Worldview Security Update – March 9, 2020
9-Mar-20

AMERICAS

Guyana (Security threat level – 3): On 8 March 2020, the Supreme Court of Guyana ruled to postpone officially declaring the winner of the presidential election held on 2 March after the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) filed an appeal citing electoral fraud conducted to benefit incumbent President David Granger. The court will begin hearing the case on 10 March to decide whether to recount votes from the Region Four area.

On the evening of 6 March clashes broke out between security forces and opposition supporters in Bath, located in the Berbice region southeast of the capital Georgetown. Protesters set up roadblocks and threw projectiles before police officers opened fire on the crowd. At least one person was killed and several others were injured. Elsewhere in Guyana, police officers fired tear gas and pellets at protesters in Lusignan after protesters set fire to public property and erected roadblocks. At least three people were injured in the violence in Lusignan. Additional election-related protests are likely as the Supreme Court weighs the dispute regarding the election outcome.

Mexico (Security threat level – 4): On 9 March 2020, thousands of women in Mexico plan to stay home from work or school for “A Day Without Women” strike to protest gender-based violence in the country. Various public services throughout the country are expected to experience disruptions due to the strike. Several major banks, law firms and media companies have also pledged support to the movement. For example, the Coparmex business organization, which includes over 36,000 Mexican companies, has encouraged its members to join the strike. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has pledged that negative repercussions would not be levied against any federal employee who participates in the strike. Mexico has a high rate of femicides; official statistics indicate that 3,825 women were killed in gender-based crimes in 2019.

Meanwhile, on 8 March approximately 80,000 demonstrators marched in the capital Mexico City to mark International Women’s Day. While most participants protested peacefully, a small group of demonstrators vandalized monuments, vehicles and buildings in the downtown area. One protester threw a Molotov cocktail and injured several people, including four journalists covering the protest. Authorities arrested six protesters during the event. Additional small-scale protests occurred in other metropolitan areas throughout Mexico.

ASIA

China / Italy / Saudi Arabia / Qatar / United States (Security threat levels – 3 / 3 / 3 / 2 / 2): As of 9 March 2020, there are more than 111,000 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus reported worldwide, with 3,840 deaths. At least 109 countries have reported at least one confirmed case of the virus. A total of six countries have reported more than 1,000 confirmed cases: China (80,735), South Korea (7,478), Italy (7,375), Iran (7,161), France (1,209) and Germany (1,151).

On 7 March Italian authorities issued a temporary quarantine order over the Lombardy region and 14 additional provinces in northern Italy in an attempt to contain the virus; more than 16 million people reside within the quarantine area. The provinces include Alessandria, Asti, Modena, Novara, Padua, Parma, Pesaro and Urbino, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Treviso, Venice, Verbano Cusio Ossola, and Vercelli. Under the most recent provisions, travelers are prohibited from entering and exiting the designated provinces except in the event of an emergency. In addition, authorities closed major public gathering sites, including cultural centers, theaters and ski resorts, to prevent additional infections from spreading; shopping centers will remain open Monday through Friday. All provisions are valid until 3 April.

On 9 March Saudi Arabia implemented restrictions prohibiting travel to and entry from the following countries as a precaution due to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates; the restrictions also apply to travelers from elsewhere who visited any of the listed countries in the past 14 days. In addition, overland travel into Saudi Arabia has been restricted to commercial vehicles only, and all maritime access, excluding evacuation and shipping vessels, has been prohibited. On 7 March the Saudi Ministry of Interior stated that entry into Saudi Arabia from Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will be restricted to King Abdulaziz International Airport (OEJN/JED) in Jeddah, King Fahd International Airport (OEDF/DMM) in Dammam and King Khalid International Airport (OERK/RUH) in Riyadh. However, reports indicate that Saudi authorities have begun restricting inbound flights from those countries to the listed airports. Travelers should remain abreast of local developments and check the status of planned flights.

Furthermore, travelers attempting to enter Saudi Arabia from countries not included in the list — but in which there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 — will be required to provide a laboratory certificate proving an individual has been tested and confirmed to be uninfected. Saudi authorities have been coordinating with officials from virus-affected countries to identify testing facilities with the required accreditation to perform and certify the results of the tests.

Following the Saudi announcement, Qatar implemented similar travel restrictions for 14 countries until further notice; individuals with current travel visas and foreign nationals with existing residence and/or work permits will be prohibited from entering the country. In addition, Qatari nationals were advised to avoid all but essential travel to any destination worldwide, the first government advisory of its kind since the start of the outbreak.

In the U.S., there are 564 confirmed cases across 34 states and the District of Columbia, with 22 deaths reported. Of the total, 21 cases were from the Grand Princess cruise ship, which is expected to dock at port facilities in Oakland, California on 9 March, after remaining offshore since 5 March. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of State issued a Health Alert and urged U.S. nationals to refrain from undertaking cruise travel. The text of the alert is available in the Government Warnings section below.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sudan (Security threat level – 5): On 9 March 2020, armed assailants launched an attack on the convoy of Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok near the northeastern entrance to Kober bridge in the capital Khartoum. The attack occurred as Hamdok’s convoy was traveling from Khartoum North to his office in the city center and involved the use of firearms and at least one improvised explosive device. Hamdok escaped the attack unharmed and there were no additional reports of serious injuries. No group claimed responsibility for the alleged assassination attempt. Sudan’s joint civil-military sovereign council appointed Hamdok to the premiership in August 2019 to oversee the country’s 39-month-long political transition period.

WORLD

World: On 8 March 2020, thousands of people participated in marches worldwide to mark International Women’s Day. Large-scale demonstrations occurred in a number of major cities across the world. While such rallies and marches took place in most major cities, locations highly affected by the recent outbreak of the coronavirus — such as China, South Korea and Italy — canceled all formal gatherings in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading. While most of the events concluded peacefully, violence between protesters and security forces broke out in multiple cities; the most notable incidents are outlined below.

In Istanbul, Turkey, clashes broke out between protesters and police officers near Taksim Square in the city center in the evening hours. Police officers deployed tear gas along Istiklal Street and Siraselviler Street to disperse the crowd; there were no reports of injuries. Following the incident, the Taksim metro station and parts of the nearby Sishane station were shut down while all roads surrounding Taksim Square were blocked to prevent further demonstrations from occurring.

In Santiago, Chile’s capital, hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in the street to demand gender equality and an end to violence against women. Many protesters also demanded that a proposed new constitution strengthen rights for women. Isolated clashes broke out at a point when some demonstrators threw rocks at police officers, who responded with tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. There were no reports of injuries or arrests.

In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital, clashes broke out after masked men attempted to forcefully disperse the protesters and damaged banners and signs. While the perpetrators eventually fled the scene, police officers detained at least 70 protesters for participating in the demonstration.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, rival Islamist groups threw rocks and other projectiles at protesters during the country’s largest march. Police officers deployed to the scene to block the Islamists from breaching the barriers to attack protesters. At least one person suffered injuries. Authorities launched an investigation into 12 individuals who reportedly initiated the violence. There were no reports of violence at demonstrations in other cities, including either Karachi or Lahore.

In Paris, female protesters denounced French police officers for forcefully dispersing the crowd during a gathering on the previous day. On 7 March hundreds of women held a “night march” to demonstrate against gender-based violence. Protesters gathered in the Place de la République before clashes broke out between individuals and police officers. Security forces fired tear gas and used force to disperse the crowd; authorities arrested at least nine people.

In Cameroon, more than 20,000 women from rural and urban areas gathered in capital Yaoundé to call for increased rights to education and a larger role in the decision-making process, and to protest against early marriages and traditional practices that are harmful to women. A smaller-scale parade took place in Bamenda, located in the English-speaking Northwest region. During that event, an explosion occurred, killing one soldier and injuring at least 10 people. Armed separatists — who threatened to disrupt the event — likely perpetrated the attack.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Azerbaijan (Security threat level – 3): On 6 March 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for Azerbaijan, increasing the alert to “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” from "Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution.” The advisory reads in part as follows:

“Reconsider travel to Azerbaijan due to an outbreak of COVID-19 and responsive measures implemented by the Government of Azerbaijan.

“Reconsider travel to Azerbaijan due to the risk of a significant increase of COVID-19 cases emanating from the Iranian border and the Government of Azerbaijan’s response to COVID-19. The Government of Azerbaijan is screening international travelers for symptoms of COVID-19 and has implemented mandatory quarantine for suspected cases in designated quarantine facilities. Travel restrictions imposed in other countries and reduced commercial flight availability may impede people seeking medical evacuation. Medical care in Azerbaijan is not consistent with U.S. standards and basic medical supplies may be unavailable in some areas. Travelers should consider these factors and their health before traveling to Azerbaijan and follow the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus if they decide to travel.

“On March 6, 2020 the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members.”

The full text of the updated Travel Advisory is available here

Italy (Security threat level – 3): On 8 March 2020, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for northern Italy, which reads in part as follows:

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to the following areas in northern Italy, due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) and various control and isolation measures imposed by the Italian authorities on 8 March: Lombardy region (which includes the cities of Milan, Bergamo, Como) and the provinces of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia and Rimini (all in Emilia Romagna); Pesaro e Urbino (in Marche); Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli (all in Piemonte); Padova, Treviso and Venice (in Veneto).

“British nationals remain able to depart Italy without restriction. Residents of other parts of Italy are permitted to leave the isolation areas to return home. Otherwise entry into and exit from these areas is forbidden without official permission on the grounds of strict necessity; the authorities have confirmed to us that this will be granted for reasons such as medical need or work requirements. Travellers should check flight details with airlines. Additional restrictions include the closure of museums, cultural institutions and the suspension of all public gatherings, social events including pubs, nightclubs and games halls. Religious ceremonies and funerals are suspended. Ski facilities in the affected mountain areas are closed. Restaurants and bars remain open from 06.00 to 18.00.

“Across the whole of Italy, museums and cultural institutions are closed and all sporting fixtures must be played behind closed doors. Childcare facilities, schools and universities are closed until 15 March. Public and social gatherings should be avoided with cinemas, pubs and clubs closed. Restaurants and bars remain open with reduced seating.”

Turkmenistan (Security threat level – 3): On 6 March 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for Turkmenistan, increasing the alert to “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” from “Level 1: Exercise normal precautions.” The advisory reads in part as follows:

“Reconsider travel to Turkmenistan due to travel restrictions and quarantine procedures instituted by the Government of Turkmenistan in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“On March 6, 2020, the Department allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees. The Government of Turkmenistan has implemented enhanced screening and quarantine measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. All incoming international flights are being redirected to Turkmenabat, approximately 291 miles from Ashgabat. Passengers will be required to undergo medical screening and possibly involuntary quarantine at local medical facilities.

“Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice. Visit the website of U.S. Embassy Ashgabat for additional information on these new measures.

“Medical protocols in Turkmenistan are not consistent with U.S. standards and some travelers have been required to undergo medical testing unrelated to COVID-19 including but not limited to HIV testing. Consider declining any medical procedures including testing unrelated to COVID-19.

“Due to the possibility of quarantine of unknown length, carry additional supplies of necessary medication in carry-on luggage. Contact the U.S. Embassy if you are subject to quarantine or prior to undergoing any invasive medical testing or procedures.”

United States (Security threat level – 2): On 8 March 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued a Health Alert for cruise ship passengers, which reads in part as follows:

“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures. While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.

“This is a fluid situation. CDC notes that older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships. Passengers with plans to travel by cruise ship should contact their cruise line companies directly for further information and continue to monitor the Travel.state.gov website and see the latest information from the CDC .