Worldview Security Update – January 23, 2020
23-Jan-20

AMERICAS

United States (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 1700 local time on 22 January 2020 (0100 UTC on 23 January), a shooting occurred outside of a fast-food restaurant located near the busy intersection of Third Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle, Washington. Police officers stated that multiple armed individuals opened fire during a verbal altercation. At least one person was killed and six others were wounded; all victims in the shooting were bystanders. Immediately following the shooting, authorities cordoned off several streets in central Seattle and suspended rail services to the nearby Westlake station. Police officers are further investigating the shooting and are pursuing the perpetrators. The latest event was the third shooting to occur in Seattle’s downtown area on 21-22 January.

ASIA

Australia / China / Philippines / Russia / Saudi Arabia / Singapore / Taiwan / Vietnam (Security threat levels – 2 / 3 / 4 / 3 / 3 / 1 / 1 / 3): As of 23 January 2020, Chinese authorities have reported a total of at least 611 cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) — including 17 deaths due to the virus — in mainland China, bringing the number of confirmed cases globally to 622. Two cases of 2019-nCoV have been reported in Macao and two additional cases in Hong Kong. At least one case has been reported on the neighboring island of Taiwan. Chinese authorities are quarantining the city of Wuhan and at least two other nearby cities and are canceling public events to curb the potential spread of the new virus. The city of Wuhan — which comprises 11 million residents — remains on lockdown, with Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (ZHHH/WUH) temporarily closed. In addition, the city of Huanggang, located approximately 75 km (45 mi) east of Wuhan, will also be quarantined. All public and long distance passenger transportation services will be suspended beginning at 0000 on 24 January (1600 UTC on 23 January) in Huanggang. Passengers entering and exiting in vehicles will be subject to body temperature checks and authorities will inspect all animals. The central market, theaters, internet cafes, cultural and entertainment venues in Huanggang will be closed. Meanwhile, officials in Ezhou city, located approximately 15 km (10 mi) south and directly across the Yangtze River from Huanggang, shut down the railway station beginning on 23 January. Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing canceled planned Lunar New Year events as a precaution. The Forbidden City in Beijing will be closed until further notice to prevent a possible spread of the virus. In Hong Kong, authorities announced that travelers arriving by high-speed rail into the territory from mainland China will complete a health declaration form in addition to health checks, which have been enforced since at least early January 2020.

Elsewhere, health officials across the world are monitoring suspected cases of 2019-nCov and looking to set new screening procedures at travel entry points. At least two cases have been confirmed in Vietnam, while officials are investigating a possible case of 2019-nCoV in the Australian state of New South Wales. A suspected case of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines has proven false and the patient has been released. Two suspected cases of 2019-nCov in St. Petersburg, Russia, were also released after testing negative for the virus. However, a suspected case in Singapore was confirmed after testing. Authorities stated that the patient was a traveler from China and that two other suspected cases have emerged. However, all three patients were quarantined for treatment and monitoring. An Indian national working at a hospital in Abha, Saudi Arabia is also undergoing testing for 2019-nCoV; officials have not yet confirmed the status of that case and details on how this patient may have contracted the illness remain unknown. Saudi authorities have announced plans to screen passengers arriving on flights from China.

Additionally, Singapore Airlines’ carrier Scoot canceled its daily flight from Singapore Changi Airport (WSSS/SIN) to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (ZHHH/WUH). The cancellation will be in effect through at least 26 January. Philippine authorities have announced that as of 23 January no airport in the Philippines will accept flights originating from Wuhan, where the virus was initially detected in December 2019.

EUROPE

Switzerland (Security threat level – 2): On 22 January 2020, hundreds of protesters gathered in central Zürich to protest the World Economic Forum (WEF) conference taking place in Davos, located approximately 160 km (100 mi) southeast of Zürich. During the demonstration, protesters set off fireworks, vandalized shops and threw projectiles at police officers, who used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. At least two people were injured in the violence, including one police officer. Police officers arrested three individuals involved in the protest march.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Libya (Security threat level – 5): On 22 January 2020, the Libyan National Army (LNA) paramilitary group — which declares itself the central authority of Libya despite a lack of recognition by most of the international community — announced a no-fly zone over the capital Tripoli, to include Mitiga International Airport (HLLM/MJI). The LNA accuses the Turkish government of using civilian flights as cover to transport weapons to the LNA’s rival, the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). The airport briefly suspended operations earlier in the day due to LNA rocket strikes targeting the facility; as of the latest reports on 23 January operations at the facility have resumed. 

Analyst Comment: While the extent of the LNA’s air defense capabilities is unknown, the LNA does possess a nominal air force capable of enforcing a no-fly zone in airspace the group controls. Additionally, the LNA has demonstrated repeatedly that it is capable of disrupting aviation facilities using artillery and rocket strikes.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Austria (Security threat level – 2): On 23 January 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Vienna issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:

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

  • Central Vienna (along the Ring)
  • Hofburg Palace Complex
  • Heldenplatz
  • Vienna State Opera House

“Event: On Friday, January 24, 2020, the annual Wiener Akademiker Ball will take place at the Hofburg Palace Complex in the First District. Austrian police have reported that over 1,000 police and security personnel have been called to provide security for planned demonstrations surrounding the event. As in years past, authorities are establishing temporary exclusion zones and other security measures to control crowds and potential protest activity in the area in and around the Hofburg Palace. Disruptions to traffic (vehicles, pedestrian and public transit) are highly likely in the affected areas and along demonstration routes. In years past there have been some unruly groups, property damage, and arrests associated with this event.”

China (Security threat level – 3): On 22 January 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice regarding the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to read in part as follows:

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to Wuhan city, Hubei Province. This is due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak. Public Health England has offered advice to travellers . You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the local authorities. For more information and advice, visit the TravelHealthPro website. See Health For more information and advice, visit the TravelHealthPro website . See Health "