National security wrap

The beat

Fast food served with sides of guns and drugs during Covid-19 lockdowns

Interpol has issued a purple notice alerting member countries that criminal organisations are using food delivery services to transport illegal substances and firearms. As Covid-19 lockdowns increased demand for home-delivered food, police in Ireland, Malaysia, Spain and the UK have identified delivery drivers who were transporting cocaine, ketamine, ecstasy and other drugs. In early April, Irish authorities discovered 8 kilograms of cocaine worth $840,000 and two handguns concealed in pizza boxes.

Criminals impersonate police in France

In France, four Iranians have been tried for impersonating police officers, conducting fake checks on official permits to leave home, and robbing distracted victims. The fraudsters allegedly stole €25,000 in cash and valuables from seven victims. People in France are required to carry a permission form to be outdoors during the country’s lockdown. With a steady reduction in Covid-19 cases, the government has announced it will gradually lift restrictions from next week.

CT scan

Venezuelan government claims mercenaries planned a coup

Venezuelan authorities have arrested 13 ‘terrorists’, including two Americans, alleging they mounted an armed incursion aimed at overthrowing the government. Jordan Goudreau, a former member of the US special forces, says he organised the raid and claims that the private security firm he works for was hired by the opposition leader, Juan Guaido. Guaido says he wasn’t involved and the US also denies any involvement. According to Goudreau, a secondary mission is ongoing but that claim has not been confirmed.

US response to Covid-19 expands definition of terrorism

The US has effectively declared the act of deliberately spreading Covid-19 a terrorism offence, raising concerns that extreme legislation is being used to address more common law-and-order issues. Only two people have so far been charged with federal ‘bioterrorism’ offences relating to the pandemic under the new guidelines. Neither person had known links to terrorist groups.


‘Trans-Tasman bubble’ on the horizon?

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined Australia’s national cabinet meeting on Tuesday, where she and her Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, discussed allowing free movement between their countries. In a joint statement released after the meeting, the two leaders said they were committed to starting up trans-Tasman travel ‘as soon as it is safe to do so’.

Both countries continue to record low numbers of new Covid-19 infections, and a trans-Tasman bubble would mean more flights and an end to quarantine obligations for travellers. New Zealand’s business sector hopes resumed tourism will help drive the post-lockdown recovery. Epidemiologists have warned that the movement of more people might hinder contact-tracing efforts. Borders with other countries will remain shut.

African migrants trapped by Covid-19 border closures

Tens of thousands of migrants from Chad, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal and other countries are stranded after states closed borders to contain Covid-19. Refugees and migrants are at risk of being exploited by human traffickers, whose activities have been boosted by the pandemic. ReliefWeb says nationalist responses from governments have worsened the plight of migrants and refugees living within their borders.

First responder

Australia preparing to relax coronavirus restrictions

Australia’s national cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss the easing of coronavirus restrictions. The prime minister has said that, since Australia has successfully flattened the curve of Covid-19 cases, it’s time to help businesses create Covid-safe workplaces so that people can return to work. The growth factor—the rate at which new Covid-19 cases are emerging—rose above 1 on 4 May. Experts say that the increase isn’t cause for alarm, though it’s important that the number doesn’t stay above 1 for long and that there’s not an increase in cases of unknown origin.

Study finds ‘safe climate niche’ shifting

Scientists from the US, Europe and China have found that the ‘safe climate niche’—the estimated temperature range that can support human society—is rapidly shifting. More than 3 billion people will confront ‘near-unliveable’ temperatures by 2070 if the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is not reduced. Large cuts to emissions would significantly reduce the number of people exposed to such extreme conditions. The study’s authors are optimistic, saying the response to Covid-19 shows that urgent global problems can be addressed, even when they come with economic costs.