United States (Security threat level – 2): In the early afternoon hours of 6 February 2020, a Yute Air commuter aircraft, with four passengers and one crew member on board, crashed approximately 12 mi (20 km) southwest of Tuntutuliak, Alaska, located near the coast of the Bering Sea. Alaska State troopers were notified when the Piper PA-32R-300 single engine aircraft was overdue to arrive at Kipnuk Airport (PAKI/KPN), after which a military helicopter deployed and located the missing aircraft. All five individuals aboard the aircraft were killed in the crash. The flight originated at Bethel Airport (PABE/BET). Following the crash, Yute Air canceled its flights scheduled to operate on 7 February. The airline has had at least two notable safety-related incidents over the past year; in April 2019, a chartered flight operated by Yute Air crashed near Bethel, but no one was injured. More recently, in November 2019, a Yute Air flight crashed into Goodnews Bay, located 115 mi south of Bethel, with no injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the 6 February crash.
China / Guam / United States / Japan / Philippines / Kazakhstan (Security threat levels – 3 / 1 / 2 / 1 / 4 / 3): As of 7 February 2020, approximately 31,520 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been reported worldwide with 638 fatalities. Chinese authorities have ordered local officials in Wuhan to establish mass quarantine sites for those infected with the virus. Citizens in Wuhan also must report daily to authorities whether they register a fever. Meanwhile, in Shenzhen, authorities have established roadblocks in some areas, and individuals at these roadblocks have faced temperature checks with personal identification and point of origin recorded. Additionally, Air Asia is now requiring mandatory temperature checks for all passengers prior to boarding.
The coronavirus is having an effect on educational and cultural events in China. The Hong Kong Secretary for Education has stated that all secondary public school exams scheduled prior to 27 March will be postponed until May amid coronavirus concerns. A number of universities worldwide are canceling study abroad programs to China. Chinese students are also unable to study outside of China, particularly in the U.S,, due to coronavirus-related restrictions . Additionally, Art Basel — a regional art fair that often attracts wealthy Chinese buyers — has canceled its Hong Kong fair schedule in March 2020.
Ships continue to face quarantine and it remains uncertain how long these measures will last. Passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship — which has been docked at the Japanese port of Yokohama since 4 February — continue to be quarantined. Thus far, 273 passengers out of 1,800 passengers have been tested, and 61 cases of coronavirus have been found. Guam has denied a U.S. Department of State’s request to allow Holland America’s MS Westerdam — carrying 1455 passengers and 802 crew members — to dock over coronavirus concerns. Authorities in Japan and the Philippines previously refused to allow the ship to dock. Holland America denies the possibility of anyone infected with coronavirus on board.
In a related development, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it would convene a meeting with a team of international experts on 11-12 February to coordinate research and funding priorities as the international community seeks additional information and new measures to control to the virus outbreak.
Australia (Security threat level – 2): As of 2000 local time (0900 UTC) on 7 February 2020, Tropical Cyclone Damien was located approximately 295 km (185 mi) northwest of Port Hedland and was tracking southwest at a speed of 7.5 kph (4.5 mph). At that time, the storm was generating maximum sustained winds of 120 kph, with gusts of up to 145 kph. The storm is expected to make landfall by 1700 local time on 8 February slightly west of Port Hedland with strength equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane. Damien is forecast to bring heavy rainsl between 100- 200 mm (4- 8 in) to areas along its path, powerful winds and thunderstorms across Western Australia as it tracks inland. Western Australian Emergency Services has ordered residents in Cossack, Dampier, Karratha, Point Sampson, Roebourne and Wickham to evacuate their homes due to the expected storm surge from the tropical cyclone.
Ireland / United Kingdom / Belgium / France / Germany / Netherlands (Security threat levels – 2 / 3 / 3 / 3 / 3 / 2): Ireland’s Met Éireann and the U.K. Met Office have issued nationwide weather advisories from 8-9 February 2020, in preparation for Storm Ciara. The storm is expected to generate sustained wind speeds of 95 kph (60 mph) in inland areas, with gusts of up to 130 kph along the coast. The storm is expected to continue into Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, with wind speeds of over 100 kph throughout much of the region on 9 February. Officials have warned that the storm is likely to cause significant flooding along coastal and low lying areas, in addition to power outages and disruptions to bus, ferry and rail transportation. Travelers should monitor the status of their flights, as cancellations and delays are likely to occur due to the storm.
Nigeria (Security threat level – 5): On 6 February 2020, Nigerian security forces confirmed that they conducted a counterterrorism operation near the town of Birnin Gwari in Kaduna state during the early morning hours of 5 February. The operation targeted a large camp housing several hundred members of the Islamist militant group Ansaru, along with other individuals allegedly involved in terror-related and criminal activities, including cattle rustling, kidnappings and banditry. The Nigerian police force claimed that it killed at least 250 suspected terrorists and other high-profile criminals during the operation. At least 13 security personnel were wounded, including two police officers who were wounded when militants fired anti-aircraft weapons at a police helicopter involved in the operation.
Following the operation, on 7 February the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Nigeria, in which it now advises against all but essential travel “within 40km of the state border with Kaduna and Zamfara states in Niger State, west of the Kaduna River.”
Analyst Comment: Ansaru is a Nigeria-based al-Qaeda affiliate that had been largely dormant since 2013. Nonetheless, on 14 January the group claimed responsibility for an attack that targeted a convoy traveling along the Kaduna-Zaria Expressway in Kaduna state. At least six people — including the visiting emir of Potiskum local government area (LGA) — were killed in the attack., Following the attack, emerging reports have indicated that Ansaru has been plotting additional attacks across central Nigeria, including in Edo, Kaduna, Kogi, Kwara and Niger states. Although terrorism is a significant concern across Nigeria, terrorist attacks are more common in the northeastern states compared to the central states, including Kaduna.
Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level – 4): On 7 February 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:
“Event: The U.S. Embassy has received several reports that members of Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) are protesting in Limete, in the vicinity of Boulevard Lumumba. The highest concentration of activity is occurring between 7e Rue and 12e Rue. “Protestors are intentionally slowing traffic along Blvd Lumumba, throwing rocks at vehicles, burning tires in the road, and some attempts to set vehicles on fire have been reported. The U.S. Embassy is advising its personnel to avoid all travel on Blvd Lumumba and avoid Limete until the protests subside. The Embassy is diverting its trips to the airport to Route des Poids-Lourds. Rte des Poids-Lourds has, so far, remained clear of trouble and protest activity. Please remember crowds can be unpredictable and violence may spread with little or no notice.”
Haiti (Security threat level – 4): On 6 February 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:
“Event: A planned protest is scheduled to start at approximately 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 7, 2020. The protest route is: Place Dessalines (Champs de Mars), Rue Capois, Avenue John Brown (Lalue), Avenue Martin Luther King, Carrefour Aeroport, Autoroute de Delmas, Delmas 32, Bourdon, Avenue John Brown, Turgea, Lamartiniere, Ministry of Justice, Rue Magany, Place de Constituition (Champs de Mars). The route will affect downtown Port-au-Prince up to Petionville.”
Tonga / Fiji (Security threat levels – 1 / 2): On 7 February 2020, the U.S Embassy in Suva issued a Weather Alert, which reads in part as follows: “Location: Tonga “Event: The Tonga Meteorological Service advises that a tropical depression is approaching Tonga. The storm may intensify to a tropical cyclone and pass near Tonga Friday and Saturday, bringing heavy rain and strong winds.”