This small country is situated between France and Spain. Because of its elevation and proximity to the Pyrenees the climate is generally pleasant throughout the year.
During the summer months the temperatures can rise to 30c but there is usually a cooling breeze. Lightening storms can occur during the summer months associated with torrential rain.
Sun Exposure and Dehydration
Those from Northern Europe can develop significant sun exposure and so remember to use a wide brimmed hat when necessary. The altitude can also lead to significant tiredness and dehydration so take sufficient initial rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Safety & Security
The level of crime throughout the country directed at tourists is very low. Nevertheless take care of your personal belongings at all times and use hotel safety boxes where possible.
There are strict laws regarding the use of illegal drugs. Make sure you have sufficient supplies of any medication you required for your trip and that it is clearly marked. The European E111 form is not accepted in Andorra and so it is essential that you have sufficient travel insurance for your trip.
Andorra is one of the regions where many travel to partake of their winter sport facilities. Generally this is well controlled and one of the safer regions. Nevertheless, make certain your travel insurance is adequate for the activities you are planning to undertake.
The only standard vaccine to consider for Andorra would be tetanus in line with many other developed countries of the world.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Andorra la Vella, Andorra, July 12, 2018 (AFP) - The tax haven of Andorra has long been a favourite destination for smokers looking to stock up on cheap cigarettes, but the enclave said Thursday that it would soon stop advertising the fact. The government said it had signed up to the World Health Organization's (WHO) anti-tobacco convention, which aims to encourage people to quit smoking and combat contraband sales. "The goal is to contribute to public health and pursue the fight against trafficking," government spokesman Jordi Cinca said at a press conference.
The tiny principality of Andorra, perched in the Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain, attracts millions of shoppers each year to duty-free stores, where prices of alcohol, cigarettes, electronics and clothes can be up to 20 percent cheaper than elsewhere in the EU. High taxes on tobacco imposed by many countries to help people kick smoking make Andorra's cigarettes a particularly good deal. The average pack costs just three euros ($3.50) compared with eight euros in France, which has said it will gradually raise the price to 10 euros a pack by November 2020.
Tobacco sales bring in some 110 million euros a year for Andorra, whose economy is otherwise based almost entirely on tourism. It is also an enticing destination for smugglers, with French and Spanish border agents regularly seizing cartons from people trying to sneak them out, either by car or by hiking down the mountain trails which criss-cross the Pyrenees. No date has been set for the advertising ban, which will come into effect three months after the ratification of the WHO accord is voted by parliament.
Andorra la Vella, Andorra, March 16, 2018 (AFP) - The tiny principality of Andorra is witnessing a once in a generation phenomenon -- a widespread strike. Around a third of civil servants across the mountainous micro-state have walked out to protest proposed reforms to their sector in what has been described as Andorra's first large-scale strike since 1933.
With no negotiation breakthrough in sight, picket lines are expected to be manned again on Friday with customs officers, police, teachers and prison staff among those taking part. The first major strike in 85 years was sparked by plans from the government of Antoni Marti to reform civil servant contracts. He has assured officials "will not do an hour more" work under the reforms and that 49 million euros would be allocated for the next 25 years to supplement civil servant salaries. But government workers are unconvinced with unions warning the reforms could risk their 35 hour working week and pay.
Customs officers involved in the strike interrupted traffic on the Andorran-Spanish border this week, according to unions, while some 80 percent of teachers have walked out of classes. Strikers have occupied the government's main administrative building and held noisy protests outside parliament calling for Marti's resignation. "We have started collecting signatures to demand the resignation of the head of government and now nobody will stop us," Gabriel Ubach, spokesman for the public service union, told reporters.
ANDORRA LA VELLA, Andorra, Dec 26, 2013 (AFP) - A Spanish skier and a French snowboarder have died in avalanches in different mountain ranges in Europe, officials said Thursday.
The 27-year-old skier, a woman from Barcelona, died Wednesday while going off-piste alone in the Soldeu resort in Andorra, in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, a resort manager told AFP. Although she was rescued within 10 minutes, after her glove was spotted on the surface, she was unable to be revived despite a helicopter dash to hospital.
In the Italian Alps, close to the border with France, a 24-year-old Frenchman who was snowboarding with three friends on a closed run died Thursday when an avalanche swept over him in the resort town of Les Arnauds. Local officials said he succumbed to multiple injuries, asphyxia and hypothermia.
Avalanches are common in Europe's ski resorts at this time of year, when early snows are heavy with moisture, and several deaths occur each winter. Last Sunday, a 35-year-old Frenchman died in an avalanche in the Alps near the Italian border while on a three-day trek with a friend.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
San Juan, March 15, 2020 (AFP) - The US territory of Puerto Rico on Sunday ordered a 9:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, the strongest measure yet taken on American soil. It took effect immediately and lasts until March 30. "Faced with the possibility of transmission and propagation of the virus, I have ordered the imposition of a curfew for all residents of Puerto Rico," Governor Wanda Vazquez announced in a video message. "We must take every precaution to ensure that we do not become potential carriers," Vazquez said.
The Caribbean territory of 2.9 million, whose residents are US citizens, also will close many businesses from Sunday until the end of the month, she said. That includes malls, movie theaters, concert venues, gyms, bars and other businesses that bring together large crowds on the island popular with tourists. The exceptions will be businesses in the food supply chain, and in the medical care system, as well as drugstores, gas stations, banks and senior citizens' group homes.
At night, only those who are providing or receiving medical care, or carrying out essential duties, will be allowed to be on Puerto Rico's streets. Anyone defying the curfew faces a six-month jail term and a fine of up to $5,000. The island declared a state of emergency when its first cases were reported March 12. The island has reported five cases. On Friday, Vazquez accepted the resignation of Health Secretary Rafael Rodriguez Mercado, who was under fire for his handling the coronavirus emergency.
Recently, island residents were irate when two warehouses were found to be filled with abandoned supplies, apparently never used after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The storms' one-two punch left Puerto Ricans without power for months and killed nearly 3,000 people, according to the local government's official numbers. President Donald Trump has accused the Puerto Rican government of incompetence and siphoning off hurricane relief money. The Puerto Rican leaders accused Trump of treating the population of the island like second class citizens.
By Ivelisse RIVERA, con Leila MACOR en Miami
Yauco, Puerto Rico, Jan 16, 2020 (AFP) - Living out in the open, their nerves on edge after a series of earthquakes that have shaken Puerto Rico, some 5,000 people are hoping that their president, Donald Trump, will heed the island's plea to be designated a disaster zone and free up much-needed aid. Since December 28, more than 1,000 tremors have rattled the US island territory in the Caribbean, which just two years ago was devastated by two powerful hurricanes in quick succession.
In Yauco, one of the areas worst hit by the earthquakes, dozens of people were sitting on cot beds Wednesday in the parking lot of a municipal stadium, sheltered from the sun by white tents and blue tarps handed out by the federal disaster management agency, known as FEMA. "The most difficult thing is the psychological aspect," said Wilfredo Rodriguez, 31. His house had been fractured by the seismic movement and he has spent a week living with his kids, aged six and 10, under an awning. "We are living in constant fear of another powerful tremor," he said.
He only returns to his house to wash, then hurries back to the shelter. "We worry that there'll be a more powerful tremor while we are inside the house," he said. Throughout the day, volunteers arrive to hand out food and toys for the children who fill the shelters: schools have been suspended because the buildings are not sturdy enough to withstand another quake. The island's earthquake detection system has registered 1,104 tremors in the past two weeks alone, of which 186 could be felt by the population. By comparison, during the whole of 2019 there were 6,442 tremors, of which just 62 could be felt by people on the island.
Further south, in Guanico, Juan Santiago decided to move into a shelter on Saturday after a tremor of 5.9 on the Richter scale hit the island. "The mountain shook and rocks and earth started to come down," said the 30-year-old. "My house has a crack in it and is about to fall down," he added. His home had weathered the Category Five winds of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and of Hurricane Irma which followed it just two weeks later. "It's different to a hurricane. What is happening now is much nastier," he said.
As he was talking the earth shook again, a tremor of 5.2 magnitude. Vehicles rocked like hammocks in the wind, but the quake-hardened victims barely reacted. The houses in this part of the island are mostly rudimentary constructions built by the people who live in them with scant resources available in the mountains, where no regulations stipulate that buildings should be earthquake resistant. The government of Puerto Rico said that as of Monday, there were 4,924 people living in 28 shelters in 14 municipalities. There were no figures on how many buildings had been damaged or destroyed.
- Seeking disaster designation -
Puerto Rico's governor Wanda Vazquez Garced called on Trump to declare the earthquake a disaster and clear the way for desperately needed aid. Trump had declared an emergency days before, but the governor wanted more. The declaration of an emergency frees up to $5 million dollars in aid for the island, although Congress can bump that figure up. But if the situation is designated a disaster, there is no ceiling on funding, a FEMA spokesman said. On Wednesday, the government said it would release $8.2 billion in delayed hurricane relief that had been stalled after the president threatened to divert Puerto Rico's emergency funds to help pay for his wall on the US-Mexico border.
In the past few days there have been growing calls among Democratic lawmakers for Trump to declare the situation in Puerto Rico a disaster. It is a delicate subject, as Trump has accused the government of Puerto Rico of incompetence and of siphoning off hurricane relief money, triggering a public spat between the president and the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, as well as the former governor Ricardo Rossello, who was forced to step down last summer amid massive protests. The Puerto Rican leaders accused Trump of treating the population of the island like second class citizens.
Washington, Jan 11, 2020 (AFP) - A 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Puerto Rico Saturday, the latest in a series of powerful tremors that have shaken the US territory in recent days, the US Geological Survey reported.
The latest quake occurred at 8:54 am local time (1254 GMT) around 13 kilometres (eight miles) southeast of Guanica, a town on the island's southern Caribbean coastline that was hard hit by earlier quakes. The USGS revised its initial report of a 6.0 magnitude quake to 5.9. It follows a 6.4 magnitude quake Tuesday that killed one person, knocked
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez declared a state of emergency after Tuesday's quake, which forced an automatic shutdown of the power grid. Puerto Rico's electric power authority reported outages in the towns of Ponce, Lares, Adjuntas and San German after the latest quake. The Pacific Tsunami Information Center in Hawaii issued a statement saying there was "no significant tsunami threat" but a small possibility of tsunami waves along coasts nearest the epicentre.
The island is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which came ashore more than two years ago as a devastating Category 4 storm. Starting December 28, a wave of tremors have swept the island, putting residents on edge. The 6.4 quake on January 7 came a day after a 5.8 magnitude quake; it was followed by major aftershocks. Saturday's quakes were also preceded by a string of smaller tremors.
By Ricardo Arduengo
Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, Jan 7, 2020 (AFP) - Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency on Tuesday after a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake killed at least one person in the south of the island and caused widespread damage. Governor Wanda Vazquez said the declaration would allow for the activation of National Guard troops in the US territory still recovering from a devastating 2017 hurricane. The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 4:24 am (0824 GMT) with the epicenter off the coast of the southern city of Ponce, and was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks.
Tuesday's quake was the most powerful in a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28. Scientists initially sent out an alert about a potential tsunami but it was later canceled. The island's electricity authority said the quake had forced an automatic shutdown of the power grid, already severely damaged by Hurricane Maria more than two years ago. The worst damage appeared to be in towns on the southwest coast, including Ponce, Guayanilla and Guanica. El Nuevo Dia newspaper said a 73-year-old man died after a wall fell in his home in Ponce. Eight others there were reported injured.
Two power plants in Guayanilla sustained major damage, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said. The city could be without power for two weeks, its mayor Nelson Torres Yordan said. Celebrity chef Jose Andres announced that a charity he runs, World Central Kitchen, had started serving meals and distributing solar-powered lamps in quake-hit areas. Vazquez announced that $130 million in emergency aid funding will be disbursed. On social media, people wrote of being shaken awake by the force of the quake. One woman on Twitter said she had been "wrenched from sleep." "Everybody is awake & scared all over," she posted. In Guayanilla, the Inmaculada Concepcion church, built in 1841, was heavily damaged. Volunteers salvaged statues and other valuable items from the ruins as a priest consoled distraught parishioners.
- 'Be safe' -
A 5.8 magnitude quake on Monday toppled some structures, caused power outages and small landslides, but did not result in any casualties. It also destroyed a popular tourist landmark, Punta Ventana, a natural stone arch that crumbled on the island's southern coast. Vazquez, the governor, said government employees were being given the day off on Tuesday to take care of their families. "We want everyone to be safe," she said. She said ports were undamaged and there are several weeks' supply of gasoline, diesel and natural gas stored so people need not worry about shortages.
The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and Pete Gaynor, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), had been in touch with the governor. Trump's administration came under severe criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria. The Category 4 storm destroyed the island's already shaky power grid, overwhelmed public services, left many residents homeless and claimed several thousand lives, according to government estimates.
Washington, Jan 7, 2020 (AFP) - A strong earthquake struck south of Puerto Rico early Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, the latest in a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28. The shallow 6.5 magnitude quake struck 13.6 kilometres (8.5 miles) south of the city of Ponce, the USGS said, revising down its initial reading of 6.6. The quake struck just off the US territory's southern Caribbean coastline at 4:24 am local time (0824 GMT). "The whole island is without power," the director of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Jose Ortiz, told local media.
Puerto Rico's governor Wanda Vazquez Garced posted on Twitter that the government's security protocols had been activated. She said government employees were not expected at work, adding: "We want everyone to be safe." On social media, people wrote of being shaken awake by the force of the quake. One woman on Twitter said she had been "wrenched from sleep", adding "Everybody is awake & scared all over."
Dramatic images also shared on social media appeared to show widespread damage in the town of Guayanilla, home to around 20,000 people, as well as nearby Guanica. The mayor of Guayanilla told local news channel NotiUno that the town's church had collapsed in the incident.
An alert issued by the Tsunami Warning Center immediately following the earthquake was later cancelled. Tuesday's quake was the strongest of a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28, topping Monday's 5.8 quake. That earthquake toppled houses and caused power outages, but there were no reports of casualties.
April 28, 2008
Benin is a developing country in West Africa. Its political capital is Porto Novo. However, its administrative capital, Cotonou, is Benin's largest city and the
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas are not routinely available at the airport. Visitors to Benin should also carry the WHO Yellow Card (“Carte Jaune”) indicating that they have been vaccinated for yellow fever. Contact the Embassy of Benin for the most current visa information. The Embassy is located at: 2124 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: 202-232-6656.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
U.S. citizens should not walk on the beach alone at any time of day. It is also highly recommended not to carry a passport or valuables when walking in any part of the city. Travelers should carry a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport (see Crime section). They should not walk around the city after dark, and should take particular care to avoid the beach and isolated areas near the beach after dark.
The ocean currents along the coast are extremely strong and treacherous with rough surf and a strong undertow, and several people drown each year.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Street robbery is a significant problem in Cotonou. Robbery and mugging occur along the Boulevard de France (the beach road by the Marina and Novotel Hotels) and on the beaches near hotels frequented by international visitors. Most of the reported incidents involve the use of force, often by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim. Travelers should avoid isolated and poorly lit areas and should not walk around the city or the beaches between dusk and dawn. Even in daylight hours, foreigners on the beach near Cotonou are frequent victims of robberies. When visiting the beach, travelers should not bring valuables and should carry only a photocopy of their passport. If you are a victim of crime, you should contact the U.S. Embassy immediately. There has been a continued increase in the number of robberies and carjacking incidents after dark, both within metropolitan Cotonou and on highways and rural roads outside of major metropolitan areas. Motorists are urged to be wary of the risk of carjacking. Keep the windows of your vehicle rolled up and the doors locked. Stay alert for signs of suspicious behavior by other motorists or pedestrians that may lead to carjacking, such as attempts to stop a moving vehicle for no obvious reason. Travelers should avoid driving outside the city of Cotonou after dark and should exercise extreme caution when driving in Cotonou after dark (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below). Overland travel to Nigeria is dangerous near the Benin/Nigeria border due to unofficial checkpoints and highway banditry.
Travelers should avoid the use of credit cards and automated teller machines (ATMs) in Benin due to a high rate of fraud. Perpetrators of business and other kinds of fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Benin, and are more frequently perpetrated by Beninese criminals. Business scams are not always easy to recognize, and any unsolicited business proposal should be carefully scrutinized. There are, nevertheless, some indicators that are warnings of a probable scam. Look out for:
Any offer of a substantial percentage of a very large sum of money to be transferred into your account, in return for your "discretion" or "confidentiality";
Any deal that seems too good to be true;
Requests for signed and stamped, blank letterhead or invoices, or for bank account or credit card information;
Requests for urgent air shipment, accompanied by an instrument of payment whose genuineness cannot immediately be established;
Solicitations claiming the soliciting party has personal ties to high government officials;
Requests for payment, in advance, of transfer taxes or incorporation fees;
Statements that your name was provided to the soliciting party either by someone you do not know or by "a reliable contact";
Promises of advance payment for services to the Beninese government; and
Any offer of a charitable donation.
These scams, which may appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts, pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently more American citizens have been targeted. The perpetrators of such scams sometimes pose as attorneys. One common ploy is to request fees for “registration” with fictitious government offices or regulatory authorities. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Travelers should carefully check out any unsolicited business proposal originating in Benin before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. For additional information, please see the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, International Financial Scams.
Scams may also involve persons posing as singles on Internet dating sites or as online acquaintances who then get into trouble and require money to be "rescued." If you are asked to send money by someone you meet online please contact the U.S. Embassy before doing so.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Benin are limited and not all medicines are available. Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Not all medicines and prescription drugs available in Benin are USFDA-approved. Malaria is a serious risk to travelers to Benin. For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s website at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Benin is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
With the exception of the road linking Cotonou in the south to Malanville on the border with Niger in the north, and from Parakou in central Benin to Natitingou in the northwestern part of the country, roads in Benin are generally in poor condition and are often impassable during the rainy season. Benin's unpaved roads vary widely in quality; deep sand and potholes are common. During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, dirt roads often become impassable. Four-wheel drive vehicles with full spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended.
Most of the main streets in Cotonou are paved, but side streets are often dirt with deep potholes. Traffic moves on the right, as in the United States. Cotonou has no public transportation system; many Beninese people rely on bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes, and zemidjans (moped taxis). All official Americans are required to wear safety helmets when on a motorcycle and are strongly discouraged from using zemidjans. Travelers using zemidjans, particularly at night, are much more vulnerable to being mugged, assaulted or robbed. Buses and bush taxis offer service in the interior.
Gasoline smuggled from Nigeria is widely available in glass bottles and jugs at informal roadside stands throughout Cotonou and much of the country. This gasoline is of unreliable quality, often containing water or other contaminants that can damage or disable your vehicle. Drivers should purchase fuel only from official service stations. There are periodic gas shortages, which can be particularly acute in the north of the country where there are few service stations.
U.S. citizens traveling by road should exercise extreme caution. Poorly maintained and overloaded transport and cargo vehicles frequently break down and cause accidents. Drivers often place branches or leaves in the road to indicate a broken down vehicle is in the roadway. Undisciplined drivers move unpredictably through traffic. Construction work is often poorly indicated. Speed bumps, commonly used on paved roads in and near villages, are seldom indicated. Drivers must be on guard against people and livestock wandering into or across the roads. Nighttime driving is particularly hazardous as vehicles frequently lack headlights and/or taillights, and brake lights are often burned out.
With few exceptions, Cotonou and other cities lack any street lighting, and lighting on roads between population centers is non-existent. The U.S. Embassy in Cotonou prohibits non-essential travel outside of metropolitan areas after dusk by official Americans and strongly urges all U.S. citizens to avoid night driving as well. There have been numerous carjackings and robberies on roads in Benin after dark, several of which resulted in murder when the driver refused to comply with the assailants' demands. The National Police periodically conduct vehicle checks at provisional roadblocks in an effort to improve road safety and reduce the increasing number of carjackings. When stopped at such a roadblock, you must have all of the vehicle's documentation available to present to the authorities.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at http://www.benintourisme.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Benin, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Benin’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
U.S. citizens are advised to keep a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport with them at all times when traveling in Benin.
The Embassy has had a few reports of officials requesting a "gift" to facilitate official administrative matters (e.g., customs entry). Such requests should be politely but firmly declined.
It is prohibited to photograph government buildings and other official sites, such as military installations, without the formal consent of the Government of Benin. In general, it is always best to be courteous and ask permission before taking pictures of people. Beninese citizens may react angrily if photographed without their prior approval.
Obtaining customs clearance at the port of Cotonou for donated items shipped to Benin from the United States may be a lengthy process. In addition, to obtain a waiver of customs duties on donated items, the donating organization must secure prior written approval from the Government of Benin. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou for more detailed information.Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Benin laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Benin are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Benin are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Benin. Americans withoutInternet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rue Caporal Anani Bernard in Cotonou. The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 2012, Cotonou, Benin. The 24-hour telephone numbers are (229) 21-30-06-50, 21-30-05-13, and 21-30-17-92. The Embassy’s general fax number is (229) 21-30-06-70; the Consular Section’s fax number is (229) 21-30-66-82; http://cotonou.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Benin dated August 17th, 2007 to update sections on Safety and Security and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Hazel WARD and Daphne BENOIT
Paris, May 10, 2019 (AFP) - French special forces have freed two French hostages, an American and a South Korean in northern Burkina Faso in an overnight raid in which two soldiers died, authorities announced Friday. The operation was launched to free two French tourists who had disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in neighbouring Benin on May 1.
But during the raid, the French troops were surprised to discover two women also in captivity, with top officials saying they had been held for 28 days. The French tourists were identified as Patrick Picque, 51, and Laurent Lassimouillas, 46, but the women's identities were not immediately clear. "No one was aware of (the women's) presence," French Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters, while French armed forces chief Francois Lecointre said. "We know little about these other two hostages," Parly told reporters, saying that even Seoul and Washington did not appear to be aware the pair were in increasingly unstable Burkina Faso. The raid was approved by French President Emmanuel Macron in what was seen as the last opportunity to stop the hostages being transferred to lawless territory in Mali to the north.
Parly said it was "too early to say" who had snatched the two French nationals from Benin, which has long been an island of stability in a region where Islamist militants are increasingly active. "The message to terrorists and criminal gangs is clear: those who attack France and its nationals know that we will not spare any effort to track them down, find them and neutralise them," she said. Four of the six kidnappers were killed in the raid. French forces, helped by intelligence provided by the United States, had been tracking the kidnappers for several days as they travelled across the semi-desert terrain of eastern Burkina Faso from Benin to Mali. They seized the opportunity to prevent "the transfer of the hostages to another terrorist organisation in Mali," Lecointre said, referring to the Macina Liberation Front (FLM). The FLM is a jihadist group formed in 2015 and headed by a radical Malian preacher, Amadou Koufa. It is aligned with Al-Qaeda in the region.
- US intelligence support -
In a statement, Macron congratulated the special forces on the operation, in which he also expressed sorrow over the death of the two soldiers "who gave their lives to save those of our citizens". And Parly thanked authorities in Benin and Burkina Faso for their help with the "complex operation", as well as the United States which provided intelligence and support.
The operation was also made possible by the presence of France's Operation Barkhane, which counts some 4,500 troops deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces battle jihadist groups. American special forces and drones are also known to operate in the violence-wracked Sahel region, which France fears could become further destabilised as jihadist groups are pushed out of north Africa, Iraq and Syria. Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
- Relief and sadness -
The French tourists -- Patrick Picque who works in a Paris jewellery shop, and Laurent Lassimouillas a piano teacher, -- went missing with their guide on the last leg of their holiday in usually peaceful Benin. The Pendjari wildlife reserve, which is famed for its elephants and lions, lies close to the porous border with Burkina Faso. The badly disfigured body of their guide was found shortly after they disappeared, as well as their abandoned four-wheel Toyota truck. The two freed men will be flown back to France on Saturday, alongside the South Korean woman, where they will be met on arrival by Macron and other top French officials. Washington thanked the French forces for freeing the American hostage, with France saying she would likely be "repatriated independently" from the other three.
The two dead French soldiers were named as Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, decorated naval special forces members born in 1986 and 1991 respectively. They were part of the prestigious Hubert commando unit of the French naval special forces which was deployed to the Sahel at the end of March. A total of 24 French soldiers have died in the region since 2013 when France intervened to drive back jihadist groups who had taken control of northern Mali. The last death was on April 2.
Cotonou, June 29, 2018 (AFP) - Benin's Constitutional Court has banned the right to strike by workers in the country's defence, security, justice and health sectors, sparking concern among union officials and legal observers. The ruling, issued late on Thursday, came after months of wrangling between the government and the court, which had previously said the measure was unconstitutional.
"Civil servants, public security forces and equivalents should fulfil their duties in all circumstances and not exercise their right to strike," the court said in its new ruling. "There should be no disruption to the duties of public sector defence, security, justice and health workers." The decision was taken "in the public interest" and for "the protection of citizens", it said.
Speaking on Friday, one senior union leader, who asked to remain anonymous, described the ruling as shocking and a "hammer blow". And Benin legal affairs expert Albert Medagbe told AFP the decision was a "worrying sudden legal U-turn". Earlier this month, a close ally of President Patrice Talon, Joseph Djogbenou, was elected to lead the Constitutional Court during a vote held behind closed doors. Djogbenou is Talon's former personal lawyer and was previously Benin's attorney general.
Until his arrival, the court had strained relations with Talon, and had criticised the government for misunderstanding and failing to respect the constitution. The small West African nation was last year hit by a wave of public sector strikes, which brought the education, health and justice system to a near halt. The industrial action was sparked by Talon's attempts to introduce free-market reforms.
Cotonou, Feb 21, 2018 (AFP) - Nine people appeared in a Benin court Wednesday on charges of selling fake drugs at the start of a landmark trial in a regional campaign against illicit medicines. The suspects, who include executives from major pharmaceutical companies operating in the West African nation, were remanded in custody until March 6 on technical grounds. They are accused of "the sale of falsified medicines, (and) display, possession with a view to selling, commercialisation or sale of falsified medical substances." A tenth defendant, the head of the Directorate for Pharmacies, Medications and Diagnostic Evaluation (DPMED) under the control of the ministry of health, was not in court on the trial's opening day. He is accused of failing to prevent the offences.
Benin launched the crackdown last year after mounting alarm about the scale of the trafficking of expired and counterfeit drugs in West Africa. Fake medicines are drugs that are bogus or below regulatory standards but often are outwardly indistinguishable from the genuine product. Taking them may do nothing to tackle an illness or -- in the case of antibiotics -- worsen the problem of microbial resistance. According to an investigation by the Paris-based International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM), West African markets are awash with fake drugs made in China and India.
In 2015, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated that 122,000 children under five died due to taking poor-quality antimalarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa. A 15-nation regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), last April announced an investigation into the fake drugs business. A lawyer for the civilian plaintiffs told AFP that the trial in Benin was adjourned until March 6 at their request "in order to incorporate another case, of illegal pharmaceutical practice".
May 08, 2008
Algeria is the second-largest country in Africa, with over four-fifths of its territory covered by the Sahara desert.
The country has a population of 35 million p
Algeria is a multi-party, constitutional republic.
Facilities for travelers are available in populated areas, but sometimes limited in quality and quantity.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Algeria for additional information.
Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Algeria.
The Algerian visa application must be typed.
The Algerian Embassy no longer accepts handwritten visa applications.
For further information on entry/exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria at 2137 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 265-2800.
Visit the Embassy of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria web site at http://www.algeria-us.org for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Although no Americans are known to have been killed by terrorists in Algeria, more than 120 foreigners were murdered at the height of the terrorism threat in Algeria in the 1990s.
In response to the terrorist threat, the U.S. government substantially reduced the number of U.S. Government personnel in Algeria during the 1990s.
Small-scale terrorist activities, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, ambushes, and assassinations, occur regularly.
Since early 2007, vehicle-borne suicide bomb attacks have emerged as a terrorist tactic in Algeria, including in the capital.
Suicide car bomb attacks in December 2007 targeted the UN Headquarters and the Algerian Constitutional Council in Algiers.
The attacks occurred in areas where many diplomatic missions and residences are located.
The group that claimed credit for the December attacks has pledged more attacks against foreign targets, and specifically American targets.
The Travel Warning for Algeria contains the most current information concerning the threat from terrorism.
Currently, Embassy staffing is at full capacity and the Embassy is able to provide full services. U.S. Government employees traveling between cities must be accompanied by a security escort.
U.S. citizens should also carefully consider the security risks involved when using public transportation such as buses and taxis.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
The crime rate in Algeria is moderately high and increasing.
Serious crimes have been reported in which armed men posing as police officers have entered homes and robbed the occupants at gunpoint.
False roadblocks/checkpoints have been employed to rob motorists (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section below).
Some of these incidents resulted in the murder of the vehicles' occupants; there has been an increase in the kidnapping of vehicle occupants who appear to be wealthy.
Petty theft and home burglary occur frequently, and muggings are on the rise, especially after dark in the cities.
Theft of contents and parts from parked cars, pick-pocketing, theft on trains and buses, theft of items left in hotel rooms and purse snatching are common.
Alarms, grills, and/or guards help to protect most foreigners' residences.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.
In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Hospitals and clinics in Algeria are available and improving in the large urban centers, but are still not up to Western standards. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services.
Most medical practitioners speak French; English is not widely used.
Prescription medicines are not always readily available.
Some pharmacies may at times be out-of-stock.
In addition, the medicine may be sold under a different brand name and may contain a different dosage than in the U.S.
Please be aware that some newer medications may not yet be available in Algeria.
It is usually easy to obtain over-the-counter products.
Emergency services are satisfactory, but response time is often unpredictable.
In all cases, response time is not as fast as in the U.S.
Cases of tuberculosis are regularly reported, but do not reach endemic levels.
Every summer, public health authorities report limited occurrences of water-borne diseases, such as typhoid.
In addition, HIV/AIDS is a concern in the remote southern part of the country, especially in border towns.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en .
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Algeria is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Algerian roads are overcrowded and traffic-related accidents kill a large number of people every year.
Drivers will encounter police and military checkpoints on major roads within and on the periphery of Algiers and other major cities.
Security personnel at these checkpoints expect full cooperation.
Motorists should be aware that terrorists employ false roadblocks as a tactic for ambushes and kidnappings, primarily in the central regions of Boumerdes and Tizi Ouzou and some parts of eastern Algeria (see Crime section above).
Travel overland, particularly in the southern regions, may require a permit issued by the Algerian government.
For specific information concerning Algerian driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Algerian Embassy.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of the national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.ministere-transports.gov.dz/ .
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Algeria, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Algeria’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Algeria maintains restrictions on the import and export of local currency.
Foreign currency must be exchanged only at banks or authorized currency exchange locations, such as major hotels.
Photography of military and government installations is prohibited.
It is also illegal to import weapons, body armor, handcuffs or binoculars.
Please see our Customs Information.
Islam is the state religion of Algeria.
The Algerian government allows non-Muslim religious worship only in structures exclusively intended and approved for that purpose. Activities such as proselytizing, engaging in activities which the Algerian authorities could view as encouraging conversion to another faith, and convening religious ceremonies in private residences are prohibited under a March 2006 law.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Algerian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Algeria are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
For information on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction, please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Algeria are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Algeria.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 5 Chemin Cheikh Bachir El-Ibrahimi, B.P. 408 (Alger-gare) 16000, in the capital city of Algiers.
The telephone number is  770-08-20-00 which can also be reached after hours.
The fax number is  21-9822-99.
The U.S. Embassy work week is Saturday through Wednesday.
* * * * * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated March 26, 2008, to update the section on Crime.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Algiers, Feb 25, 2020 (AFP) - Algerian authorities on Tuesday announced the country's first case of the novel coronavirus, in an Italian citizen who arrived in the country on February 17. "One case was confirmed positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), out of two suspected cases (both) of Italian nationality," the North African country's health ministry said. State television said the infected person had been placed in isolation, without offering further details. The health ministry said it had reinforced its "monitoring and surveillance systems at all points of entry" into Algeria.
Paris, Sept 9, 2019 (AFP) - Some 13,000 passengers, mainly booked on flights to and from Algeria, are still stranded after France's second-largest airline Aigle Azur went into receivership, a senior French official said Monday, adding that several potential buyers had been identified. The airline, which employs almost 1,200 staff, filed for bankruptcy and suspended flights last week after losses which prompted a shareholder coup that ousted the chief executive. "Out of 19,000 passengers who found themselves in difficulty at the peak of the crisis, there are still 13,000" who have yet to be repatriated, the secretary of state for transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, told the Le Parisien daily.
He said these included 11,000 passengers booked on flights into and out of Algeria, 600 on Mali flights as well as other destinations ranging from Russia to Lebanon. Air France chartered two special flights on Saturday and then again on Sunday to help passengers booked on Algeria flights, which flew out one quarter full but were full on the return. "The hardest moment of the crisis will be over before the end of the week. At least half the passengers (affected) will have been repatriated," Djebbari said.
The airline transported last year some 1.9 million passengers, with destinations in Algeria making up half of its operations that brought in 300 million euros ($329 million) of revenue. "There needs to be a serious buyer who is capable of offering guarantees for a maximum number of employees. The good news is that many (potential buyers) have expressed interest," said Djebbari.
He said the former chief executive of Air France's subsidiary Hop!, Lionel Guerin, was among interested parties, backed by a team of aviation professionals with financial support. He added that Air France itself also appeared interested in making an offer. "This shows there is still an interest in Aigle Azur," he added. Neither party has so far publicly confirmed an interest, with Air France declining to comment on an "evolving" situation.
According to union officials, Air France could be interested in the medium-haul routes to Algeria and the Dubreuil group, the majority shareholder in Air Caraibes, the long haul routes to destinations like Brazil and Mali. The largest shareholder in Aigle Azur is the Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which owns Hainan Airlines, with a 49-percent stake. David Neeleman, an American airline entrepreneur whose companies include JetBlue and TAP Air Portugal, owns 32 percent, and French businessman Gerard Houa owns 19 percent.
8 May 2019. 358 confirmed cases [of Dengue] and 1100 records of patients with fever
Albania US Consular Information Sheet November 04, 2008
Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Eu
A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. U.S. citizens do not require a visa prior to entering Albania, but those traveling without a visa will be charged a fee for an entry stamp at the point of entry, which is valid for a stay of up to 90 days. This fee is currently 10 Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Travelers without a visa who intend to stay in Albania for more than 90 days should be aware that Albanian law allows a traveler without a visa to remain in Albania for 90 days only within a specific 180-day period. That 180-day period is defined from the first day of entry. For example, a traveler entering without a visa on January 1 may remain in Albania for 90 days total during the period of time between January 1 and June 28. Departing Albania during this time period does not "restart the clock." Travelers attempting to reenter Albania without a visa and within 180 days of a previous entry and after an aggregate stay of 90 days may be denied entry. For stays exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Visit the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/consular.html#visa for the most current visa information. Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian Embassy or Consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal activity continues to operate in all regions, and corruption is pervasive. US Government employees need permission to travel to the northern administrative districts of Shkoder, Malesi E Madhe and Tropoje (with the exception of the route along the national road to Montenegro and the city of Shkoder) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. Travel restrictions for U.S. Government employees have been lifted for overnight stays in the city of Shkoder. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Photographing anything that authorities regard as being of military or security interest may cause travelers problems. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
In the latest State Department assessment, Albania’s crime rating is “medium.” Crime against foreigners is rare in Albania, as targeting foreigners is often viewed as too risky. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, have occurred in the past, particularly in the early morning hours. Within the last years there have been fewer cases of carjacking compared with previous years. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime continues to be more common in northern and northwestern Albania than in the rest of the country. Street crime is fairly common in Albania, particularly at night. Criminals do not seem to deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but do seek targets of opportunity, and select those who appear to have anything of value. Vehicle theft is still one of the biggest problems in Albania. Pick-pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pick-pockets. INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 129, though coverage is inconsistent at best. See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION
Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications. Recent electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country, which can affect food storage capabilities of restaurants and shops. While some restaurants and food stores have generators to properly store food, travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Water in Albania is not potable. Visitors should plan to purchase bottled water or drinks while in country. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Albania. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Major roads in Albania are often in very poor condition. Traveling by road throughout Albania is the most dangerous activity for locals and tourists. Vehicle accidents are the major cause of death, according to police statistics. Electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country that can happen any hour of the day or night. Such outages affect traffic signals and street lights, making driving increasingly treacherous at any time of day. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and icy conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at www.albaniantourism.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. See our information pertaining to dual nationality. Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in most cities. Please see our Customs Information CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Albania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION
Americans living or traveling in Albania are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Albania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rruga Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 2247285; fax (355)(4) 2232222. The U.S. Embassy web site is http://tirana.usembassy.gov/ * * * This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 10, 2008, to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, Nov 26, 2019 (AFP) - Six people died and some 150 were injured in Albania after the strongest earthquake in decades rocked the Balkan country early Tuesday, destroying buildings and burying victims in rubble.
The epicentre of the 6.4 magnitude quake was about 34 kilometres (about 20 miles) northwest of the capital Tirana, at a depth of 10 km, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre. "We have victims," Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Twitter. "We are working to do everything possible in the affected areas." The quake struck at 3:54 am local time (0254 GMT) and sent panicked residents running out onto the streets of Tirana, with people huddling in the open, an AFP correspondent said.
The worst damage appeared to be around the coastal town of Durres. The quake was the strongest to hit this region since 1926, Albanian seismologist Rrapo Ormeni told local television. Three bodies were pulled from the ruins of damaged buildings in the port town, where a three-story hotel collapsed and other buildings were damaged, according to the defence ministry. The bodies of a man and a woman were uncovered in rubble in the nearby town of Thumane, the ministry said.
A man in his fifties died after he jumped out of his building in panic in the town of Kurbin, the defence ministry said. Some 300 armed forces personnel have rushed to Durres and Thumane for rescue operations, where "there are people trapped under the ruins", defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qahajaj said.
In Thumane, around a dozen rescuers used an excavator to dig through a mountain of debris in search of possible victims. At least 150 people with injuries have sought first aid in Tirana and Durres, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterliu said.
- Trapped under rubble -
In Thumane, soldiers, rescuers and families were sifting through the rubble of a collapsed five-storey building as cries of people trapped under debris were heard, an AFP reporter said. Thoma Nika, a 58-year-old who lived in the building, said there were at least six people under rubble. Another man, Arben Allushi said with tears in his eyes, that his wife and niece missing after the building collapsed.
A man in Durres told local television that his daughter and niece were trapped in the rubble of a collapsed apartment building. "I talked with my daughter and niece on the phone. They said they are well and are waiting for the rescue. I could not talk to my wife. There are other families, but I could not talk to them," the man said.
The tremors were felt across the Balkan region, from Sarajevo to Bosnia and even in the Serbian city of Novi Sad almost 700 kilometres away, according to reports in local media and on social networks. It was followed by several aftershocks, including one of 5.3 magnitude, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre said. It was described by authorities as the strongest earthquake in the last 20-30 years. The Balkans is an area prone to seismic activity and earthquakes are frequent.
Tirana, Sept 21, 2019 (AFP) - Albania was rattled by its strongest earthquake in decades Saturday, officials said, sending people fleeing into the streets in several cities, damaging buildings and triggering power cuts in the capital. The epicentre of the shallow 5.6-magnitude quake, was near Durres, less than 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the capital Tirana, according to the US Geological Survey.
Albania's defence ministry said it was the "strongest earthquake in the country in the last 20 to 30 years". "There are no deaths," defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qajaj said. Some 80 people sought medical help in both Tirana and Durres, 21 of whom were hospitalised due to injuries caused by falling objects or parts of walls as well as for panic attacks, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterilu said. Qajaj told AFP that houses and buildings in Tirana had been damaged but were still standing and that the ministry was accessing damage in other towns and villages. Prime Minister Edi Rama cancelled his scheduled trip to the United States following the quake, which cut electricity and telephone lines in Tirana and a number of other towns and villages.
Many people remained outside their homes for several hours in the capital, fearful of aftershocks. "I fear to return because such a strong earthquake could be followed with others," Drita Lohja, a resident in her fifties, told AFP. Falling debris pulverised parked cars in parts of the city. AFP reporters and witnesses saw windows broken and deep fissures in the facades of buildings in Durres, as well as in the capital. Media reported that a large building in Tirana was seriously damaged and that residents were being evacuated. A University of Tirana building was also damaged, witnesses said.
According to local media reports, at least two people were lightly injured and a dozen houses collapsed in the village of Helmes, 10 kilometres from Tirana. Two other earthquakes followed the strong one that occurred at around 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) and was felt in neighbouring Montenegro and Italy, but also on the Greek island of Corfu according to some Twitter users.
Tirana, March 9, 2018 (AFP) - The military has been deployed in northern Albania to help hundreds of people trapped by floods following heavy rainfall, authorities said on Friday. More than 9,230 hectares (22,800 acres) of agricultural land is underwater in the Shkodra region, including villages where the only means of transport is by boat, the defence ministry said.
Army personnel are evacuating residents and securing food supplies in the affected areas, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital, Tirana. The torrential rain in recent days has caused landslides damaging dozens of homes and flooding roads, said the transport ministry. The rain has also forced the Albanian authorities to release excess water from a hydroelectric plant, which has added to the flooding in northern areas of the country. Weather forecasters say the rain is likely to ease from Saturday.
Tirana, Dec 3, 2017 (AFP) - Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed in Albania to rescue stranded residents after heavy rainfall triggered major flooding, and caused the death of a utility worker, officials and the power company said Sunday. The victim, Sabri Vlinga, died while he was working on a electricity pole at Roskovec in the flooded south of the country, the power company said in statement. Two other people were injured in similar accidents. it added. Some 6,400 police and soldiers have been sent to help rescue people stranded by the floods, Prime MInister Edi Rama said Saturday, calling the situation "very critical".
Around 1,500 people in the affected areas have been rescued, while several thousand homes were without electricity as many utility poles have been swept away by mudslides, said Shemsi Prenci, head of civil protection. More than 7,874 hectares (19,450 acres) of farm land as well as 3,193 homes are under water and several roads in the south remained impassable.
Army forces have built a temporary bridge at Darezeze, about 70 kilometres (44 miles) from the capital Tirana, to come to the aid of 2,000 residents stranded by the floods, the defence ministry said. In neighbouring Macedonia, the heavy rains have also caused flooding as several rivers include the main Vardar river have burst their banks, the MIA news agency reported.
Tunisia is situated in Northern Africa and is a common tourist destination for Irish travellers. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and southwest, Libya to the south east and the Medite
Safety & Security
Most tourists will not have any significant difficulties in this regard but criminals have targeted tourists and business travellers for thefts, pickpocketing, and scams.
Care should be taken with wallets and other valuables kept in handbags or backpacks that can be easily opened from behind in crowded streets or marketplaces.
Harassment of unaccompanied females occurs rarely in hotels, but more frequently elsewhere.
The level of health care facilities in Tunisia will usually be found to be below that normally accepted at home in Ireland. In general the larger hotels will have English speaking doctors in attendance. Unfortunately the hospital/clinic backup for these practitioners is usually very limited.
Food & Water Facilities
The World Health Organisation statistics suggest that close to 35% of all travellers to these regions will develop significant diarrhoea during their stay. In almost all cases this can be traced back to unwise eating and drinking habits by tourists not taking sufficient care. Most significantly, travellers should stay away from cold foods (especially lettuce) and also all undercooked shell fish (mainly prawns, oysters, mussels and shrimps).
Hotel tap water will frequently not be potable and should not be used for drinking or brushing teeth. Sealed mineral water should be used at all times.
Fruit juice drinks sold by street traders should always be avoided as frequently the drink will have been supplemented with straight tap water.
Malaria in Tunisia
It is fortunate that this disease is not endemic in Tunisia and so travellers do not require to take prophylactic tablets. Nevertheless there are plenty of mosquitoes and sandflys during the hotter summer months and travellers will need to use insect repellents to protect against these uncomfortable bites. (see Protection against Insect Bites - Tropical Medical Bureau )
Jiggers & Chiggers
These are uncomfortable parasitic diseases which usually occur on the feet and often present looking like an ingrown toenail. Travellers returning home with unexplained skin rashes should always attend for medical assessment.
This viral disease occurs throughout Africa and is evident in Tunisia. The disease can be transmitted by the bite (or lick or scratch) of any infected warm-blooded animal. Dogs will be the main risk animal but cats and monkeys can also transmit the disease. Any contact must be treated seriously and washed out immediately. An antiseptic should then be applied and further medical attention must always be sought.
This is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of an infected sandfly. The disease occurs in Tunisia mainly during the summer and autumn months. Sandflys are much smaller than mosquitoes and are mainly found hovering around your ankles usually first thing in the morning or during the cooler evening hours. In most cases the bites cause little harm but occasionally deep infection can occur with more serious consequences. Again, travellers should wear sensible clothing and use adequate insect repellent. A bite which is slow to heal needs to be medically checked.
One of the common health complaints associated with Tunisia relates to travellers becoming sun burnt while there on holidays. This is particularly the case with smaller children and toddlers. It is essential that travellers use high factor protection creams to lessen the risk of burning and to remember that skin cancer is commonly associated with burnt skin.
Anthrax from Leather Goods
This bacterial disease has been reported in Tunisia and travellers need to be aware that the disease can be transmitted through unprepared leather goods usually bought in the local market places. Even though this will be rare, any unusual sore should be medically checked after you return home.
Vaccinations for Tunisia
There are no essential vaccinations for Tunisia but travellers from Ireland are strongly recommended to have vaccination cover against
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
Those spending longer periods in the country, or trekking, may need to consider vaccination cover
Be careful of the intense sun during the summer months. Care with food and water consumption will also be essential at all times.
If you require any further information on staying healthy while overseas please contact either of the help lines at the numbers below.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Tunis, March 20, 2020 (AFP) - Tunisian President Kais Saied on Friday declared a nationwide, round-the-clock self-isolation of inhabitants to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country after an increase in confirmed cases. Saied did not specify the start time or duration of the self-isolation. Tunisia, which has already closed its borders and imposed a curfew from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. (1700-0500 GMT), has reported more than 50 cases of the COVID-19 disease and one death.
Ain Snoussi, Tunisia, Dec 1, 2019 (AFP) - At least 24 Tunisians were killed and 18 more injured Sunday when a bus plunged off a cliff into a ravine in the country's north, officials said. The bus had set off from Tunis to the picturesque mountain town of Ain Draham, a popular autumn destination for Tunisians near the Algerian border, the tourism ministry said. Twenty-four people were killed and 18 injured, the victims aged between 20 and 30, said the health ministry, releasing updated information on the tragedy. Pictures and video footage shared online and posted on the websites of private radio stations showed the mangled remains of the bus with its seats scattered in the bed of a river.
Bodies, some in sports clothes and trainers, and personal belongings were strewn across the ground. The bus with 43 people on board was travelling through the Ain Snoussi region when it plunged over the cliff, the interior ministry said. The vehicle had "fallen into a ravine after crashing through an iron barrier," it said on its Facebook page. The injured were transferred to nearby hospitals, the interior ministry said. Forensic experts were deployed to investigate the crash, said AFP correspondents at the scene. It was not immediately clear what caused the accident but Tunisian roads are known to be notoriously dangerous and run-down.
Tourism Minister Rene Trabelsi told a private radio station Mosaique FM that the "unfortunate accident took place in a difficult area" and just after the bus had taken a "sharp bend". An civil defence official, speaking on state television, said there had previously been deadly accidents at the same spot. Social network users bemoaned the tragedy, as Tunisian President Kaid Saied and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed arrived at the site of the accident. "What a heavy toll," one of them said. Another denounced the "roads of death" in Tunisia and wrote: "24 dead and no one from the government has declared a national catastrophe".
The World Health Organization in 2015 said Tunisia had the second worst traffic death rate per capita in North Africa, behind only war-torn Libya. Experts blamed run-down roads, reckless driving and poor vehicle maintenance for a rise in accidents the following year. The authorities recognise the scale of the problem but have said the country's security challenges, including jihadist attacks, have kept them from giving it more attention.
By Akim Rezgui
iles Kuriat, Tunisie, Nov 27, 2019 (AFP) - Between plastic chairs on a crowded Tunisian tourist beach, a sign indicates where another species shares the sand: a nest is buried below. On this paradisaical island off the coast of Monastir -- a resort town south of the capital Tunis -- tourists co-exist with loggerhead turtles thanks to a novel initiative. Since 2017, the Tunisian government and a local NGO have jointly run a turtle conservation programme under the noses of bathing-suited beach-goers, who are offered an environmental education along with their holiday.
The Kuriat islands are the westernmost permanent loggerhead turtle breeding site on the Mediterranean's south coast, and are in the process of being listed as a protected nature reserve. But while the islands are an important turtle sanctuary, the white sand beaches and crystal waters of little Kuriat are irresistible to holidaymakers. During turtle hatching season from July to October, day-trippers arrive daily in their hundreds, transported on pirate-themed boats for barbecues and swimming. "I thought that this was just an island where I'd go to swim, eat and return," said holidaymaker Souad Khachnaoui. "I'd never imagined that this site was so important for turtles, birds and other species."
Rather than ban visitors, the authorities work with local volunteers to brief arriving tourists on the local fauna, including the jellyfish-eating turtles, which can live for a century. "Many people are stunned on arrival, they didn't think that we had these kinds of animals in our country," said Manel Ben Ismail, co-founder of the environmental NGO Notre Grand Bleu, which means "Our great blue (ocean)". And if they are lucky, tourists can watch as volunteers help defenceless hatchling turtles -- measuring just five centimetres (two inches) across -- on their journey from the nest to the sea. Loggerheads are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They do not become fertile until about 20 years old and breed only every two to three years. Female loggerheads return to the same beach where they were born to lay their clutch of about 100 eggs. But it is a perilous life cycle and only one in a thousand juveniles lives to reproductive age.
The Kuriat islands -- the largest of which is a military zone and the smaller is not permanently settled -- offer young turtles slightly better survival odds. Both are far from the light pollution of the mainland, which can disorientate hatchlings. This year 42 nests were recorded on the islands. Layings have increased since monitoring started in 1997. If managed correctly, tourism can be a boon for the islands as visitors learn about conservation, the government believes. "We try to strike a balance between ecological activities and the economic activities of people on this site," said Ahmed Ben Hamida, head of the Kuriat Marine Protected Area for the government agency for coastal protection.
Tunis, June 27, 2019 (AFP) - Two suicide bombers attacked security forces in the Tunisian capital on Thursday, killing a police officer and wounding at least eight people including several civilians, the interior ministry said. One attack on the main street of Tunis wounded three civilians and two police personnel, the interior ministry initially said. "Five (are) wounded -- three civilians and two police officers", Interior Ministry spokesman Sofiene Zaag told AFP, before later saying that a police officer had died of his wounds.
Body parts were strewn in the road around a police car on Habib Bourguiba avenue near the old city, according to an AFP correspondent. "It was a suicide attack, which took place at 10:50 (0950 GMT)," Zaag said. The second attack targeted a base of the national guard in the capital and wounded four security personnel, the ministry said. "At 11:00 am (1000 GMT) an individual blew himself up outside the back door" of the base, wounding four security personnel, Zaag said. Civil protection units and police rapidly deployed to Habib Bourguiba avenue, where the interior ministry is located. People initially fled in panic, before some crowded around the scene of the attack, expressing anger against the authorities. Shops and offices were closed by police.
Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring uprisings, has been hit by repeated Islamist attacks since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. On October 29, 2018 an unemployed graduate blew herself up near police cars on Habib Bourguiba, killing herself and wounding 26 people, mostly police officers, according to the interior ministry. The Tunisian authorities said the suicide bomber had sworn allegiance to IS.
The attack was the first to rock the Tunisian capital for over three and a half years. In March 2015, jihadist gunmen killed 21 tourists and a policeman at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis. And in June that year, 30 Britons were among 38 foreign holidaymakers killed in a gun and grenade attack on a beach resort near the Tunisian city of Sousse.
By Caroline Nelly Perrot
Tunis, May 9, 2019 (AFP) - As holidaymakers flock to Tunisia once more following a series of attacks, the country's tourism minister has his sights set on diversifying the industry and taking visitors beyond the beach. "Practically all the big tour operators here have returned," said Rene Trabelsi, six months into his ministerial post. He credits "huge efforts" for making the country safe for visitors again, after attacks in 2015 targeting tourists. Gunmen killed 21 foreign visitors and a Tunisian security guard at the capital's Bardo National Museum, followed by a shooting rampage at a Sousse beach resort which left 38 people dead -- mostly British tourists.
Britain, France and other countries have recently eased their travel warnings, deeming most of Tunisia now safe. Two million holidaymakers have visited Tunisia so far this year, according to government figures touted by the tourism minister. That marks a 24 percent jump on the same period last year, and a 7 percent increase compared to the 2010 industry reference point. But despite tourists returning, revenue has so far failed to reach that of nearly a decade ago.
The indebted industry is heavily reliant upon cheap "all-inclusive" holidays and the government is trying to diversify the tourism sector, which accounts for around 7 percent of GDP. "During the high season, Tunisia will be packed, but we're interested in the low season, from September to March," said Trabelsi, sitting behind his large desk in the capital Tunis. The minister wants to attract tourists over the winter months who are also interested in activities away from the beach. "We're negotiating with the tour operators" to offer charter flights after the summer, said Trabelsi who hopes visitors will sign up for golf, spa treatments and cultural activities. "This year already, a lot of hotels which closed during winter after the crisis, want to stay open," he said. An electronic music festival in southern Tunisia is due to take place in September, while a jazz festival is planned in Tabarka near the Algerian border.
- No 'right to fail' -
Whereas half the holidaymakers in 2010 were European, they now make up less than a third of visitors amid an increasing number of tourists from other North African countries and further afield. The government aims to welcome nine million visitors this year, but Trabelsi said Tunisians still need to tackle "environmental terrorism" to avoid scaring tourists away. "I'm using that word to shock and alert," said the minister, warning that poor environmental standards can put tourists off "like when there's an attack".
Following Tunisia's 2011 revolution, authorities failed to keep atop of waste management. Municipal councils were elected for the first time a year ago but the clean-up is far from complete. "We also have a cultural problem," said Trabelsi. "If each person swept outside their front door, that would already be huge." Trabelsi has for years been co-organiser of an annual Jewish pilgrimage to Djerba, where his father is president of the island's synagogue, and in the 1990s he set up his own travel agency. But months into his first political post, he said he has no intention of staying in government long-term. "I want to make a mark, and Tunisians expect a lot from me. I come from the private sector, I have a different religion, so I don't have the right to fail," Trabelsi said. "But once my mission is accomplished, I'll return to my own affairs."
This southern African country is a popular destination for travellers from Ireland. Victoria Falls must be one of the main tourist attractions but many other visitors will explore the rich s
Safety & Security
The level of petty crime is increasing throughout the country as stability decreases. Muggings and pickpocketing occur too often in the main urban areas and especially in the capital - Harare. Care should be taken when getting money from ATM’s or when leaving the banks. Try to have a companion with you and avoid busy market places and crowded local transport. Use hotel safe boxes and don’t leave personal belongings on view where possible. Avoid flaunting personal wealth, only use authorised taxis and take care if visiting late-night bars etc. Credit care fraud is becoming more common so ensure that your card never leaves your sight.
Travel in Zimbabwe
Hiring cars or motorbikes is unwise as the number of serious accidents involving tourists is considerable. Many hazards occur along the roads including unlit abandoned trucks, stray livestock and pedestrians and poor fuel supplies. Many roads are in a poor state of repair and those requiring assistance may have to wait many hours in a deserted location. Car jacking and theft from cars is increasing. If driving long distances you should ensure that you have sufficient fuel and adequate supplies of food and water in case of emergency. A torch and sensible medical kit are also prerequisites.
Outside of the main urban centres of Harare and Bulawayo the level of healthcare for tourists may be very limited. Even in the cities shortages of some main medications may lead to inadequate treatment and evacuation to South Africa may become necessary. Any tourist on personal medication (asthma, diabetes, contraceptive pill etc) should make certain that they have sufficient supplies with them to complete their journey through Zimbabwe.
The risk of rabies occurs throughout the country for those exposed to infected warm-blooded animals. This will be mainly following a bite from an infected dog but cats and monkeys and many other animals also carry the disease. Returning to Harare and possibly to South Africa will be essential to ensure adequate early treatment.
Playing Golf in Zimbabwe
Many tourists visiting Zimbabwe will play golf on some of their many courses. Golf tends to be played during the hours soon after dawn and towards dusk when mosquitoes may abound. They should be aware that there is an increased risk of malaria from mosquito bites (in infected regions) but also of wandering into the rough to retrieve a ball and being bitten by snakes or ticks or stung by scorpions. Avoiding the rough is a wise precaution!
White Water Rafting & Bungee Jumping
Many tourists to the Zambezi region partake of adventure sports including white water rafting and bungee jumping. Check whether of not your travel insurance covers these activities and be aware that both activities can carry significant risks. The bungee jump at Victoria Falls is recognised as one of the highest in the world at 111 metres. Generally the safety and security is good but accidents do occur. The risks of serious injury from white water rafting are also present both from direct trauma (eg bruising, drowning, fractures etc) and also from exposure to Schistosomiasis in the calm fresh water regions along the Zambezi. This parasitic disease is more common in those who swim in Lake Malawi but does occur in Zimbabwe. Serious long-term effects are regularly reported in those returning after fresh water contact in Africa.
Food & Water Facilities
Despite the diminishing security situation throughout the country and the food shortages which have been reported among the local population, the main tourist hotels are still receiving sufficient supplies. This situation may change and travellers should be aware that the level of service may be affected. Lettuce and cold foods may not be adequately treated and should be avoided. Unpeeled fruits should be fine but tap water should not be used for brushing your teeth unless you can easily smell chlorine.
Insect & Mosquito Bites
The Zambezi valley region (including Victoria Falls) is probably the single highest risk region for tourists developing malaria throughout the world. It is essential that adequate malaria prophylaxis is used at all times of the year for those visiting this region. Those remaining in the central highlands (cities of Harare and Bulawayo) will not need prophylaxis as the risk of this mosquito borne disease is very small. Tsetse flies transmit sleeping sickness and this may be a risk for those visiting some of the safari parks. Good repellent and adequate light coloured clothing is essential.
Sun Exposure & Dehydration
It is important to increase your intake of fluids and salt while perspiring significantly in a hot climate. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is also important.
Vaccines for Zimbabwe
There are no essential vaccines for entry into Zimbabwe from Ireland. However those crossing into Zambia at Victoria Falls (and having their passport stamped) may find that the authorities demand evidence of cover against Yellow Fever before re-entry. Otherwise most tourists are advised to consider adequate cover against:
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food and water disease)
Hepatitis A (food and water disease)
Those planning a longer or more rural trip will also need to consider cover against diseases like Hepatitis B and Rabies.
The majority of tourists visiting Zimbabwe will remain very healthy and well providing they remain conscious of the prevailing local uncertainty and follow some simple precautions against food and water disease, mosquito bites, and accidents.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Harare, March 30, 2020 (AFP) - Zimbabwean authorities on Monday began enforcing a three-week lockdown in its fight against the spread of coronavirus after the disease left one person dead and infected six others. President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a 21-day "total" lockdown from Monday curtailing movement within the country, shutting most shops and suspending flights in and out of Zimbabwe. Police mounted checkpoints on routes leading to Harare's central business district, stopping cars and turning away pedestrians who had no authorisation to be in the area.
Elsewhere truckloads of metropolitan and national police armed with batons were on patrol, ordering people back to their homes. "We don't want to see people here on the streets. We don't want to see people who have no business in town just loitering," a policewoman said through a loud hailer. "Everyone to their homes." Her colleagues, in riot gear, dispersed people standing in small groups at the Copacabana minibus terminus, which is usually abuzz with people including foreign currency dealers. In the township of Mbare, the usually bustling terminus for long-distance buses was deserted with only municipal street cleaners sweeping the empty bus ranks. A traditionally busy downtown area of Harare referred to as "The Third World" resembled a ghost town with few people on the streets. Most shops had their shutters down.
For many of the country's 16 million people, who are already suffering a grim economic recession, the lockdown means even tougher hardship. With unemployment rate estimated at around 90 percent, most Zimbabweans have informal jobs to eke out a living and few have substantial savings. Some were trying to leave the city for rural villages. "We would rather spend the 21 days at our rural home, where we don't have to buy everything. I can't afford to feed my family here when I am not working," said Most Jawure. "We have been waiting here for more than two hours but there are no buses," Jawure told AFP while standing with his wife and daughter beside a bulging suitcase.
Harare, March 20, 2020 (AFP) - Zimbabwe on Friday reported its first coronavirus case, a man who returned to his home in the tourist resort town of Victoria Falls from Britain at the weekend. "The is the first case of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe," said Health Minister Obadiah Moyo on state television ZTV. "The patient is a 38-year-old Caucasian man... who had travelled to Manchester in the UK on the 7th of March and returned to his home in Victoria Falls on the 15th of March via South Africa," he said.
The Zimbabwean government on Tuesday announced a raft of steps to prevent the virus from spreading - including the cancellation of public and sporting events, and constraints on gatherings. Schools will close on Tuesday. The country's public health system, meanwhile, has been suffering for years from a lack of equipment and drugs. It came under further strain last year when hundreds of junior doctors at state hospitals staged a three-month strike over conditions and pay - which then was less than $200 a month.
See: Mullins JC, Garofolo G, Van Ert M, et al. Ecological niche modeling of _Bacillus anthracis_ on three continents: evidence for genetic-ecological divergence? PLoS One 2013;8:e72451. <https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0072451>
World Travel News Headlines
Hanga Roa, Chile, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Inhabitants of Easter Island are leaning on a traditional form of ancestral discipline to overcome a coronavirus-imposed lockdown that threatens the Pacific island's vital tourism sector, and consequently their livelihoods. Situated 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) off the coast of Chile, the island of 7,750 people is renowned for its giant humanoid monoliths called moais that were sculpted from basalt more than 1,000 years ago.
So far, there have been just two confirmed coronavirus cases on Easter Island, with two or three more under observation. But the local population can ill afford the outbreak to spread with just one hospital and three ventilators on the island. Faced with this crisis, the locals have turned to the Tapu, an ancient tradition based on taking care of oneself that has been passed down through generations of the native Rapa Nui people. "To accompany this self-care concept, we're applying the Rapa Nui tradition, an ancestral rule based on sustainability and respect," said the island's mayor Pedro Edmunds. "It's called Tapu. You can hear about this concept in all the Polynesian islands."
Tapu is a complex concept related to secrecy, rules and prohibitions from which the English word "taboo" derives. "If you say the word Tapu to a Polynesian, they will immediately tell you why we have to do Tapu. That's precisely because they know and understand what it signifies," said Edmunds. It means that the island's lockdown has been diligently respected, leading to the virus being prevented from spreading far and wide. "We've applied the Tapu concept for all Rapa Nui and the acceptance has been incredible," said Edmunds. "The virus is contained in two families in the same area, so we know where they are, who they are, and they've been respecting the (isolation) protocols since the beginning," Edmunds told AFP.
- Tourism impact -
But now, there are greater worries about the pandemic's impact on tourism. On average, 100,000 people visit the volcanic Polynesian island each year, mostly attracted by the mysterious moais. The local government was quick to react to the spreading pandemic in Latin America, closing the island's borders on March 11 -- a week before Chile's government in Santiago did likewise -- with the apparition of its first positive case. Throughout Chile, there have now been more than 3,000 cases with 16 deaths. A week ago, Easter Island was put under total lockdown with a nighttime curfew from 2:00 pm to 5:00 am. On Tuesday, these were extended for a further two weeks.
- Plan B planting -
With streets, beaches and parks deserted, the indigenous inhabitants have turned to the knowledge passed down through generations to deal with the crisis. Some indigenous Rapa Nui inhabitants have already adapted to their new circumstances and started to cultivate their land, like their ancestors did, said Sabrina Tuki, who has worked in tourism for 20 years. "Our family and many families are already applying a Plan B and we've already started planting," said Tuki, whose regular work has completely ground to a halt.
Everyone is worried about the coming months. Edmunds says the island's inhabitants can last for a month with the borders closed. But at the end of April, 3,000 people "will be seen begging in the streets for food from some local or national authority, because they won't be able to eat," said Edmunds. It won't be the Rapa Nui, though, according to Edmunds, because the community has begun to rally together behind its concept of Tapu. But the island's other inhabitants, who make up around half the population and mostly work in the service industry, will be in trouble.
- Taken by surprise -
The mayor doesn't expect the recovery to come until August, when tourists would return to the islands. When it does restart, he's expecting a reduced capacity compared to the two flights a week the island was welcoming until three weeks ago. Only one airline, Latam, operated the five-hour flights from the continent, but like many airlines its business has been hard hit by the virus. "We're all affected; the whole chain, from the biggest agency to the craftsman," said Samuel Atan, a hiking guide who says the crisis caught everyone unawares.
The pandemic has highlighted the fragility of such a remote location. Without state subsidies, many could not survive, Edmunds says. The challenge for the future will be to improve infrastructure and "re-enchant people to come back," said Tuki.
New York, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - New York mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday urged all of the city's residents to cover their faces when outside and near others to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. "Let's be clear. This is a face covering. It could be a scarf. It could be something you create yourself at home. It could be a bandana," de Blasio told reporters. "It doesn't need to be a professional surgical mask. In fact, we don't want you to use the kind of masks that our first responders need, that our health care workers need. Don't use those," he added. New York is the epicenter of America's deadly COVID-19 outbreak. The city has recorded almost 50,000 confirmed cases, including 1,562 deaths, according to the mayor's office. As of Thursday evening, the United States had a total of more than 243,000 declared cases and over 5,900 fatalities, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.
President Donald Trump told reporters at his daily White House briefing on the coronavirus that he was not considering making it mandatory for all Americans to cover their faces. "For example on the masks, if people wanted to wear them they can. If people wanted to use scarves, which many people have them, they can. "In many cases, scarves are better. It's thicker. Depending on the material, it's thicker," he said. Vice President Mike Pence added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would release official guidelines on masks in the coming days. But Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator at the White House, said it is important people do not think masks replace social distancing or hand-washing. "We don't want people to get an artificial sense of protection," she said. "They're an additive."
California Governor Gavin Newsom made similar recommendations as de Blasio on Thursday, but stressed that masks were "not a substitute" for social distancing. "Individuals (who) want to have face coverings... that is a good thing and a preferable thing, in addition to the physical distancing and the stay-at-home order," he said. More than three-quarters of Americans are currently living under various forms of lockdown, including New Yorkers who have been told not to leave their residences unless absolutely necessary.
Lima, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced on Thursday a new measure restricting public movement by gender, as the country tries to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. Men will only be allowed to leave their homes on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, while women are authorized to step outdoors on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. No one is allowed out on Sundays. "We have 10 days left, let's make this extra effort to control this disease," said Vizcarra. He said the restrictions would apply until April 12, the original end date to a lockdown he imposed on March 16. Panama announced a similar measure on Monday that went into effect two days later and will last for 15 days.
By Thursday, Peru had recorded just over 1,400 coronavirus cases and 55 deaths. Vizcarra said the new measure aims to reduce by half the number of people circulating in public at any one time. "The (existing) control measures have given good results, but not what was hoped for," said Vizcarra. These restrictions will not apply to people employed in essential services, such as grocery stores, banks, pharmacies and hospitals. Vizcarra added that security forces tasked with patrolling the streets have been told to be respectful toward the gender identities of homosexual and transgender people. "The armed forces and police have been instructed not to have homophobic attitudes," said the president.
By Samir TOUNSI
Kinshasa, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Lack of resources, a muddle over confinement and incipient panic are hobbling the response to coronavirus in DR Congo, fuelling fears especially for Kinshasa, one of Africa's largest and most chaotic cities.
Almost all of the infections in the vast central African nation have occurred in the capital, along with a handful in the east -- a deeply-troubled region hit by Ebola and militia attacks. "The coming week will be the most difficult for Kinshasa. The numbers will quickly double or triple," Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who is leading DRC's fight against the pandemic, warned in an interview with Jeune Afrique magazine. According to official figures released late Wednesday, there have been 123 confirmed cases, 11 of them deaths, in a nation of some 80 million people.
Kinshasa, which has been isolated from the rest of the country, has 118 cases but this is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg giving the paucity of testing. "On average, 50 tests are carried out each day at the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB)," said a health official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Five cases have been recorded in six days in the Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile east, destabilised by 25 years of rebel and militant attacks. Two of them emerged in Goma, the capital of the eastern North Kivu province, which is officially due to declare an end to the Ebola outbreak on April 12 if no more cases of haemorrhagic fever emerge.
- Fears of looting -
Kinshasa, home to at least 10 million people, was meant to go into lockdown on Saturday for four days under an announcement made unilaterally by the region's governor. But officials delayed the measure after the announcement triggered fears of a rise in the prices of basic goods and the risk of unrest. The national intelligence agency "warned the presidency of the threat of looting," an informed source said. The city witnessed pillaging, led by security forces, in 1991 and 1993.
A day after the lockdown U-turn, President Felix Tshisekedi held an emergency meeting but there have been no announcements since. "They want to decide on something that works. They can't afford to make mistakes," an observer said. Later on Thursday, governor Gentiny Ngobila announced that Kinshasa's government district, which is also home to a number of embassies and banks, will be "put in quarantine" for two weeks starting from Monday. Two globally-renowned names have been enlisted in the campaign against coronavirus: Dr. Muyembe, who helped discover the Ebola virus in 1976, is national coordinator, while the 2018 Nobel Peace laureate, gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, is overseeing the response in the east.
- 'General panic' -
Despite these reassuring appointments, preparations to deal with large numbers of coronavirus cases in Kinshasa are a mess, according to experts. "The medical facilities are unequipped to take in sick people, apart from a hospital run by the Chinese," a health expert said. There are only 65 ventilators in all of Kinshasa's hospitals, a researcher said. The INRB has no vehicles or fuel and foreign NGOs are pitching in to help, other sources said. The problems have been experienced first-hand by some of Tshisekedi's entourage. The president's special adviser, Vidiye Tshimanga, tested positive on March 23, after spending two days at home during which medical teams failed to arrive.
Tshimanga, who was diagnosed with a mild forum of coronavirus and is on the mend, told AFP that when he went for a lung scan on Monday, he was met by a hospital official "who refused to let me get out of the ambulance."
Quito, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Troops and police in Ecuador have collected at least 150 bodies from streets and homes in the country's most populous city Guayaquil amid warnings that as many as 3,500 people could die of the coronavirus in the city and surrounding province in the coming months. A joint military and police task force sent out to gather corpses in the horror-struck port city had collected 150 in just three days, government spokesman Jorge Wated said late Wednesday.
Residents had published videos on social media showing abandoned bodies in the streets in the Latin American city worst hit by the pandemic. Some left desperate messages for authorities to take away the corpses of people who had died in their homes. Authorities have not confirmed how many of the dead were victims of the coronavirus.
Rosa Romero, 51, lost her husband Bolivar Reyes and had to wait a day for his body to be removed from their home. A week later, amid the chaos of the city's mortuary system, she does not know where it is. "In the forensic bureau they told us that they had taken him to the Guasmo Hospital. We went there to find him but he was not registered anywhere," Romero told AFP. A 15-hour curfew imposed in the city makes further searching difficult.
- Government apology -
The government's spokesman apologized in a message broadcast on state television late Wednesday. He said mortuary workers had been unable to keep up with the removal of bodies because of the curfew. "We acknowledge any errors and apologize to those who had to wait days for their loved ones to be taken away," Wated said. Mortuary workers in masks and protective clothing were seen carrying plastic-wrapped coffins in the city on Wednesday as authorities tried to cope with the backlog of dead.
Work at cemeteries and funeral homes has stalled, with staffers reluctant to handle the dead over contagion fears. Ecuador is the Latin American country worst hit by the virus after Brazil, with more than 3,160 infections and 120 deaths by Thursday morning.
Guayaquil has Latin America's highest mortality rate from COVID-19 with 1.35 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants -- higher than the 0.92 per 100,000 registered in Brazil's epicenter Sao Paulo -- according to Esteban Ortiz from Ecuador's University of the Americas. Guayaquil's surrounding province of Guayas has 70 percent of the country's COVID-19 infections. Ecuador's first reported case of COVID-19 was a 71-year-old Ecuadoran woman who arrived in Guayaquil from Spain on February 14.
- 'Difficult days ahead' -
Wated said the government is preparing for even more difficult days ahead. "The medical experts unfortunately estimate that deaths from COVID in these months will reach between 2,500 and 3,500 -- in the province of Guayas alone, and we are preparing for that," he said. Autopsies have been restricted and the government, which has banned usually crowded funeral services, initially insisted that COVID-19 victims be cremated but was forced to relent after a public backlash. "We are working so that each person can be buried with dignity in one-person spaces," Wated said, referring to a government-run cemetery being made available with capacity for around 2,000 bodies.
Last month, the city's mayor Cynthia Viteri sent municipal vehicles to block an Iberia plane sent to repatriate stranded foreigners from landing at the city's international airport. But Viteri was unapologetic as the number of cases spiraled in her city. "I take responsibility for protecting my city," she said.
Blantyre, Malawi, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Malawi on Thursday announced its first three coronavirus infections, one of the last African countries to report the potentially deadly disease. The southern African country was one of the few without any confirmed cases along with the Comoros, Lesotho, Sao Tome and Principe and South Sudan. President Peter Mutharika said the infections were in the capital Lilongwe.
The first was detected in an elderly woman who had recently travelled to India to visit her relatives. "Upon arrival in Malawi, she placed herself in self-quarantine for 14 days but later became symptomatic within the quarantine period," said Mutharika in an address to the nation. Two of her contacts also tested positive. Mutharika said the government would provide medical care for the three patients and track down their immediate contacts. To date coronavirus has infected more than 6,720 people across Africa and killed at least 273.
Port Louis, Mauritius, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Residents of the Indian Ocean island nation Mauritius rushed to supermarkets on Thursday after they had been shut for 10 days under a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Mauritius, usually a paradise holiday destination known for pristine beaches and coral reefs, has the most cases in eastern Africa with 169 infected and seven deaths -- including a 20-year-old woman with no prior health issues who died on Thursday. The country was one of the first in Africa to impose a lockdown on March 20 -- when cases still stood at seven -- going so far as to shut supermarkets, bakeries and other shops often kept open in other nations.
Aware that people's stocks were starting to run low, the government decided to re-open under strict rules which divide people into three alphabetical groups to decide on which days they are allowed to shop. Prakash Beeharry, a primary school teacher, told AFP he was lucky his surname starts with a 'B'. "My neighbour, Mr Jayen Veerasamy, has to wait two more days before he can access the supermarket," he said. Like many other mask-wearing shoppers, Beeharry stood in line from 6am to 10am before he was allowed in the supermarket. "We only had 30 minutes to get all the groceries. Quite a challenge. I'm 45 years old and I've never experienced this... I hope things don't get worse."
Snaking long lines spread out from different supermarkets on the island, where shoppers kept a safe distance from each other and had their temperatures taken as they entered the stores. "I feel relieved now that I have some supplies," said retired citizen Joseph who was one of the first at the Intermart in central Curepipe. Other rules put in place allow only one member of a family in the store at a time, and masks are obligatory. The purchase of basics such as rice, flour, milk or oil are subject to restrictions. Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth had initially shut the supermarkets because the situation was "extremely serious" and he saw the move as "the only way to stop the spread of the virus".
The decision was widely criticised, as while the middle and upper classes were able to prepare and stock food, the poor were not -- and many had yet to receive their salaries. Tourism Minister Joe Lesjongard explained Tuesday that the government was "aware the population is starting to lack supplies". "We should never have shut the supermarkets," said former prime minister and prominent opposition leader Paul Berenger. In a bid to assist the poorest members of society, the government has distributed basic necessities to some 30,000 people.
A solidarity fund has also been created by government officials, with all lawmakers donating ten percent of their annual salaries. Hotels on the island are now mostly empty, aside from a handful used as quarantine centres, while the renowned smiles of tourism staff have been replaced by the exhausted, defeated expressions of health workers.
Bangkok, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Thailand will introduce a six-hour night curfew in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus, authorities said Thursday, warning anyone who breached the order faced a two-year jail term. The curfew from 10 pm to 4 am (1500 to 2100 GMT) will begin on Friday and bars everyone in the country from leaving their homes. Exemptions will be made for essential staff, including medical workers, food and fuel transport staff, and postal services. The number of infections in Thailand has soared past 1,800 -- up more than 80 percent from a week ago -- and the death toll has nearly quadrupled to 15 as of Thursday.
The government has come under criticism for not acting soon enough to curb the spread of the virus -- introducing incremental measures despite being the first country outside China to confirm a case, which happened in January. In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha urged citizens not to panic. "You can buy things in the daytime," he said. Penalties for hoarding essential supplies such as face masks carry penalties of up to seven years in prison and a 140,000 baht ($4,200) fine, he said.
The stepped-up measures also include an entry ban on all arrivals -- including Thais -- for two weeks. Thais who insist on returning will be placed under state quarantine, though Prayut implored them to defer travel plans. On Thursday, Bangkok's popular markets were shuttered, while parks that were ordered to close were empty of joggers. Thailand's economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus, especially those employed in the informal sector. The Bank of Thailand expects the economy to shrink by 5.3 percent this year -- a 22-year low -- and nearly 22 million people have registered for cash handouts.
Seoul, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - North Korea remains totally free of the coronavirus, a senior health official in Pyongyang has insisted, despite mounting scepticism overseas as confirmed global infections near one million. The already isolated, nuclear-armed North quickly shut down its borders after the virus was first detected in neighbouring China in January, and imposed strict containment measures.
Pak Myong Su, director of the anti-epidemic department of the North's Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarters, insisted that the efforts had been completely successful. "Not one single person has been infected with the novel coronavirus in our country so far," Pak told AFP. "We have carried out preemptive and scientific measures such as inspections and quarantine for all personnel entering our country and thoroughly disinfecting all goods, as well as closing borders and blocking sea and air lanes."
Nearly every other country has reported coronavirus cases, with the World Health Organization saying on Wednesday that there were nearly one million confirmed infections globally. Aside from China, South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the virus, which has claimed more than 45,000 lives around the world. Experts have said the North is particularly vulnerable to the virus because of its weak medical system, and defectors have accused Pyongyang of covering up an outbreak.
The top US military commander in South Korea, General Robert Abrams, said Thursday that Pyongyang's assertion it had no cases was "untrue". "I can tell you that is an impossible claim based on all of the intel that we have seen," Abrams told VOA News. The North's military was "locked down" for 30 days in February and early March over the epidemic, he said. "They took draconian measures at their border crossings and inside their formations to do exactly what everybody else is doing, which is to stop the spread," he added.
US President Donald Trump said previously North Korea "is going through something" and offered "cooperation in the anti-epidemic work", in a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And Choi Jung-hun, a former North Korean doctor who fled to the South in 2012, told AFP: "I heard there are many deaths in North Korea but the authorities are not saying that it's caused by the coronavirus."
-- 'Strict control' --
As part of its anti-virus efforts Pyongyang put thousands of its own people and hundreds of foreigners -- including diplomats -- into isolation and mounted disinfection drives, with state media constantly exhorting citizens to obey health directives. Published images have shown universal face mask use, with the exception of leader Kim, who has never been seen wearing one, even though for several weeks the officers alongside him when he supervised firing exercises donned black coverings.
More recently his aides have also been seen without face masks, although defector Choi said that did not signal the North's containment efforts had been widely successful. Pyongyang -- which is subject to multiple international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes -- has sought virus-related aid. In February, Russia's foreign ministry said it provided Pyongyang with 1,500 coronavirus diagnostic test kits at its request "due to the persisting risk of the new COVID-19".
The United Nations has granted sanctions exemptions to relief groups including Doctors without Borders and UNICEF on items such as diagnostic kits, face masks, protective equipment and disinfectants. Both Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF -- whose shipments were requested by North Korean authorities -- said that their supplies had arrived overland from China. "DPRK has an overall lack of medical supplies and the latest diagnostic equipment," a Doctors Without Borders spokesperson told AFP, using the initials of the country's official name. The World Health Organisation plans to spend $900,000 to support Pyongyang's coronavirus response activities, according to data posted on the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs website.
Dubai, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Emirates Airline said Thursday it is to resume a limited number of outbound passenger flights from April 6, less than two weeks after its coronavirus-enforced stoppage. "Emirates has received approval from UAE authorities to restart flying a limited number of passenger flights," its chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, said on Twitter. "From April 6, these flights will initially carry travellers outbound from UAE," he said, adding that details would be announced soon. Dubai-owned carrier Emirates, the largest in the Middle East with 271 wide-body aircraft, grounded passenger operations last week as the UAE halted all passenger flights to fight the spread of coronavirus.
The UAE, which groups seven emirates including Dubai, has declared 814 coronavirus cases along with eight deaths. It has imposed a sweeping crackdown, including the flight ban and closure of borders. Sheikh Ahmed said Emirates, which owns the world's largest fleet of Airbus A-380 superjumbos with 113 in its ranks, was looking to gradually resume passenger services. "Over the time, Emirates looks forward to the gradual resumption of passenger services in line with lifting of travel and operational restrictions, including assurance of health measures to safeguard our people and customers," he said.
When Emirates suspended flights, it cut between 25 percent and 50 percent of the basic salary of its 100,000-strong staff for three months, saying it wanted to avert layoffs. Dubai's crown prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum said Tuesday that Dubai will support the airline by injecting new capital. Tourism, aviation, hotels and entertainment are key contributors to Dubai's mostly non-oil economy.