Worldview Security Update – February 4, 2020
4-Feb-20

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): As of 1100 UTC on 4 February 2020, nearly 20,700 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been reported worldwide — with 20,512 cases in China (including Hong Kong and Macao) — and at least 427 fatalities. The National Health Commission in China reported that nearly 3,000 of those stricken with the virus are in critical condition.

Multiple cities in China continue under a central government-mandated quarantine that restricts freedom of movement. Chinese officials have implemented lockdowns in additional locations, including the city of Taizhou as well as three districts of Hangzhou. Under the restrictions, only one family member may leave a household every two days to purchase necessities. All others must remain at home unless performing medical duties or seeking help. Similar measures have been implemented in the cities of Huanggang and Wenzhou.

In Macao, non-emergency public services have been temporarily suspended, including public transportation. In addition, private businesses — including all of the territory’s casinos — have been ordered to suspend operations through at least mid-February. Residents have been advised to remain indoors and limit movements outside except to purchase necessities.

Amid reports of a second coronavirus fatality outside of mainland China, residents of Hong Kong seek tighter measures to curb the spread of the virus. Thousands of hospital employees in Hong Kong staged a general strike from 3-4 February to compel officials to seal the entire border with mainland China — presently only three out of 13 border crossings remain open — as well as provide additional protective medical equipment for medical personnel.

Thus far, the following countries have implemented varying degrees of travel restrictions on Chinese nationals or individuals who have recently traveled to China: Australia, Bangladesh, Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, U.S., and Vietnam. Additionally, on 4 February the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice to urge travelers in China to leave if possible.

At least 75 airlines have temporarily suspended all or a portion of flights to and from China in part due to the increasing number of countries denying or restricting entry to travelers returning from China. Overnight on 3-4 February, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suspended flight operations to and from China except through Beijing Capital International Airport (ZBAA/PEK); travelers aboard those flights will be subjected to additional health screenings on arrival to the UAE. In addition, Japan’s ANA Holdings plans to restrict the number of flights from Tokyo to Beijing for seven weeks beginning 10 February.

According to an updated Health Alert from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the U.S. government is planning to stage additional evacuation flights out of Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (ZHHH/WUH) on 5 February.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Malawi (Security threat level – 3): On the evening of 3 February 2020, thousands of opposition supporters gathered across Malawi — including in the cities of Karonga, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Rumphi — to celebrate a ruling by a five-judge panel from Malawi’s Constitutional Court earlier in the day. The unanimous ruling nullified the results of the May 2019 presidential election and called for a new election. The court’s ruling declared the reelection of incumbent President Peter Mutharika as “invalid, null and void” following a challenge by two opposition candidates. The court acknowledged widespread irregularities in the voting process, including election commission officials’ use of a “white-out” substance to alter ballot results. The court has ordered that a new election be held within 150 days, and parliament will hold session within the next 21 days to determine the rules guiding the upcoming election.

Analyst Comment: The 3 February court ruling marks the first case in which a Malawian court has nullified the results of a presidential election. Given the unprecedented decision and resulting uncertainty, a significant risk of widespread pro-government as well as opposition protests exists. Furthermore, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has called for renewed nationwide demonstrations and maintained its call for the head of the Malawi Election Commission (MEC) to step down. Travelers to Malawi should closely monitor local developments in the lead-up to the new presidential election.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

South Africa (Security threat level – 4): On 3 February 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria issued a Security Alert regarding increased criminal activity at the Fort Klapperkop Nature Reserve, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Fort Klapperkop Nature Reserve

“Event: There are reports of increased criminal activity at the Fort Klapperkop Nature Reserve. In recent months there have been several incidents of a group stopping and robbing hikers and cyclists within the park. The U.S. Embassy recommends travelling in large groups and exercising increased caution within the reserve or avoiding the area.”

Zambia (Security threat level – 3): On 3 February 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Zambia, which reads in part as follows: “A curfew is in place in parts of the town of Chingola in the Copperbelt region following recent demonstrations. If you’re travelling in Chingola, Kitwe and Solwezi, exercise increased caution, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media and this travel advice for updates. You should avoid all political rallies and demonstrations.”