In these uncertain times it helps to have some clarity on an ever-evolving situation. We are following FCO guidance and local travel advice, and will keep this blog regularly updated on the impact of Covid-19 in South and Central America, and the measures being taken in each country.
President Alberto Fernández confirmed an extension to the nationwide lockdown until 17th July, and all commercial flight sales and incoming international flights remain banned until 1st September. While infection numbers remain low in relation to neighbouring Latin American countries, the country is experiencing the worst economic downfall in history.
Uruguay reacted quickly with a closure of all borders and strictly-upheld social distancing measures, resulting in lower infection numbers and a much quicker recovery. Offices and shops are open for business and schools have resumed in full, and its robust economy is sustained.
The initial response was strong; as one of Latin America’s most economically developed countries the infrastructure was in place and rigorous testing was carried out early on. However, pre-emptive easing of the lockdown in May which involved those having recovered from COVID-19 being issued an ‘immunity passport’ to return to work, has led to a resurgence of cases. The government received extensive criticism for the lack of support shown for the poorer areas outside of Santiago and Jaime Mañalich, who resigned this month as Chile’s health minister amid a barrage of criticism, acknowledged that he hadn’t appreciated the extent of poverty and overcrowding in parts of Santiago. Food markets are open, but schools and universities remain closed.
Brazil continues to see a devastating increase in the number of COVID-related deaths across the country having reached one million, and the virus has impacted a number of indigenous communities. Two health ministers – both doctors – have left their posts as deaths and infections have surged. The first was sacked by Mr Bolsonaro, the second resigned after disagreeing with the far-right president. Despite the threat of the virus, thousands of supporters and opponents of Mr Bolsonaro took to the streets in rival demonstrations on Sunday, calling for the overthrow of the President.
Peru has been one of the hardest hit countries in Latin America, with around 744,000 confirmed cases, mainly focused around coastal areas. With infection numbers now on the wane, Peru is expecting to start reopening in October. International flights are set to resume. Hotels and restaurants plan to be operational towards the end of October.
There will be temperature tests and proof of a recent Covid-negative test required for entry. Masks, social distancing and hand-sanitiser stations will used. PCR tests will be readily available locally. We expect demand for Peru might start as soon as November. Imagine having to share Machu Picchu with only a handful of other people!
Due to have their national elections on 10th May, Bolivia have found themselves with an interim President for the foreseeable future as the elections have been postponed until further notice. Jeanine Añez had been in post for a matter of weeks when the virus hit and some have accused the right wing former senator of exploiting the virus for her electoral advantage. The lockdown began easing in June and in an attempt to keep spreading to a minimum, medical teams are being sent from house to house in the worst affected areas to bring anyone showing symptoms to isolation centres and hospitals.
As of August 25th, Ecuador has opened its borders and resumed international flights. That being said, their land borders with Peru and Colombia remain closed. Travelers are required to quarantine upon arrival for up to 14 days unless they can deliver negative COVID test results upon arrival. The cost of tests that are taken upon arrival, should a traveler not have taken one within the last 72 hours, are the responsibility of the traveler and not the Ecuadorian government. As of 4 May, the Government introduced a new phase of “social distancing” to loosen up restrictions progressively according to the situation in each canton. The system has three levels: red, amber, and green. The use of face masks is mandatory in each of Ecuador’s cantons and there are fines applies for those found in violation.
Colombia opens its borders on 21 September. International flights will resume from the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Madrid. No quarantine is required upon entry, only proof of a negative PCR test 96 hours prior to travel. Masks will be worn in urban areas, and social distancing will be observed in social spaces.
Panama is preparing for a gradual re-opening, with retail, restaurants and domestic flights to resume activities on 28 September. International flights into Panama will resume from 12 October, along with hotels and tourism. Visitors’ temperatures will be taken on arrival to Panama and negative PCR tests will be required for entry.
While official and independent reports on the pandemic have differed somewhat, infection rates here have been far lower than in the US or in Europe. Nicaragua peaked in June, and has been on a downward curve since. The view is that things will be looking more normal by October. Summer (dry season) usually starts at the end of November, so an improved climate may help control the situation.
Borders and airports are open, though a Covid-19 test is required to enter the country. Charter flights are operating. Commercial flights from the US (American, United, Delta) say they plan to resume services in September.
There has been no official lockdown in Nicaragua, so movement is uninhibited. Most people (not all) live, operate and move about with standard Covid-19 precautions – face masks, hand-washing, social distancing.
Most of our favourite properties are operational, including Tribal Hotel, El Coyol, Morgan’s Rock, Totoco Ecolodge. Jicaro Island Lodge is re-opening in December.
Depending on when the UK and US relax their quarantine laws, we are hopeful that Nicaragua might be an option for Christmas and New Year.
Scores of people took to the streets recently with red and white flags signalling the need for food and medicine. Those in the rural areas are the most hard hit, as the government focuses its health budget on the larger, wealthier cities. It’s been discovered the wave of coronavirus cases reported came from emigrants returning from the US following a closure of the US borders. The entire country is on lockdown, social distancing measures have been implemented and anyone leaving their houses must wear a face mask.
Like many areas of the Caribbean, Belize has seen very few Covid19 cases. They have re-opened the airport with commercial flights. Local properties and agencies have to meet certain strict standards in order to operate.
The main complications are the quarantine laws in effect in UK, Canada, and the ban on travel to the US.
We have a special programme aboard a stunning private catamaran, island hopping down the barrier reef, with a couple of nights on a private island, and a private charter back to the international airport. We can easily incorporate extensions to explore the jungle, the caves and Maya ruins.
The best access to Belize is via the US or Panama.
As of 16th September, Mexico has had confirmed 676,000 cases, making it one of the hardest hit regions in Latin America. Numbers are now on the decline. Switzerland has removed its quarantine restrictions for its citizens returning from Mexico. There are currently no restrictions to enter Mexico, nor testing on arrival or negative Covid certificate required. Temperatures will be taken for new arrivals and accommodation details required for tracing purposes.
Demand is rising for Christmas and New Year – particularly in private villas. British Airways will resume flights to Cancun in October and AeroMexico is already flying to Mexico City.
Cuba’s isolation from the rest of the world has helped it weather the pandemic. As of 16th September, 2020, there have been 4,803 reported cases and 108 deaths, making it one of the least affected regions of Latin America.
International borders remain closed. International tourists can currently visit only the Cayos Islands on charter flights.
We expect some destinations such as Varadero, La Habana and Holguin to reopen from November.
Tourists will be required to take PCR tests to detect the virus on arrival to Cuba.
Clubs will not open but music will be available again, socially distanced and outdoors. It will take more than a pandemic to stop Cubans playing music! We expect restaurants to open with limited capacity. There will be mandatory use of masks in cities, except in hotels.
Tests are widely available and results are produced in a few hours.
It is a challenging time for everyone, and we endeavour to be supportive of the needs of our clients about to travel, and those considering booking a future trip. We will continue to provide updates via this blog so we can keep you informed as best we can, until Latin America is safely back on its feet. If you have any questions, please send a message to your travel designer or firstname.lastname@example.org, the team are on hand to help. Check our blog and social media for future travel inspiration – we could all do with something to look forward to!