Monthly Travel Safety Report

April 2020 – Travel Risk Report

Welcome to April,

Ares Risk Management is here to help and support the travelling business community. We are here to provide you with the intelligence and threat trends which will keep you and your personnel safe while travelling – especially if your business takes you to some of the worlds at risk, crisis or conflict zones.

Before our Travel Trends & Risk Report, we’d like to remind you that when travelling abroad, even to countries which are considered “safe”, we live in a dangerous world. While conflict or terror attacks might not be prevalent in the country or city you are visiting, all countries and cities suffer from varying levels of crime. Be aware of the types of crime you might encounter.

We would also like to remind you that the weather may disrupt your travel plans. We also advise that you consider health issues and ensure that you are immunised (if need be) before travelling.

It is also worth noting that some over the counter and prescription medications which a legal and freely accessible in the UK and Europe might be considered contraband in other countries so please be sure that you check what medications are allowed and are considered contraband.

If you are travelling at any time this year and would like a more detailed country and regional risk assessment, before deciding whether you need the services of an International Executive Close Protection Team or not, please do not hesitate to contact us at Ares Risk Management.

~ SETTING THE SCENE FOR APRIL  ~

Coronavirus (aka Covid-19) continues to have the world on lock-down as the virus makes it’s way around the world.

Here in the UK, government spokespeople have indicated that there is an expected peak in the number of those testing positive for COVID-19 and tragically those dying from the virus in this coming week. With the peak expected over the Easter weekend.

We have seen all major global airline carriers ground their fleets in mid-March, with many reducing their service by 90%.

In Europe, the crisis has caused a fragmentation of the Union as member states put up barriers to enter their countries. Denmark and Poland being two of the first countries to prevent non-citizens from entering their countries. In the course of March, the vast majority of nations followed suit by reinstating border controls.

Many of the worlds conflicts zone have called for a unilateral ceasefire – so that UN Guideline can be followed to protect populations from infection; however, the success of these calls have not in all cases been successful to date.

Weather Hazards and Natural Disasters

EARTHQUAKES

INDONESIA 30th March  - 6th April 2020

Magnitude 6.1

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake rattled Indonesia's Maluku province early Monday, according to the country’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency.

The epicentre was located 122 kilometres (76 miles) northwest of Jailolo at a depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 miles).

The agency did not issue a tsunami alert and there were no immediate reports of damage.

TROPICAL CYCLONES/HURRICANES/ TYPHOONS

The Hurricane Season across the Caribbean/ Bahamas/Florida and Carolina’s/Mexico and Northern South American countries spans from the 1st June through to the end of November annually.

The Typhoon Season in Japan and Western Pacific spans from July to October.

Cyclone Season – South Pacific runs annually from November to  April.

SOLOMAN ISLANDS,
VANUATU, FIJI

 

April 1st 2020 to date
Cyclone Harold

Vanuatu was swept Monday by the winds blowing at 235 km/h of the very powerful cyclone Harold, a natural disaster which could complicate the efforts of the archipelago to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The storm, which left 27 people dead in the Solomon Islands last week, worsened overnight Sunday through Monday in a Category 5 cyclone, the highest in the world, Vanuatu Weather Services said.

Its winds now reach 235 km / h, and the authorities have given the alert in several provinces of Vanuatu, a country made up of 80 islands spanning 1,300 km.

It made landfall Monday morning (04 April 2020) on the west coast of the island of Espiritu Santo, the largest in the archipelago, and progressed to Luganville, the country's second city with 16,500 inhabitants.

The cyclone is expected to pass Tuesday north of Port Vila, the capital.

Cyclone Harold killed at least 27 people in the Solomon Islands, all of the passengers on a ferry that fell into the water after the ship left port despite weather warnings. Only five bodies were found.

Flooding, Landslides, Mudslides

INDONESIA 01 – 06 April 2020

Flash flooding has been reported in the wake of Cyclone Harold, however, as yet no injuries or fatalities have been reported.

This comes on top of torrential rains in March which has claimed the lives of over 73 people.

VOLCANOES

No new volcanic eruptions to report during early April, however throughout March Mout Merapi in Indonesia had been active to 27th March.

DROUGHTS

CAMBODIA, LAOS, MYANMAR, THAILAND, VIETNAM The drought in these countries has been ongoing for almost 18-months ( 502-days). The agricultural sector has been moderately impacted by the drought.

Water conservation initiatives were announced in Mid-March.

Disease Outbreaks

CORONA VIRUS – COVID-19, continues to make the news headlines across the world and making more than 90% of the global news content.

What started as a flight ban to China, in particular the Wuhan Hubie Province, escalated to engulf all countries. March saw all the major global carriers ground their fleets.

In the UK, March saw a 90% reduction in flights into and out of the UK, making airline travel virtually impossible. Added to which all countries have instituted national lockdowns, and social distancing – with the measure in some countries being more severe than others.

For example,

In Australia - public beaches and parks have been closed as have public toilets, in addition to self-isolation and social distancing, which are measures we have seen here in the UK and Europe.

In Africa, several countries have instituted curfews, in addition to self-isolation and social distancing.

In Spain – Self-isolation, social distancing are in force. The rules for both are much stricter in Spain than in the UK, with police out in force to enforce the rules.

In the UK,

One month on from when we last reported on the coronavirus, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has climbed to 47,806 and has resulted in 4932 deaths (accurate as of 13:00 Monday 6th April 2020). Social distancing, self-isolation and restrictions in movement are in force. While the police are not enforcing the new rules like some of our European counterparts, people have been advised to work from home, unless it is not possible to do so.

The UK has also seen a suspension of industry sectors within the economy – affected sectors include, leisure and hospitality, tourism and transportation, recreation, retail, elements of the service industry. Shops which sell groceries and essential items, pharmacies and essential service providers continue to be open.  Our emergency services and critical infrastructure workers continue to be allowed to work as usual.

Globally the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is 1,288,372, the number of people recorded as recovered 270,249  and the number of fatalities 70,482 (statistics accurate at 13:00 on 6 April 2020).

Latest news reports suggest that in countries where self-isolation and social distancing have been in force, the infection rates are starting to slow, therefore it is critical to act by following national guidelines, as we are far from being out of the woods.

UK Corvid-19 Advice & Guidance

 

Economic fallout - COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic unquestionably presents an era-defining challenge to public health and the global economy and geopolitics.

With the world on lockdown, and many businesses being forced to suspend trade to prevent the ongoing spread of the virus. It is very clear that the global economy is shrinking and we are heading for a global recession -  however, as yet the scale and scope of this recession is unknown. Some economists predict that the global economy could shrink by 1%, which is a reversal of the pre-virus economic growth predictions. In an analysis by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) it was reported that the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting global supply chains and international trade. With nearly 100 countries closing national borders during the past month,

As businesses lose revenue, unemployment is likely to increase sharply, it is anticipated that the UK national and global economy will be transformed, as people change their consumer behaviours. In the UK unemployment is likely to cause hardship and distress for many, it has been predicted that an additional 1-million + people could lose their jobs. The UK the Office for National Statists is predicting that in the aftermath of the pandemic – unemployment figures in the UK will rise to 4.7%  this equates to over 3-million people unemployed. The consequences for these people could be dire and have secondary knock-on effects on the housing market, especially the mortgage sector. This is all despite the wide-ranging raft of economic measures to support business and workers.

We have seen a fall in the value of stocks on the international stock-exchanges markets, with billions cut from the value of companies, only to see stock climb marginally, then drop; only to climb again, and indicates a degree of uncertainty and volatility.

Finally as national and global shrinks, it is predicted that the World output could contract further, especially if imposed restrictions on economic activities extend to the third quarter of the year. Local/regional economic shrinkage could well vary, and add the pressure and instability of  already vulnerable communities.

Political Fallout- COVID-19

The political consequences, both short- and long-term, are less well understood. In the UK uncertainty in the political arena came to the fore, with the announcement (Monday 6th April 2020) that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been admitted to hospital and was receiving treatment at St Thomas’s Hospital, Intensive Care Unit.

Unlike the USA, here in the UK we do not have a constitution as such and therefore we have no playbook regarding the line of succession should Mr Johnston be unable to continue as our Prime Minister, which is adding to the uncertainty especially as in the next few days further announcements about the national lockdown – the country is wondering who and how the big decisions which will need to be made, will be made. For now, the country is praying for our PM, that he responds well to treatment and makes a strong recovery.

Social Unrest & Crime – COVID-19

There is a risk that once the crisis is over, there may be pockets of civil unrest in the UK as well as a possibility that crime may rise. This is a particular risk for impoverished and disenfranchised communities.; with inner-city areas being more vulnerable to the risk of unrest than rural communities. Desperate people will often resort to desperate measure to survive – the extent of civil unrest in the UK is currently unknown, and have flagged civil unrest in the UK as a real possibility.

Around the world, early signs of social unrest and disorder can already be seen.

  • In Ukraine, protesters attacked buses carrying Ukrainian evacuees from Wuhan, China, in response to allegations that some were carrying the disease.
  • Prison breaks have been reported in Venezuela.
  • In Brazil and Italy, inmates reacting violently to new restrictions associated with COVID-19.
  • In Colombia, prison riots and a reported jailbreak over the perceived lack of protection from the disease resulted in the death of 23 inmates at La Modelo jail.
  • In Venezuela, Looters attacked food trucks, and protestor marched to protest the economic effects of the decision taken by both Bogotá and Caracas to close the Colombian-Venezuelan border for health reasons.
  • In Peru, the authorities have arrested hundreds of citizens for breaking quarantine rules, in some cases leading to violence. Even reasonable precautions may inspire angry responses.

In a News Briefing to the UN, issued on the 28th March, Francesco Rocca, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that social unrest could erupt in some of Europe's largest cities over the next few weeks as people struggle with falling incomes due to the coronavirus crisis. The Red Cross chief went on to say that the risk of suicide increasing is also likely among vulnerable people forced to isolate on their own.

COVID-19 – what’s next for the UK

The UK is approx. 10-weeks behind China. So far our confirmed infected and fatality numbers are tracking behind Italy, Spain and France. Last night’s news reports, (07 April 2020) suggests that while there is a marginal reduction in the daily recorded numbers of new infections, the death rates are expected to climb and peak this coming weekend. It is also expected in extrapolating the available statistics that the UK is likely to report a death toll of 10,000+ people before this crisis is over.

We can be cautiously confident that while on the one hand, self-isolation and social distancing seem to be working; we shouldn’t be in a hurry to return to the pre-pandemic “normal”. Our leaders need to be pragmatic and cautious when coming to any decisions to relax the restrictions on movement and social interaction. The next danger could come if the restrictions on our movement and social interaction are relaxed prematurely as this would cause a second wave of infection and death.

We strongly advise that you:

Stay at home

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you can not work from home)
  • If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home.
  • Do NOT meet others, even family and friends. You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms

 

CORONAVIRUS (Corvid-19) Africa
Algeria | Benin | Botswana | Burkina Faso | Burundi | Cabo Verde | Cameroon | Central African Republic | Chad | Congo | Equatorial Guinea | Eswatini |Democratic Republic of Congo | Ethiopia | Gabon | Gambia | Ghana | Guinea | Guinea-Bissau | Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) | Kenya | Liberia | Malawi | Mali | Mauritania | Mozambique | Namibia | Niger | Nigeria | Rwanda | Senegal | Seychelles | Sierra Leone | Somalia | South Africa | Sudan | Tanzania | Togo | Zambia | Zimbabwe

Americas

Anguilla | Antigua and Barbuda | Argentina | Barbados | Belize | Bolivia | Brazil | British Virgin Islands | Canada | Chile | Colombia | Costa Rica | Cuba | Dominica | Dominican Republic | Ecuador | El Salvador | French Guiana | Guadalupe | Guatemala | Guyana | Haiti | Honduras | Jamaica | Martinique | Mexico | Nicaragua | Panama | Paraguay | Peru | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago | Uruguay | United States

Eastern Mediterranean

Afghanistan | Bahrain | Djibouti | Egypt | Iran | Iraq | Jordan | Kuwait | Lebanon | Libya | Morocco | Oman | Pakistan | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Syria | Tunisia | United Arab Emirates

Europe

Albania | Andorra | Armenia | Austria | Azerbaijan | Belarus | Belgium | Bosnia and Herzegovina | Bulgaria | Croatia | Cyprus | Czechia | Denmark | Estonia | Finland | France | Georgia | Germany | Gibraltar | Greece | Holy City (Vatican City) | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Israel | Italy | Kazakhstan | Kyrgyzstan | Latvia | Liechtenstein | Lithuania | Luxembourg | Malta | Moldova | Monaco | Montenegro | Netherlands | North Macedonia | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Romania | Russia | San Marino | Serbia | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey | Ukraine | United Kingdom

South-East Asia

Bangladesh | Bhutan | India | Indonesia | Maldives | Nepal | Sri Lanka | Thailand

Western Pacific

Australia | Brunei Darussalam | Cambodia | China | Fiji | Hong Kong | Japan | Laos | Macau | Malaysia | Mongolia | New Zealand | Philippines | Republic of Korea | Singapore | Taiwan | Vietnam

CHOLERA OUTBREAK: Nigeria | Cameroon | Ethiopia | Kenya | Tanzania| Zambia | Mozambique | India | Yemen | Burundi
DENGUE FEVER OUTBREAK: Honduras | Maldives | Thailand | Cambodia | Laos | Malasia | Nepal | Vietnam | Sri Lanka | Bangladesh | Philippines
EBOLA HEMORRHAGIC FEVER OUTBREAK: Rwanda | South Sudan | Burundi | Uganda | South Africa
LASSA FEVER OUTBREAK: Nigeria | Liberia | Sierra Leone | Guinea | Honduras
MALARIA EPIDEMIC: Burundi | Togo
MEASLES OUTBREAK:  Democratic Republic of Congo | South Sudan | Madagascar | Nigeria| South America | Ukraine | Philippines | UK
POLIO OUTBREAK: Afghanistan | Cameroon | Democratic Republic of Congo | Ethiopia | Islamic Republic of Iran | Mozambique | Niger | Nigeria | Pakistan | Papua New Guinea |Somalia | Philippines
Conflict Alert

While there are many regions across the world which have been in the grips of political, economic, social and civil unrest over many months and in some cases years, leading to escalations in conflict, violence, deaths and displacements.

Boko Haram, has continued in its insurgency with deadly violence in Chad and Burkina Fasso over the past month,  there has also been an escalation in the tit-for-tat attacks between Iraq and Iran. This has been sparked by anti-USA sentiment with Iran and Iranian led insurgency.

The Taliban have increased their insurgency in Afghanistan after a lull in hostilities during January and February.

The current Covid-19 travel restrictions have made it very difficult if not impossible to get to these parts of the world – this has been a particular challenge for NGO’s.

While we appreciate that very few people are travelling freely, if you are travelling to any of the countries listed below – take extreme care and exercise maximum caution as these countries at very high risk of descending into conflict and or experiencing a deepening of pre-existing conflict. If travelling to the countries listed below specialist Hostile Environment Close Protection and armoured transport should be considered a must!

Of all the world's conflict zones, the ongoing situation in Yemen is of considerable concern.

YEMEN It is feared that fighting will escalate in Yemen in April, and as warring parties prepare to battle for control of Marib governorate.

The Covid-19 pandemic is threatening to compound an already dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

 

Deteriorating Situation

Due to Covid-19, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to travel anywhere let alone travelling to countries which are vulnerable into descending into armed conflict.

If you are travelling to any of the countries listed below – take extreme care and exercise maximum caution as these countries at very volatile and there is a high risk that with no to little notice the countries as a whole or regions within the countries could descend into open conflict.  Hostile Environment Close Protection specialists should be considered a must if you have no choice but to travel to these countries or regions within them!

Recent news reports during March and early April highlight that there are 17-countries where the situation has significantly deteriorated.

These countries include Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Somalia, Mozambique, Guinea, The Korean Peninsular, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Ukraine, Guyana, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Lybia.

BURKINA FASO Amid ongoing jihadist violence in the north, security forces, Koglweogo community defence groups and volunteers stepped up attacks against civilians, especially targeting ethnic Fulani, whom they accuse of supporting jihadists.

In response to COVID-19, govt 20 March closed borders and imposed a curfew.

MALI Violence marred first round of legislative elections, leaving several dead and opposition leader missing, while jihadists stepped up attacks in the north.

The Legislative Elections Vote on the 29th March was marred by low turnout and violence: notably, an explosive device killed nine civilians near N’gorkou in Timbuktu region, and armed individuals reportedly ransacked polling station in Boni area.

CHAD Boko Haram (BH) launched the deadliest attack on security forces to date, early in March. Meanwhile, the governments' implementation of new rules in prison in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19 sparked ac prison mutiny in capital N’Djamena; leading to 30 prisoners escaping, and 5 being killed during the escape.
SOMALIA Clashes between federal troops and Jubaland state forces including on Kenyan soil raised Somalia-Kenya tensions before leaders took steps to de-escalate.

security forces continued to fight Al-Shabaab, which launched attacks on several officials in Puntland in the north.

Al Shabab has been very active across Somalia throughout March and into early April leaving many dead across many regions within the country.

MOZAMBIQUE Suspected Islamist militants for the first time mounted attacks against urban centres in far north reportedly leaving dozens of soldiers and police dead; tensions continued between govt and armed dissident faction of the former rebel group, now opposition party Renamo, amid ongoing attacks on civilians in centre.

In response to COVID-19, President Nyusi 30 March declared a state of emergency, limiting internal movement and partially closing borders from 1 April.

GUINEA Political tensions rose in lead-up to polls on constitutional reform, which could pave way for President Condé’s re-election, and peaked on voting day with a crackdown on opposition protests leaving at least fourteen dead.
On 23 March, the government announced that Conakry Airport would be closed until further notice.
KOREAN PENINSULA Following on from North Korea’s mislie tests and military manoeuvres, in December 2019, tensions in the region have been high.

U.S.-South Korea tensions continued over a future agreement for sharing the cost of maintaining 28,500 U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula. Negotiators were unable to make a breakthrough in discussions 17-19 March in Los Angeles, U.S.

AFGHANISTAN Levels of violence in rural areas escalated again in March and early April after Feb “reduction in violence” did not last. Intra-Afghan negotiations that could lead to a ceasefire have been delayed due to escalating violence and Covid-19. The domestic political crisis has continued with the establishment of parallel governments, however, both leaders refrained from action that might escalate political crisis into armed conflict.
KOSOVO New coalition government collapsed as parliament passed no-confidence vote following divisions over response to COVID-19 outbreak and lifting of import tariff on goods from Serbia. COVID-19 response raised tensions after President Thaçi proposed state of emergency with “full and maximum mobilisation of the Kosovo Security Forces”; (17th March) Serb minority party Lista Sprska objected, describing the proposal as “silent occupation of Serb municipalities”.  As yet there are no reports of civil conflict or protests.
UKRAINE Fighting continued in Donbas and civilian cross-line movement ceased due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The creation of Minsk Trilateral Contact Group advisory council (which Kyiv said would give residents of conflict-affected areas opportunity to input into the implementation of 2015 Minsk II agreements) led to split within the ruling party, potentially derailing the conflict-resolution process.

GUYANA A political standoff emerged after 2 March general elections, fuelling opposition protests. In following days, sporadic violence pitting opposition supporters against security forces left at least one dead and several injured. Neighbouring countries are concerned about the political standoff with Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Keith Rowley yesterday expressing disappointment and concern at the ongoing delay in executing a credible tabulating of the votes; he is quoted as saying “I fear this will not end well…”
IRAQ Violent confrontation between the U.S. and pro-Iranian groups have intensified, while a stalemate persisted over the formation of a new government amid ongoing anti-government protests.

Violence during March included rocket attacks on US bases north of Bagdad, resulting in the deaths or both US and Iraqui personnel. In response to these rocket attacks, the USA deployed Paitrot and C-Ram missile systems into the area to protect their bases.

To counter the spread of COVID-19, authorities suspended all flights to and from Baghdad International Airport from 15th March until 24 March and imposed weeklong curfew in Baghdad starting 17 March, later extending measures till 11 April.

IRAN New tensions between govt and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over possible undeclared nuclear sites fuelled U.S.-Iran antagonism, attacks escalated between Iran-backed militia and U.S. in Iraq, and COVID-19 spread rapidly with serious humanitarian and economic consequences.

While there have been calls to lift sanctions in light of COVID-19, the US responded by extending the sanctions waiver, however, did not lift sanctions.

COVID-19 had killed over 2,900 by 31 March, an Iranian university study concluded outbreak had not yet peaked, and health ministry said it urgently needed medical supplies and equipment. Media reported significant declines in domestic business including the complete collapse in tourism and official reported an 18% drop in trade.

SAUDI ARABIA In a further consolidation of power, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the arrest of four family members and hundreds of civil servants. In total 298 individuals have been charged with corruption.

In the latter part of March, the govt retaliated against intensified cross-border strikes by Yemen’s Huthi rebels by stepping up airstrikes in Yemen’s north.

March 6th, after Russia rejected agreement among members of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut oil production due to COVID-19, Saudi Arabia cut oil prices by nearly 10% sparking oil price war with Russia on 7th March.

To slow spread of COVID-19, the govt closed land borders with Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. International flights to Suadi Arabia had been suspended initially for a 2-week period, commencing 7th March, with a view to extend the suspension should it become necessary,

YEMEN See – “Crisis Alert” above
EGYPT Tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia rose after Ethiopia end-Feb refused to sign U.S.-drafted agreement on filling and operation of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.
LYBIA Fighting intensified around Tripoli and elsewhere as UN mediation efforts floundered. A new round of fighting began mid-March.

Embassies of Algeria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, UK, U.S., EU delegation, and governments of Tunisia and UAE called on conflict parties to declare a humanitarian ceasefire, halt transfers of military equipment and personnel, and allow local authorities to respond to COVID-19 challenge. Despite calls from the international community for a humanitarian ceasefire, fighting has continued and in some areas to the west of Tripoli fighting has escalated.

 

If you are travelling at any time this year and would like a more detailed country and regional risk assessment, before deciding whether you need the services of an International Executive Close Protection Team or not, please do not hesitate to contact us at Ares Risk Management.

Finally, we’d like to wish you a safe and COVID-19 free April.

 

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