Worldview Security Update – April 24, 2020
24-Apr-20

AMERICAS

Americas: On 23 April 2020, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra extended the country’s state of emergency until 10 May due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19; the order was scheduled to expire on 26 April.

In Venezuela, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in cities across the country for a second consecutive day on 23 April to protest against nationwide food and gas shortages exacerbated by the outbreak of COVID-19. Police officers deployed to multiple cities to prevent protesters from vandalizing and looting stores. In Upata, located in Bolivar state, at least one person died after a riot broke out; at least two others suffered gunshot wounds. Security personnel arrested at least 10 people. Meanwhile, in Punta de Mata, Monagas, protesters attempted to loot stores along Bolívar Avenue before police officers dispersed the crowd. The previous day, opposition members and human rights groups held similar protests in various cities to demand reparations amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, which has heightened the country’s economic crisis.

United States (Security threat level – 2): As of 24 April 2020, local officials in most U.S. states continue to maintain restrictive measures, including stay-at-home orders for nonessential purposes, in an attempt to contain the transmission of COVID-19. In Michigan — the state with one of the highest rates of infection in the country — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the current statewide stay-at-home order through 15 May, while lifting some restrictive measures to allow select businesses to reopen and the general populace to engage in outdoor activities. State residents are now required to wear face coverings when in public. On 23 April Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that he will extend an amended version of the current statewide stay-at-home order through the end of May; the order — effective 1 May — will require residents to wear face coverings in retail establishments and public venues, where individuals cannot maintain social distancing of 6 ft (2 m). Additionally, in Harris County, Texas — where Houston is located — all residents above the age of 10 must wear face coverings when in public beginning on 27 April. The mandatory requirement will remain in effect for the next 30 days, and those who fail to comply may face a monetary fine of up to 1,000 U.S. dollars.

Conversely, in the state of Georgia, commercial establishments — including personal care businesses, such as hair and nail salons — resumed operations on 24 April. Religious facilities may restart gatherings on the weekend of 25-26 April, while food establishments and movie theaters may reopen beginning on 27 April. In Oklahoma, personal care businesses began serving patrons with appointments on 24 April and most of the businesses are set to resume operations on 1 May. Additionally, nonessential retail businesses in Montana will be allowed to reopen beginning on 27 April. As of the latest reports, the U.S. has recorded at least 870,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 50,000 individuals have succumbed to the disease. The reopening of retail establishments and other public gathering sites in the aforementioned states has raised concerns regarding the threat of further rapid transmission of COVID-19 in the country.

ASIA

Asia: On 24 April 2020, authorities in the western Indian state of Goa made wearing face masks in public compulsory immediately due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19. Violators will be fined 100 Indian rupees (1.33 U.S. dollars). Meanwhile in the state of Tamil Nadu, the cities of Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai will go into an enhanced lockdown from 0600 local time on 26 April until 2100 local time on 29 April (0030 UTC on 26 April until 1530 UTC on 29 April). The cities of Tirupur and Salem will be under enhanced lockdown from 0600 local time on 26 April until 2100 local time on 28 April. Essential businesses and services will still be available in the aforementioned cities during the lockdown, but some businesses previously allowed to remain open will be forced to close. Health officials will begin disinfecting public areas, and security personnel will strictly enforce movement restrictions.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte on 23 April extended lockdown measures in Metro Manila and 17 other densely populated cities on Luzon Island until 15 May. Duterte also imposed lockdown measures on the islands of Cebu and Panay in the central Philippines, and the Davao region on Mindanao Island for the same time period. The mayor of Davao City announced that some previously imposed restrictions may be eased after 26 April; however, certain districts within the city may be place under an extended quarantine to due to an increased risk of community transmission. Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the government on 23 April extended the ongoing Movement Control Order (MCO) until at least 12 May.

EUROPE

Europe: As of 24 April 2020, confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across Europe. At present, there are five countries that have surpassed 100,000 confirmed cases: Spain (219,764), Italy (189,973), France (159,495), Germany (153,307) and the U.K. (139,246). Transportation services remain disrupted and restrictions continue to be extended across the continent, but countries have begun the process of easing measures implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19. The most recent notable developments in the Czech Republic, Portugal, France and Greece are outlined below.

On 24 April Czech officials lifted nationwide restrictions on movement within the country. Social distancing and face masks will continue to be required in public locations. Beginning on 27 April residents will be able to resume travel abroad, but will be tested for COVID-19 at the border upon their return.

In Portugal, Prime Minister António Costa banned travel between municipalities during the May Day holiday weekend from 1-3 May in an effort to prevent large gatherings that are typical during the holiday. Costa also announced that nationwide restrictions will be reviewed every 15 days beginning on 4 May.

On 23 April French President Emmanuel Macron provided further details on easing nationwide restrictions. Businesses and schools are scheduled to begin reopening on 11 May, but school attendance will remain voluntary. Additionally, while international travel will continue to be banned, domestic travel restrictions will be lifted nationwide. Masks will also be required on public transportation beginning on 11 May.

In Greece, officials extended lockdown measures until 4 May. However, plans to lift the restrictions are expected to be announced on 27 April.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Middle East and North Africa: On 24 April 2020, officials in Algeria ordered a partial lockdown to replace the total lockdown and 24-hour curfew in Blida province, the epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak. Under the new order, movement restrictions are now effective daily from 1400 to 0700 local time (1300 to 0600 UTC) until further notice. Elsewhere in Algeria, officials shortened curfews imposed in 10 other provinces, including the capital Algiers, to 1700-0700 local time until further notice.

In Iraq, a 24-hour total curfew for Basra went into effect at 1500 local time (1200 UTC) on 24 April, and will continue until 1 May. Residents were permitted to purchase essential items until 1500 local time on 24 April. Meanwhile, in Oman, local officials in the capital Muscat on 24 April closed the al-Mawaleh fruit and vegetables market until further notice, citing a COVID-19 outbreak centered on the market.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level – 4): On 24 April 2020, police officers clashed with protesters in the Ma Campagne area of the capital Kinshasa following an announcement that authorities arrested Ne Mwanda Nsemi, the leader of Bundu dia Kongo (BDK), a separatist politico-religious sect. Police officers fired tear gas and warning shots at hundreds of BDK supporters, who gathered in the area following Nsemi’s arrest; several injuries were reported among protesters and police officers. Travelers in Kinshasa should avoid the Ma Campagne area, as additional protests and related violence will likely continue in the near future.

Analyst Comment: Authorities launched the operation to arrest Nsemi following recent fighting between security forces and BDK members in Kongo Central province, located adjacent to Kinshasa province, on 22 April. The clashes — which left at least 15 people dead — occurred as security forces attempted to intervene amid rumors that BDK members were plotting attacks against ethnic minority groups in the area. The Congolese government has banned the BDK movement and deemed Nsemi a threat to state security; Nsemi has previously incited violence among his supporters and called on them to overthrow the government.

Sub-Saharan Africa: On 23 April 2020, Angolan officials extended the nationwide state of emergency through 10 May in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A Cabinet minister further clarified that people are allowed to move between provinces for commercial activity, but are not allowed to enter or exit Luanda, the capital. Officials also mandated the use of face masks in all public locations.

In Chad, on 24 April the government extended the ban on all international passenger flights until 15 May.

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced plans to ease restrictions beginning on 1 May, following the expiration of the maximum disease alert level 5. Ramaphosa stated that the government will begin to gradually transition to a national level 4 alert, during which some businesses will reopen, while one-third of workers will return to their jobs. In addition, public transportation will begin to operate with strict hygiene requirements and limits on vehicle occupancy.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Jordan (Security threat level – 3): On 23 April 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Amman issued a Health Alert, which reads in part as follows:

"Location: Jordan

"Event: Comprehensive Curfew April 24, 2020

"On April 21, 2020, the Government of Jordan announced it will impose a 24-hour curfew from midnight April 24 (Friday 0:00) through midnight April 25 (ending Saturday at 0:00). No one should move outside the home during this period. For emergencies, call 911. Grocery stores and pharmacies are expected to open again on Saturday, April 25 at 8:00 am. The Government of Jordan announced that under amended curfew hours for the Holy month of Ramadan people may move on foot from 8 am to 6 pm unless otherwise announced.

"The Government of Jordan announced on April 4 that borders and airports will remain closed until after Ramadan, which is expected to conclude around May 23. U.S. citizens in Jordan should be prepared to remain in Jordan at this time. The U.S. Embassy in Amman continues to look at all options to support U.S. citizens and as new information becomes available, we will share it on our website."

Kenya (Security threat level – 4): On 24 April 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi issued a Security Alert regarding possible terrorist activity during Ramadan which reads in part as follows:

"Location: Kenya

"Event: Terrorist groups have a history of carrying out attacks in Kenya during Ramadan. U.S. citizens are reminded of the need for heightened awareness and caution during this time of increased personal safety and security concerns."

Analyst Comment: Due to COVID-19, Kenyan officials have imposed restrictions that are likely to impact Ramadan, including a ban on travel between counties, a ban on social gatherings, the implementation of social distancing measures and the institution of a nightly curfew. Under normal circumstances, residents gather in large groups to break their fast (iftar), which usually presents a target-rich environment for militant groups. In particular, the 27th day of Ramadan — known as Laylatul Qadr (night of power) — has been associated with attacks in countries with a significant Muslim population in the past.

Tunisia (Security threat level – 3): On 24 April 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Tunisia to read in part as follows:

"…During Ramadan, from 24 April, the curfew will be in place from 8pm to 6am. All schools and nurseries are closed, as are all cafés and restaurants. All sporting fixtures, conferences, public prayers and events have been cancelled. An “obligatory confinement period” is in effect between 6am and 8pm during Ramadan. During this time people are only expected to leave their house for essential business such as grocery shopping or medical care. The Tunisian government has also prohibited travel between cities and regions. All visitors arriving in Tunisia must self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.

"From 4 May, a gradual lifting of the confinement measures will take place. The confinement measures will become targeted, taking in consideration the spread of the virus in different regions, different age groups and health conditions, and the importance of different economic sectors. The Tunisian government will provide further detail about the new measures at the end of April."