Worldview Security Update – January 29, 2020
29-Jan-20

ASIA

China / France / Germany / India / Indonesia / Japan / Morocco / Papua New Guinea / Puerto Rico / Singapore / South Korea / Ukraine / United Kingdom / United States (Security threat levels – 3 / 3 / 3 / 3 / 4 / 1 / 3 / 4 / 2 / 1 / 2 / 4 / 3): On 29 January 2020, the number of confirmed global cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) rose to 6,145, of which 6,065 cases are reported across China. The latter figure now the number of individuals infected by the 2002-03 SARS epidemic within the country. Thus far, a total of 132 individuals have died from the coronavirus. Health officials are attempting to learn more detailed information about the virus, such as what animal sources it originated from and whether it can spread while there are no symptoms. In a departure from the approach to the SARS epidemic, Chinese officials have been transparent since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, and have agreed to accept assistance from experts at the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many countries are curtailing flights to China. U.S. carrier United Airlines has suspended several flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai from 1-8 February, while British Airways is suspending all flights to and from mainland China for an undetermined period of time. Indonesia’s Lion Air is also suspending flights to China. Additionally, the Papua New Guinea government has banned all travelers from Asian ports from entering the country amid coronavirus concerns.

An increasing number of countries are conducting checks on travelers from China. The U.S. is opening 15 additional quarantine stations, marking a total of 20 stations in operation — including in Anchorage, Alaska; Boston, Massachusetts; Dallas, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; El Paso, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; Houston, Texas; Miami, Florida; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and one along the U.S.-Mexico border. Singaporean authorities are opening quarantine facilities, increasing border checks and instituting a compulsory leave of absence for students and teachers from China. Ukrainian authorities are now screening incoming passengers for symptoms of coronavirus. Additionally, Indian authorities have begun screening individuals arriving via land routes from Nepal.

Some countries — including France, Germany, Japan, Morocco and South Korea — are evacuating or have already evacuated their nationals from Wuhan. The U.S. is evacuating its consular personnel and a limited number of private citizens from the city; however, many evacuated citizens of these countries are being placed in quarantine upon their return.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Israel / Palestinian Territories (Security threat levels – 3 / 4): On 28 and 29 January 2020, clashes occurred between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli military forces in towns and cities across the West Bank — including in Ramallah, al-Bireh and Bethlehem. In Ramallah, at least 200 Palestinian demonstrators confronted Israeli forces and burned photos of U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators, injuring at least 13 people. Meanwhile, in al-Bireh — located just north of Ramallah — Israeli forces used live ammunition to disperse demonstrators, wounding at least two people. In Bethlehem,  Israeli forces deployed tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators attempting to march in the city, but there were no reports of casualties.

The clashes in the West Bank come in response to a U.S.-proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, which U.S. President Donald Trump announced on 28 January. Reports indicate that U.S. officials did not consult Palestinian officials prior to developing the plan. The plan includes unpopular provisions that would impact Palestinians, such as allowing Israel to retain control over West Bank settlements, as well as granting Israel full sovereignty over Jerusalem and the authority to annex the Jordan Valley. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the plan.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Israel issued a Security Alert noting that U.S. government employees and their families are restricted from traveling to several areas in Jerusalem’s Old City, along with several towns in the West Bank. For further details on the restrictions, please click here .

Analyst Comment: Organizations with operations in Israel and the Palestinian territories should monitor the situation closely over the coming days and weeks, given rising tensions with the potential to escalate into violence. There is an increased threat of Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza, as well as militant attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem. While there are no indications of an imminent threat to U.S. nationals in particular, U.S. nationals operating in the West Bank and Arab majority East Jerusalem (and the Old City) should keep as low a profile as possible.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Malawi (Security threat level – 3): On 28 January 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Malawi, which reads in part as follows: “The results of Malawi’s May 2019 elections are being challenged in the High Court by two political parties. Protests have taken place in central Lilongwe and elsewhere in Malawi and have at times turned violent, with some reports of looting and damage to property. The High Court ruling on the electoral challenge is expected on 3 February 2020. The ruling could provoke further violent protests.”
Sierra Leone (Security threat level – 4): On 29 January 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Freetown issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:
“Location: Fourah Bay College, Freetown
“Event: Sources in the area of Fourah Bay College are reporting there are violent confrontations at the school, and an increased number of police maintaining order is expected. An enlarged security presence and continued confrontations will likely congest traffic on the main road leading through the college and could present a dangerous situation for people transiting through the campus area.

“US embassy personnel have been advised to avoid the Fourah Bay College area today. If you live in the area, and must travel there, please exercise extreme caution.”