Worldview Security Update – March 2, 2020
2-Mar-20

AMERICAS

Venezuela (Security threat level – 5): On 1 March 2020, the main opposition leader Juan Guaidó announced that armed pro-government individuals attempted to assassinate him on 29 February in the western Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto, located approximately 365 km (225 mi) west of the capital Caracas. Guaidó was participating in an anti-government demonstration when a group of armed individuals fired at least nine bullets targeting his convoy; Guaidó escaped unhurt. At least seven people were injured in ensuing clashes between anti-government protesters and pro-government paramilitary groups known as colectivos. Following the clashes, Guaidó encouraged supporters to participate in a countrywide anti-government protest scheduled for 10 March.

ASIA

Philippines (Security threat level – 4): At approximately 1000 local time (0200 UTC) on 2 March 2020, a disgruntled former employee entered the Virra Mall in Greenhills San Juan, located approximately 8 km (5 mi) east of central Manila, and took approximately 30 hostages. The assailant reportedly shot and injured one person when he entered the mall; authorities confirmed that the victim was in stable condition. The hostage-taker, a former security guard at the mall whom management fired, reportedly resented the mall’s management and had demanded the resignation of four executives. Shortly after 2000 local time, following negotiations, the suspect released all hostages and surrendered to police officers. There were no reports of additional injuries.

EUROPE

Germany (Security threat level – 3): At approximately 1300 local time (1200 UTC) on 2 March 2020, flight operations resumed at Frankfurt Airport (EDDF/FRA) after being halted for nearly two hours. Authorities initially suspended all flights to and from the airport following reported drone activity in the southern area of the facility; inbound flights were diverted to nearby airports during the temporary closure. Police officers searched for the drone but discovered no such activity in the area. While flights have resumed, further delays are likely throughout the day due to the backlog of scheduled flights.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Somalia (Security threat level – 5): At approximately 1800 local time (1500 UTC) on 1 March 2020, al-Shabab militants fired at least two mortar rounds toward the Green Zone in the capital Mogadishu. According to reports, the mortars hit Halane base camp, which houses several foreign facilities — including Western embassies, the U.N. headquarters and the African Union Mission in Somalia’s (AMISOM) headquarters. At least one foreign national was injured in the attack. In addition, Aden Adde International Airport (HCMM/MGQ) — located adjacent to the Green Zone — suspended operations for approximately 30 minutes following the attack, although no damage occurred at the facility. Members of the Islamist militant group al-Shabab — which claimed responsibility for the 1 March attack — have targeted Halane base camp in the past with similar tactics, including rocket and mortar fire and the use of other improvised explosive devices; for example, a similar attack occurred in October 2019, during which militants fired several mortar rounds at the camp, wounding at least three AMISOM members.

WORLD

World: As of 2 March 2020, there are approximately 89,200 confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) worldwide, with at least 3,048 deaths from the virus. The virus continues to spread and the following countries recorded their first case or cases of COVID-19 over the past weekend: Armenia, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Mexico, Scotland, Senegal and Qatar.

Italy now has at least 1,694 confirmed cases of COVID-19. On 29 February the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for Italy and raised its level of advice for the country’s Lombardy and Veneto regions to "Level 4: Do Not Travel." The Department of State maintains a "Level 3: Reconsider Travel" advisory for all other parts of the country. The text of the updated advisory can be found in the Government Warnings section.

In South Korea, there are approximately 4,335 confirmed cases, with 26 deaths. Most of the cases have been reported in and near the southeastern city of Daegu — the epicenter of the outbreak. South Korean authorities have ordered the closure of schools for an additional two weeks until 16 March. Additionally, on 29 February the U.S. Department of State updated its Travel Advisory for Daegu to "Level 4: Do Not Travel" to reflect local quarantine measures. The advisory for the rest of the country remains at "Level 3: Reconsider Travel." The text of the updated advisory can be found in the Government Warnings section.

Many European countries are limiting public events in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For example, Swiss authorities canceled football matches, carnival celebrations, concerts and the Geneva International Motor Show in addition to suspending all events with more than 1,000 participants. The ban will be in effect until at least 15 March and extends to Catholic mass. The Swiss football league is postponing all matches over the weekend and ice hockey games will be held without public being present. There have been at least 27 confirmed cases in the country. Meanwhile, French authorities have banned public gatherings of over 5,000 people and are encouraging residents not to greet one another with a kiss. As of 2 March, France has 130 confirmed cases of coronavirus, a notable increase from 57 cases reported on 28 February.

The U.S. now has 86 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The western states of California and Oregon have registered cases of unknown origin, whereas New York state has registered its first positive case of COVID-19 from a traveler who contracted the virus in Iran. Authorities in the state of Florida declared a public health emergency after two individuals tested presumptively positive for the virus; most notably, authorities in Washington state have reported the first two deaths from COVID-19.

Health officials in Washington state have declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak. A nursing home in the town of Kirkland has registered six cases of coronavirus; at least one of the residents died from the virus. Over 50 individuals at the nursing home are experiencing respiratory symptoms or are hospitalized with pneumonia and are being tested for COVID-19. Additionally, an unspecified number of members of the Kirkland Fire Department have been quarantined at the fire station or at home due to their contact with patients at the nursing home.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Armenia / Iran (Security threat levels – 3 / 3): On 1 March 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Armenia to include information regarding measures employed by the Armenian government to curb the spread of novel coronavirus. The advice reads in part as follows: “On 24 February the Armenian authorities announced that the Meghri border crossing with Iran would be closed for two weeks and scheduled flights between Armenia and Iran would be suspended, other than for Armenian and Iranian citizens to be returned to their respective countries.”

Guinea-Bissau (Security threat level – 4): On 29 February 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Dakar issued a Security Alert for Guinea-Bissau, which reads in part as follows:
“Event: The U.S. Embassy is monitoring reports of increased public military presence in Bissau following recent political events. U.S. citizens should monitor local media for updates and be aware that unpredictable demonstrations and civil unrest involving violence are possible. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens as there is currently no permanent U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Guinea-Bissau. The U.S. Embassy has suspended official travel to Guinea-Bissau through at least March 8.”

Analyst Comment: The political situation in Guinea-Bissau remains tense amid an ongoing dispute regarding the results of the December 2019 presidential runoff election. The National Electoral Commission declared former Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embalo the winner and officials inaugurated Embalo into office as president on 27 February. Despite Embalo’s inauguration, members of the Bissau-Guinean parliament appointed Cipriano Cassamá to serve as interim president while the opposition continues to challenge the election results in the Supreme Court. Cassamá resigned from this position on 1 March, citing personal safety concerns.

Italy (Security threat level – 3): On 29 February 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for Italy, which reads in part as follows:
“Reconsider travel to Italy due to a recent outbreak of COVID-19
“Level 4 – Do Not Travel to:

  • Lombardy and Veneto due to the level of community transmission of the virus and imposition of local quarantine procedures.

“There is a widespread ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness (COVID-19) caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that can be spread from person to person. Many cases of COVID-19 have been associated with travel to or from mainland China or close contact with a travel-related case, but widespread sustained community spread has been reported in Italy.”

South Korea (Security threat level – 2): On 29 February 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for South Korea, which reads in part as follows:
“Reconsider travel to South Korea due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
“Level 4 – Do Not Travel to:

  • Daegu due to the level of community transmission of the virus and imposition of local quarantine procedures.

“A novel coronavirus is causing an outbreak of COVID-19 in South Korea. On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization determined the COVID-19 outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The South Korean government has reported cases of the COVID-19 in the country and has upgraded its response level to “grave”, its highest response level.”