Worldview Security Update – April 16, 2020
16-Apr-20

AMERICAS

Americas: As of 16 April 2020, a number of governments across the Americas continue to implement and enforce restrictions intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with many extending their current states of emergency. Most countries in the region remain under lockdown or quarantine measures, and affected countries continue to extend restrictions. Currently, the countries with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region are Brazil (29,015), Peru (11,475), Chile (8,273) and Ecuador (7,858). Significant developments in Bermuda, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba and Mexico are outlined below. 

In Bermuda, authorities on 15 April announced that the nationwide state of emergency and shelter-in-place mandate will remain in effect until 2 May. Residents may receive permission to leave their homes to run errands such as visiting the laundromat or retrieving office materials, in addition to travel for essential needs such as grocery shopping or to seek medical attention. 

The Brazilian Ministry of Health on 15 April announced that the country’s health secretary resigned, as tensions rise between the publicly popular health minister — who is a doctor by training — and President Jair Bolsonaro who has undercut the ministry’s attempts to promote social distancing measures and data-backed guidance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The health secretary helped local officials implement social distancing measures, working alongside state governors across the country.

In Colombia, on 15 April hundreds of construction workers and other informal workers peacefully gathered in different areas of the capital Bogotá to demand food subsidies from authorities amid the ongoing countrywide quarantine. Demonstrators temporarily blocked a number of roads, including Las Américas and Suba avenues, and the intersections of Carrera 14 with Calle 114 Sur and Carrera 20 with Calle 70 Sur. There were no reports of protest-related violence. Separately, more than 200 Venezuelan migrants gathered in central Bogotá to demand that the Colombian government facilitate their return to Venezuela on buses or repatriation flights amid the nationwide quarantine. The demonstrators claimed that they represent approximately 1,500 migrants in total and lack resources to reach the Colombia-Venezuela border without government assistance. Thousands of Venezuelan migrants have sought to return to Venezuela following the implementation of nationwide quarantines and travel restrictions in Colombia and other countries in the region. 

In Cuba, authorities in the capital Havana imposed a complete quarantine of three neighborhoods beginning on 14 April and continuing until further notice. Residents in the northern neighborhoods of Vedado and Acosta, as well as the eastern neighborhood of San Agustín, are banned from leaving, with exceptions for essential personnel or residents who need to be tested for COVID-19. The government implemented similar measures in the El Carmelo del Vedado neighborhood on 2 April. 

In Mexico, authorities announced on 15 April that all travelers using the metro in Mexico City must wear face masks, effective 17 April. Transit workers will hand out 1 million face masks at the Pantitlán metro station on the afternoon of 17 April to encourage compliance with the new measure.

United States (Security threat level – 2): On 15 April 2020, officials in the U.S. continued enacting and/or extending restrictive measures in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19. In New York — the state with the highest number of COVID-19 cases and resulting fatalities — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that individuals will be required to wear face coverings in public beginning on 18 April. Individuals in public settings where they are unable to stay at least 6 ft (2 m) apart from other people, such as those shopping in stores and traveling aboard public transportation, must cover their noses and faces with masks or other clothing. Cuomo further declared that state officials could turn the requirement into a civil violation should residents fail to voluntarily comply with the order. Additionally, in the national capital Washington, D.C., the mayor announced a requirement for employees and guests at grocery stores, retail establishments and hotels, as well as those riding in taxis or using ride-hailing services, to wear cloth face coverings; the stay-at-home order in the city has been extended through 15 May. The requirement to wear face coverings will also go into effect in the neighboring Maryland state as of 18 April. Separately, Idaho Gov. Brad Little extended the current statewide stay-at-home order through 30 April.

Meanwhile, in Lansing — Michigan’s state capital — thousands of demonstrators riding in their vehicles took to the streets near the state Capitol on 15 April to participate in “Operation Gridlock” — organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and Michigan Freedom Fund — to demand easing of the restrictions in place to combat COVID-19. Approximately 200 protesters, some carrying high-powered firearms, exited their vehicles and assembled outside the Capitol building. There were no reports of notable violence. Michigan has enacted one of the strictest stay-at-home orders in the country, which is scheduled to remain in effect until 30 April. The state, particularly the Detroit metropolitan area, also has one of highest COVID-19 infection and death rates in the U.S. The latest reports on 16 April indicate that there are more than 28,000 cases of COVID-19 and at least 1,920 fatalities in Michigan.

ASIA

Asia: As of 16 April 2020, countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region maintain restrictions on movement and public gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some nations with consistently decreasing numbers of cases have begun to outline conditions for lifting restrictions. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced three desired criteria in order to lift the nationwide lockdown and Fijian authorities announced that a lockdown in the capital Suva will be lifted on 17 April. However, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo declared a nationwide state of emergency.

In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 16 April outlined the necessary conditions for lifting the lockdown — which include increased testing beyond symptomatic individuals, better contact tracing through the use of technology such as mobile phone apps, and improved local response capabilities to quarantine localized areas. Morrison publicly estimated that the lockdown currently in effect will last at least another four weeks.

On 16 April authorities in Fiji announced that the lockdown of the capital Suva, except for the Nabua neighborhood, will be lifted by 0500 local time on 17 April (1700 UTC on 16 April); Nabua will remain under lockdown for an additional 14 days because of two COVID-19 cases in the locality. A nationwide curfew from 2200 to 0500 local time remains in effect and nightclubs, gyms, cinemas and pools will remain closed. Public gatherings are banned and individuals should remain 2 m (6 ft) apart at all times.

In Japan, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on 16 April expanded an ongoing state of emergency — originally declared for seven prefectures — to the entire country until 6 May. Under the order, prefectural governments are able to requisition real estate, food and medical supplies to treat COVID-19 cases, and impose penalties on entities that do not comply. Abe also ordered payments of 100,000 yen (930 U.S. dollars) to all citizens. Meanwhile, beginning on 17 April all passengers departing on domestic flights from Haneda Airport (RJTT/HND) will be required to undergo a temperature check before boarding flights. Passengers with a temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 degrees Fahrenheit) will be examined for additional symptoms such as a cough, and the airline may deny passengers with symptoms from boarding their flight.

EUROPE

Europe: As of 16 April 2020, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have continued to increase significantly across Europe. At present, there are five countries that have surpassed 50,000 confirmed cases: Spain (182,816), Italy (165,155), France (147,863), Germany (134,753) and the U.K. (99,516). Transportation services remain disrupted and restrictions continue to be extended across the continent as officials attempt to contain COVID-19.

On 15 April German officials announced that nationwide restrictions will be extended until at least 3 May. Nonessential shops that have sales areas of less than 800 sq. m (8,600 sq. ft) will be allowed to reopen beginning on 20 April, and schools are expected to reopen on 4 May. Large events have been canceled through 31 August. Officials also announced an extension of border controls  — implemented on 16 March — with Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain and Switzerland.

In Greece, officials extended the country’s ban on international flights until 15 May. The ban applies to all flights to and from Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and the U.K. Flights between Greece and Germany were also banned, with the exception of flights to Athens International Airport (LGAV/ATH). Additionally, officials extended the ban on non-EU citizens.

Meanwhile, officials in Belgium and in Northern Ireland announced extensions to their lockdown measures. In Belgium, officials extended the nationwide lockdown through at least 3 May. Hardware and gardening stores will be allowed to reopen prior to the end of the lockdown, but large events have been canceled through 31 August. In Northern Ireland, officials extended lockdown measures and the ban on nonessential travel through 5 May.

In Kosovo, authorities announced additional restrictions on movement during the nationwide lockdown. All residents in Kosovo will have a limit of 90 minutes each day to conduct essential travel, including buying essential goods and medication. The restrictions are expected to continue through at least 4 May.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Middle East and North Africa: As of 16 April 2020, governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region continue to enforce restrictions as part of efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.

In Egypt, authorities declared a lockdown in the village of Saft Turab — located north of Cairo — after five residents tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, Egyptian authorities announced that they are discussing restrictions for the upcoming Sham al-Nassim holiday, which will occur on 30 April.

In Libya, on 16 April officials with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) — based in Tripoli — announced a 10-day curfew beginning on 17 April. The curfew will remain in place until at least 27 April. Under the terms of the curfew, residents will be allowed leave their homes between 0700 and 1200 local time (0500 to 1000 UTC) to purchase groceries and other essential goods.

In Turkey, on 14 April President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that authorities will enforce a weekend curfew, beginning at 0000 local time (2100 UTC) on 17 April and ending at 2359 on 19 April. Those who work in health care, agriculture and food production will be exempt from the ban. Additionally, certain retail workers will be allowed to return to work at 1800 local time on 19 April in order to prepare for opening their businesses on 20 April.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sub-Saharan Africa: As of 16 April 2020, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the African continent has increased to more than 17,200 as governments continue to implement public health measures and restrictions in an effort to prevent further spread of the virus. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the countries with the largest numbers of confirmed cases include the following: South Africa (2,506), Cameroon (848), Côte d’Ivoire (654) and Ghana (641). The most recent notable developments in Eswatini, Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria are outlined below.

In Eswatini, on 15 April officials extended the nationwide partial lockdown by an additional three weeks. The order — initially imposed on 27 March — is set to remain in effect through 7 May, during which residents are permitted to only leave their homes for essential purposes, such as buying food or seeking medical care. Most of Eswatini’s land border crossings — including Bulembu, Gege, Lundzi, Nsalitje, Sandlane and Sicunsia — are closed to all traffic, while enhanced health screening measures remain in place at Oshoek crossing — the main border crossing with South Africa — and at Mbabane’s King Mswati III International Airport (FDSK/ SHO).

In Kenya, police officers have used force to ensure compliance with the nationwide nightly curfew that began on 27 March, resulting in at least 12 fatalities and dozens of injuries as of 16 April. The clashes have occurred primarily in informal settlements in Mombasa and Nairobi and have involved the use of batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Currently, there are 225 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kenya.

In Malawi, on 16 April hundreds of market vendors gathered in Mzuzu — the third largest city, located approximately 350 km (215 mi) north of the capital Lilongwe — to protest a three-week nationwide lockdown, which is set to begin at 0000 local time on 18 April (2200 UTC on 17 April). There were no reports of violence or arrests during the gathering. The protesters stated that they will not comply with the lockdown, demanding that the government provide additional food aid and economic support to workers in the informal sector. Police officers and members of the Malawi Defense Force will deploy nationwide to enforce the upcoming lockdown and publicly stated that they will use “considerable force” if necessary to ensure compliance.

Additionally, in Nigeria, on 15 April police officers clashed with hundreds of residents in the town of Sapele, located in the south-central Delta state, while enforcing the statewide lockdown. Residents had gathered to protest the governor’s recent extension of the lockdown, which remains in effect through 28 April, and now includes a statewide nightly curfew from 1900-0700 local time (1800-0600 UTC). Police officers fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse a small group of protesters, who threw stones and burned tires along Sapele’s central Okpe Road. At least one person reportedly suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound during the clashes.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Morocco (Security threat level – 3): On 15 April 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Morocco to read in part as follows: 

“The British Embassy Rabat is in contact with airlines, the Moroccan authorities and other governments to make sure commercial options for returning to the UK are available as soon as possible.

"You will need to pay for your return travel to the UK. If departure options are available but you cannot afford the travel costs and have exhausted all other options for getting funds , you may be eligible to apply for an emergency loan from the government. This is a last resort option and you would need to repay the loan when you are back in the UK. For more information, you should contact Corporate Travel Management (CTM) . CTM are a commercial partner of the FCO and are authorised to administer such loans on behalf of the FCO.

"If you are a British tourist in Morocco and need to return to the UK, please send an email to [email protected] You will need to provide all the details set out below.”
Nigeria (Security threat level – 5): On 15 April 2020, the U.S. Mission in Nigeria issued a Health Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Event: Increased Criminal Activity

“As we enter the third week of lockdowns in Lagos and Ogun States, and the Federal Capital Territory, reports of criminal activity are ongoing, including aggressive panhandling, robberies, and kidnappings. As the lockdowns continue, becoming a victim of crime remains a possibility.

“Please minimize travel outside of the home and use caution while traveling, maintain situational awareness, and exercise prudent security measures. Maintain a low profile and do not attract attention to yourself. Stay away from beaches and waterways and leave your home only during daylight to go to work or grocery stores.”

Analyst Comment: The issuance of this alert follows the Nigerian police force’s announcement on 13 April that it had arrested at least 191 suspects in connection with a recent spate of armed robberies and criminal incidents in Lagos and Ogun states, both of which are currently under federally mandated statewide lockdowns. The majority of these crimes have occurred in the northern outskirts of Lagos, near the border with Ogun state. Additional police officers have deployed to these areas and are conducting increased patrols in residential areas and near shopping centers. 

Philippines (Security threat level – 4): On 16 April 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Manila issued a Health Alert regarding sweeper flights to Manila — in order to facilitate repatriation from the Philippines — which reads in part as follows:

“Sweeper Flights to Manila on Saturday, April 18:

  • Sweeper flights to Manila are planned for April 18 from Bacolod, Bohol, Cagayan de Oro, Caticlan, Cebu, Davao, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Leyte, Puerto Princesa, and Siargao.
  • Register for the flight with Philippine Airlines (PAL) by 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 16 at the following link: https://mypal.vip/url/DomesticFlight
  • Once registration closes, a PAL representative will then contact you directly to arrange payment and confirm your seat. All flight arrangements will be made by PAL
  • PAL has yet to determine the cost of the sweeper flights, but advised that it will be based on a standard commercial fare

"PAL advised that to receive a boarding pass, travelers will need to be able to demonstrate they meet at least one of the criteria below, which is set by the Philippine Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF):

  • An onward international airline ticket within 24-hours of the sweeper flight
  • Confirmed hotel accommodation until travel and a confirmed international flight if longer than 24-hours
  • Be a permanent resident in Manila with proof of residential address."

Turkey (Security threat level – 4): On 15 April 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Turkey to read in part as follows:

“There is a route from Istanbul to the UK via Minsk with Belavia airlines – see below for further details. You may require a permit to travel to the airport – see Travel Permit section below…

“Flights are bookable directly with Belavia on their website . However, all flights are subject to change at short notice. You should contact the airline to confirm flight details.

"Belavia flights from Istanbul to London Gatwick (via Minsk) are operating three times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You should check the Belavia website for the latest availability.”