As of 12 August 2020, Guyana had registered 602 cases of Covid-19 and 22 deaths related to the disease. Guyana has been an important destination for Venezuelans leaving their country. In 2019, the International Crisis Group reported that there were more than 36,000 Venezuelans in Guyana. According to the aid group Response for Venezuelans (R4V), the Government of Guyana maintained a commendable open door policy to Venezuelans and introduced a digitalised system for biometric registration and documentation of new arrivals. As of May 2020, the government had conducted the registration of 2,090 refugees and migrants from Venezuela.
The government of Guyana adopted several measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. On 18 March, the Director of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority announced that airports in the country would be partially shut down for at least 14 days. A curfew was also imposed from 6PM to 6AM and domestic travel by land, sea or air, was strictly limited to travel for governmental purposes and travel to obtain or provide essential goods and services. Some measures were lifted from 3 July onwards but international travel restrictions are still in place.
Before border closures brought on by Covid-19, Immigration Officers issued a “household registration certificate” to Venezuelans upon entry to the country, which includes a provision against forced return and a renewable three-month stay permit. The pandemic has nonetheless increased the vulnerability of Venezuelan nationals. They face a lack of access to formal employment and livelihood opportunities as well as language barriers (English is the official language of Guyana), thus hindering their access to basic services such as health care and education.
R4V reported that, in coordination with a local partner, they had provided temporary accommodation and emergency shelter to 34 highly vulnerable persons (including 32 Venezuelan refugees and migrants). Education services were provided to 186 Venezuelan nationals
As regards the country’s penitentiaries, on 7 April, the Guyana Prison Service began releasing certain prisoners in order to reduce the risk of Covid-19 entering the overcrowded prisons across the country. Prisoners considered for release were those who suffer from chronic illnesses and those who had served the majority of their sentences and would be out within the next three to four weeks. The Guyana Human Rights Association had been calling for measures to be taken to reduce overcrowding in prisons due to the potential risks presented to prison staff and inmates by the virus. In addition, other measures including regular cleaning and sanitation; the installation of sinks for hand washing purposes: the monitoring of the movement of prison staff in and out of the facilities; and the provision of products and hand sanitisers have been implemented in the country’s prisons.
- Prison Insider, “Amériques: Coronavirus, La Fièvre des Prisons,” 18 March 2020, https://www.prison-insider.com/articles/ameriques-coronavirus-la-fievre-des-prisons#guyana
- Response for Venezuelans, “RMRP 2020 – Guyana (July Update),” 7 July 2020, https://reliefweb.int/report/guyana/rmrp-2020-guyana-july-update
- Response for Venezuelans, “Situation Report March 2020: Guyana,” March 2020, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/R4V%20Situation%20Report%20Guyana%20March%202020.pdf
- S. Bacchus, “Early Release Among Measures Being Taken to Safeguard Prisons from Coronavirus,” 7 April 2020, https://www.stabroeknews.com/2020/04/07/news/guyana/early-release-among-measures-being-taken-to-safeguard-prisons-from-coronavirus/
- Al-Jazeera, “Coronavirus: Travel Restrictions, Border Shutdowns by Country,” 3 June 2020, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/coronavirus-travel-restrictions-border-shutdowns-country-200318091505922.html
- Worldaware, “Covid-19 Alert: Guyana to Continue Reopening Plans July 3 But Extends Curfew Through July 16 & Maintains Border Closures,” 3 July 2020, https://www.worldaware.com/covid-19-alert-guyana-continue-reopening-plans-july-3-extends-curfew-through-july-16-maintains
- IOM Workers Providing Essential Non-Food Items to Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees in Guyana, (IOM, “IOM Provides Humanitarian Relief to Venezuelans in Guyana,” 10 December 2018, https://rosanjose.iom.int/site/en/news/iom-provides-humanitarian-relief-venezuelans-guyana)