Worldview Security Update – March 17, 2020
17-Mar-20

AMERICAS

Americas: On 17 March 2020, the governments of Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and the Bahamas announced the closure of all borders of their respective countries — including air, land and sea — to all foreign travelers as part of an overall effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The declarations exempt nationals and permanent residents; however, those who arrive in the aforementioned countries from this point forward, and until further notice, are required to complete 14 days of self-isolation. In Chile, the border closure will not affect cargo or trade. Additionally, all schools are suspended for two weeks and gatherings of more than 500 people are banned. Chile has 156 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, a notable increase from approximately 50 cases on 14 March. In Colombia, the government announced the closure of all land, sea and river borders from 17 March until 30 May and banned public gatherings of more than 50 people.

On 16 March the governments of Ecuador and Honduras announced nationwide curfews due to COVID-19. Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno declared a state of emergency and announced a nightly curfew from 2100-0500 local time (0200-1000 UTC) beginning on 17 March, while all inter-provincial transportation and domestic flights have been suspended for 14 days. All public services have been shut down except for security, health and emergency services. In Honduras, authorities have imposed a nationwide nightly curfew for seven days, which began at 2200 local time on 16 March (0400 UTC on 17 March). All non-essential businesses have been ordered to close, all public events of any size have been banned and public transportation services have been suspended.

Meanwhile, health officials in Brazil continue to urge President Jair Bolsonaro to take more actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 across the country, where more than 230 cases have been confirmed as of 16 March. While a number of countries in the region imposed tighter border controls and limited public and private gatherings, Bolsonaro celebrated with thousands of pro-government demonstrators on 14 March — two days after publicly stating that he would undergo quarantine and observation due to his potential exposure to COVID-19 after his aides tested positive for the virus on 12 March. Separately, on 17 March more than 1,000 prison inmates escaped from at least four prisons in the state of São Paulo after local officials canceled their temporary passes because of fears they could contract COVID-19 and spread it across the prison upon their return. At present, Brazil does not have any entry or exit travel restrictions.

Canada / United States (Security threat levels – 2 / 2): The Canadian government will prevent all foreign travelers — excluding U.S. citizens — from entering Canada beginning on 18 March 2020 in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Canadian citizens and their immediate family members, legal permanent residents, airline crew members and diplomats are exempt from the ban. All international flights will then be permitted to land only at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (CYUL/YUL), Toronto Pearson International Airport (CYYZ/YYZ), Calgary International Airport (CYYC/YYC) or Vancouver International Airport (CYVR/YVR). On 13 March the government recommended that Canadian nationals avoid all non-essential travel and urged those abroad to return home as soon as possible. All returning Canadians are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The country has so far reported at least 324 confirmed COVID-19 cases across all 10 provinces, in addition to 17 presumptive cases.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., officials in Northern California’s San Francisco Bay Area have issued a shelter-in-place order for nearly 7 million residents in San Francisco and the neighboring counties of Alameda Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. The order went into effect at 0001 local time (0701 UTC) on 17 March and is scheduled to last through at least 7 April. Officials have ordered residents to avoid all unnecessary travel and not leave their homes except for essential reasons, such as obtaining food and medicine. Additionally, on 16 March U.S. President Donald Trump released a set of guidelines, urging U.S. residents not to gather in groups of more than 10 people, to avoid unnecessary travel and to stay away from bars, food courts and restaurants. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy urged residents to stay indoors between 2000-0500 local time (0000-0900 UTC) and avoid all non-essential and non-emergency travel within those hours starting on 16 March. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the closure of polling locations across the state due to COVID-19 concerns, temporarily suspending the state’s primary elections until June. Most of the major urban centers in the country — including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston — have closed schools and ordered food establishments to operate carryout and delivery services only. Thus far, the U.S. has reported more than 4,660 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including at least 89 fatalities; 22 of those deaths were reported on 16 March.

ASIA

Asia: On 17 March 2020, Hong Kong officials issued a red alert for all international travel, except for mainland China, Macao and Taiwan, and advised residents to avoid non-essential travel abroad. Beginning on 19 March, all arriving travelers and residents will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entry into Hong Kong and will be subject to additional medical surveillance. Similar restrictions have been in effect for mainland China since 8 February. In addition, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that ongoing school closures will likely extend beyond the current 20 April deadline.

Meanwhile, the Indian government announced additional travel restrictions for the European Union, Turkey, Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia and the U.K., effective 1730 local time (1200 UTC) on 18 March until 31 March. Airlines have been instructed to prohibit passengers from those countries from boarding flights to India during the specified time. The restrictions will not affect flights departing India or affect foreign nationals already in the country. Additional information can be accessed from the Indian Bureau of Immigration here . On 13 March the Indian government suspended all existing visas — except for diplomatic, U.N., employment and project visas — until 15 April.

In Vietnam, authorities announced plans to temporarily suspend the issuance of new visas for all foreign nationals for a period of between 15 and 30 days; however, it is not currently known when the restrictions will take effect. On 15 March Vietnam announced a ban on all foreign nationals from or with recent travel through China, Iran, Italy, South Korea (Daegu city and Gyeongsangbuk province), all European countries in the Schengen Area and the U.K.

Sri Lankan authorities announced that beginning at 0000 local time on 19 March (1830 UTC on 18 March), all flights to Bandaranaike International Airport (VCBI/CMB) — the country’s primary international airport — will be suspended for 14 days due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. On 15 March the government closed Jaffna International Airport (VCCJ/JAF), the country’s other major international airport, for two weeks. As a result, there will effectively be no inbound flights countrywide for at least 14 days.

Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Prime Minister Altynai Omurbekova announced the temporary closure of the country’s borders and banned all foreign nationals from entering the country until further notice as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions do not apply to foreign nationals who are already in the country. There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan at this time.

In Thailand, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that beginning on 18 March all schools will close for 14 days. In Bangkok, entertainment venues, such as boxing rings, bars, sports fields and race tracks, will be closed for two weeks. Additionally, Prayuth ordered all Songkran (13-15 April) holiday activities to be postponed to limit travel within the country. Organizers of events — such as concerts or religious activities — will need to acquire approval from provincial authorities as well as medical officials. Provincial governors also have increased their authority to impose transportation restrictions.

EUROPE

Europe: As of 17 March 2020, confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue to increase across Europe. There are currently 12 countries in Europe with over 1,000 confirmed cases: Italy (27,980), Spain (9,942), Germany (7,588), France (6,655), Switzerland (2,330), the U.K. (1,553), Netherlands (1,414), Norway (1,360), Austria (1,132), Sweden (1,121), Belgium (1,058) and Denmark (1,007). Travel disruptions and border closures are expected to continue as governments implement further restrictions and travel bans in response to the spread of COVID-19.

The European Union has proposed a 30-day closure of its external borders and travel restrictions prohibiting non-essential travel throughout the passport-free Schengen Area in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. The decision of whether to close the borders is expected to be announced later on 17 March. The restriction would not apply to family members of EU citizens, essential sector employees — such as medical personnel — or the commercial transport of goods.

In France, officials have implemented a nationwide lockdown that is expected to last at least 15 days. The lockdown requires that all people currently in France remain at home, with exceptions for work, to seek medical assistance or to engage in physical exercise. Travelers within the country will be required to carry a certificate stating a reason for travel during the lockdown. Separately, Swiss officials have declared an official nationwide state of emergency and placed the country on lockdown. The state of emergency, which is expected to last until 19 April, bans all non-essential business and cancels all public and private events until 29 March. Additionally, the government has closed land borders with Austria, France, Italy and Germany.

Border closures and travel bans continue throughout Europe. On 16 March Portugal banned air and rail travel to and from Spain, in addition to implementing a tourism ban. Additionally, Spain announced the closure of its land borders to all but Spanish nationals, cross-border workers and cargo shipments. The land border closure is not expected to affect air or maritime travel at this time. Meanwhile, Russian and North Macedonian officials announced a ban on foreign nationals entering their respective countries.

Ukrainian officials have also suspended all flights to and from the country for two weeks beginning on 17 March. Domestic transportation will also experience disruptions beginning on 18 March, as flight operations nationwide and subway services in the major cities of Dnipro, Kharkiv and Kyiv will be suspended. Polish officials also announced the cancellation of all domestic flights until further notice.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Middle East and North Africa: As of 17 March 2020, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is continuing to spread across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, even as several governments in the region — including Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon and Sudan — continue to take stringent measures to control the spread of the disease.

On 17 March Jordanian officials deployed military personnel to the entrances and exits of major cities as part of an overall attempt to control the spread of the disease by limiting the movement of people. The office of Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Razzaz encouraged citizens to remain in their homes and to leave only for essential purposes.

Meanwhile, in Tunisia, all maritime ports of entry are closed, and all international flights will be canceled beginning on 18 March.

On 16 March the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Lebanon to “advise against all but essential” travel to Lebanon, citing the increasingly restrictive measures in the country to control COVID-19, including restrictions on domestic and international travel. Lebanon’s land borders and Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport (OLBA/BEY) will shut down from 19-29 March.

The Sudanese government declared a nationwide state of emergency on 16 March and announced a closure of all airports, seaports and land border crossings. Authorities have not yet confirmed when the restrictions will go into effect, or whether Sudanese nationals and other legal residents will be allowed entry once the measures go into effect. Humanitarian and cargo flight operations will be exempt from the restrictions.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sub-Saharan Africa: As of 17 March 2020, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across the African continent has increased to more than 400, with cases confirmed in at least 30 countries. In Côte d’Ivoire, President Alassane Ouattara announced on 16 March that the country will suspend the entry of all non-Ivoirian passengers arriving from a country with more than 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The restrictions — which went into effect at 0000 local time/ UTC on 17 March — are currently scheduled to last for at least a 15-day period.  

Senegalese President Macky Sall has ordered the suspension of all flights between Senegal and at least seven countries — including Algeria, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia — for a 30-day period beginning at 2359 local time/ UTC on 18 March. Cargo, humanitarian and medical evacuation flight operations are exempt from the restrictions. The island nations of Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles will introduce similar restrictions on direct flights between Europe, including the French overseas departments of Mayotte and Réunion; the restrictions will go into effect in Mauritius and Seychelles on 18 March, and in Madagascar on 20 March.

In Chad, authorities have ordered the suspension of all flights to N’djamena International Airport (FTTJ/NDJ), effective 0000 local time on 19 March (2300 UTC on 18 March). These measures are expected to be in place for at least two weeks, but do not apply to cargo aircraft. The land borders with Cameroon, Egypt, Libya, Niger and Nigeria are currently open. Togolese authorities will likewise suspend flights from several high-risk countries — including France — for at least two weeks beginning on 20 March. Any passenger arriving from high-risk countries by air or land ahead of the flight suspension must self-quarantine for 14 days.

The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on 16 March upgraded its level of advice for Equatorial Guinea, urging against all travel to the country “due to Equatorial Guinea authorities announcing land border closures and restrictions to international flights as a measure to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).” It remains unclear when the land border closures and suspension of international flights will go into effect.