across the globe, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare it a pandemic on 11 March 2020. As of 19 June, over 8.2 million confirmed cases and over 445,000 deaths have been reported globally since the outbreak began. Confirmed cases have been reported in more than 200 countries/territories/areas, with new cases and countries reporting daily.
The impacts of COVID-19 are now affecting the regions of the world at differing degrees of severity from one country to another. This has resulted in governments and authorities applying and managing travel restrictions and measures in disparate ways, with some areas easing restrictions even as others implement tighter controls. Globally, as of 18th June 2020, a total of 221 countries, territories or areas have issued 66,610 travel restrictions, a slight increase from 66,009 restrictions recorded on 11th June 2020. Additionally, there was a 4 per cent increase in medical requirements for travel, and a 4 per cent increase in other limitations like new documents for travel. In parallel to existing travel restrictions, a total of 178 countries, territories or areas have issued 692 exceptions enabling mobility despite blanket travel restrictions. Between 11th and 18th June 2020, 13 countries, territories or areas have issued 19 new exceptions whilst 11 countries, territories or areas have removed 24 exceptions.
A key consequence of these mobility restrictions worldwide has been the stranding abroad of people formerly on the move. While governments and national authorities have increased their capacity to provide consular assistance to their stranded nationals, in other instances, migrants have sought to return spontaneously or through operations facilitated by IOM or spontaneously. However, in many regions, stigma and discrimination towards migrants at destination, transit and return locations due to fears around COVID-19 transmission have been reported. This can lead to further exclusion from or unwillingness to access health services and risk further exacerbation of the hardships created by the pandemic.
In migrant camps, camp-like settings, reception centres and dormitories, there are increasing reports of confirmed cases and a heightened risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 due to overcrowding, inadequate sanitation, poor nutrition, and limited access to health services. These conditions greatly contribute to the risk of an infectious disease outbreak in locations that currently have no known cases and/or to increasing the risk of transmission if it is already present. To address these and other challenges, IOM missions around the world are working with governments and partners to ensure that migrants, whether in regular or irregular situations, as well as returnees and forcibly displaced persons, are included in all aspects of COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts.