Cuba will quarantine foreign tourists from Tuesday when it seals its borders to guard against the spread of the new coronavirus, the prime minister said Monday, in a move cutting one of the communist country’s few revenue sources.
“All tourists still in hotels will be placed in quarantine… They cannot leave the hotel” until they find a flight home, Manuel Marrero said on state TV, adding that there were 32,500 holidaymakers from overseas on the Caribbean island on Monday.
Some of them rushed to the airport in Havana Monday, anxious about their chances of finding a flight — many are already full and carriers have started canceling routes.
Economically crippled by US sanctions, Cuba is largely dependent on its tourism revenue.
Until now, Cuba had bucked the regional trend of closing its borders to foreigners.
Ethiopia on Monday shut its land borders to nearly all human traffic as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Africa’s second-most populous country has so far recorded just 11 infections and no deaths, but officials have struggled in recent days to enforce prevention measures including bans on large gatherings, raising fears the tally could climb.
The land border closure was part of a set of new measures announced Monday by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office.
Soldiers will be empowered “to halt the movement of people along all borders, with the exception of incoming essential goods to the country,” a statement said.
Security forces will also play a role in enforcing existing measures prohibiting large gatherings and meetings, it added.
Ethiopia has so far refrained from imposing the kind of shutdown seen in other East African countries like Rwanda and Mauritius.
But even its more limited measures have not been fully enforced, and Abiy’s Prosperity Party has been criticised on social media for holding large meetings in various parts of the country where attendees have sat close together.
Monday’s statement said political parties would “adhere to social distancing and preventative measures when convening meetings.”
Ethiopia has kept its main airport open for international flights, although Ethiopian Airlines has been forced to suspend services to destinations in nearly 40 countries, according to its website.
Monday marked the first day of a new rule requiring all passengers arriving in Ethiopia to be quarantined in hotels for two weeks at their own expense.
Ethiopia shares land borders with countries including Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia — all of which have confirmed coronavirus cases.
Djibouti announced its second case on Monday.
Eritrea, with one case, on Monday announced new measures of its own including a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.
The country’s health ministry also urged residents to avoid public transportation and said Eritreans currently living abroad should refrain from returning.
Ethiopia’s refugee population of more than 735,000 includes large numbers from neighbouring South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR has voiced concern about how border restrictions implemented to fight the coronavirus could affect the rights of asylum seekers.
The UN “requests that measures be put in place to take into account access to territory of asylum seekers for those fleeing persecution,” Ann Encontre, UNHCR’s Ethiopia representative, told AFP on Monday.
Mexico reported its first coronavirus death — a 41-year-old man with diabetes who died Wednesday in Mexico City. Mexico has 118 confirmed cases of infection.
Latin America has so far recorded 1,921 cases and 18 deaths.
– Chile stimulus plan-
Chile’s stimulus plan “will strengthen our ability to face the health, economic and social needs that the coronavirus pandemic is signifying and that will probably tend to worsen in the future,” President Sebastian Pinera told a press conference.
Health Minister Jaime Manalich announced a lockdown of Chile’s Easter Island, saying no one could enter or leave the remote Pacific island for the next two weeks.
Manalich said that though none of the island’s 7,000 population had the disease, many people from the island were trying to return and risked carrying the virus back with them.
Chile has registered 342 cases of the virus to date.
Colombia will block all international flights from Monday for 30 days, President Ivan Duque announced Thursday.
“As of 00:00 hours on March 23, the arrival of all international passenger flights to the country’s airports is prohibited,” the president wrote on Twitter.
Duque said the shutout was necessary because some people who had entered the country had tried to avoid mandatory quarantine regulations.
Colombia closed its land and sea borders on Tuesday.
– Bogota confinement –
Bogota city hall said the capital’s seven million people would face confinement from Friday to Monday as part of a trial run for a probable future quarantine.
Other cities across Colombia, which has more than 100 cases of the coronavirus, were also under nighttime curfews.
Brazil said its 15-day border closure would affect all neighboring countries, with the exception of Uruguay to the south.
It shut its border with Venezuela on Tuesday.
Senior Brazilian officials, such as Chamber of Deputies speaker Rodrigo Maia, had called for a total border shutdown.
Latin America’s largest country, with a population of 210 million, has so far registered 428 cases of the coronavirus, with four deaths.
Eduardo Bolsonaro, the lawmaker son of the Brazil’s president, joined US President Donald Trump in criticizing China over the pandemic, prompting demands from Beijing for an apology.
China’s embassy accused Bolsonaro of perpetuating the anti-China stance of Trump, who repeatedly refers to the “Chinese virus.”
“We are familiar with your irresponsible words. You imitate your dear (American) friends. On your return from Miami, you unfortunately caught a mental virus, which infected the friendship between our peoples,” the embassy said in a tweet.
Chile and Peru announced a total closure of their borders on Monday while Latin America’s largest airline said it was reducing operations by 70 percent as the region scrambled to stem the rapidly-spreading coronavirus pandemic.
Latin America has registered more than 800 cases and seven deaths, according to an AFP count, after the Dominican Republic became the latest nation to report a fatality.
“We’ve decided to close all our country’s terrestrial, maritime and aerial borders for the transit of foreigners,” said Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera.
The announcement came as Chile revealed on Monday its number of coronavirus cases had more than doubled since Sunday to 155.
Peru followed suit soon afterwards with President Martin Vizcarra announcing a two-week border closure from midnight, while Colombia announced it would close its borders until May 30.
Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay confirmed partial border closures. Paraguay also imposed overnight curfews.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced late Monday that his country would enter “collective quarantine.”
Latam Airlines said it was reducing operations by 70 percent, just four days after already cutting back by 30 percent.
“If these unprecedented travel restrictions increase… we’re not ruling out being forced to decrease our operations even more,” said the airline’s vice-president Roberto Alvo.
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) on Monday clarified the controversy surrounding the reports on the closure of the nation’s borders.
Contrary to the reports, the Comptroller-General of NIS, Mr Muhammad Babandede, stated that no border has been closed.
He, however, explained that the Service was conducting an operation with the Nigeria Customs Service at the borders.
“There is no border closure, but there was a border drill and there was an announcement from the office of the National Security Adviser,” Babandede said during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
He added, “Our spokesperson for the closure is the Nigeria Customs because this operation is jointly carried out by the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigeria Customs; it is a border drill.
“You know very well that a safe border is a safe nation. So we are securing these borders for our national interest.”
The former AIG added, “In terms of our borders that are spread wide all over, I don’t think we have enough human resources to cover them effectively, but technology can actually help.”
He said there was a need to adopt the use of technology to prevent illegal movements and send security forces to stopped foreigners infiltrating the country.
Mr Cualcrick noted that the recent security challenges in the country were partly as a result of the weak border.
He also decried the menace of arms proliferation, saying, “I’m certainly not satisfied that we still have a large cache of arms in the hands of the wrong people.
“Nevertheless, a lot has actually been done with regards to ensuring that some of these arms are recovered. The government is actually doing more to ensure that these arms are mopped up significantly.”
The former AIG added, “I want to sincerely believe that there is still need for a more holistic approach; we are talking about a better approach, particularly with regards to the application of technology.”
But in a warning to protestors, he also imposed a night-time curfew from 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) to 4:00 am (0200 GMT).
Bashir, who swept to power in a 1989 coup, was one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes.
But organisers of the protests, which first erupted in December, rejected the army’s move and vowed to keep up their campaign until the whole regime was swept aside.
“The people do not want a transitional military council,” said Alaa Salah, who became an icon of the protest movement after a video of her leading demonstrators’ chants outside army headquarters went viral.
“Change will not happen with Bashir’s entire regime hoodwinking Sudanese civilians through a military coup,” she tweeted.
“We want a civilian council to head the transition.”
The protestors’ Alliance for Freedom and Change said the regime had “conducted a military coup by bringing back the same faces and the same institutions which our people rose against.”
It urged people “to continue their sit-in in front of army headquarters and across all regions and in the streets.”
‘We’re not leaving’
Since early Thursday morning, huge crowds of jubilant Sudanese had filled squares across the centre of Khartoum as the army promised an “important announcement”.
Chanting “the regime has fallen,” they poured into the open ground outside army headquarters, where defiant protesters had braved tear gas and gunfire to keep up an unprecedented sit-in, now in its sixth day.
But the festive mood later soured, as protestors chanted: “We don’t want Ibnouf!”
“We are not leaving, we are not leaving. Just fall and that’s all,” they shouted.
The opposition Sudanese Congress Party called on the military council to dissolve itself and form “a joint military and civilian council to run the government for a four-year transition term”.
It also urged the army to give executive powers to civilians.
Adel, a protestor outside army headquarters, said Thursday’s announcement meant “we have not achieved anything.”
“We will not stop our revolution. We are calling for the regime to step down, not only Bashir,” he said.
Army vehicles carrying troops were seen deploying across the centre of Khartoum from early Thursday.
Troops raided the offices of the Islamic Movement, the ideological wing of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party, witnesses told AFP.
Martial music was played on state television as soldiers ordered the TV to halt its normal programming ahead of Ibnouf’s announcement.
Outside army headquarters, dozens of joyful protesters early Thursday climbed on top of land cruisers and armoured vehicles that had been posted to protect them from intervention by other branches of the security forces.
Braving the searing 42 degree Celsius (108 degrees Fahrenheit) heat, they hugged and kissed soldiers in the crowd.
Prisoner release The military council said it was declaring a ceasefire across the country, including in war-torn Darfur.
Meanwhile, Sudan’s feared intelligence service said it was freeing all the country’s political prisoners, state media reported.
“The National Intelligence and Security Service has announced it is releasing all political detainees across the country,” the official SUNA news agency said.
But in the eastern cities of Kasala and Port Sudan, the releases failed to materialise, prompting protesters to storm NISS buildings, witnesses said.
That came despite protest organisers urging demonstrators to refrain from attacking government figures or buildings.
Demonstrators have spent five nights defiantly camped outside the sprawling army headquarters complex in Khartoum, which also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defence ministry.
“We had enough of this regime — 30 years of repression, corruption, rights abuses, it’s enough,” said one protester at the sit-in.
The demonstrators have braved repeated volleys of tear gas from NISS members since they began camping outside the complex on Saturday, protest organisers say.
Officials say 49 people have died in protest-related violence since the demonstrations first erupted in December.
Neighbouring Egypt, where President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in similar circumstances, said Thursday it supported the Sudanese people and the army in their political transition.
The Minister of Interior, Mr Abdulrahman Dambazau, has defended the Federal Government’s efforts in providing security at Nigeria’s borders.
Dambazau, a retired Lieutenant General and former Chief of Army Staff, spoke about the country’s security situation and borders during the 2018 World Congress of the International Press Institute (IPI), in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Thursday.
He spoke during a session entitled ‘Conversation with the Government of Nigeria’ and moderated by the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Channels Media Group, Mr John Momoh.
When asked to rate the performance of the Federal Government in checking Nigeria’s porous borders on a scale of one to 10, the minister rated the government a 10.
He said, “This is a difficult thing you are giving me because when you are talking about border security and management it involves so many things. That is one.
“Secondly, from what I have said, it isn’t something that is left to Nigeria alone. It is a regional problem that we are working very closely with our neighbouring countries on.
“In our own efforts, I will tell you 10/10.”
Lack of adequate security at the borders has been blamed for many of the security challenges in the country, including the influx of firearms, smuggling as well as the emergence of killer herdsmen.
Government officials and President Muhammadu Buhari have all blamed the killings in several parts of the country on the influx of firearms from Libya.
The minister explained that the Federal Government took a lot of steps to provide security at the borders because it is very concerned by the security of the nation’s borders.
“A lot of efforts have been made to ensure that we have effective relationships both at the bilateral and multilateral levels to ensure that we do not accept the breach of border security.
“Because of the porousness of our borders, this government when it came (into power) was able to provide lots of logistics to the immigration department so that it can enhance its mobility to cover the border.”
He, however, conceded that because the borders are extensive, they cannot be protected by just providing more vehicles.
Consequently, the government is also collaborating with international organisations and regional governments and blocs to tackle the problem, especially that of migration.
Also, the minister said the government is using technology to tackle the security situation at the borders.
Another initiative is the decision to turn to border communities for help. But this has faced some difficulties, according to the minister, who cited an example of the chiefs of two border communities – one in Niger and the other in Nigeria – who were brothers and were uninterested in talking about borders or securing them.
The minister pointed that out that in tackling security challenges at the borders it was important to remember “the 1994 UN Human Development Report which has redefined security from the traditional perspective from territorial integrity to the issue of human security”.
He, however, said, “With the security threat of terrorism, particularly what we have in the North East, with the kind of weapons that are trickling in from areas like Libya and Mali, we need to do a lot more to reinforce our borders and this is precisely what the government is doing.”
Other ministers who participated in the session are the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah.
The call was made on Wednesday by the Executive Chairman of CACOL, Mr Debo Adeniran, who was speaking against the background of the seizure of the rifles.
The arms were said to have been imported into Nigeria from China illegally.
Forty-nine boxes of munitions concealed with steel doors and other merchandise goods in a 40ft container were reportedly apprehended on January 22, 2017, alongside some of the importers and Customs officers.
Mr Adeniran said “the incident explains widespread of illegal arms and ammunition in the country,so the incident itself cannot be too surprising for most discerning Nigerians who understood prior to now know that the country has been sitting on ‘a keg of gun-powder’ for long.
State Of Catastrophic Equilibrium
“We see almost on daily basis (that) the reckless display of even more powerful and sophisticated weapons by militants, insurgents, kidnappers, armed robbers etc. Their activities have continued to put the country in a state of catastrophic equilibrium.
“This particular incident happening at this particular time when violence is being preached and promoted in the country makes the whole scenario scary and dangerous. What we just need to ask ourselves is what those ammunition were being brought in the country for, as well as what the danger and wariness of the situation will give to us back in the face.
“However, the fundamental issue is what we as a people have to do to halt this kind of negative progression in our country for very obvious reasons. With the security and well-being of the people having been relegated in the prioritisations of government for a long time, and corruption still pervading the institutions and agencies with the social condition that has thrown up this scenario remaining intact; a society like ours inadvertently would grapple with dangers of this sort.
Discourage Arms Trafficking
“Consequently, the country wholesomely is kept under a perpetual siege by bloodletting groups including amorphous groups, individuals, politicians and state actors basically to sustain a system that tenaciously intends to keep its grip of the socio-political and economic direction of the country for their selfish interests.
“This is why we must not look at the recent incident in isolation in reacting and taking decisive action. Thus, if the government is going to draw profound lessons and make use of them in reacting to the 661 rifles importation, it must recognise that incidences like this happen where the State has failed in guaranteeing the protection of lives and property.
“The borders of country with security consciousness are very well monitored to control and nip in the bud incidences like this. The porousity of any country’s border determines what can get in or out of such country.
Corruption And Lack Of Openness
“It is time that the corrupt elements in the state agencies, establishments, services etc.; are weeded out because they abet and even help contrive the illegalities that take place at our borders to a very large extent.
“The present case must be handled in a manner that will on the long run discourage arms trafficking in the country. This requires ensuring that proper investigations are carried out and diligent prosecutions are done to achieve punitive measures which will serve as deterrent to others.
“This can only happen if corruption and lack of openness does not get involved in the processes. This will demonstrate the self-avowed readiness of government to combat corruption and provision of good governance which will be in the interest of the vast majority where (the) society will be rid of the subsisting social conditions and relations.
Borders Must Be Equipped
“Nigerians from all walks of life must get involved in pressuring the government to ensure that the present case is not swept ‘under the carpets’ with its processes shrouded in secrecy. All the suspects, their sponsors and officials of NCS involved must be fished out for prosecution. The culpable ones must be ‘scape-goated’ to serve as examples to other potential criminal elements.
“Also, the NCS and the other enforcement agencies must be adequately equipped to confront the challenges of checkmating the heartless criminals that specialise in so-called businesses that lead to loss of lives and property.
“The borders must be equipped with necessary gadgets that will enhance easy revelation of the cunning ways of merchants of death bringing their merchandises of death into the country.
“The holes of corruption in the public services must be plugged to avoid future incidences of this nature. This is how we can avoid or abate the negative progression represented in illegal arms trafficking, corruption and mis-governance to guarantee the security of lives and property on the long run in our country,” said Adeniran concluded.
A retired Army officer, Colonel Hassan Stan-Labo, has advised the Federal Government to improve the security condition of Nigerian borders through technology.
Stan-Labo made the recommendation on Monday as one of the ways to solve the lingering herdsmen crisis in the country.
“I know we cannot man the borders but I think with technology, we can to an extent, police our borders effectively to such a point that if some of these herdsmen are crossing, air surveillance department can immediately move in,” he said on Sunrise Daily.
The retired military officer asked the Minister of Interior to step up approaches towards improving the borders’ condition, so as to prevent illegal immigration into the country.
He also expressed shock at the Niger Delta Avengers’ refusal to dialogue with the government over the attacks on oil installations in Nigeria’s south-south.
“We heard this talk of ‘we are not going to be part of the talks’. I was thinking this is an opportunity for you (the militants) to come lay your grievances on the table and talk face to face with government over what your problems are.
“What else do they want us to do, what else do they want Nigeria to do?” Stan-Labo asked.
The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has announced plans to step up its operations to tackle terrorism and cross border crimes.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr Dikko Abdullahi, told journalists in Abuja that the custom is undergoing a major restructuring to meet new targets for the year.
The Nigerian Customs further vowed to stem the spate of smuggling, increase border patrol and maintain zero tolerance for corruption.
While decorating 17 officers to the rank of Assistant Comptroller-General among others, Mr Abdullahi said that terrorism, which has triggered various disasters across the country would be tackled in a different dimension.
Channels Television’s Gloria Ume-Ezeoke also reports that “the Nigerian Customs Service however admits that it might not be an easy ride to achieve its set targets but one thing is clear, the will to forge ahead certainly will produce far-reaching results for the country this time around”.
Mr Abdullahi further added that that would be an improvement at the nation’s borders. He noted that once provided, free access to smugglers would be eliminated as the service maintains integrity and zero tolerance to sustain the campaign against corruption.