IOM Asia Pacific Covid 19 Response - Situation Report 2 (27 March 2020)
The number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase across Asia and the Pacific with countries stepping up response, as well as intensifying mobility restrictions. As of 27 March, more than 136,000 cases and over 6,000 deaths have been reported in the region. Confirmed cases have been reported in 281 countries, territories and/or areas, with new cases reported on a daily basis. The situation is rapidly evolving with challenges continuing to arise, especially for migrants excluded from or unable to access healthcare or to meaningfully follow prevention advice due to their precarious conditions. Migrants are also affected by stigma and discrimination and are already suffering economic impacts through loss of work without social protection mechanisms in place. At the regional level, IOM is maintaining close coordination with the WHO (SEARO, WPRO, EMRO), OCHA, IFRC, UNHCR and other partners to advocate inclusion of migrants and mobile populations in national-, regional- and global-level response planning for COVID-19. IOM leads the Regional Thematic Working Group on Migrants and Refugees and COVID-19 along with UN and NGO partners. IOM is also providing technical guidance to IOM missions at the national level and for regional and global initiatives for migrant inclusion in COVID-19 response. Devising adequate responses for migrants, refugees, IDPs, returnees and other vulnerable groups remains the top priority for IOM. These approaches need to be flexible and adaptive to the rapidly evolving situation. Recent trends have included significant returns of migrant workers including internal and cross-border migrants from urban areas towards provincial areas or home countries in response to public health measures or fears over COVID-19 transmission. In the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS), following the announcement of lockdown measures in Thailand, thousands of internal migrants and migrants from neighboring countries have returned to their home provinces or countries, including Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar. This may have the unintended effect of driving transmission in areas with less capacity to provide testing, isolation and treatment, as well as increase vulnerability for migrants during their journey and in their home communities.