MEDELLIN, Colombia—As 21-year-old Jarvis Sanchez fled Venezuela—walking hours through dangerous informal border crossings, packing into hotel rooms with 20 other people and clinging to the backs of speeding trucks—he could barely even think about the global pandemic playing out around him.
“There were things way scarier than COVID,” Sanchez said. “When you’re constantly under threat, when you’re on a truck driving at such fast speeds, and so many other things, you almost forget about it.”
Sanchez is part of a new wave of migrants and refugees leaving Venezuela, as nearby countries gradually reopen their economies after months of COVID-19 lockdowns. It was never an easy journey, but it has grown more perilous amid the pandemic, as Venezuelans flee with just a small fraction of the resources they once had. At the same time, receiving countries, like Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile, are themselves hampered by the coronavirus, making them ill-prepared to welcome more Venezuelans.