Worldview Security Update – May 8, 2020
8-May-20

AMERICAS

Brazil / Honduras (Security threat levels – 3 / 4): On 7 May 2020, the mayor of the Brazilian city of São Paulo announced that tighter restrictions on private vehicles will go into effect beginning on 11 May, as part of an effort to encourage residents to stay home and therefore potentially slow the spread of COVID-19. The measure — which restricts the time during which private vehicles can be driven contingent upon the ending number of a license plate — will be enforced 24 hours a day across the city. Specifically, on even days, cars with a license plate ending in an even number are allowed on city roads, leaving cars with a plate ending in an odd number to circulate on odd days. Health care professionals will be excluded from this order. Subsequently, the city will add another 1,000 buses to the municipal transport system. The mayor expressed concern that the city’s occupancy of hospital ICU beds exceeds 80%, and that the city of São Paulo has 23,807 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 93,000 additional suspected cases.

In Honduras, protesters on 7 May clashed with police officers in the La Era neighborhood of the capital Tegucigalpa. Violence broke out after residents armed with rocks burned tires and blocked roads leading to the Amor Enterno Cemetery to demand better conditions amid the outbreak of COVID-19. Police officers deployed tear gas to disperse the crowd. According to reports, the protesters had complained about the ongoing burials of COVID-19 victims in the neighborhood, and stated that they lacked the proper sanitation for such activities. There were no reports of injuries or arrests.

AUSTRALASIA

Australia (Security threat level – 2): On 8 May 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled a three-phase plan to ease coronavirus-related restrictions amid the decreasing number of daily reported cases. While restrictions will ease nationwide, states and territories have the authority to individually determine when to enact each stage of the plan. Officials noted that each phase should last approximately four weeks, but may vary depending on the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak within each state or territory.

During the first phase, restaurants, cafes and other businesses will gradually be allowed to increase the number of customers allowed inside their establishments. In the second phase, recreational and entertainment facilities — such as gyms, cinemas and galleries — will be allowed to reopen while serving a limited number of patrons. Finally, during the last stage, most offices and businesses will reopen while officials will increase the number of participants allowed at public gatherings to 100. In addition, interstate travel and limited international flights between Australia and New Zealand will also resume. Further details of the plan can be found here .

EUROPE

Latvia / Denmark (Security threat levels – 2 / 2): On 7 May 2020, Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced details of the second phase of the nationwide plan to lift coronavirus-related restrictions. Nonessential businesses — including restaurants, cafes, shopping centers and retail stores — will be permitted to reopen on 11 May, while places of worship and libraries will reopen on 18 May. The third phase is scheduled to take effect on 8 June; subsequently, the final phase is expected to start at the beginning of August. During the final two phases, the number of participants allowed at large gatherings will gradually increase, and additional businesses and entertainment facilities will resume operations.

In Latvia, officials on 7 May extended the nationwide state of emergency until 9 June, and announced additional plans to begin easing coronavirus-related restrictions. Beginning on 12 May, officials will permit the number of participants allowed at public gatherings to 25 from two, and allow public transportation to resume operations provided that passengers adhere to social distancing rules. In addition, entertainment spaces — such as cinemas, museums and libraries — will also be allowed to gradually reopen. Under the new measures, residents must continue to wear face masks when in public and maintain a distance of 2 m (6 ft) apart.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Egypt / Jordan (Security threat levels – 4 / 3): On 8 May 2020, Egyptian authorities announced that they plan to allow entertainment venues — such as social clubs, cinemas and theaters — to reopen as long as they comply with measures in place to control the spread of COVID-19 such as wearing face masks. Authorities did not provide a time frame for the reopening, and stated that individuals who violate orders will face unspecified legal penalties.

In Jordan, officials in Mafraq governorate — located approximately 65 km (40 mi) north of Amman, the capital — announced an immediate lockdown of al-Basiliya municipality on 8 May due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Under the order, residents are allowed to move freely within the town, but are prohibited from leaving. Authorities are currently conducting contact-tracing and have so far discovered 16 COVID-19 cases in the town.

Iran (Security threat level – 3): At approximately 0050 local time on 8 May 2020 (2020 UTC on 7 May), a 4.6 magnitude earthquake struck approximately 60 km (40 mi) east of the capital Tehran, and about 2 km west-northwest of Damavand, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The quake had a shallow depth of 10 km. Light to moderate shaking occurred in the capital and the surrounding areas, including Damavand and Karaj, prompting residents to flee their homes. At least two people were killed and 38 others suffered quake-related injuries. Several aftershocks followed the initial quake that triggered a landslide, which blocked Fasham Highway in an area north of Tehran; however, there were no reports of additional infrastructure damage.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Sub-Saharan Africa: As of 8 May 2020, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa has surpassed 54,000 and has spread to 53 out of 54 countries, except for Lesotho. The most recent notable developments in Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan are outlined below.

In Chad, officials on 8 May locked down the capital city Ndjamena and other major cities for a two-week period. A mandatory nightly curfew is in effect from 2000 to 0500 local time (1900 to 0400 UTC). Under the terms of the confinement, intercity travel is prohibited and vehicles transporting goods will only be allowed to enter cities after 2200 local time.

In Côte d’Ivoire, officials on 8 May began to ease countrywide restrictions, excluding the largest city and commercial center Abidjan. Authorities lifted the nighttime curfew and allowed schools, restaurants, bars and other establishments in these areas to reopen. Meanwhile, all restrictions remain in place in Abidjan and ground movements into and out of the city are banned through 15 May. However, authorities reduced the hours of the nightly curfew for Abidjan to 2300-0400 local time/UTC from the previous 2100-0500 local time.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, officials on 8 May partially reopened the border crossing with Zambia at Kasumbalesa — a major corridor for cross-border trade — following protests against its closure on the previous day. Protesters on the Congolese side of the crossing vandalized a nearby police station and burned tires along the N1 highway. Security forces fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse the group, although there were no reports of injuries. All pedestrians must wear a face mask and undergo temperature screening in order to cross the border.

In South Sudan, on 7 May officials announced that they reduced the hours of the nationwide nightly curfew, now in place from 2200-0600 local time (1900-0300 UTC). Outside of the curfew hours, public transportation is allowed to resume with limits on the number of passengers per vehicle and a mandate that all passengers and drivers wear face masks. Additionally, a limited number of nonessential businesses have been allowed to reopen. All non-emergency interstate travel within the country remains banned until further notice.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

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

“As of 4 May, the Government introduced a new phase of “social distancing” to loosen up restrictions progressively according to the situation in each location. The system has three levels: red, amber and green. Each municipal government is responsible to determine whether they move from one stage to the next. You can find an interactive map showing the colour of each city through this online tool .

“…Given that all municipalities in Ecuador will begin in “red light”, the curfew restricting all movement will apply from 2pm to 5am until 31 May, or until a change in colour is notified to the National Operations Committee. In general, journeys should be limited to essential trips, for example to buy food or medicine.” 

Vietnam (Security threat level – 3): On 7 May 2020, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi issued a Health Alert regarding new restrictions, which reads in part as follow:

“Location: Vietnam

“Event: The U.S. Embassy Hanoi and Consulate General Ho Chi Minh City are providing U.S. citizens with information during the evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in Vietnam.

“As of May 7, Vietnam has reported 271 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders since the virus first became known. To date, 232 people have recovered and have been released from the hospital.

“Update: On May 7, the Vietnamese government announced that non-essential businesses may re-open with appropriate health measures in place, but dance halls and karaoke lounges must remain closed. Sports activities and events with large gatherings may be allowed, and seat capacity restrictions for public transportation have been lifted, including for flights, trains, ships, and buses. The Vietnamese government still requests people wear facemasks in public, with exceptions mentioned for students attending educational institutions. However, local authorities have been given permission to be flexible in their implementation of these regulations. Some provinces or cities may impose stricter social distancing regulations than others. The further relaxing of social distancing guidelines has not changed Vietnam’s immigration and entry restrictions. At this time, Vietnam is still not allowing the entry of foreigners, including people with a Vietnamese visa exemption certificate, with limited exceptions for categories of travelers considered essential by the Government of Vietnam. Exempted categories of travelers must undergo a two-week quarantine on entry and potential COVID-19 testing by Vietnamese government authorities.”