Worldview Security Update – January 21, 2020
21-Jan-20

AMERICAS

Colombia (Security threat level – 4): In the early morning hours of 21 January 2020, the National Strike Committee — which comprises trade unions, student organizations and civil society groups — began a 24-hour national strike to protest a range of government economic policies and social injustice issues. Marches and rallies are expected in major cities, including Bogotá, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cali and Medellín. At 1700 local time (2200 UTC), rallies across the country will conduct “cacerolazo” — a form of protest in which protesters strike household pots and pans to make noise. The protests are a continuation of the national strike and protest movement that began on 21 November 2019.

In Bogotá, small-scale demonstrations are ongoing. Protesters have blocked a number of roads, including Calle 13, Calle 40, Carrera 92, Autopista Sur, Calle 45, and Carrera 20. Protesters clashed with police officers at the intersection of Avenida Suba and Carrera 91. Six police officers and one protester have been injured in clashes. Metro authorities have closed the San Mateo, Terreros, León XIII, La Despensa and Bosa stations due to ongoing protests; it is currently unknown when authorities will reopen these stations.

ASIA

Australia / China / India / Japan / Singapore / South Korea / Taiwan / Thailand (Security threat levels – 2 / 3 / 3 / 1 / 1 / 2 / 1 / 3): As of 21 January 2020, Chinese health officials have reported six confirmed deaths due to the outbreak in Wuhan, China, of a new strain of SARS-like coronavirus. In a separate statement, authorities noted that at least 16 health care workers have been hospitalized for exhibiting symptoms of the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to convene an emergency meeting on 22 January to determine whether to classify the outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern.”

For nearly a month, Chinese and WHO officials had reported that the primary method of transmission appeared to be animal-to-human. As of late, health authorities note that “limited human-to-human” transmission has also occurred. Health authorities in Asia and the U.S. have implemented additional screening procedures at airports to test individuals arriving from Wuhan and elsewhere ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year travel holidays — which represent the world’s largest annual human migration. Furthermore, Singapore authorities announced they would quarantine individuals who recently traveled to China and had pneumonia-like symptoms. Authorities at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (VABB/BOM), as well as those at Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport (YSSY/SYD), announced heightened screening procedures for travelers from Wuhan. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently maintains a Level 1 – “Practice Usual Precautions” – health advisory regarding the outbreak; additional information can be found here .

China (Security threat level – 3): An outbreak of viral pneumonia — denoted by the World Health Organization as the 2019-nCov (novel coronavirus) — has been reported in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province in China, by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. The previously unknown pathogen has now been confirmed to be a new strain of coronavirus (different strain from SARS and MERS). Since 20 January 2020, the virus has now spread to the major cities of Beijing and Shenzhen, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to over 218; meanwhile, four deaths have been reported.

The most common symptom is fever, with some patients presenting with difficulty breathing, and bilateral pulmonary infiltrates. Human-to-Human transmission has been confirmed by China and persons who have been in contact with infected patients are currently being monitored. An ongoing epidemiological investigation has revealed that some of the cases are believed to have originated from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan City. Chinese municipal and national health officials have set parameters to contain the outbreak, showing the country’s readiness and ability to manage respiratory illness outbreaks.

Travel:

At present there are no recommendations from health authorities that travel to the Wuhan area or China needs to be avoided; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that travelers to Wuhan "should avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and contact with sick people."

  • US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Travel Health Notice Alert Level 1 (i.e. "Practice Usual Precautions") – 6 January 2020
  • World Health Organization (WHO) – Advice on International Travel and Health – 10 January 2020; where it recommends the usual precautions such as:
  • "Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
  • Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment;
  • Avoiding close contact with live or dead farm or wild animals;
  • Travelers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands)."

Outbound flights from China, particularly Wuhan, are subject to additional inspection in the form of health screening/temperature check, and quarantine of suspected cases. These measures have already been implemented in countries inside and even outside the region – e.g. in the U.S., three airports (San Francisco International, JFK in New York and Los Angeles International) are currently screening passengers coming from Wuhan directly or via a connection.

The WHO has called for an emergency meeting.

As of 20 January 2020, four confirmed cases in Thailand (two cases), Japan (one case) and recently South Korea (one case) have been recorded. Health officials in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines are also under caution after suspected cases of travelers from Wuhan exhibiting similar symptoms were reported.

Recent travelers from the area experiencing fever or respiratory symptoms are advised to seek medical attention immediately.

EUROPE

Spain / France (Security threat levels – 3 / 3): As of 21 January 2020, Storm Gloria is affecting transportation in Spain and southern France. In Spain, hundreds of thousands of people remain without power after winds of up to 115 kph (70 mph) downed power lines; the regions of Aragón, Catalonia and Valencia have been particularly affected by the storm. Provinces across the northeast of the country remain on high alert for hazardous winter weather conditions, including the following: Albacete, Alicante, Almería, the Balearic Islands, Barcelona, Castellón, Girona, Granada, Murcia, Tarragona, Teruel and Valencia. The storm caused the closure of Alicante-Elche Airport (LEAL/ALC) on 20 January, canceling approximately 170 flights and affecting 20,000 travelers. The storm has resulted in the deaths of at least four people. Gloria is expected to continue north into southern France throughout the day; officials have issued weather warnings in the departments of Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales until 23 January, as well as temporarily closed the A9 motorway border crossing between the two countries. Travelers should check road conditions and flight statuses before traveling to airports due to continued heavy snow and rainfall.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Lebanon (Security threat level – 4): From 17-19 January 2020, protesters frustrated with the country’s precipitous economic downturn and government corruption clashed with security forces in downtown Beirut. On 19 January police officers deployed water cannons and fired multiple rounds of tear gas to disperse crowds after anti-government protesters threw stones and firecrackers during a standoff near the parliament building. At least 114 people were injured during the downtown clashes. Elsewhere the same day, protesters gathered near the Central Bank of Lebanon, also known as Banque du Liban. While there were no reports of violence occurring at the Central Bank demonstration, attacks against Lebanese banks have previously occurred during protests in Beirut.

Similarly, on 18 January security forces used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters outside the country’s parliament building in downtown Beirut; reports indicate that the protesters threw rocks at security forces. Officials at Le Gray Hotel in downtown Beirut briefly instituted a lockdown during the protests, as violent encounters between officers and protesters approached the vicinity of the hotel. Additionally, the demonstrations that occurred on 17 January briefly escalated tensions when protesters blocked Ring Road in downtown and staged demonstrations outside the Central Bank; protesters briefly breached the perimeter wall around the bank, but dispersed when security forces ordered them to do so.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Guinea (Security threat level – 4): On 21 January 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Conakry issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Announced gathering points include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • Bambeto traffic circle
  • Bellevue traffic circle
  • T1 road between the autoroute and the Concasseur intersection.

“Event: We have received numerous reports of protest activity in Conakry, including tire and vehicle burning. “The Embassy will be open today, January 21, 2020 with core staffing operations only. The consular section will honor appointments for those who can safely travel to the Embassy.

"‘Embassy personnel have been directed to avoid areas in the vicinity of the Bambeto and Bellevue traffic circles and T1 between the Auto Route and the Concasseur intersection, and to avoid non-essential travel throughout Conakry.

“As always, there is the possibility that sporadic pop up protest activity may occur in Conakry at any given time. Typical locations for protest activity often include, but are not limited to, Rue le Prince from the Cosa intersection, to the Bambeto traffic circle, to the Hamdallaye traffic circle. When violence occurs during these protests, it often takes the form of blocked traffic, burned tires in the streets, and rocks and debris thrown at passing vehicles.”

Lebanon (Security threat level – 4): On 20 January 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Lebanon, which reads in part as follows:

“Protests which began on 17 October 2019 are ongoing. The protests have centred on Beirut and Tripoli, but have occurred at various locations nationwide, often with little notice. Violent confrontations between protestors, security forces and supporters of political groups have occurred, including major clashes in downtown Beirut on 18 and 19 January 2020 which resulted in hundreds of casualties and the widespread use of tear gas and rubber bullets by the security forces to disperse crowds. A protestor died in a further incident in Khalde on 12 November 2019.

“Violence between the security forces and protestors is highly likely to reoccur, including at short notice, in particular at existing flashpoints – notably downtown Beirut. You should remain vigilant, avoid protests, demonstrations and large political gatherings, and keep up to date with developments…

“As a result of the protests, major roads in and out of Beirut and across the country have become blocked at short notice, including the roads to and from Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport ([OLBA/BEY]). If you’re travelling to or from the airport, check your flight status before leaving, allow extra time for your journey and ensure that you have adequate medical supplies if required. If roads from the airport are blocked, wait there until the authorities confirm access roads are open.

“Fuel stations continue to supply petrol, but there have been closures at short notice. Plan any journeys carefully, seek local advice before departing and be prepared to change plans at short notice.

“Banks have been closed for long periods during the protests. While ATMs have been reliably stocked with Lebanese Pounds, and credit/debit cards continue to be accepted in most circumstances, access to US dollars is extremely limited. If you do not intend to use the local currency, you should bring US dollars with you.

“Medical supplies may become increasingly scarce. You should therefore bring any medicines you need with you to Lebanon.”

The full text of the advice is available here .

South Africa (Security threat level – 4): On 21 January 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria issued a Security Alert for Gauteng province, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Gauteng Province

“Event: Crime Trend

“Fraud and bank scams are common in South Africa, including ATM scams. Recent incidents of ATM scams have been reported in the Menlyn Main and Menlyn Mall areas of Pretoria, but such crimes are not limited to those locations.

“For example, perpetrators may put something in the card slot of an ATM, making getting a card in or out difficult. The perpetrators then approach the victim and advise they must enter their pin number to either get the card in or out. The perpetrators then have the card number and pin to withdraw money from the account. 

"Actions to Take:

  • Do not accept assistance from strangers at ATMs.
  • If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, notify your bank immediately.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.”