COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly across the globe. As of 1 February, and since the outbreak began in December 2019, more than 102 million confirmed cases have been reported worldwide, as well as over 2.2 million deaths. Confirmed cases have been reported in more than 200 countries/territories/areas. The first week of January saw the number of new cases peak globally, but the second half of January saw a downward trend overall, though some countries continued to report an increase in the number of new cases. Since December 2020, vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 have begun in over 53 countries, most of which are high income economies.
The resultant multi-layered challenges of the pandemic continue to stifle mobility and global migration. As of 25 January 2021, a total of 226 countries, territories, or areas, have issued 114,490 travel related measures indicating an increase of 4 per cent from 110,320 travel related measures reported on 29 December 2020. Of these, 85,965 were reported as conditions for authorized entry such as medical requirements while 28,525 were reported as entry restrictions such as airport closures and passenger bans. Between 29 December and 25 January, there was a decrease of 3 per cent in the entry restrictions and an increase of 6 per cent in conditions for authorized entry. In terms of conditions for authorized entry, there was a 60 per cent increase in location surveillance such as registering with local authorities or downloading QR codes/ health apps on personal devices and a 22 per cent increase in other limitations such as travel insurance. In terms of entry restrictions, there was a decrease of 16 per cent in entry restrictions such as visa requirements and a 4 per cent decrease in restrictions on passengers arriving from specific countries, territories, or areas. In parallel to existing travel restrictions, a total of 178 countries, territories, or areas have issued 753 exceptions enabling mobility despite travel restrictions. As of 25 January 2021, 15 countries, territories, or areas issued 22 new exceptions whilst 17 countries, territories, or areas removed 30 exceptions.
The dramatic impact of these measures on mobile and displaced populations around the world continues, with considerable variation based on the policy and epidemiological contexts in their sending, transit, and receiving areas. As new COVID-19 variants spread, entry and testing regulations and measures are evolving rapidly, and mobile populations often lack timely, accurate information about these changes. In addition, as countries ramp up their vaccination campaigns, barriers often remain to the inclusion of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these schemes. To address these and other questions, 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, response, and recovery efforts.