Worldview Security Update – March 27, 2020
27-Mar-20

AMERICAS

Americas: As of 26 March 2020, a number of governments across the Americas continue to implement and enforce restrictions intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including flight suspensions and extensions to states of emergency. Significant developments for Brazil, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama and Peru are outlined below.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro issued an executive order on 26 March easing some of the COVID-19 mitigation measures imposed by state governors, ignoring the requests from local officials and health experts that the national government impose more stringent mitigation measures to slow the spread of the virus. Bolsonaro’s order has deepened the fight between the executive branch and state governors over the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which has led to confusion for local residents and businesses. The new executive order deems religious services and celebrations of Mass as “essential” — exempting religious activities from state closure orders — and grants some entertainment locations, including popular lottery houses, the right to remain open. Moreover, the president has threatened to roll back other quarantine measures and open schools in states — including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo — where governors imposed mitigation measures. However, some legal officials have publicly criticized the executive’s attempts to annul state-level authority. At present, Brazilian airports remains open to international flights even as most countries worldwide have closed their borders. Nonetheless, Galeão Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport (SBGL/GIG) — the largest airport in Rio de Janeiro — is expected to reduce flights by 90% in April due to a decrease in demand, and other airports in Brazil are likely to reduce operations as well. As of 27 March, Brazil has reported 2,988 cases of COVID-19 — which is the most confirmed cases of any country in Latin America.

Authorities in Dominica closed the country’s airports to all non-essential commercial flights on 26 March until further notice. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit stated that airports will remain open for medical emergencies and to receive mew medical personnel and supplies.

During the evening of 27 March, extended curfew hours will go into effect in the Dominican Republic. Residents will not be allowed to leave their homes, except for emergencies, between 1700 and 0600 local time (2100 and 1000 UTC). Previously, the curfew was only in effect from 2000 to 0600 local time. The military has been deployed to Duarte province, one of the provinces most affected by COVID-19, to enforce the curfew. On 27 March, the government will begin fumigating public areas nationwide, with health care workers disinfecting public transportation – including the metro, cable cars and transport stops — supermarkets and gyms.

In Grenada, authorities announced a 21-day limited state of emergency on 25 March to curb the spread of COVID-19. The measure restricts freedom of movement and imposes a 1900-0500 local time (2300-0900 UTC) curfew from 25 March until 1 April. All nonessential businesses have been ordered to close. Essential businesses and services, such as supermarkets, bakeries, gas stations, hardware stores, banks, medical facilities, pharmacies, airports and seaports, are exempt.

On 26 March, Panama extended its current aviation ban to also include domestic charter and commercial passenger flights. The original ban, which came into effect on 22 March, banned international commercial passenger flights. Flights for cargo, humanitarian purposes, medical evacuation and supplies remain exempt from the measure. The updated flight ban will remain in place until further notice.

In Peru, President Martín Vizcarra announced on 26 March the immediate extension of the country’s state of emergency until 12 April. Measures from the previous state of emergency such as the nationwide nightly curfew from 2000-0500 local time (0100-1000 UTC), the closure of nonessential businesses and travel restrictions will also remain in place. The state of emergency was originally set to expire on 30 March.

United States (Security threat level – 2): In the early morning hours of 27 March 2020, a fire broke out at the underground subway station at 110th Street Central Park North in Manhattan, New York City. More than 100 firefighters deployed to the scene at approximately 0330 local time (0730 UTC) and extinguished the blaze in about 30 minutes. A subway conductor was killed and at least 16 other people, including firefighters, suffered injuries; four are in critical condition. Police officials suspect that the fire was a deliberate act and are interrogating a man for potentially starting the blaze.

United States (Security threat level – 2): As of 27 March 2020, the U.S. has recorded at least 86,000 cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and now leads the world in confirmed cases after exceeding China’s reported total the previous day. More than 1,300 individuals in the U.S. have succumbed to the illness; nearly one-third of the deaths occurred in New York state. In the southeastern state of Louisiana, confirmed COVID-19 cases have notably increased to 2,305, with 510 such cases reported since 25 March; there have been at least 83 deaths in the state. New Orleans city accounts for more than 1,000 confirmed cases in the state. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on 26 March that individuals flying into the state from airports in New Orleans, or from Connecticut, New York or New Jersey, will be subject to a mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days. Incoming travelers will receive a form — issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) — to fill out upon disembarking the aircraft, after which DPS personnel will visit the travelers’ place of residence to ensure compliance, according to Abbott. Violators face fines of up to ,000 and sentences of up to 180 days in jail.

Meanwhile, states and cities across the country continue to enact restrictive measures in order to combat Covid-19. In Miami, Florida — where a stay-at-home order is in effect — officials have announced a citywide nightly curfew from 2200-0500 local time beginning on 27 March. Police officers are authorized to detain, question and arrest individuals in violation of the order; however, exemptions exist for residents traveling to or from work, seeking medical assistance or walking pets within 250 ft (75 m) of their homes. The adjacent city of Boca Raton issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order scheduled to go into effect at 0001 local time on 28 March until further notice. Additionally, in Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency and issued a statewide stay-at-home order — except for essential purposes, such as obtaining food or medical services — which goes into effect at 0001 local time on 28 March and continues through 10 April. In view of the rapid spread of COVID-19 cases across the U.S., additional locations in the country are highly likely to impose such measures to contain COVID-19.

ASIA

Asia: As of 27 March 2020, governments throughout the Asia-Pacific region continue to impose entry restrictions and limits on public gatherings in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Notable developments in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mongolia and Vietnam are outlined below.

In Hong Kong, the government mandated a ban on gatherings of more than four people for 14 days beginning on 29 March. Exceptions exist for private settings, workplaces, aboard public transportation, weddings, funerals and government meetings. Additionally, restaurants will be required to cut maximum occupancy by 50% and limit the number of people per table to four. Entertainment venues such as, but not limited to, movie theaters, gyms, amusement parks and arcades will be required to close by 1800 local time (1000 UTC) on 28 March.

Authorities in Indonesia’s Papua province announced on 26 March the immediate closure of ports of entry in the province until at least 9 April. As part of the restriction, seaports and airports are closed to passenger traffic; however, cargo operations continue to operate normally. All domestic flights to the province have been suspended.

On 27 March Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc announced additional travel restrictions. As of 28 March, all indoor public gatherings of more than 20 people are prohibited, while outdoor gatherings must adhere to a limit of 10 or fewer people; these limits are set to last for the next two weeks. All major cities have been ordered to close nonessential businesses, instruct residents to shelter in place and restrict outdoor travel to essential activities such as procuring food or medicine. Meanwhile, domestic flights between Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other urban areas in Vietnam are set to notably reduce services in order to prevent potential community spread. At present, there are at least 163 active COVID-19 cases in Vietnam.

EUROPE

Europe: As of 27 March 2020, confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue to increase significantly across much of Europe. At present, there are six countries that have surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases: Italy (80,589), Spain (64,059), Germany (47,278), France (29,581), Switzerland (11,951) and the U.K. (11,816). Much of the continent remains under lockdown measures and affected countries continue to extend restrictions into April. Significant transportation disruptions continue due to increased restrictions.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced a nationwide lockdown beginning on 28 March. The lockdown is expected to continue through at least 11 April. Residents will be required to shelter in place and restrict outside travel to essential activities such as buying food or medical supplies or to engage in limited physical exercise.

Additionally, on 26 March Belarusian authorities announced that all arriving travelers from countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in in the country. In addition, officials extended the duration of stay for visa-free travelers to 90 days from 30 days in view of travel restrictions.

North Macedonia announced an expansion of nationwide curfew measures beginning on 28 March. On Saturdays and Sundays, the curfew will be in effect from 1600-0500 local time (1500-0400 UTC), while Monday-Friday the curfew will be in effect from 2100-0500 local time. Previously imposed restrictions on residents under the age of 18 and those over 67 will continue to apply. Meanwhile, Lithuanian officials extended their nationwide lockdown measures through 13 April.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Middle East and North Africa: As of 27 March 2020, several countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Jordan, the UAE, Oman and Iran, have increased their domestic travel restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In Jordan, on 26 March Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s office announced a lockdown of the governorate of Irbid, in an effort to control the COVID-19 outbreak in the province. Under the lockdown, residents of the governorate are allowed to leave their homes individually to purchase supplies. Military personnel are reportedly enforcing the lockdown.

In the UAE, officials announced a temporary nightly curfew from 2000-0600 local time (1600-0200 UTC), which began on 26 March and will last until 29 March so that authorities can carry out a nationwide disinfection campaign. As part of the curfew, only essential workers will be allowed outdoors and authorities may impose fines on individuals who violate the curfew.

In Oman, officials announced new restrictions on foreign nationals visiting the country. Specifically, all foreign nationals who have arrived in the country since 2 March, regardless of their country of origin, are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Violators of this policy may face criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile, Iranian officials declared a travel ban between cities across the country on 26 March. A government spokesperson urged Iranian citizens who have traveled for the Nowruz holiday to return to their home cities as quickly as possible.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sub-Saharan Africa: As of 27 March 2020, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across Africa has surpassed 3,200 as various governments continue to implement restrictions aimed at preventing further spread of the disease. In Guinea, President Alpha Condé declared a 30-day state of emergency as of 0000 local time/UTC on 27 March. All land borders will be closed during this period; commercial trade is exempt from the restrictions, but all inbound commercial transport operators will be subject to 14-day health surveillance upon entry into Guinea. Condé further ordered public transportation services nationwide to limit the number of passengers allowed to board at once to ensure adequate “social distancing.”

In Lesotho, Prime Minister Tom Thabane announced a nationwide lockdown from 0000 local time (2200 UTC) on 29 March until at least 21 April. All social gatherings — including entertainment and sporting events — will be prohibited, except for funeral services, for which no more than 50 attendees will be permitted. Essential services — such as grocery stores, medical facilities, banks and utilities — will remain open during the lockdown period. All residents have been advised to limit movements within Lesotho to essential activities, such as to procure food supplies or medicine. South Africa — which fully surrounds Lesotho — also remains on nationwide lockdown and previously closed most of its border crossings with Lesotho.

Meanwhile, in Kinshasa — the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — officials announced that lockdown measures will be implemented beginning on 28 March. During the lockdown period, city residents will be required to remain indoors for four-day intervals, but may be permitted to go out for essential purposes on the fifth and sixth days; the six-day rotational lockdown schedule will remain in effect for at least three weeks. Health care and other emergency personnel will be permitted to continue working for the duration of the lockdown. All ground movements into and out of Kinshasa have also been suspended as of 24 March and until further notice.

Officials in Burkina Faso declared a public health emergency on 26 March and announced partial lockdown measures for all cities that have recorded at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. The lockdown — which will remain in place for at least two weeks — went into effect in the capital Ouagadougou, along with the cities of Banfora, Bobo-Dioulasso, Dedougou, Koudougou and Zorgho, at 0500 local time/UTC on 27 March. During the lockdown period, residents will be able to move freely within the aforementioned cities, but all travel into and out of the cities will be prohibited. The Burkinabe government previously announced that it had closed the country’s land border crossings and suspended all flights to and from the country — excluding domestic, military and cargo flights — for at least two weeks beginning 21 March.

Police officers and military personnel have deployed throughout the region, in some areas using force to ensure compliance with measures against COVID-19. For example, in Uganda, on 26 March authorities throughout the capital Kampala used live fire to disperse residents and enforce the closure of shops selling nonessential items during the nationwide lockdown. In addition, anecdotal reports indicate that criminals have begun looting pickup trucks and lorries. Travelers across the region should stay indoors to the extent possible, adhere to all measures and restrictions, and exercise increased caution should travel become necessary.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Algeria (Security threat level – 4): On 27 March 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Algiers issued a Health Alert regarding repatriation flights, which reads in part as follows:

"The Department of State and U.S. Embassy Algiers are arranging a special chartered flight for U.S. citizens departing the Houari Boumediene Airport in Algiers within the next two to five days, and as early as this Saturday.

"The exact timing, routing, final destination, and cost are still being determined but details as we receive them will be sent out by e-mail. This will likely be the only charter flight organized by the U.S. government for American citizens in Algeria for the foreseeable future. No pets are allowed, and at this time, we understand that passengers will be limited to two pieces of luggage and a carry-on."

To read the full text of the warning, please click here .
Iraq (Security threat level – 5): On 26 March 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued an update to its travel advice for Iraq to include the following:

"We are working with other embassies to identify options for British nationals currently visiting Iraq who were unable to leave before the suspension of passenger flights. If you are visiting the country and need to get back to the UK urgently, please email baghdad.consular@fco.gov.uk by 30 March for further details. We will then contact you directly about how we might be able to help if options become available. Please also let us know if there are special circumstances that we need to be aware of when in contact with us."

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): On 26 March 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a Security Alert regarding the ordered departure of diplomatic personnel from the country. The alert reads in part as follows:

“Location: Iraq
“Event: Due to a combination of security conditions and restricted travel options as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the State Department has ordered the departure of designated U.S. Government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, and the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil. Visa services at both posts remain suspended. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq. Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is not providing public services. U.S. citizens in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region who need emergency services can contact ErbilACS@state.gov . U.S. citizens elsewhere in Iraq should contact BaghdadACS@state.gov for emergency assistance.

“If you are a U.S. citizen in Iraq on a temporary visit and desire assistance to return to the United States when a flight is available, please contact ErbilACS@state.gov or BaghdadACS@state.gov . "
Mongolia (Security threat level – 1): On 27 March 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its travel advice for Mongolia regarding scheduled departure charter flights, which reads in part as follows: “We are aware of further charter flights being arranged by the Government of Mongolia to Seoul on 2 and 4 April and to Tokyo on 3 April. Please contact Mongolian Airlines (MIAT) directly on +976 11 313 385 or +976 11 322 118 to enquire about ticket availability. We understand seats are very limited. We are also aware of additional charter flights to Tokyo on 30 March and Seoul on 4 April.”