Worldview Security Update – August 17, 2020
17-Aug-20

AMERICAS

Canada / Mexico / United States (Security threat levels – 2 / 4 / 2): On 14 August 2020, the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared that U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to nonessential travel through 21 September in a continued effort to stem the spread of COVID-19. Individuals involved in cross-border trade and transport are exempt from the order, as are other “essential” personnel — including health care staff and emergency officials, as well as individuals who transit the border daily for work or to obtain basic necessities such as food or medicine. The border restrictions, which do not apply to air travel, were initially imposed on 21 March and were due to expire on 21 August after the prior renewal on 16 July.

Mexico / Ecuador (Security threat levels – 4 / 3): In Mexico, as of 17 August 2020, face masks are mandatory in public areas in the states of Chihuahua and Colima. Exceptions are in place for children under 2 years of age and for those who cannot wear masks due to medical conditions.

In Ecuador, President Lenín Moreno extended the nationwide state of exception on 15 August for an additional 30 days. Under the order, which initially began on 16 March, the government has the ability to implement and enforce measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, additional restrictions, such as social distancing measures and a limited ban on the sale of alcohol, remain in place in 18 out of the 24 provinces in the country.

ASIA

Asia / Australasia: As of 17 August 2020, countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region continue to implement coronavirus-related restrictions. In Australia, authorities in Victoria state — where Melbourne is located — extended the ongoing state of emergency through 13 September. In India, a statewide lockdown was imposed in Tamil Nadu –where Chennai is located — from 16-17 August, while a nightly curfew is in effect in Punjab state. In the Philippines, authorities imposed general community quarantine (GCQ) orders in several cities. Similarly, officials in South Korea imposed restrictions on gatherings in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas. In Nepal, nonessential businesses and services in Bharatpur Metropolitan City remain suspended until 21 August.

On 15 August Australian authorities extended the state of emergency in Victoria state until 13 September. Under the state of emergency, stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions will continue and most nonessential businesses will remain closed. Residents are required to stay at home unless acquiring food or other essential items, receiving care or caregiving, engaging in exercise, or traveling to work. Shopping must be done within 5 km (3 mi) of one’s residence. In addition, face masks are mandatory in public places.

In India, a statewide lockdown was imposed in Tamil Nadu from 0000 local time on 16 August until 0600 on 17 August (1830 UTC on 15 August-0030 UTC on 16 August). During the quarantine period, residents were ordered to remain at home. Private vehicles were permitted for emergency medical usage only. Vehicles used for essential purposes — such as ambulances, hospital vehicles and other emergency vehicles — were allowed to operate. Hospitals and pharmacies remained open; however, grocery stores and petrol stations were closed. Authorities have declared a similar lockdown in the state for every Sunday in August. Meanwhile in Punjab state, as of 15 August a statewide nightly curfew is in effect from 2100 to 0500 local time (1530-2330 UTC). Additionally, weekend “stay at home” orders are in effect for the cities of Ludhiana, Patiala and Jalandhar during the next two weekends. All business establishments in which more than 10 people congregate are required to designate a COVID-19 monitor to ensure staff and patrons adhere to mask orders, social distancing guidelines and sanitation standards.

In the Philippines, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Lapu Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City and the municipalities of Consolacion and Minglanilla are under GCQ until 31 August. In these areas, residents may only leave their homes to procure essential goods and services, or to travel to work at approved offices. Those under the age of 21 or over the age of 60, must remain at home at all times. Government offices remain operational and shopping centers may open; however, amusement, fitness and gaming establishments are closed. Mass gatherings are banned. Public transportation operates at a reduced capacity.

In South Korea, on 15 August the government enacted new restrictions in the capital Seoul and surrounding areas — including Gyeonggi province — until further notice due to a high number of new daily confirmed COVID-19 cases. The restrictions include limitations on gatherings and professional sporting events. Indoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 50 individuals, while outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 individuals. Furthermore, spectators are not permitted at sporting events.

In Nepal, all nonessential businesses and services are closed in Bharatpur Metropolitan City, located approximately 155 km (95 mi) west of Kathmandu, until 21 August. The decision to lock down Bharatpur follows a surge in COVID-19 infections in the city.

EUROPE

Belarus (Security threat level – 3): On 17 August 2020, strikes and associated rallies occurred in Belarus following the opposition’s call for a countrywide general strike to protest the reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko. In the capital Minsk, as many as 10,000 people participated in a rally, during which workers went to government-run automotive manufacturing plants and called on their colleagues to join the strike. The participants finally gathered at Belteleradiocompany, located on Makayonka Street, where workers are observing a strike. Workers at a Minsk tractor factory — where Lukashenko made an appearance — are also observing a strike. At least 100 workers of the state broadcaster Belarusian Telegraph Agency have also joined the strike. Local reports indicate that at least 600 of the company’s 1,500 employees have agreed to engage in a strike. The broadcast of the state television channel morning show was suspended due to staff walkouts. Meanwhile in Zhodzina, located approximately 50 km (30 mi) northeast of Minsk, several hundred workers at a Belarusian automotive plant are engaging in a work stoppage.

Large-scale anti-government demonstrations occurred over the weekend of 15-16 August. An estimated 100,000-220,000 demonstrators gathered in central Minsk’s Independence Square to participate in the March for Freedom rally on 16 August. Lukashenko held a pro-government rally in the city with approximately 10,000 attendees earlier in the day. In the eastern city of Babruysk, approximately 1,000 demonstrators gathered at the city’s Lenin monument, while similar protests occurred in the central cities of Lahoysk and Nyasvizh. Additionally, on 15 August several thousand demonstrators gathered in front of the state TV building in Minsk. Demonstrators also gathered earlier in the day near the Pushkinskaya subway station in honor of a demonstrator who died at the site on 10 August.

In contrast to demonstrations during the previous week, in which authorities detained approximately 6,000 individuals, demonstrations over the past weekend were largely peaceful. In a related development, Lukashenko has requested assistance from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has pledged aid to maintain security in Belarus on the basis of an existing joint security agreement.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Israel (Security threat level – 3): On 16 August 2020, Israeli authorities exempted travelers from the following 19 countries from a mandatory quarantine upon arrival in Israel: Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia and the U.K. Travelers from Hong Kong, China, are also exempt.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Somalia (Security threat level – 5): On 17 August 2020, al-Shabab militants launched an assault on a Somali military base, located in the Goof Gaduud area, approximately 30 km (20 mi) northwest of the town of Baidoa, the capital of Bay region. A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at the gate of the base, killing three soldiers. Armed militants then engaged in a gunbattle with soldiers and briefly entered the base; the assailants detonated another IED later in the day, killing two more soldiers. An al-Shabab spokesperson stated that the group had killed at least eight soldiers, including the commander of the base.

Separately, on 16 August al-Shabab militants detonated a VBIED at the front gate of the Elite Hotel, a popular hotel with government officials, in the Lido beach area of the capital Mogadishu. Following the blast, five attackers stormed the hotel, leading to a gunbattle between the assailants and security forces. Security forces killed all five attackers and secured the hotel after approximately four hours. A government spokesperson stated that 16 people — including the five assailants and one security force member — were killed in the attack, while at least 43 others were injured.

South Africa (Security threat level – 4): Beginning at 0001 local time on 18 August 2020 (2201 UTC on 17 August), South Africa will transition to Level 2 of the nationwide lockdown. Under Level 2, the ban on interprovincial traffic will be lifted, and existing restrictions on family and social visits will end. The bans on tobacco and alcohol will be lifted, and restaurants will be permitted to sell alcohol to dine-in customers; however, licensed establishments are only permitted to sell alcohol until 2200 local time, and liquor stores may only sell alcohol for off-site consumption from 0900 to 1700 local time on Monday through Thursday. President Cyril Ramaphosa urged individuals to exercise extreme caution and avoid unnecessary social gatherings whenever possible. On 15 August the government extended the national state of disaster by an additional month.The measure permits the government to continue implementing and enforcing lockdown regulations. Additional details regarding Level 2 restrictions can be found here .

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Iceland (Security threat level – 1): On 15 August 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Iceland, which reads in part as follows: 

“Until 18 August, if you are normally resident in Iceland or plan to stay for 10 days or more, you must take special precautions for 5 days upon returning to Iceland and be tested for a second time, four to five days after arrival, even if you test negative on arrival.

“From Wednesday 19 August, all people travelling to Iceland opting to test instead of the 14 day quarantine must be tested for a second time four to five days after arrival and now follow quarantine measures until the result of the second test is known. This will significantly affect what you can and cannot do on arrival. If you have booked a trip to Iceland you should contact your tour operator and travel insurer about what this means for you and your plans.”