Travelers transiting the US-Mexico border should continue to reconfirm the status of crossings before setting out. Delays and disruption are possible following the arrival of a US-bound “migrant caravan” from Central America and enhanced security on the US side of the border. Passage through border crossings in San Diego, CA has been intermittently restricted and was shut down completely for several hours on November 25. Other crossings into the US have experienced longer wait times. Across the border, there is a heightened security presence as US troops assist with security; they are expected to stay in the area through January 31, 2019.
The political and economic crisis affecting Venezuela has adversely affected Venezuela’s heath infrastructure and has led to Venezuela being classified as a high medical-risk country. Both the public and private medical systems can now provide only basic medical care; moderate and severe medical conditions are likely to require international evacuation. Travelers should prepare carefully.
AFRICA & THE MIDDLE EAST
Travelers in the Middle East and North Africa should exercise enhanced caution and avoid all public gatherings during the Christmas and New Year holiday period. While the nature of observance and associated threats differ from country to country, there will likely be a heightened security force presence in countries with significant Christian populations, such as Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. In Egypt and Iraq, there is a heightened threat of militant attacks against Christian interests. In Turkey, authorities have previously placed restrictions on public gatherings on New Year’s Eve and increased security around key sites.
Confirmed cholera cases have been reported from four regions (North, Far North, Central and Littoral) with several other regions reporting suspected cases. Authorities are concerned about further spread and have begun outbreak containment measures. Cholera spreads via contaminated food and water. Symptoms include vomiting and profuse, watery diarrhea which can lead to severe dehydration. Travelers staying in quality accommodations with access to safe food and water are at low risk; however, travelers are advised to pay strict attention to hygiene and consider vaccination if likely to encounter unsanitary conditions.
Non-essential travel to Congo (DRC) should be deferred through Sunday, January 6, 2019 due to the risk of socio-political unrest around the much-delayed Presidential Election, which has now been postponed to Sunday, December 30. All travel to the country should be avoided from Saturday, December 29 through Monday, December 31 as political tensions will be particularly heightened around voting. Those in the country during the electoral period should continue to exercise caution, avoid all rallies, and minimize movement from Saturday, December 29 through Monday, December 31.
Travelers are reminded to avoid non-essential travel to the high risk border areas with Kenya following recent ethnic violence in Moyale town. On December 18, at least 12 people were killed, and several others injured, during violence between troops and members of the ethnic Garreh and Borena communities, who had been negotiating over the transfer of local security responsibility from regional security forces to the Army. Tensions remain elevated and further unrest, including ethnic clashes, is possible. Travelers should liaise with local contacts to remain abreast of developments.
A fresh attack by suspected Islamist militants in Cabo Delgado province on December 20 underlines the need to exercise increased vigilance in rural areas where the travel risks are high. Armed assailants raided Milamba village, reportedly killing three people, injuring another, and setting dozens of homes alight. On the previous day, one person was killed, and another injured, during an attack in Mwangaza. While travel to the province can continue, vigilance is required, particularly in Macomia, Mocimboa da Praia, Muidumbe, Nangade, Palma and Quissanga districts.
Two Rwandan Nationals were killed, and eight injured in an attack by gunmen on December 15 near the border with Burundi. The incident, in the Cyitabi area of Nyamagabe district, followed the deaths of at least two Rwandan soldiers at the hands of armed attackers who had crossed into Rwanda from Congo (DRC) on December 9. The incidents serve as a reminder of the risks associated with travel to the borders with Burundi and Congo (DRC), where incursions by armed groups, shelling or stray gunfire can temporarily increase insecurity
Over the coming days, travelers in urban centers should exercise enhanced caution and avoid further socio-economic protests. Such demonstrations have occurred in Khartoum and other cities since December 14, with daily gatherings occurring since December 19. Security forces have used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse crowds, and at least 12 people have been killed. Gadarif, Northern, River Nile, and White Nile states have declared States of Emergency and imposed curfews; there have also been reports of disruption to internet services, and classes at many universities have been suspended.
Tomorrow, travelers in Khartoum should avoid a planned protest march from Abu Janzir Square to the Presidential Palace as a precaution, due to the credible risk of unrest. The demonstration, which is due to begin at 1:00 PM local time, has been called by the Sudanese Professional Association to denounce the worsening economic situation and demand that President Omar al-Bashir step down. Although the organizers have called for the march to be peaceful, security forces have used heavy-handed tactics to disperse recent related countrywide protests.
Travelers are reminded of the persistent risks posed by militancy following the recent reported dismantling of a suspected terrorist cell and the discovery of a weapons cache in Sidi Bouzid. Authorities claimed that security forces, police stations, and security patrols were the main targets of the cell. The development highlights the need to exercise caution around potential militant targets in urban centers.
ASIA & THE PACIFIC
Travelers on business-critical travel in Kabul should confirm the feasibility of movement during an ongoing attack on the Ministry of Public Works in Police District (PD) 16 today. An explosive-laden vehicle was detonated at the compound entrance, before an assailant detonated a suicide belt in the compound courtyard, and gunmen entered the building. Security forces have cordoned off the area and are evacuating staff. Sources suggest that at least one person has been killed.
Today, travelers in Dhaka should avoid election campaign rallies by the ruling Awami League (AL) in the Gulshan and Kamrangirchar areas. The timing and location of the rallies has not been confirmed, though they are likely to draw large crowds due to the expected attendance of Prime Minister and AL President, Sheikh Hasina. An increased security presence should be expected at both rallies, with security forces liable to forcibly disperse any unruly crowds, posing incidental risks to bystanders.
Travelers in India should anticipate disruption and maintain flexible itineraries during the ongoing winter season, which usually lasts until February. Although the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted a warmer winter, dense fog in isolated places can periodically cause significant disruption to flights, trains, and road journeys. Such disruption is typically severe in Delhi as well as northern and eastern states, including as Asom, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. Other major cities, such as Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, may also be affected.
Through Thursday, December 27, travelers should defer travel to the western coast of Banten province, including Pandeglang and Serang regencies, and the southern coast of Lampung province, following a tsunami, which struck these areas at around 9:30 PM local time on December 22. Authorities have advised residents to avoid coastal areas of the Sunda Strait until December 27 due to forecast high tides. This is likely to disrupt ongoing rescue and evacuation efforts. Worst-affected areas include the coasts of Pandeglang, including Carita and Labuan beaches, and Rajabasain South Lampung Regency.
Clashes are ongoing between activists and police officers outside the Accountability Court in Islamabad during the sentencing hearing of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (in office 1990-93; 1997-99; 2013-17). Reports indicate that security forces have used tear gas on demonstrators.
An outbreak of dengue fever is underway. The disease is spread by mosquitoes and is present in both rural and urban areas. Dengue can cause a range of symptoms and has no particular treatment. Some people, especially those who have been infected before, get a more severe form that can lead to fatal complications. Although a vaccine is available in several locations, it is only recommended for people who have been infected with dengue in the past and are living or traveling in areas with high levels of dengue transmission. Travelers are advised to prevent infection by avoiding mosquito bites.
Papua New Guinea
At least 26 polio cases have been recorded in several provinces, and polio vaccination campaigns are underway. Polio is a contagious viral illness that causes paralysis and death. The infection is spread through ingestion of contaminated food or water, or directly from an infected person. Travelers are advised to prevent infection by ensuring their polio vaccination is up to date and selecting safe food and water. Proof of vaccination may be demanded when exiting Papua New Guinea, or when entering other countries from Papua New Guinea.
High levels of air pollution have been recorded in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region. Polluted air can cause symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and irritation of the eyes and nose. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with underlying heart or lung disease are particularly vulnerable. To lessen the risk of potential health problems, travelers are advised to reduce exposure by decreasing physical activity and time spent outdoors.
Today, travelers in Yerevan should avoid an ongoing demonstration in front of the Ministry of Justice, located adjacent to Republic Square. Protesters are denouncing the release on bail of Manvel Grigoryan, the former Defense Minister, who was arrested on December 21 on corruption charges. While the demonstration is unlikely to deteriorate into unrest, travelers should anticipate a heightened security presence and local traffic disruption in the area.
Authorities are searching for a perpetrator who used a machine gun to fire three shots into the window of a restaurant in Brussel’s upmarket Avenue Louise shopping street. After firing the shots at approximately 10:00 AM local time, the male suspect fled from the scene and remains at large. No injuries have been reported as the restaurant was closed at the time. The suspect’s motive remains unclear. Travelers are advised to avoid the area.
Over the coming weeks, travelers in Tbilisi and other urban centers should anticipate and avoid further anti-government rallies by the United National Movement (UNM)-led opposition alliance. UNM leaders have vowed to protest until its Parliamentary Representative Davit Kirkitadze, who was arrested on December 17 for allegedly assaulting a police officer, is released from custody. Flashpoints for rallies, including sit-in demonstrations, include the district court in Gurjaani during Kirkitadze’s hearings and the Parliament building in Tbilisi.
Catania-Fontanarossa International Airport (CTA), which serves the city of Catania (Catania province, Sicily region), was closed to flights today, December 24, after an eruption of the nearby Mount Etna volcano resulted in an ash cloud. Departures were stopped at 2:00 PM local time, with incoming flights diverted to nearby airports. It has not yet been announced when normal airport operations will resume, though the terminal building reportedly remains open, and four arriving flights have been permitted to land every hour.
Argentina: Bridge Public Holiday
Micronesia: Yap Constitution Day
Japan: Emperor’s Birthday (Observed)
North Korea: Birth Date of Kim Jong Suk
Libya: Independence Day
Philippines: Additional Special Non-Working Day
Ukraine: Catholic Christmas Holiday
United States: Washington’s Birthday
Pakistan: Quaid-e-Azam Day
Taiwan: Constitution Day
Solomon Islands: National Day of Thanksgiving
Slovenia: Independence and Unity Day
South Africa: Day of Goodwill
North Korea: Constitution Day
South Sudan: Republic Day
eSwatini: Incwala Day
Kazakhstan: Special Working Day
Mongolia: Independence Day
Ukraine: Special Working Day
Spain: Feast of the Holy Family
Philippines: Rizal Day
New Year’s Eve
Argentina: Bridge Public Holiday
Azerbaijan: World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day
Switzerland: Restoration Day
Japan: December 31 Bank Holiday
Kazakhstan: New Year (Extra Holiday)
Russia: Extra Holiday in lieu of
New Year’s Day
Cameroon: Independence Day
Cuba: Liberation Day
Czech Republic: Restoration of the
Czech Independence Day
Egypt: January 1 Bank Holiday
Pakistan: January 1 Bank Holiday
Sudan: Independence Day
Slovakia: Republic Day
Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan,Bosnia & Herzegovina,Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova,Montenegro, Mauritius: New Year (Day 2)
Botswana: Public Holiday (January)
Canada: Day After New Year’s Day
Switzerland, Liechtenstein:Berchtold Day
China: New Year’s Weekend
Cuba: New Year Day
Haiti: Heroes’ Day/Ancestors’ Day
Japan: January 2 Bank Holiday
Saint Kitts & Nevis: Carnival Day
New Zealand, Romania, Samoa:Day after New Year’s Day
Serbia, Kosovo: Second Day of New Year’s Day
Russia: New Year Holiday Week
Slovenia: New Year
United Kingdom: 2nd January