Monthly Travel Safety Report

May 2020 – Travel Risk Summary

Welcome to May,

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 types and 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, focused on your travel plans and itinerary 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 MAY  ~

Coronavirus (aka Covid-19) continued to keep the world at varying levels of on lockdown and with reports from major air-travel hubs such as Heathrow announcing that they have seen passenger numbers plummet by 97%. Additionally, the majority of major international carriers grounding their fleets, services have been reduced by 90%; and very few people have travelled anywhere over the past 6-week.

In the UK we are anticipating the Government announcements due this week (week ending 8th May) with the “Lockdown Exit Plan”. We anticipate the UK will see a phased return to “normal working” however it is also clear that the new normal working is going to be significantly different from what we have been used to. We anticipate that there will be less hot-desking, that social distancing in the work-place will continue into June at the very least and quite possibly beyond. It’s been rumoured that people will be expected to use PPE during their commute and while at work (when people are allowed to return to work). We also anticipate that there will be increased shift work and/or staggered start and end times to the working day so that social distancing can be maintained on public transport. Of course, moving forward we anticipate that home-working will continue for some time to come.

The other thing that we think is worth noting is that there is a high possibility that Cornonavirus could be back for the second wave of global infection during the 2020/2021 winter. It is also believed that should we as a global community experience “the second wave” scientists and the UK Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty, have stated concern that the second wave might be more severe than this first wave of infection.

We continue to advise – that you follow the guidelines and instructions offered by the Government and NHS.

The latest news on the Coronavirus can be found here:

  1. UK Government – Coronavirus Advice: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
  2. NHS Coronavirus Advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Weather Hazards & Natural Disasters

EARTHQUAKES

JAPAN 3rd and 4th May

Magnitude:  5.5 & 5.9 respectively

Late in the night on 3rd May, A magnitude-5.5 earthquake struck parts of eastern Japan on Monday, prompting a brief suspension of Shinkansen bullet train services, the weather agency, and the train operator said.

Both quakes were felt in Tokyo and the surrounding area – No Tsunami Warning was issued and to date, there have been no reports of damage to buildings and infrastructure, and there have been no reports of injury or death.

PERU

 

2nd & 3rd May 2020

Magnitude: 5.7

Starting in the evening of 2nd May and concluding just before 1 am on the 3rd May this quake hit 6km WNW of Lampa, Peru. Over 80,000 people have been affected by this quake.

Currently, the damage is not confirmed but this type of earthquake does cause severe losses.

GREECE, CRETE, TURKEY, LYBIA, EGYPT 2nd May 2020

Magnitude 6.6

A magnitude 6.6 earthquake shook the island of Crete, Greece, Turkey, Lybia, and Egypt shortly after 1 pm on Saturday. The main quake was followed by two primary after-shocks which registered 4.8 and 4.1 respectively.

The epicenter of the quake was in the Mediterranean sea, approx. 90KM (56 miles) off the coast of Crete.

Saturday's quake was stronger than most but took place relatively far from populated areas; consequently, there have been no reports of damage, deaths, or injuries.

PUERTO RICO 2nd May 2020
Magnitude of 5.4.

Up to 69,000 people experience very strong shaking, and a further 72,000 experienced strong shaking. Several aftershocks in the immediate area were recorded with magnitudes of 4.6.

The initial quake caused 50 families to be displaced, with minor damage to building and infrastructure, which led to power outages and landslides. To date, there have been no reports of injuries or death.

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.

With the Cyclone Season in the south Pacific ended, there are no new cyclones, hurricanes, or typhoons to report this month. Please note that next month sees the start of the Hurricane season across the Caribbean/ Bahamas/Florida and Carolina’s/Mexico and Northern South American countries

Flooding, Landslides, Mudslides

INDONESIA Heavy rain in western Java since 30 April has caused widespread floods, resulting in casualties and damage. According to media reports, 2,000 people have been displaced, 81,088 have been affected, 21,888 houses and several public buildings were flooded in Bandung Regency (West Java Province).

The Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) reports further flooding in Cilegon City (Banten Province).

Forecasters have indicated moderate to heavy rain with the possibility of thunderstorms for most of this week and next across the affected areas.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO Following heavy rain and strong winds across the Ituri province, flooding affected Lake Albert in Djugu territory and the surrounding area. Media report damage to at least 100 residential houses, leaving hundreds of people displaced.

Moderate rain is expected over northern areas on for most of this week and into next week.

AFGHANISTAN Flash floods triggered by heavy rain have affected Baghlan province (northern Afghanistan), resulting in fatalities and damage to buildings. According to media reports, the worst-hit area is Tala Wa Barfak District (south-western Baghlan), where 4 people died and houses, farmlands, and infrastructure were damaged. Search and rescue operations are ongoing.

Orange warnings for flash floods were issued for several provinces, including Baghlan. Light to moderate rain is forecast over northern Afghanistan on 5-6 May.

VENEZUELA A landslide on 2 May on the outskirts of El Callao Municipality (Bolivar State, central-eastern Venezuela) caused a mine collapse that resulted in 8 fatalities.

A landslide in the same area on 2 February killed at least 3 people.

Moderate to heavy rain is expected across Bolivar State on 5-6 May.

FRENCH GUIANA Heavy rain has resulted in flooding in French Guiana, with the authorities reporting 139 people evacuated in Saint-Laurent du Maroni Commune.

According to media reports, 80% of residents of Camopi-Trois Sauts Commune (central-eastern French Guiana) had their homes flooded after the Oyapock river burst its banks. Flooding was also reported in Kourou District (coastal French Guiana).

Moderate to heavy rain is forecast over central and northern French Guiana from 5-7 May.

VOLCANOES

No new volcanic eruptions to report during early May.

DROUGHTS

Eastern Bolivia & Paraguay 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; however, we have no updates on whether these announcements were followed through with action.

Disease Alert

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 and this continued throughout April and into early May.

As we reported last month the 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.

In the UK,

One month on from when we last reported on the coronavirus, we are grateful that in the UK we have now passed the peak and the government is expected to announce their exit lockdown plan, which will see a phased return to a “new normal”. It has been suggested that moving forward, and to limit commuter congestion during the traditional rush hour, that people who are allowed to return to work will have staggered work start times and end times. As yet we can only speculate as to what industries will be the first allowed to return to work.

We have seen reports for Australia and New Zealand where travel between the two countries are going to be relaxed over the next few weeks, however, in the same report, it was also stated that their borders will remain closed to international travellers for some time.

Top news from across the Capitals:

Italians go back to work amid confusion about guidelines

France has stated that they won’t quarantine EU citizens

Finns could receive €100 to restart the economy

Slovakian economy to reopen faster than anticipated

Germany announced that hairdressers are allowed to resume work

It has been a challenging balancing act for many if not all countries between protecting the health and lives of citizens and preventing a collapse of national and the global economy as countries are warned that lifting the lockdown rule too soon could result in a second wave of infection, which in all likelihood could be more severe than this first way.

The Global Count:

As of Saturday (2 May), the worldwide COVID-19 count was now over the 3 million mark, with 3,359,055 confirmed cases. The global death toll counting 238,999 deaths, according to the latest figures on the Johns Hopkins University global dashboard.

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, which is now expected to be worse than the recession caused in 2008 by the global banking collapse. Some estimates have predicted a global economic shrinkage of 24%.

What is clear is that it is going to take all of us a long time to recover from the economic impacts of the global lockdown.

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’s Office for National Statists is predicting that in the aftermath of the pandemic – unemployment figures in the UK could 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, which have been implemented over the past 6+ weeks.

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 on already vulnerable communities.

Political Fallout- COVID-19

The political consequences, both short- and long-term, are less well understood.  Will Hutton, principal of Hertford College, Oxford and one of Britain’s leading political-economy commentators, has predicted that the markets could experience turbulence for the coming 6-months (possibly longer) and the impact of the crisis will force change at ballot boxes around the world for politicians who have been exposed and found wanting: ‘Some politicians [those who have not taken adequate measures] are going to pay a heavy price for this.’

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.

This was reinforced when on 3rd May, former Pensions Minister suggested that civil unrest could become a reality especially if the over-70’s are forced to remain on lockdown for up to a year, while younger people are allowed to return to work. Conservative peer Baroness Ros Altman spoke out against any “blanket ban” on older people leaving the house - and said some would “risk going to prison rather than being forced to isolate at home“.

Around the world, early signs of social unrest and disorder have already been seen.

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.

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. With that said, we also anticipate that announcements to be made later this week will see some form of a phased return to normal activity bar the over-70s.

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 Risk Alert

Covid-19 has been having a major impact on Conflict Zones across the world. The UN called for a unilateral cease-fire in these areas to protect already vulnerable and displaced populations from contracting and spreading the virus.

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.

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 Aid Agencies and NGO’s.

If and when 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!

 

SYRIA The Covid-19 outbreak turned into a pandemic just as a ceasefire reached by the two main foreign power brokers in Syria's nine-year-old war -- Russia and Turkey -- was taking effect.

The three million people living in the ceasefire zone, in the country's northwestern region of Idlib, had little hope the deal would hold. Yet fears the coronavirus could spread like wildfire across the devastated country appear to have given the truce an extended lease of life.

One of the biggest risks faced by Syria is if US forces leave neighbouring Iraq, as this would create a power vacuum which could enable IS to step up its attacks, since the collapse of their “caliphate” some 12-months ago.

LIBYA Much like Yemen, the main protagonists in the Libyan conflict initially welcomed the UN ceasefire call but swiftly resumed hostilities.

Fierce fighting has rocked the south of the capital Tripoli in recent days, suggesting the risk of a major coronavirus outbreak is not enough to make guns fall silent.

A report by the International Crisis Group said European officials had reported that efforts to secure a ceasefire in Libya were no longer receiving high-level attention due to the pandemic.

IRAQ While Iraq is no longer gripped by fully-fledged conflict it does remain vulnerable to an IS resurgence in some regions and its two main foreign backers are at each other's throats.

Iran and the United States are two of the countries most affected by the coronavirus but there has been no sign of any let-up in their battle for influence that has largely played out on Iraqi soil.

With most non-US troops in the coalition now gone and some bases evacuated, American personnel are now regrouped in a handful of locations in Iraq. If more troops leave Iraq, there is a real and significant danger of an escalation of IS insurgency.

IRAN Coronavirus has plunged Iran into the country’s biggest crisis since its war with Iraq. More than 30 years later, the lingering effects of the war is shaping Iran’s reaction to the pandemic.

While the Islamic Republic has weathered a multitude of challenges, COVID-19 is putting unprecedented strain on Iran’s already fragile, heavily-sanctioned economy and further exposing domestic political fissures amid ongoing international tensions.

Iran has been identified as the regional epicentre of the pandemic with a steadily rising number of deaths, including several of the country’s political and military elite.

So far and perhaps a little unsurprisingly, the Iranian government’s response to COVID-19 has been sluggish and poorly managed. After an initial slow response, Iran then attempted to downplay the impact of the virus, covering up the number of cases and deaths and blaming the United States, before implementing a poorly coordinated action plan marred by government infighting.

YEMEN The Yemeni government and the Huthi rebels initially responded positively to the UN appeal for a ceasefire, as did neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition in support of the government.

That rare glimmer of hope in the five-year-old conflict was short-lived however and last week Saudi air defences intercepted ballistic missiles over Riyadh and a border city fired by the Iran-backed rebels. The Saudi-led coalition retaliated by striking Huthi targets in the rebel-held capital Sanaa.

More flare-ups in Yemen could compound a humanitarian crisis often described as the worst in the world and invite a coronavirus outbreak of catastrophic proportions.In a country where the health infrastructure has collapsed, where water is a rare commodity and where 24 million people require humanitarian assistance, the population fears being wiped out if a ceasefire doesn't allow for adequate aid.

 

Deteriorating situations

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

Covid-19 has had an impact on many if not all conflict zones. The UN’s call for a ceasefire was judged as being successful in the early days of its implementation, however, things started to deteriorate in a very short space of time, and fighting has resumed in many countries.

While travel restrictions are in place – it is unlikely that you will be able to travel to the world’s conflict zones, which in turn will cause problems in these countries as humanitarian aid dries up.

AFRICA

Last week in Africa, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prompted a diverse range of demonstration activity, particularly centred on inadequate domestic distribution of food.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), state forces were faced with fighting on multiple fronts, with active militant insurgencies in Ituri, Kongo-Central and North Kivu. Meanwhile, state forces were implicated in attacks on civilians in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region, as public discontent manifested through violent demonstration activity in the provincial capital.

The coronavirus continued to underpin demonstration activity across the continent, as demonstrators pushed back on a range of issues from international travel restrictions to police enforcement of coronavirus measures.

In Nigeria and Guinea, reports of xenophobic violence targeting African students in China prompted demonstrations outside the Chinese embassies in Lagos and Conakry.

The distribution of food has also increasingly become a point of contention across a number of countries.

In South Africa, rioters looted food trucks in Cape Town, while prisoners burnt mattresses in a number of the country’s prisons, demanding toiletries and better food during the national coronavirus lockdown.

In Cameroon, several youths were stabbed to death during a brawl over the distribution of bags of rice donated by a footballer in Douala city.

Similar demonstration activity was also reported in NigeriaGabon, Uganda, Tunisia, and Mauritania, while in Burundi the situation could deteriorate as elections loom. Opposition leaders have reported violence and intimidation and it is feared that a deadly escalation in violence looms as the country prepares to vote on the 20th May.

Latin America

In Latin America, it has been reported that while countries in this region exercise national lockdowns, the lives of women and children are at greater risk than usual of being murdered. It should be noted that violence against women and the murder of women and girls purely because of gender has always been high. Women in Mexico are particularly worried because 98% of murderers and rapists walk around in their communities with impunity.

Across most of Latin America, cartel and other crime are down, as populations observe national lockdown guidelines, however, in Bogota city alone, authorities have seen a 225% surge in reports of violence against women. This led to demonstrations in Columbia and Mexico.

Despite the unprecedented levels of violence, some human rights defenders see this moment as a turning point, and while it is estimated that on average 2-women a day are being killed across Columbia. Domestic violence and femicide is no longer the hidden crime it has been for years and it is hoped that in a post-pandemic world, (when the lockdown is lifted) that the numbers of women killed across Latin America will fall.

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 May.

 

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