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Worldview Security Update – April 17, 2020
17-Apr-20

AMERICAS

Americas: As of 17 April 2020, a number of governments across the Americas continue to implement and enforce restrictions intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most countries in the region remain under lockdown or quarantine measures, and continue to extend restrictions. Currently, the countries with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region are Brazil (30,891), Peru (12,491), Chile (8,807) and Ecuador (8,225). Significant developments in Brazil, the British Virgin Islands, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Paraguay are outlined below.

On 16 April Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro vowed that the country’s incoming health minister will ease the social distancing and public health measures currently in place, despite a significant recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases nationwide. During Bolsonaro’s speech introducing the new minister of health, pot-banging demonstrations broke out across several major cities — including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo — in protest against the president and what is widely viewed as the forced resignation of the previous health minister. Bolsonaro has blamed social distancing orders for job losses and negatively affecting the poor, and has attempted to annul both state- and municipal-level quarantine orders. The new minister of health likely faces significant pressure to ease social distancing measures, which would likely accelerate Brazil’s COVID-19 outbreak.

In the British Virgin Islands, the government announced that the nationwide 24-hour curfew will end at 0600 local time (1000 UTC) on 19 April, representing the first phase of a gradual reopening of the economy. Essential businesses and services will reopen in subsequent phases over the span of 14 days, and a nightly curfew enforced by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force will be in effect from 1900-0600 local time on 19 April until 1 June. All borders remain closed until 2 June. British Virgin Islands nationals and residents are only allowed to enter the territory through Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (TUPJ/EIS).

In Chile, a requirement to wear face masks in public spaces went into effect nationwide on 17 April. Under the order, individuals must wear face masks in elevators — including those in residential buildings — and venues where more than 10 people might gather, such as airports, public transportation, markets, banks, shops and educational establishments. Additionally, local authorities publicly noted that violators face fines of up to 50,000 pesos (60 U.S. dollars) per infraction.

On 16 April residents in Ciudad Bolívar, Colombia, clashed with police officers as the Red Cross delivered humanitarian aid to the town’s markets. The confrontation began after residents complained that the aid was insufficient. Two police officers suffered injuries in the clash, while another officer shot and wounded two civilians. Authorities have opened an investigation into the shooting.

In the Dominican Republic, a requirement to wear face masks in public areas went into effect on 16 April. Additionally, travelers must undergo medical screenings at border checkpoints between municipalities and provinces, although only residents involved in essential services may travel between municipalities.

In Mexico, authorities on 16 April extended the ongoing suspension of all nonessential activities — which includes the closure of all nonessential businesses — until 30 May. However, municipalities with low transmission rates of the virus will be permitted to resume all commercial activities on 17 May. The government will restrict mobility between areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases and areas with fewer infections.

In Paraguay, President Mario Abdo Benítez on 17 April extended the nationwide quarantine until 26 April; the order was scheduled to expire on 19 April. The measure requires residents to remain indoors, except to procure food or to seek medical attention.
United States (Security threat level – 2): On 16 April 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended the suspension of nonessential activities in the state through 15 May in order to combat the spread of COVID-19. All nonessential businesses across the state will remain closed, gatherings of any size for any reason are prohibited and residents who are not critical to their workplaces are mandated to stay at their homes. The maximum fine for violation of the mandatory social distancing rules remains at 1,000 U.S. dollars. The New York State on PAUSE plan has been in effect since the evening of 22 March. Additionally, in Missouri, the current stay-at-home order — in effect since 23 March — in the St. Louis metropolitan area has been extended indefinitely. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump announced guidelines for resuming commercial activities in three phases on a regional basis at the discretion of state governors in those locations that register a continuous decline in the number of COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days. At present, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. remains at approximately 671,500 and the death toll has exceeded 33,300.

ASIA

Asia: As of 17 April 2020, most countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region continue to maintain movement restrictions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, countries with continuously decreasing number of new cases are beginning to lift some movement orders. Malaysia and Thailand will open four crossing points along their shared border on 18 April. South Korea’s social distancing measure are scheduled to expire on 19 April, but could be extended for at least another week.

On 18 April border crossing points along the Malaysia-Thailand border will reopen to allow Thai nationals in Malaysia to return home. Authorities in both countries closed their respective borders in mid-March to implement entry bans and nationwide movement restrictions. All returning Thai nationals will be subject to a health check and sent to quarantine facilities.

In South Korea, authorities are reportedly considering extending the country’s social distancing campaign — which is scheduled to expire on 19 April — for an additional one to two weeks. Under the measure, the government warned residents to remain at home and avoid religious gatherings, sporting events, and entertainment venues in general. According to one official, if the government allows the social distancing campaign to expire, authorities will encourage residents to adhere to a “routine distancing” model, which allows for more freedom of movement, but still encourages individuals to maintain a distance of 1-2 m (3-6 ft) apart.

EUROPE

Europe: As of 17 April 2020, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have continued to increase significantly across Europe. At present, there are five countries that have surpassed 100,000 confirmed cases: Spain (184,948), Italy (168,941), France (165,027), Germany (138,221) and the U.K. (104,155). Transportation services remain disrupted and restrictions continue to be extended across the continent as officials attempt to contain COVID-19.

On 17 April Bulgarian officials announced that the capital Sofia will be quarantined from the rest of the country. Travel to and from the city will be banned until further notice, with exceptions for cargo deliveries and essential workers. Police checkpoints have been established on roads into and out of the city. Residents will continue to be required to practice social distancing and wear face masks.

Additionally, officials in Georgia announced a ban on all private vehicle travel during the Orthodox Easter holiday weekend. The ban is expected to last through at least 21 April and is in addition to the 2100-0600 local time (1700-0200 UTC) nightly curfew. Nonessential businesses and public transportation are also closed until 10 May.

On 16 April Swiss authorities outlined plans to begin lifting nationwide restrictions. Officials stated that the restrictions will be lifted in three stages: on 27 April, cosmetic and retail businesses will be allowed to reopen and nonessential procedures at hospitals will resume; on 11 May, schools and the remaining unopened shops are expected to resume operations; finally, on 8 June, libraries, secondary schools, universities and zoos are expected to resume operations and the ban on gatherings of more than five people will be relaxed. Officials stated that the plan could change, based on infection rates in the country.

Meanwhile, U.K. officials extended the nationwide lockdown on 16 April for an additional three weeks. The ban on nonessential travel and public gatherings is expected to continue until at least 7 May, but could be extended if the number of cases continues to rise. The foreign secretary announced the extension, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to recover from COVID-19.

In North Macedonia, officials extended the current state of emergency until 16 May. The mandate was initially set to expire on 18 April. In addition, Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski and three additional Cabinet ministers entered a 14-day quarantine after the mayor of Kumanovo, with whom the federal officials had recently met, tested positive for the virus.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Middle East and North Africa: As of 17 April 2020, governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region continue to impose new restrictions, particularly as the holy month of Ramadan — set to begin on the evening of 23 April — approaches. The most recent notable developments in Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan and Sudan are outlined below.

In Egypt, on 16 April authorities announced that the nationwide curfew — imposed nightly from 1900-0600 local time (1700-0400 UTC) — has been extended for the duration of the month of Ramadan, through 23 May. All cafes, cinemas and theaters will remain closed during Ramadan. Public venues where crowds usually gather to share iftar — the evening meal — or sohour, the last meal before sunrise, will also be closed. Separately, on 16 April police officers blocked the Suez Road leading out of the capital Cairo ahead of the curfew. Hundreds of individuals were attempting to leave Cairo along the road that leads to Ain Sokhna, Hurghada, Sharm al-Sheikh and other tourist areas for the Sham el Nessim holiday. Motorists prevented from entering the Suez Road parked their cars on the side of the highway because the curfew had started.

In Iraq, officials with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced that the regional lockdown will continue until at least 2359 local time (2059 UTC) on 23 April. Under the terms of the lockdown, travel between cities in the Kurdistan region is banned, except for security forces and emergency medical services personnel. Residents who wish to travel between cities must obtain permission from the Kurdish government. Additionally, all border crossings will remain closed and commercial flights suspended until at least 23 April. Grocery stores and essential shops will be allowed to be open from 0000 to 1800 local time. 

In Israel, officials stated that they will ease restrictions on the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak and parts of Jerusalem, due to reductions in the spread of COVID-19 in those cities. Officials began to ease the quarantine in Bnei Brak at1800 local time (1500 UTC) on 16 April; however, public transportation remains banned in the city. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf — the organization that oversees the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound — announced that the compound will be closed to worshippers during Ramadan. Thousands of worshippers typically visit the mosque each day during Ramadan for Taraweeh, a special evening prayer. 

In Jordan, officials will impose a lockdown on the governorate of Aqaba beginning on 19 April. As part of the lockdown, officials will ban nonessential travel into and out of the governorate. Individuals will be allowed to travel out of their homes from 1000 to 1800 local time (0700 to 1500 UTC), and businesses will be allowed to operate during that time frame as well. Additionally, fishing will be allowed from 0400 to 1600 local time.

In Sudan, a three-week lockdown is set to begin in Khartoum state, which encompasses the capital Khartoum and the city of Omdurman, on 18 April. The lockdown includes a 24-hour curfew for the state; however, residents are permitted to travel for essential purposes — such as to buy food or medical supplies — each day from 0600-1300 local time (0400-1100 UTC).

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sub-Saharan Africa: As of 17 April 2020, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa has increased to more than 18,730 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 (2,605), Cameroon (996), Côte d’Ivoire (688) and Ghana (641). The most recent notable developments in Cabo Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi, Namibia and Senegal are outlined below.

In Cabo Verde, the government extended the state of emergency for the islands of Boa Vista, Santiago, and Sao Vicente until at least 2 May, and for the islands of Brava, Fogo, Maio, Sal, Santo Antão and São Nicolau until at least 26 April. Under the terms of the state of emergency, residents are only permitted to leave their houses for essential purposes and nonessential businesses are closed; additionally, inter-island travel is suspended, no more than two people are allowed to travel together, and religious ceremonies are suspended. The decision to extend the state of emergency was announced after health officials recorded 45 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 56 confirmed cases in the country. All air and sea borders in Cabo Verde have remained closed since the state of emergency went into effect on 28 March.

In Chad, the government extended the nightly curfew in five provinces until at least 30 April; residents in the capital N’Djamena and its surrounding areas — along with the western provinces of Logone Occidental, Logone Oriental, Mayo-Kebbi Ouest, Mayo-Kebbi Est — will be under the curfew from 2000-0500 local time (1900-0400 UTC). The previous curfew time was slightly longer, from 1900-0600 local time. In addition to the curfews, Chadian authorities previously suspended all international flights — except for cargo aircraft — until at least 25 April and instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for residents returning from abroad. Currently, there are at least 27 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Chad.

In Côte d’Ivoire, on 16 April authorities extended the nationwide nightly curfew — which remains in place from 2100-0500 local time/UTC — through at least 24 April. Police officers have arrested more than 750 people for alleged violations of the curfew since the measure went into effect on 23 March.

In Malawi, on 16 April dozens of market vendors gathered in the Limbe area outside of Blantyre — Malawi’s second largest city — to protest a three-week nationwide lockdown, which is set to begin at 0000 local time on 18 April (2200 UTC on 17 April). Protesters burned tires and blocked several roads, stating that they will not comply with the lockdown. Police officers fired tear gas in an effort to disperse the group, but there were no reports of injuries. Similar protests against the upcoming lockdown occurred in Mzuzu the previous day.

In Namibia, on 16 April the government announced that the nation will be divided into 10 zones with a total of 69 police checkpoints in an effort to allow police officers to enforce movement restrictions. The checkpoints are expected to stay in place through at least 4 May, when the nationwide lockdown is scheduled to end. Currently, there are at least 16 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Namibia.

In Senegal, on 16 April officials extended a ban on international flights until 31 May. The ban — initially imposed on 19 March — applies to all international commercial flights and provides exceptions for cargo, domestic, humanitarian and medical evacuation flights. A nationwide state of emergency remains in effect through at least 30 April and includes a nightly curfew from 2000 to 0600 local time/UTC.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Bahamas (Security threat level – 2): On 16 April 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for the Bahamas, which reads in part as follows: “Emergency measures are in place including a national 24 hour curfew from Monday to Friday until 30 April. Many businesses have closed, but those that provide essential services (including grocery stores) continue with restricted hours and a rota system on New Providence for who is allowed to shop on which day. Additionally there are periods of total lock down at weekends during April (with all stores closed and a ban on movement for non-essential personnel)…”

Israel (Security threat level – 3): On 16 April 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Israel to read in part as follows:

"Most airlines have suspended or reduced flight operations to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. From 29th March 2020, there will be no routine direct flights between Israel and the UK until further notice.

"Some other airlines are still operating international flights from Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, so routes to the UK may still be available through connections in other countries. Israir Airlines continues to operate a number of one-off flights to European destinations. For further information please check their website (in Hebrew only): https://www.israir.co.il/Flights/Operation_Corona.html . Please check the FCO travel advice for any country you plan to transit, as you may need to show proof of onward travel or complete additional documents."

Kenya (Security threat level – 4): On 16 April 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi issued a Health Alert regarding fake multi-agency teams, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Kenya

“Event: Police have warned that groups may be masquerading as multi-agency teams coordinating activities to combat COVID-19 in Kenya. Authorities urge travelers and residents to be wary of these groups and confirm their identities. If you have a suspicious interaction by phone call or in person, the police urge you to call police hotlines 999, 112 and 991 for verification.

“The public has also been directed to call the Operations Center at 0110939676, 0110939684, 011093981, 011939688 or use Facebook page @kingaKorona and twitter @kingaKorona.”

The full text of the alert is available here .

Ukraine (Security threat level – 4): On 17 April 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Ukraine, which reads in part as follows:

“On 16 April the Kyiv city authorities reported dangerous levels of air pollution as a result of forest fires in Zhytomyr region and the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. They advised people to keep windows closed, minimise the time spent out of doors, turn on air conditioning and air purification systems, wash down floors and other surfaces, put containers with water around to increase humidity and drink up to 2-3 litres of water per day. Radiation in the city was reportedly at normal levels.”

Analyst Comment: Emergency personnel reported on 14 April that several wildfires burning in the forested western portion of the largely unpopulated Chernobyl exclusion zone in northern Ukraine had been contained. Authorities attributed the cause of the fires — which initially broke out on 3 April — to arson, noting that conditions were exacerbated by unseasonably dry weather. Individuals in Kyiv and throughout north and central Ukraine should continue to monitor air quality levels. 

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