Guatemala is currently experiencing one of the strongest waves of COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic. The government is reporting over 4,000 new cases per day. Hospitals are filling up, and some say that they could soon stop receiving all types of patients due to this situation.
Most of the country is now in red alert status, which carries significant restrictions on travel, commerce, and other activities. For us, one of the most important restrictions is in the area of education. In-person classes are not permitted in areas under red alert status.
In a speech on August 13th, the president of Guatemala declared a state of emergency for 30 days due to a rebound in cases attributed to the “more aggressive” Delta variant. Impacts include:
- Nationwide curfew from 10 PM to 4 AM
- Unspecified restrictions on large gatherings
- Surveillance of borders, ports, and airports by the Guatemalan military
- Full list of restrictions
Guatemala is significantly behind the rest of Latin America in vaccination rates. The overall vaccination rate is currently 2.4%. Guatemala recently received from the United States 36 million doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Prior to that, Guatemala had a contract for the delivery of 16 million doses of Sputnik V vaccines, but those have been badly delayed, prompting some officials to talk about asking for a refund from Russia.
Guatemalans age 30 and older can now register for vaccination. Long wait times are common, and there are reports of people lining up at vaccination sites by 11 p.m. to get vaccinated the next day.
Classes are once again virtual this year for areas under red alert status, which is currently most of the country. We are seeing increased numbers of students dropping out. The main reasons are dissatisfaction with remote schooling, and the need for extra family income during these challenging times. Families of our scholarship students often work in the informal economy which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
It is unlikely that Pura Vida will be scheduling any trips to Guatemala for the remainder of 2021. Even with a fully vaccinated team, there is still the possibility of transmitting the virus to the largely unvaccinated population we work with.
We are hopeful of scheduling in-person teams again in 2022, but that depends on many factors beyond our control. In the meantime, we are planning on offering more virtual work trips as a way to get work done without us being there.