Worldview Security Update – February 18, 2020
18-Feb-20

AMERICAS

Colombia (Security threat level – 4): Commercial truck drivers parked their vehicles on several major thoroughfares in the capital Bogotá, beginning in the early hours of 18 February 2020, to protest a decree restricting the transit of cargo vehicles that are more than 20 years old in certain areas of the city during rush hours as part of an ongoing attempt to curb pollution. Truck drivers have partially blocked Calle 13, Calle 71 sur, Calle 80, Calle 171, Carrera 7, Carrera 138 and Avenida Boyacá, causing moderate traffic disruptions. Authorities have deployed traffic police officers to the area in order to ease passage of the vehicles. While protesting truck drivers maintain that they will continue setting up blockades until the decree is annulled, they are expected to meet representatives of the Ministry of Transportation later in the morning to discuss a potential solution.

Colombia (Security threat level – 4): At approximately 1930 local time on 17 February 2020 (0030 UTC on 18 February), a public transport van exploded along a portion of the Pan-American Highway near the town of Rosas — located approximately 40 km (25 mi) south of Popayán — in Cauca department (province). The explosion occurred near a military checkpoint in the Sugar Loaf sector of the Párraga district hours after President Iván Duque arrived in Popayán. At least seven people were killed and 11 others were injured; authorities temporarily closed a portion of the Pan-American Highway, restricting traffic on the route. Authorities have ruled out that the explosion was the result of an attack; the Cali-bound vehicle was reportedly carrying an estimated 20-25 kg (45-55 lbs) explosive material on board.

ASIA

China / Japan / Cambodia / Philippines (Security threat levels – 3 / 1 / 3 / 4): As of 18 February 2020, approximately 73,335 confirmed novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have been reported worldwide, with 1,875 fatalities. Outside of mainland China, at least 825 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in 26 countries. More than 610 cases have been reported in Japan, a figure that includes 454 confirmed cases aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is anchored at Yokohama port.

Governments of several countries — including Australia, Canada, South Korea, Taiwan, the U.K. and the U.S. — have evacuated or are preparing to evacuate their citizens from the cruise ship. Returning passengers will likely undergo additional health screenings or mandatory quarantines upon repatriation to their home countries. Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 people — including 255 passengers — remain aboard the Westerdam cruise ship docked at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Passenger disembarkations have temporarily halted after a passenger tested positive for the virus despite being cleared by Cambodian health officials.

In the Philippines, authorities partially lifted a ban on travel to Hong Kong and Macao from the Philippines in order to facilitate workers returning to their jobs in the Chinese territories. The government has advised Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) of the risk of returning to Hong Kong and Macao. Approximately 210,000 OFWs reside in Hong Kong and an additional 32,000 in Macao. The Philippines maintains a ban on travelers from Hong Kong and Macao to the Philippines, except for Philippines nationals who are subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Analyst Comment: Concerns related to COVID-19 are likely to continue in the immediate term. Although the viral outbreak has primarily affected Chinese residents — mainly in Hubei province — there have been notable implications on international travel, particularly to, from and through China. At this time, a number of countries have imposed restrictions on travel to and from China, and continue to implement measures such as quarantines for returning citizens. With the exception of significant developments, UnitedHealthcare Global will discontinue daily updates in Hot Spots; relevant updates will continue in the World Update publications and in our World Watch® platform.

EUROPE

Greece (Security threat level – 3): As of the evening of 18 February 2020, significant transportation disruptions are occurring in the capital Athens and the port city of Thessaloniki after Greek transportation workers went on strike over planned pension reforms. Thousands of people have gathered in both cities to participate in demonstrations and officials have closed roads to accommodate the protest marches, the largest of which is taking place at Athens’ Syntagma Square.The strike has disrupted most public transportation services, including buses, the metro, suburban trains, trams and trolleys; as such, a significant number of private vehicles on roadways throughout Athens and Thessaloniki has resulted in severe traffic congestion in both cities.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Libya (Security threat level – 5): On 18 February 2020, Libyan National Army (LNA) paramilitaries attacked the seaport of Tripoli. A spokesperson for the LNA stated that the group’s target was a Turkish cargo ship, which was allegedly carrying weapons to resupply the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). The LNA claims that it destroyed the ship, but the port’s chief official maintains that there was no Turkish ship anchored at the port at the time of the attack. There were no reports of casualties. The LNA has previously carried out similar attacks targeting Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport (HLLM/MJI), claiming that the Turkish military is using that facility to resupply the GNA.