Worldview Security Update – March 12, 2020
12-Mar-20

AMERICAS

United States / El Salvador / Guatemala / Costa Rica / Panama / Argentina (Security threat levels – 2 / 4 / 4 / 3 / 3 / 3): As of 12 March 2020, government officials across the North, Central and South Americas are moving forward with new measures in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Within these regions, the U.S. continues to have the largest number of confirmed cases (1,323), followed by Canada (117) and Brazil (52). On 11 March, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed new travel restrictions that will affect most individuals traveling from Europe to the U.S. The ban impacts those traveling to the U.S. from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, or those who have traveled to one of the listed countries within 14 days prior to arrival in the U.S. The ban will go into effect at 0000 local time on 13 March (0500 UTC on 13 March). The suspension does not apply to commercial trade and cargo between Europe and the U.S. nor does it apply to U.S. citizens, their immediate family members or permanent residents. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State issued a “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” Global Health Advisory in light of the new coronavirus outbreak.

The governors of the states of California, Oregon and Washington have banned gatherings of more than 250 people statewide for several weeks. Public schools in the city of Seattle, Washington, will be closed for a minimum of 14 calendar days. The California cities of Oakland and San Francisco have also banned gatherings of 1,000 people or more. A number of universities throughout the U.S. have switched to remote learning to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, and multiple sporting and entertainment events have been postponed or canceled.

In Central America, President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador imposed a 30-day national quarantine as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19 in the country. During the quarantine, no foreign nationals will be permitted to enter the country regardless of country of origin. Furthermore, public and private schools in El Salvador are set to close for 21 days, and all gatherings of 500 people or more have been prohibited. In Guatemala, the health minister announced new travel bans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Guatemala will not accept travelers from China, EU countries, Iran, North Korea or South Korea beginning on 12 March. While Guatemala has yet to confirm a case of the virus, the neighboring country of Honduras announced on 10 March that it has two confirmed cases.

In Costa Rica, there are 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 179 suspected cases. The government has suspended mass gatherings — including concerts and festivals — for at least two weeks, and major sporting events will be played without audiences. Public workers have been instructed to work from home where possible and private businesses have been requested to ask their employees to do the same. Additionally, the Costa Rican Tourism Board requested that businesses in the tourism industry allow flexibility for travelers to reschedule plans.

Meanwhile, there are seven confirmed cases in Panama, including at least one who contracted COVID-19 communally; additionally, the first virus-linked fatality in Central America occurred in Panama on 10 March. The government banned all major festivals, sporting events and other mass gatherings, and ordered public and private schools in affected regions to close down until 7 April.

On 12 March, the Argentine government banned the entry of travelers from China, the U.S., South Korea, the EU, and the 26 countries included in the Schengen visa area. The issuance of visas and residence permits has been suspended for the aforementioned countries, in addition to Japan and the U.K. All sporting events, concerts and visits to tourist attractions have been canceled until the end of March. A total of 19 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Argentina, with one virus-related death. On 11 March, President Alberto Fernandez declared a mandatory 14-day home quarantine for all travelers arriving from China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain or the U.S.

ASIA

China / India / Philippines (Security threat levels – 3 / 3 / 4): On 12 March 2020, a number of restrictions on movement — as well as screening and prevention measures — remain in place across Asia in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Across Asia, the largest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases are in China (80,932), South Korea (7,869) and Japan (639).

On 12 March Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte announced a lockdown for the Manila metropolitan area — to include domestic air, land and sea travel to and from the city — beginning on 15 March. The lockdown will remain in effect through at least 14 April. Within Manila, public transportation services — including the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) — will continue to operate normally. Additionally, Duterte announced a nationwide ban on all large gatherings and advised the public to continue adhering to “social distancing” practices. Meanwhile, the mayor of Davao city announced via social media that all residents of the city are prohibited from leaving the municipality, while advising all non-residents or short-term visitors to depart the city. Officials did not specify further details regarding the enforcement or expected duration of the restrictions; however, officials stated that they are not imposing a formal lockdown, comparable to the measures announced for metropolitan Manila. Health officials have confirmed at least 52 case of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

On 11 March, the Indian government announced the suspension of all existing visas — except for diplomatic, U.N., employment and project visas — beginning at 1730 local time (1200 UTC) on 13 March. The measures are set to remain in place until at least 15 April. Additionally, all travelers (including Indian nationals) coming from, or who have traveled to, China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain or Germany since 15 February, will be required to remain under quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Additionally, authorities have suspended “visa-free travel” for all holders of Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status through 15 April. Authorities advised that travelers with “compelling” reasons should contact Indian diplomatic missions for additional assistance regarding their visas. The restrictions do not apply to travelers already in India. As of 13 March, health officials have confirmed at least 73 cases of COVID-19 in India.

Meanwhile in China, officials confirmed 15 new cases of COVID-19 on 12 March, a decrease from the 24 new cases reported on the previous day. In Hubei province — the initial epicenter of the outbreak — officials reported a downward trend in the number of new COVID-19 infections for the seventh consecutive day, reporting eight new cases on 12 March.

EUROPE

Czech Republic (Security threat level – 2): On 12 March 2020, the government of the Czech Republic declared a 30-day state of emergency and instituted a number of travel restrictions in response to the worldwide COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Under the terms of the state of emergency, all public events involving more than 30 people are banned and public places — such as gyms, shopping malls, libraries, bars and spa centers — face government-imposed operating restrictions and some must close. For example, restaurants and bars may operate until 2000 local time (1900 UTC). Per the new travel restrictions, entry into the Czech Republic is banned for foreigners from the following 15 high-risk areas: Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. Exceptions will be provided for foreigners who have temporarily resided in the Czech Republic for more than 90 days, or foreigners with permanent residency. Additionally, citizens of the Czech Republic will not be allowed to travel to those areas most affected by COVID-19. Czech citizens abroad will be permitted entry, but those who arrive from high-risk countries will be quarantined. The government has designated 11 specific border crossings where entry and exit are allowed, which will be heavily monitored starting at 0000 local time on 13 March. The Interior Ministry will also cease issuing all visas until further notice.

Italy (Security threat level – 3): On 12 March 2020, Italian officials announced the closure of Rome-Ciampino International Airport (LIRA/CIA) and the closure of a terminal at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (LIRF/FCO). Ciampino Airport’s closure is expected to go into effect on 14 March, while the terminal closure at Fiumicino Airport will begin on 17 March. Officials stated that the closure was caused by reduced passenger demand due to the nationwide quarantine and concerns over the coronavirus disease, but general aviation and cargo flights will remain unaffected.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iraq / Syria (Security threat levels – 5 / 5): Early in the morning on 12 March 2020, U.S. forces launched a series of airstrikes on the Imam Ali militant base in western Syria near the border with Iraq, killing at least 18 Iran-supported militants. The U.S. strikes were in retaliation for a rocket attack by unidentified militants linked to Iran on a joint base in Iraq on 11 March. In that attack, militants fired at least 20 artillery rockets at Camp Taji, a base in northern Iraq that hosts U.S. forces. The attack killed two U.S. soldiers and one British soldier; additionally, 12 other soldiers of various nationalities were wounded in the attack. No group has issued a claim of responsibility for the attack as yet.

Kuwait / Algeria / Jordan / Lebanon (Security threat levels – 2 / 4 / 3 / 4): Kuwaiti officials announced that all commercial passenger flights to and from Kuwait International Airport (OKBK/KWI) will be suspended indefinitely beginning on 13 March 2020. The suspension will not affect military, private or cargo aircraft. The Kuwaiti government is likely to charter flights to allow Kuwaiti nationals and their family members to return home. Authorities have also declared a national holiday until 26 March in an effort to encourage individuals to stay home and control the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country. Additionally, the government has banned all public gatherings at restaurants, cafes and shopping malls. Kuwait has 72 confirmed cases in the country — but no fatalities to date — and five people have recovered from the virus.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab on 11 March banned all commercial air traffic from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. Additionally, Lebanese authorities have barred the entry of nationals from France, Egypt and Spain. Lebanese nationals and diplomats stationed abroad have four days to return from any of the countries that are subject to a travel ban.

In addition, several countries have issued restrictions on domestic activity. On 12 March, Algerian authorities announced a ban on all sporting and cultural events in the country until further notice. Algerian authorities also reported their first death from COVID-19, and the total number of confirmed cases has increased to 24. Meanwhile in Jordan, the Ministry of Education announced that all extracurricular activities, including sporting competitions and celebrations, are canceled until further notice.