Worldview Security Update – January 24, 2020
24-Jan-20

AMERICAS

Puerto Rico (Security threat level – 2): At approximately 2200 local time on 23 January 2020 (0200 UTC on 24 January), police officers deployed tear gas to disperse a group of demonstrators near La Fortaleza — the governor’s mansion — in the Old San Juan district of the capital San Juan. The demonstrators had been marching toward La Fortaleza to demand the governor’s resignation. Late in the evening, when authorities demanded that protesters leave the area, clashes broke out between demonstrators and police officers. Demonstrators threw rocks at police officers, who responded by deploying tear gas and firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

The protests ensued after residents on 19 January found two warehouses full of undistributed disaster relief supplies dating back to hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Frustrations over the discovery of the unused supplies are heightened, as Puerto Ricans on the southern side of the island have experienced a series of earthquakes in recent weeks that have caused an estimated 200 million U.S. dollars in damage, forced people into shelters and left many in need of disaster relief supplies.

ASIA

China / Japan / Singapore / South Korea / Taiwan / Thailand / Vietnam (Security threat levels – 3 / 1 / 1 / 2 / 1 / 3 / 3): On 24 January 2020, Chinese health officials confirmed at least 881 cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and 26 deaths resulting from the virus. Chinese authorities are placing additional cities in quarantine to restrict movement in and out of 12 cities in Hubei province — including Chibi, Ezhou, Huanggang, Huangshi, Jingmen, Qianjian, Wuhan, Xiantao, Xianning and Zhijang. Additionally, authorities have suspended transportation services in Jingzhou, located in southern Hubei province. The total population under transportation restriction is now approximately 35 million people. Chinese authorities have not provided details on the expected duration of these restrictions.

Shanghai and Beijing have both activated the highest level of response for public health emergencies. Authorities in Beijing have closed the Forbidden City and canceled all major public events — including temple fairs that are traditional Lunar New Year celebrations. Many museums and cultural centers are closed across Beijing. All large-scale activities in Guizhou province are canceled for 24 January. Authorities in Macao — which has two confirmed cases of coronavirus — are considering closing the territory’s approximately 40 casinos. Also, Shanghai Disney is closed, given concerns related to coronavirus. The city of Huaihua in Hunan province has banned all large public gatherings.

Health authorities have reported confirmed cases of the virus in Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam. Additionally, airlines in South Korea and Japan have halted outbound flights to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (ZHHH/WUH). Taiwanese authorities have announced that they will deny entry to anyone originating from Wuhan province.

Following its meeting on 23 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) did not declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). WHO officials stated that following deliberations, it was decided to consider the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak to be an internal matter of China due to the limited number of cases outside the country. However, the WHO added that it plans to meet again within 10 days, and will continue to monitor the situation and coordinate with Chinese officials, as well as relevant international bodies to combat the outbreak.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): Union-organized demonstrations against a proposed pension reform will take place across the country throughout 24 January 2020. Thousands of people are expected to participate in the demonstrations nationwide, but the turnout is unlikely to reach the hundreds of thousands, as was the case with previous demonstrations. The largest demonstration is currently ongoing in Paris, where protesters have gathered at Place de la République and plan to march to Place de la Concorde. Demonstrations also took place in the cities of Bordeaux, Le Havre, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Rennes, Strasbourg and Toulouse. Authorities have implemented heightened security measures in Paris due to the increased risk of violence perpetrated by “black bloc” protesters, including closing down shops along protest routes until the evening hours, conducting precautionary checks on people and increasing police officer presence along protest routes. Travelers in France should avoid all areas where large gatherings are taking place due to the probability of violence breaking out at ongoing protests.

Additionally, union leaders called for a “black day” to shut down most public transportation in the country. While services such as the Paris Metro and the Réseau Express Régional (RER) have experienced some delays, most services are running normally. Officials stated that approximately 70% of all trains are operational, but services on the Eurostar and long-distance TGV trains are running normally.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Mauritius (Security threat level – 1): As of 1600 local time (1200 UTC) on 24 January 2020, Tropical Storm 09S was located approximately 490 km (305 mi) east-southeast of Mauritius and was tracking eastward at a speed of 25 kph (16 mph). At that time, the storm was generating maximum sustained winds of 46 kph, with gusts of up to 65 kph. The Mauritius Meteorological Service has issued a nationwide Class II cyclone warning, indicating that the storm could generate wind speeds of up to 100 kph. Tropical Storm 09S is forecast to pass within 50 km of the island on the north side — near where the capital city Port Louis is located — during the early hours on 25 January. The storm will likely bring moderate rains, powerful winds and thunderstorms around the north coast of the island, as well as create dangerous conditions at sea, after which it is expected to track away from Mauritius and dissipate.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

China (Security threat level – 3): On 24 January 2020, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade updated its travel advice to read in part as follows:

“We have raised the travel advice for all Australians to do not travel to all of Hubei Province. The Chinese authorities have put new measures in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Strict travel restrictions have been imposed in Wuhan and a number of other cities in Hubei Province. Authorities could impose further restrictions across Hubei Province with little notice. If you travel to Hubei Province at this time you may not be allowed to depart until travel restrictions are lifted. Existing measures including wearing masks in public places and avoiding travel in and out of cities in Hubei Province remain in place. Authorities may expand travel restrictions as the outbreak develops. Monitor local and international media for further updates, and contact your travel agent and airlines for information.

“In January, Chinese authorities identified an outbreak of a new type of coronavirus, in Wuhan City in Hubei Province. If you have travelled to Hubei Province and have developed symptoms of respiratory illness, contact your doctor. See our health section for more information.”

Gambia (Security threat level – 3): On 24 January 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Banjul issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:

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

  • January 25: Kairaba Avenue between Westfield Junction and Alliance Francaise
  • January 26: Sting Corner – junction of Banjul Serrekunda Highway and Bertil Harding Highway – until Denton Bridge

“Event: Demonstrations organized by the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations are expected to take place during the day on January 25, followed by demonstrations organized by ‘Operation Three Years Jotna’ on January 26. These events are likely to cause severe traffic congestion going in and out of Banjul. Details of these events may change with little notice, and the possibility exists for additional, spontaneous demonstration locations.”

Guinea (Security threat level – 4): On 23 January 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Guinea, which reads in part as follows: “Following the violent protests in Conakry and throughout Guinea during the week of 13 January the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) announced that regular demonstrations would continue from Tuesday 21 January. The FNDC have made further announcements since. There have been weekly demonstrations across Conakry and in other towns throughout Guinea, leading to significant travel disruption and a number of violent incidents including deaths. You should remain vigilant, particularly for spontaneous demonstrations, stay clear of areas where demonstrators are gathering and monitor local media. The recent protests in Middle Guinea have led to several public buildings being ransacked and set on fire and increased criminal activity. We advise essential travel only to Middle Guinea including Labé, Pita and Dalaba.”

Zambia (Security threat level – 3): On 24 January 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka issued a Security Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Civil unrest in, but not limited to, Chingola and Kitwe, Copperbelt Province

“Event: Rumors of ritual killings in the Copperbelt Province have led to a series of riots in Chingola and Kitwe towns. The provincial government deployed additional police to both areas and imposed a curfew in Chingola to restore order. The situation on the ground remains calm but guarded. Rumors of ritual killings have spread in Solwezi, which have the potential to spark riots.

“U.S. government personnel are prohibited from travel to Chingola until further notice, and are further advised to exercise increased caution while traveling in Kitwe and Solwezi.”