Worldview Security Update – March 18, 2020
18-Mar-20

AMERICAS

Americas:  On 18 March 2020, travel disruptions continue throughout Central and South America, as a number of governments have instituted travel restrictions, including curfews and total border closures, in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). On 17 March El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele announced a temporary closure of El Salvador International Airport (MSLP/SAL), located in the capital San Salvador, for at least 15 days. Cargo and humanitarian flights are exempt. At present, El Salvador has no confirmed cases of COVID-19.

President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic announced the closure of air, land and sea borders to all foreign travelers from 0600 local time (1000 UTC) on 19 March until 3 April. Authorities announced plans to arrange “ferry flights” to evacuate foreign nationals who remained in the country after the government restricted all flights from China, Europe, Iran and South Korea on 16 March. The flights — which will be the only aircraft authorized to enter from the aforementioned restricted countries — must be empty on arrival and will be required to arrive with a replacement cabin crew in order to depart the Dominican Republic with minimal down time.

In the Cayman Islands, the government announced that air travel into and out of the country will be suspended from 2359 local time on 22 March (0459 UTC on 23 March) through 12 April. Both Owen Roberts International Airport (MWCR/GCM) and Charles Kirkconnell International Airport (MWCB/CYB) will be closed for international passenger flights, while cargo and courier flights will continue. Beginning on 19 March, inbound flights from all destinations except for the U.K. will only operate for returning residents. Outbound flights will operate normally until 2359 local time on 22 March. All persons arriving in the Cayman Islands are currently required to isolate for 14 days.

The Mexican government ordered the closure of all schools and universities from 20 March-20 April. The health minister advised that all non-essential activities and large events of more than 5,000 people be postponed beginning on 23 March. As of this writing, Mexico has 93 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Argentina’s government announced that all domestic flights, as well as long-distance train and bus services, will be canceled from 0000 local time (0300 UTC) on 19 March until 0000 local time on 24 March. Buses and trains in the metropolitan area of the capital Buenos Aires will only transport seated passengers from 19-31 March. A total of 79 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Argentina, including two fatalities. 
In Paraguay, a 15-day curfew from 2000 to 0400 local time (2300 to 0700 UTC) went into effect on 17 March. Essential business, food deliveries and transportation services are exempt from the restrictions. 

In Peru, the government imposed a state of enforced “social isolation” on 17 March, which restricts free movement and assembly. Peruvian military personnel deployed to block major roads in Lima, the capital, while police officers are restricting all other traffic flows. Essential businesses, including banks and supermarkets, as well as basic services continue to operate.

On 16 March Venezuela imposed a nationwide quarantine. Quarantine measures originally only applied to the capital of Caracas and six other states. Businesses were ordered to close and citizens have been ordered to remain at home, except to go out for transport, food delivery or health-related reasons. A total of 36 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Venezuela.

United States (Security threat level – 2) At approximately 0710 local time (1310 UTC) on 18 March 2020, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck 2.5 mi (4 km) north-northeast of Magna, Utah, and approximately 15 mi southwest of Salt Lake City, the state capital, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The quake was registered at an approximate depth of 6 mi. Reports indicate that residents of Salt Lake City felt the tremor, as did those in the cities of Logan and Provo, located approximately 80 mi north and 45 mi south of the quake’s epicenter, respectively. Approximately 55,000 homes and businesses in the region are currently experiencing power outages. Salt Lake City International Airport (KSLC/SLC) sustained damage and has suspended operations; passengers were evacuated from the terminals. The quake also caused moderate damage to residences and other buildings in Salt Lake City, including the state’s laboratory for testing of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Utah Gov. Gary Herbert stated has urged the general populace to avoid Salt Lake City’s downtown area as crews further assess the extent of the damage. No reports of casualties have emerged thus far. 

United States / Canada (Security threat levels – 2 / 2): In the U.S., as of 18 March 2020, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has spread to all 50 states and the national capital Washington, D.C., as the worldwide number of confirmed cases has now surpassed 200,000, with more than 8,000 deaths. At present, there are nearly 6,500 confirmed cases in the U.S. and the death toll remains at 113. State and city officials are employing stringent measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. In Nevada — where Las Vegas is located — Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, including bars, casinos and restaurants, for the next 30 days beginning at 0000 local time (0500 UTC) on 18 March. In Northern California’s Sonoma County, officials issued a countywide emergency shelter-in-place order beginning at 0000 local time (0700 UTC) on 18 March. The order will remain in effect until 7 April. Essential businesses, including medical facilities, ancillary health care services and/or providers, agriculture and food service enterprises as well as campgrounds and hotels will be permitted to continue operations. A shelter-in-place order also went into effect in the Southern California city of Palm Springs at 0700 local time and will remain in effect through 2 April. In New York City — where at least 814 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed — Mayor Bill De Blasio has warned residents to prepare for the possibility of a shelter-in-place order. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. and Canadian governments have reached an agreement to temporarily shut down the shared border for non-essential travel. Cross-border trade and emergency travel between the countries are set to be exempt from the ban.
<br In Canada, the provincial governments of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario declared states of emergency on 17 March to limit the size of public gatherings in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, as the number of confirmed cases reaches nearly 600. Thus far, there have been at least eight fatalities in Canada, seven of which were in British Columbia. Authorities have banned gatherings of more than 50 people in all three provinces, although the prohibition does not apply to grocery stores, public transit or pharmacies. 

ASIA

Asia:  Taiwan will indefinitely prohibit all non-resident foreign nationals from entering the country beginning on 19 March 2020 in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the island. All travelers will be required to undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

On 18 March Vietnam began suspending visa issuance to all foreign travelers for 30 days. Additionally, travelers who were previously issued visas will be required to obtain health certificates to enter the country, and all travelers from the U.S., Europe and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries will be required to quarantine. Furthermore, Vietjet Air announced that beginning on 20 March it will suspend all flights to and from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand.

Meanwhile, in Timor-Leste, authorities are banning entry for any traveler who has been to a country affected by COVID-19 within four weeks prior to their arrival.

EUROPE

Europe:  As of 18 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 (31,506), Spain (13,910), Germany (10,082), France (7,696), Switzerland (2,700), Netherlands (2,051), the U.K. (1,960), Norway (1,527), Belgium (1,486), Austria (1,471), Sweden (1,212) and Denmark (1,044). As significant disruptions are expected to continue worldwide, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a travel advisory, urging U.K. nationals against all non-essential overseas travel.

As part of an increased effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Union (EU) would implement a 30-day ban on all non-essential travel to the EU beginning on 17 March. Leyen stated that individual member countries in the bloc would be responsible for enforcing the ban. Germany announced its intention to implement the restriction immediately, but other countries are expected to implement the ban in the near future. In addition to EU members, citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and the U.K. will be exempt from the travel ban. The restriction will apply to all foreign nationals who are not long-term residents, diplomats, health care or cargo transportation workers.

Officials on the Spanish Balearic Islands also enacted bans on all flights and ship arrivals to the islands until 31 March. The restrictions will also be applied to general aviation, but do not apply to cargo shipments, essential goods, medical supplies or residents of the islands. Airline companies are allowed one flight per day from Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia to Palma de Majorca, and one flight per day from Barcelona and Madrid to Ibiza and Menorca.

Meanwhile, Belgium implemented a nationwide lockdown that is expected to last until 5 April. The lockdown requires that all people currently in Belgium remain at home, with exceptions for work, to seek medical assistance, to buy essential goods or to engage in physical exercise. Additionally, in Cyprus, all foreign tourists have been asked to leave the country by 21 March, as the government has ordered the closure of all hotels and tourist accommodations. The closure is expected to last until 30 April.

Flight disruptions across Europe have also increased as airlines cope with lowered demand and increased restrictions. Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines have both announced the suspension of flights, to begin on 18 and 21 March, respectively. Ryanair also announced that most flights would be grounded beginning on 24 March, with the exception of several essential flights between the U.K. and Ireland. Travelers should monitor the status of their flights, as additional suspensions and flight reductions are expected to continue.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Middle East and North Africa:  As of 18 March 2020, several countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are continuing to expand their travel restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Algeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE in particular, have implemented travel restrictions.

On 18 March Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced that all flights to and from Algeria are suspended. In addition, all seaports and land borders are closed except for purposes of cargo transport. Authorities earlier warned that the suspension was imminent and would remain in effect indefinitely. Foreign travelers in Algeria are encouraged to arrange flights out of the country as soon as possible.

In Iraq, officials suspended all flights into and out of the country from 17-24 March. All land borders between Iraq and its neighbors are also closed. Iraqi officials have also imposed a nationwide curfew, which began on 17 March and will last until at least 23 March. Additionally, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced an extension of its quarantine in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah until at least 23 March. The KRG has instructed all foreign nationals who have arrived from Lebanon in the last 30 days to contact the Ministry of Health for quarantine and testing.

Meanwhile, on 17 March the Saudi Arabian government ordered all non-essential private sector employees to begin working from home for 15 days. Private businesses were instructed to maintain minimum staffing levels at office facilities during this time. Essential services and public sector employees were exempt from the order.

UAE-based carrier Emirates Airlines suspended all of its flights from Abu Dhabi International Airport (OMAA/ AUH) to Egypt’s Cairo International Airport (HECA/CAI) beginning on 18 March. Travelers should check with their airline to determine the status of their flight.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sub-Saharan Africa:  As of 18 March 2020, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across Africa has increased to more than 460, with cases confirmed in at least 31 countries. Nigerian officials announced that they will suspend entry and visa issuance for all travelers arriving from 13 countries with more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — including the U.K. and the U.S. — for at least a four-week period beginning on 20 March. Health officials advised all other passengers to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Meanwhile, doctors in public hospitals across the national capital Abuja launched an indefinite strike action on 17 March; representatives will meet with government officials on 18 March in an effort to resolve the pay dispute, which prompted the strike. Other public health workers have indicated that they will join the doctors’ strike if the ongoing pay dispute is not resolved by 19 March. Officials confirmed at least eight COVID-19 cases in Nigeria as of 18 March; the extent to which the strike will affect health care services in Abuja is unknown at this time.

Cameroonian Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute on 17 March announced a series of measures, with immediate effect, aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of air, land and sea borders, the suspension of schools and sports competitions and restricted hours for restaurants and bars. Additionally, Cameroon has temporarily halted the issuance of entry visas to the country at airports, banned gatherings of more than 50 people, and suspended international meetings and missions for government officials. The measures are expected to last until further notice, and do not apply to cargo aircraft and vessels. To date, there are a total of 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cameroon.

In Cabo Verde, authorities temporarily suspended all commercial flights between Cabo Verde and 26 other countries affected by COVID-19 — including Brazil, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and the U.S., as well as all European countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases — for an initial period of three weeks, effective 18 March. Limited exceptions will be in place for repatriating citizens and medical emergencies. In addition, all sea borders are closed and passengers aboard cruise ships will not be permitted to disembark. The U.S. Embassy in Praia will suspend consular services until further notice beginning on 19 March.

Namibian President Hage Geingob declared a nationwide state of emergency on 17 March; under the terms of the declaration, foreign nationals who have recently been to countries affected by COVID-19 are not permitted to enter the country. Additionally, all schools are closed and large gatherings are banned for at least 30 days.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

World: On 18 March 2020, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued an updated global travel advisory and urged Australian nationals to avoid all overseas travel. The updated travel advisory reads in part as follows:

“We now advise all Australians: do not travel overseas at this time. This is our highest advice level (level 4 of 4).
“If you are already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means.”
The full text of the advisory can be found here.