December 21, 2020
21-Dec-2020

ASIA

India / Australia (Security threat levels – 3 / 2): On 21 December 2020, authorities in India’s Maharashtra state announced that a nightly curfew between 2300 and 0600 local time (1730-0030 UTC) will be in effect from 22 December until 5 January 2021. Additionally, all travelers arriving from European or Middle Eastern countries are required to quarantine at a government-designated facility upon arrival, and will be subject to a COVID-19 PCR test during their isolation. Officials announced the measures in response to the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus in the U.K.; the central government earlier in the day suspended all flights from the U.K. until 31 December.

In Australia, on 20 December authorities in Queensland and Victoria states instituted “hard borders” with New South Wales amid a COVID-19 outbreak in the greater Sydney area. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews declared that travelers arriving from the greater Sydney and Central Coast areas must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a hotel upon arrival. Victoria residents returning to new South Wales after 0000 local time on 21 December (1300 UTC on 20 December) are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at a hotel. Arrivals before this time may quarantine at home. All travelers arriving in Victoria from New South Wales will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and then again on days five and 12 of their quarantine. Individuals who have been on the northern beaches will be denied entry to Victoria under any circumstances. Further information regarding entry to Victoria state from New South Wales is available here.

As of 0100 local time on 20 December (1500 UTC on 19 December), in accordance with guidance from Queensland authorities, any individual who has been in New South Wales at any time since 0100 local time on 11 December will be required to apply for a pass prior to entering Queensland. Individuals entering from declared hot spots will be denied entry to Queensland except under limited circumstances. Further information on Queensland border restrictions may be found here. Meanwhile, Western Australia instituted similar restrictions on 19 December that require all inbound travelers from New South Wales to self-isolate upon entry. Travel to New South Wales is also prohibited unless travelers meet exemption criteria, which includes certain senior government officials, active duty military personnel and truck drivers.

EUROPE

Austria (Security threat level – 2): On 18 December 2020, authorities announced that a nationwide lockdown will be in effect from 26 December to 18 January 2021 to mitigate the rising number of COVID-19 cases. During the lockdown period, nonessential businesses that are unable to adhere to social distancing measures must close. From 15-17 January 2021, officials will carry out nationwide COVID-19 testing. Individuals who test negative will be exempt from lockdown measures, while those who refuse to be tested or test positive must stay in lockdown until 24 January. Austria’s previous lockdown ended on 6 December.

Italy (Security threat level – 3): On 18 December 2020, the Italian government announced new restrictions to avert a new surge of COVID-19 infections during the upcoming holiday season from 24 December to 6 January 2021. Under the new rules, all areas of the country will be subject to the most rigid “red zone” restrictions, placing the country under a lockdown on the following dates: 24-27 December, 31 December to 3 January 2021 and 5-6 January. During the lockdown, residents will be prohibited from leaving their homes other than for work, or for medical or emergency reasons, and will be required to carry a self-declaration form to justify being outside of their homes. Residents from towns with populations under 5,000 may travel within a 30-km (19-mi) radius but will be prohibited from traveling to major cities within their region even if the city lies within the 30-km radius. Bars, restaurants, and nonessential shops will close, although essential businesses — such as supermarkets, pharmacies and banks — and churches will remain open.

Meanwhile, comparatively less rigid “orange zone” restrictions will be in place countrywide on other days: from 28-30 December and on 4 January 2021. Bars and restaurants will close, while shops may open. Residents may travel within their cities but will be prohibited from traveling to other areas in the region. Individuals will also be prohibited from entering or leaving the region during these dates. The current nationwide nightly curfew from 2200-0500 local time (2100-0400 UTC) will also remain in effect during the holiday season. Social meetings in private homes will be limited to a maximum of two people from outside of the household once a day. Nonessential travel between the country’s regions is banned from 21 December to 6 January 2021.

United Kingdom (Security threat level – 3): On 19 December 2020, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new Tier 4 restrictions for the greater London area and parts of southeastern England in an effort to stop the rapid spread of a mutated strain of coronavirus. Tier 4 restrictions, which came into effect on 20 December and will last until at least 30 December, require residents in those areas to stay at home except for work, education, or other essential purposes, and ban gatherings of people from separate households in private homes. Individuals are strongly encouraged not to travel into or out of areas under Tier 4 restrictions. Additionally, nonessential businesses, including gyms, hair salons and entertainment venues, will be required to close. Further guidance provided by the U.K. government is available here.

The Welsh government raised its the COVID-19 alert to the highest degree, Level 4, placing the nation under a lockdown as of 19 December. Residents are required to stay in their homes except for essential purposes, such as traveling to work or school, or to procure basic necessities, including food and medicine. Most nonessential businesses are required to shut down, although retails shops are allowed to operate takeout and curbside services. Details regarding restrictions currently in place in Wales can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that restrictions under “COVID protection level 4,” the highest and most strict echelon, will go into effect in all of mainland Scotland for at least three weeks as of 26 December. During the time period, residents will be required to stay in their homes, with exemptions for those traveling for essential reasons. Nonessential businesses, including bars, cafes and restaurants, will be required to shut down, although eateries may offer takeout and delivery services. A ban on travel between Scotland and the rest of the U.K. will be in place during the holiday season, although travel within Scotland will be allowed on Christmas Day. Meanwhile, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and other island communities — where restrictions were recently relaxed — will remain under “COVID protection level 3.” Details regarding restrictions imposed under COVID protection level 4 are available here.

As previously reported in Hot Spots, Northern Ireland is set to be under a lockdown for six weeks from 26 December until at least 6 February 2021. Further details regarding restrictions that will be in place during the lockdown can be viewed here.

United Kingdom / World (Security threat level – 3): As of 21 December 2020, authorities in more than 40 countries have announced a temporary ban on passenger flights and/or travelers arriving from the U.K. in response to a new strain of coronavirus discovered in the U.K., which is estimated to be up to 70% more transmissible than others. The countries include Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China (Hong Kong only) Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. French authorities have blocked all travel from the U.K. – except for unaccompanied freight shipments crossing the English Channel — for 48 hours as of 0000 local time on 21 December (2300 UTC on 20 December), including cargo trucks. Meanwhile, the Spanish government is set to prohibit entry to travelers from the U.K., except for Spanish citizens and residents, beginning on 22 December. The U.K. Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) maintains a database with updated travel advice, including information on recently enacted coronavirus-related restrictions, which can be viewed here.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): On 20 December 2020, a total of eight rockets launched by unknown assailants targeted the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The embassy’s C-RAM defense system intercepted the rockets in mid-air. U.S. officials confirmed that the attack resulted in minor damage to a residential building and multiple cars in the compound, while one Iraqi security guard was injured. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack; however, Iran-linked militia groups have been blamed for similar rocket attacks in the past. Earlier in December, the U.S. withdrew some staff members from the embassy due to concerns of a possible retaliatory attack on U.S. interests in Baghdad ahead of the one-year anniversary of the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani on 3 January 2020.

Israel / Saudi Arabia (Security threat levels – 3 / 3): On 21 December 2020, Israeli authorities announced an entry ban on foreign travelers to stop the spread of a mutated variant of coronavirus in the country. Diplomats are exempt from the ban, which comes into effect as of 23 December and lasts for at least 10 days. Israeli nationals returning from abroad after 1400 local time (1200 UTC) on 23 December will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days in government-designated hotels. Those who agree to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and an additional test after nine days may quarantine for 10 days only if the results of both tests are negative.

On 20 December Saudi authorities suspended all international flights, effective until 27 December in response to the discovery of a mutated strain of coronavirus in the U.K. Entry via land and seaports is also suspended. Aircraft that are already in the country will be allowed to leave, and the movement of cargo, commodities and other goods will be allowed to continue. The ban could be extended for an additional week. Furthermore, individuals who have returned from the U.K. or other European countries since 8 December are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of their arrival in Saudi Arabia and undergo COVID-19 testing every five days during the quarantine. Those who transited through or returned from Europe or any other country in which the new strain of COVID-19 has appeared in the last 90 days must take a COVID-19 test.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Thailand (Security threat level – 3): On 21 December 2020, the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) issued updated travel advice regarding coronavirus-related restrictions in Samut Sakhom province, which reads in part as follow: “Due to a localised increase in COVID-19 cases, the Thai authorities have imposed a lockdown in Samut Sakhon province. Movements in and out of this province have been restricted. A curfew has been imposed across the Samut Sakhon province, active between 10pm – 5am, which will be in place until 3 January 2021.

“Due to the situation in Samut Sakhon, which neighbours Bangkok, and the risk of further infections, on 20 December the Bangkok Municipal Authority asked people to work from home for the next 14 days. They also announced the cancellation of all New Year’s Eve events.”

Turkey (Security threat level – 4): On 21 December 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a Health Alert regarding updated coronavirus-related restrictions, which reads in part as follows: “New Updates:

  • Turkey will impose a four (4) day curfew from 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 31, 2020 through 5:00 a.m. on Monday, January 4, 2021. The previously announced curfews and bans on gathering in public places remain in effect.
  • Effective immediately, all flights to and from the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, and South Africa have been temporarily suspended by Turkey’s Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure. A reminder that international flight routes can be suspended or changed at any time.”

Zambia (Security threat level – 3): On 20 December 2020, the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) issued updated travel advice for Zambia, which reads in part as follows: “All visitors to Zambia must have proof that they have tested negative for COVID-19 in the 7 days before their arrival. Visitors are responsible for monitoring their condition for 14 days after arrival, and should report any occurrence of COVID-19 symptoms to medical authorities. There is no requirement for visitors to self-isolate.

“Returning residents may be asked for proof of having tested negatively for COVID-19 in the previous 14 days. Returning residents should self-isolate for 14 days following their arrival in Zambia.”