Ecuador tightens entry requirements as Venezuelan migration swells

Venezuelan migrants rest at a makeshift tent in Quito, Ecuador, on Aug. 9, 2018. Ecuador's government declared an immigration emergency due to the arrival of thousands of Venezuelans in three border provinces and will provide humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan migrants that continue to arrive. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Updated 17 August 2018

Ecuador tightens entry requirements as Venezuelan migration swells

  • Quito declared a state of emergency in three provinces this month after a spike in Venezuelan migrants crossing the Ecuadorean-Colombian border high in the Andean mountains
  • Members of the Andean Community have an existing agreement that allow citizens to cross borders between member countries with only their national ID cards

QUITO: Ecuador on Thursday said that all foreigners entering the country would need a passport from Saturday, an apparent attempt to curb rising numbers of Venezuelan migrants fleeing their homeland.
Members of the Andean Community — which includes Venezuela and Ecuador — have an existing agreement that allow citizens to cross borders between member countries with only their national ID cards. That has been a significant advantage for Venezuelan migrants, who struggle to obtain passports amid chronic shortages.
“As of this Saturday the government will require that anyone entering Ecuador present his or her passport,” said Interior Minister Mauro Toscanini on Thursday.
He did not specify if the measure was aimed at Venezuelan migration but added that Ecuador wants Venezuela to make efforts so “that its citizens do not need to go through the very difficult situation of having to leave their country.” The ministry declined further comment.
Venezuelan migrants have been taking days-long bus rides across South America, often crossing Ecuador on their way south to Peru or Chile, because they cannot afford flights on a minimum wage that adds up to a few US dollars a month.
Quito declared a state of emergency in three provinces this month after a spike in Venezuelan migrants crossing the Ecuadorean-Colombian border high in the Andean mountains. Authorities said up to 4,500 Venezuelans were crossing daily, compared with around 500 to 1,000 previously.
Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno is left-wing like his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, but he has distanced himself from Caracas since taking office last year. The migration wave has also soured public opinion toward Venezuela in the country of some 16 million.
The Ecuadorean government does not provide data on the total number of Venezuelans living in the country, but an official at the Foreign Ministry told local radio that some 600,000 Venezuelans had entered the country so far this year, with around 109,000 staying on.
Venezuelans begging or selling knickknacks are now a common sight in Quito. And as in much of Latin America, some locals fret that desperate Venezuelans are undercutting the job market.


China reports 1,886 new virus cases, death toll up by 98

A woman, wearing a protective facemask amid fears over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, walks in front of an advertisement board in Bangkok on February 17, 2020 featuring attractions in Thailand. (AFP)
Updated 18 February 2020

China reports 1,886 new virus cases, death toll up by 98

  • Hundreds more have been infected and the virus has sparked panic buying, economic jitters as well as the cancellation of high-profile sporting and cultural events

BEIJING: Mainland China reported 1,886 new virus cases and 98 more deaths for a total of 1,868 in its update Tuesday, following a report that 80% of cases have been mild, prompting guarded optimism from health officials.
The latest figures come after health officials in China published the first details on nearly 45,000 cases of infection with the coronavirus that originated there, saying more than 80% have been mild and new ones seem to be falling since early this month.
A total of 72,436 cases have been reported in mainland China as of Tuesday, although a spike in recent cases was due to a broader definition in the hardest-hit region based on doctors’ diagnoses before laboratory tests were completed.
Monday’s report from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention gives the World Health Organization a “clearer picture of the outbreak, how it’s developing and where it’s headed,” WHO’s director-general said at a news conference.
“It’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
China may postpone its annual congress in March, its biggest political meeting of the year, to avoid travel while the disease is still spreading. The standing committee for the National People’s Congress will meet Feb. 24 to deliberate on a postponement of the meeting due to start March 5.
The new disease, called COVID-19, first emerged in December in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, and has spread to more than two dozen other countries.
The new study reports on 44,672 cases confirmed in China as of Feb. 11. The virus caused severe symptoms such as pneumonia in 14% of them and critical illness in 5%.
The fatality rate for these confirmed cases is 2.3% — 2.8% for males versus 1.7% for females.
That’s lower than for SARS and MERS, which are caused by two similar viruses, but COVID-19 ultimately could prove more deadly if it spreads to far more people than the others did. Ordinary flu has a fatality rate of 0.1% yet kills hundreds of thousands because it infects millions each year.
The COVID-19 cases include relatively few children, and the risk of death rises with age. It’s higher among those with other health problems — more than 10% for those with heart disease, for example, and higher among those in Hubei province versus elsewhere in China.
Cases seem to have been declining since Feb. 1, but that could change as people return to work and school after the Chinese holidays, the report warns. Beijing has sought to forestall that by extending the Lunar New Year holiday, imposing tight travel restrictions and demanding 14 days off self-quarantine for anyone returning from outside their immediate region.
Hundreds of cases have been confirmed outside China, with a significant number on a cruise ship quarantined at a port near Tokyo.
Japanese officials on Monday confirmed 99 more people were infected on the Diamond Princess, bringing the total to 454. The Health Ministry said it has now tested 1,723 people on the ship, which had about 3,700 passengers and crew aboard. Outside China, the ship has the largest number of cases of COVID-19.
Japan has 518 confirmed cases, including the 454 from the cruise ship, and one death from the virus.
The US evacuated 328 American passengers, with most of them now in a 14-day quarantine at military bases in California and Texas. Fourteen of them have the virus and were taken to hospitals in California and Nebraska.
Any quarantined passengers who shows symptoms of the virus will be taken to a hospital off the base “for containment and specialized care,” according to a statement from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Scott Pauley. The CDC rather than the Department of Defense is responsible for all parts of the quarantine operation.