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Worldwide Security Update – March 13, 2020
13-Mar-20

AMERICAS

Americas: In the Americas, the U.S. continues to have the largest number of confirmed cases the of coronavirus disease (1,775), followed by Canada (138), Brazil (85), Chile (33) Panama (27) and Costa Rica (23). In the U.S., 46 states and the District of Columbia have reported confirmed cases of the virus. The governors of the states of California, Maryland, Oregon and Washington have banned gatherings of more than 250 people statewide for several weeks; Ohio implemented a similar prohibition on gatherings of 100 or more people. Dallas County, Texas, has banned community gatherings of more than 500 people as of 13 March. The U.S. state of Illinois and the California cities of Oakland and San Francisco also banned gatherings of 1,000 people or more, and Dallas, Texas, has prohibited gatherings of 500 or more people. Additionally, multiple sporting and entertainment events have been postponed or canceled. Major venues continue to close across the U.S. In California, Universal Studios Hollywood is slated to close from 14-28 March. Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure will close 15-31 March. The Smithsonian Institution and National Zoo in Washington, D.C., will close as of 14 March.

Meanwhile, the U.S. states of Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico and Ohio issued statewide school closures for up to three weeks, while school districts in Seattle, San Francisco, and in five areas of Colorado, including Denver, will close for at least two weeks. In Texas, schools in Dallas have canceled all events until further notice, while Austin school districts have canceled classes as of 13 March. A number of universities throughout the U.S. have begun remote instruction and closed residential colleges to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In Canada, authorities strongly advise all residents to avoid non-essential travel outside of the country due to the threat of spreading COVID-19. Any individual who leaves the country — including visiting the U.S. — must stay home from work or school for 14 days. Notably, Canadian First Lady Sophie Trudeau issued a statement confirming she has tested positive for COVID-19. As a precaution, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commenced a 14-day self-quarantine in the evening of 12 March.

In Central America, Honduras declared a state of health emergency after the country confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19. This action allows the government access to increased funding to hire health workers. On 12 March, Cuba confirmed its first case of COVID-19 impacting a Cuban citizen; the three previous cases announced on 11 March were tourists from Italy.

In South America, the Peruvian government announced on 12 March a temporary ban on flights arriving from Europe and Asia in response to the new coronavirus disease outbreak. The ban will take effect on 16 March and last for 30 days. Additionally, the government has banned public gatherings of more than 300 people and extended the suspension of schools and universities in the country. A total of 22 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Peru.
In Brazil, the Ministry of Health announced on 13 March that the country has 85 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including a local transmission case in Rio de Janeiro. Health officials are currently investigating more than 800 suspected cases of COVID-19 across the country. Local officials have canceled schools and asked individuals to work from home. President Jair Bolsonaro — who has canceled his entire work schedule for the week — is under observation and has been tested for COVID-19 after his press secretary tested positive for the virus.

At present, Brazil does not have any entry or exit travel restrictions. Nonetheless, travelers with a history of recent travel to any of the following countries will be screened for symptoms and be quarantined at a health facility if they are symptomatic: Australia, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, North Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, UAE and Vietnam.

AUSTRALASIA

Australia / Japan (Security threat levels – 2 / 1): In Asia, China continues to have the largest number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease (80,954), followed by South Korea (7,869), Japan (675), Singapore (200), and Malaysia (158).

In Singapore, officials have announced that as of 15 March all travelers arriving to Singapore who have traveled to Italy, France, Spain or Germany within the last 14 days will be denied entry. Singaporean citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders who have traveled to the four countries within the last 14 days will be required to self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.

On 13 March, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued a Global Advisory recommending against non-essential travel abroad due to the widespread presence of COVID-19 cases globally. The advisory stated that “regardless of your destination, age or health, if your overseas travel is not essential, consider carefully whether now is the right time.” The full text of the DFAT Global Advisory is available here .

Additionally, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a ban on non-essential public gatherings of more than 500 people as of 16 March; the ban excludes schools, airports and public transportation. On 12 March, Australian authorities extended the existing entry ban for travelers from China, Iran and South Korea to include individuals who have traveled to Italy on or after 11 March. Australian nationals and their spouses and children, as well as permanent residents of Australia, will be permitted entry into the country, but must adhere to a 14-day self-quarantine if they are arriving from an area affected by the coronavirus disease.

Meanwhile, on 13 March Japan’s parliament approved a bill to grant Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emergency powers amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The bill allows Abe to impose restrictions on large gatherings, requisition medical supplies and order school closures; however, no such measures have been imposed as yet.

EUROPE

Europe: As of 13 March 2020, cases of the new coronavirus disease continue to increase across the continent. There are currently four countries in Europe with over 1,000 confirmed cases: Italy (15,113), Spain (3,864) Germany (3,059) and France (2,879). Significant disruptions to travel are expected to continue as governments continue to implement further restrictions and travel bans in response to the spread of COVID-19. Authorities have also implemented bans on large public gatherings and canceled events across the region. Additionally, school and university closures continue to increase, with recent full closures announced in Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal.

On 12 March Spanish officials announced that four towns in the Catalonia region have been placed in quarantine. Officials ordered at least 66,000 residents of the towns of Igualada, Òdena, Santa Margarida de Montbui and Vilanova del Camí to remain in the towns, but stated that residentscould leave their homes. Additionally, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all but essential travel to the provinces of Madrid and La Rioja and the towns of La Bastida, Miranda de Ebro and Vitoria.


Meanwhile, Slovakia announced new border controls and screening measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. Officials announced the closure of Bratislava’s Milan Rastislav Stefanik International Airport (LZIB/BTS), Košice International Airport (LZKZ/KSC) and Poprad-Tatry Airport (LZTT/TAT) to commercial aviation, but no official date for the closures has been specified. Travelers should continue to monitor the status of their flights if traveling through Europe, as cancellations and delays are likely to continue.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): During the early morning hours of 13 March 2020, the U.S. military launched airstrikes against Iran-backed Kata’ib Hizballah positions inside Iraq. Following the military operation, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a statement indicating that it had targeted five weapons storage facilities used for preparing attacks against U.S. and coalition forces. Reports indicate that U.S. forces struck militia targets in Jurf al-Nasr, Musayib, Najaf and Alexandria, all located south of Baghdad. Iraqi sources reported that two Iraqi police officers and three Iraqi soldiers were killed in the strikes. U.S. diplomats warn that potentially violent demonstrations are likely given the heightened regional tensions. Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area around the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. No reports of demonstrations or unrest have followed since the strike.

Analyst Comment: U.S. officials indicated that the strikes were “defensive, proportional, and in direct response to the threat posed by Iranian-backed Shia militia groups (SMG) who continue to attack bases hosting OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve) coalition forces.” The U.S. military operation was almost certainly intended as retaliation for a rocket attack launched on 11 March by Kata’ib Hizballah against the Taji Camp near Baghdad, which hosts an unspecified number of U.S. and coalition personnel. Kata’ib Hezbollah is suspected to have launched at least 18 Katyusha rockets from a makeshift platform in an urban area. The strike on 11 March killed at least three people — including two U.S. service members and one from the U.K. — and wounded 14 others. Kata’ib Hezbollah is regarded as the only Iran-backed militia group in Iraq with the capability to launch such attacks against coalition targets. In December 2019, the militia launched a similar rocket attack against a coalition base in Kirkuk, Iraq, which killed at least one person and wounded an unspecified number of others.

The U.S. retaliatory strikes on 13 March mark the latest in a series of small-scale escalatory actions between pro-Iran Shia militia groups in Iraq against U.S. and coalition forces in the country, and have raised regional tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The situation has the potential to generate potentially violent demonstrations in Baghdad and elsewhere across Iraq. For example, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq issued a Security Alert on 12 March stating that services at the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil would be suspended from 15-19 March “due to heightened regional tensions and in an abundance of caution.”
Middle East and North Africa: As of 13 March 2020, several Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Oman are implementing new travel restrictions to curb the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In addition to the new restrictions, officials in the Palestinian territories reported four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bethlehem, bringing the total to 35 cases in the city.

In Oman, new travel restrictions go into effect on 15 March and extend through 14 April, restricting tourist visas, banning cruise ships from using Omani port facilities and requiring that all arriving passengers complete a health declaration form prior to entering the country. Passengers with recent travel to China, Iran, Italy or South Korea within the past 14 days may be subject to additional health screenings as well as mandatory follow-up appointments upon arrival and for the duration of their stay in the country. The Omani government previously advised its residents against all non-essential travel abroad, and has suspended flights from China and Iran.

On 13 March 2020, the chief of the Iranian armed forces stated that Iranian military forces will begin clearing public areas, including streets, roads and stores beginning on 14 March in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus disease. Currently, there are a total of 11,364 cases in Iran, with over 500 deaths.

Meanwhile, the UAE has banned all commercial flights to and from Italy, with the exception of Rome-Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (LIRF/FCO).

Additionally, in Iraq, authorities have issued a nationwide domestic travel ban between provinces for 10 days as of 15 May, exempting diplomats, U.N. personnel, and military personnel. 

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Mozambique (Security threat level – 3): On the morning of 13 March 2020, riot police officers began to disperse informal vendors gathered along several main avenues in the capital Maputo after municipal officials imposed a deadline for the vendors to clear sidewalks to reduce congestion in the downtown area. Clashes broke out as hundreds of vendors blocked roadways and threw stones and other projectiles toward passing vehicles and police officers, who responded by deploying tear gas and firing warning shots into the air. The protesters gathered after municipal officials ordered the vendors to clear the sidewalks along 25 de Setembro, Felipe Samuel Magaia, Karl Marx, Samora Machel and Zadequias Manganhela avenues. Thus far, there have been no reports of widespread arrests or injuries during the clashes.

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