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".
Northern Mariana Islands
Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
Safety & Security:
The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.
Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.
Afghanistal US Consular Information Sheet March 03, 2009
Afghanistan has made significant progress since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, but still faces daunting challenges, including de
A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport or any other ports of entry in Afghanistan. American citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passport and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passport and obtaining a visa, as well as possible deportation from the country. Americans arriving in the country via military air usually have considerable difficulties if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial air, because their passports are not stamped to show that they entered the country legally. Those coming on military air should move quickly after arrival to legalize their status if there is any chance they will depart the country on anything other than military air. Visit the Embassy of Afghanistan web site at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org for the most current visa information. The Consular office of the Embassy of Afghanistan is located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, phone number 202-298-9125. 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:
The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan emphasizes that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. The Taliban and associated insurgent groups, al-Qaida network terrorist organizations, and narco-traffickers oppose the strengthening of a democratic government. These groups aim to weaken or bring down the Government of Afghanistan and to drive Westerners out of the country. They do not hesitate to use violence, including targeting civilians. Terrorist activities may include, but are not limited to bombings -- including improvised explosive devices and car bombs -- assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults and kidnappings. There were over 120 suicide attacks in 2008. There is an ongoing threat to attack and kidnap U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. In 2008,, more than 30 NGO workers were killed (six foreigners) and at least 78 NGO staff members (seven foreigners) were abducted. Over 25 other foreign civilians, including journalists, were kidnapped. Kabul continues to experience suicide bombings against Afghan government personnel and installations, Afghan and coalition military assets, and international civilians. Riots -- sometimes violent -- have occurred in response to various political or other issues. Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. Official Americans' use of the Kabul-Jalalabad, Kabul-Kandahar highways and other roads throughout the country is often restricted or completely curtailed because of security concerns. Insurgents continue to use roadside and car bombs to conduct attacks and abductions along major highways. Millions of unexploded land mines and other ordinance present a constant danger. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. Americans should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns. The absence of records for ownership of property, differing laws from various regimes and the chaos that comes from decades of civil strife have left property issues in great disorder. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property, or Americans coming to the country to engage in business, have become involved in complicated real estate disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death. Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated, with few roads, mostly in poor condition, irregular cell phone signals, and none of the basic physical infrastructure found in Kabul or the larger cities. Americans traveling in these areas who find themselves in trouble may not even have a way to communicate their difficulties to the outside world. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, 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.
A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries as well as kidnappings and assault. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for assistance. The Embassy 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 provide a list of attorneys if needed. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in Afghanistan is: 119 Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
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 Afghanistan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. Arrested Americans have faced periods of detention—sometimes in difficult conditions—while awaiting trial. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Another sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing is often viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society. Proselytizing may lead to arrest and/or deportation. 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.
Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are limited. Some ATM machines exist at Standard Charter Bank and Afghan International Bank (AIB) in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using them. International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities, but can be unreliable. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited. In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Afghanistan may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. For additional information on dual nationality in general, see the Consular Affairs home page for our dual nationality flyer. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited. Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors -- men and women -- are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside of Kabul, may want to ensure that their tops have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; American women visitors should carry scarves for this purpose. Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. American travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States. Please see our Customs Information sheet.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. Several western-style private clinics have opened in Kabul: the DK-German Medical Diagnostic Center (www.medical-kabul.com), Acomet Family Hospital (www.afghancomet.com), and CURE International Hospital (ph. 079-883-830) offer a variety of basic and routine-type care; Americans seeking treatment should request American or Western health practitioners. Afghan public hospitals should be avoided. Individuals without government licenses or even medical degrees often operate private clinics; there is no public agency that monitors their operations. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul, although there are some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from Afghanistan is limited and could take days to arrange. Even medevac companies that claim to service the world may not agree to come to Afghanistan. Those with medevac insurance should confirm with the insurance provider that it will be able to provide medevac assistance to this country. There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry in Afghanistan, to include the areas of Nangahar, Laghman, and Wardak provinces, and in the city of Kabul, however, there have been no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in humans. Updates on the Avian Influenza situation in Afghanistan are published on the Embassy’s web site at http://kabul.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html. For additional information on Avian Influenza, please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet available at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Afghanistan. For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx| The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Afghanistan. However, if one has questions, please inquire directly with the Embassy of Afghanistan at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org before you travel. 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 web site. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site. Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
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 Afghanistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. All drivers face the potential danger of encountering improvised-explosive devices and land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million landmines and large quantities of unexploded ordinance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and kidnappings are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, although the international community is constructing modern highways and provincial roads. Vehicles are poorly maintained, often overloaded, and traffic laws are not enforced. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa. U.S. Government personnel are not authorized to travel on Ariana Afghan Airlines or any other airline falling under the oversight of the Government of Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, owing to safety concerns; however, U.S. Government personnel are permitted to travel on international flights operated by airlines from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. R
EGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without internet 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 in Kabul on Great Massoud (Airport) Road, local phone number 0700-108-001 or 0700-108-002, and for emergencies after hours 0700-201-908. The web site is http://kabul.usembassy.gov/ * * * * * This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 16, 2008 to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Kabul, April 29, 2020 (AFP) - A suicide bomber killed at least three people and wounded 15 others after detonating explosives near a military outpost in Kabul on Wednesday, an official confirmed, in the first attack to rock the Afghan capital in weeks. Interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian confirmed the toll, calling the blast "a crime by the enemy of Afghanistan against civilians during the month of Ramadan". The attack appeared to target an Afghan special forces camp on the outskirts of Kabul, a security source told AFP.
No group has claimed responsibility for the incident, but Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they were investigating whether their fighters were behind the attack. The blast comes as violence has surged across Afghanistan, with the UN reporting earlier this week that attacks spiked in the country following the signing of a landmark US and Taliban agreement in late February that was supposed to lay the groundwork for a peace process. Recent attacks have mostly been limited to rural areas and small towns. Under the US-Taliban deal, the insurgents have agreed not to attack cities.
The agreement established a framework for bringing to an end America's longest war following the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime only for them to re-emerge and launch a deadly insurgency. But planned talks between the Kabul government and Taliban have derailed in recent weeks. Dozens of Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters have been dying almost daily with civilian casualties rising across the country as both sides ramp up operations. Kabul has been spared most of the violence. However, a string of attacks targeting minority groups proves the capital remains vulnerable to militants.
Kabul, Feb 24, 2020 (AFP) - Afghanistan has detected its first novel coronavirus case, the country's health minister said Monday, a day after Kabul announced it would suspend air and ground travel to Iran, where 12 people have died from the outbreak. "I announce the first positive coronavirus (case) in Herat," health minister Firozuddin Feroz told a press conference, calling on citizens to avoid travel to the western province which borders Iran.
A trade route through this valley has been used by travellers since antiquity
A map of this region can be found at
Although Xinjiang in Western China has reportedly 75 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1 death (assessed 16 Feb 2020 at 9:43 PM EST) (<https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6>), spread of COVID-19 to this very remote region in Afghanistan, that is easily cut off from the rest of the world especially in winter, seems unlikely. Also, 43% of deaths (15/35) occurred in children, which would be unusual for COVID-19. However, we are not told the clinical presentation of the illness, nor how a diagnosis of "pneumonia" was made in this undeveloped region. Other diagnoses, such as influenza, are also possible. More information from knowledgeable sources would be appreciated. - ProMED Mod.ML]
Travel in Health in Thailand
Irish travellers are going to Thailand in great numbers. The relatively cheap cost and also the contrast in culture has captured many hearts. Some are travelli
In most of the major cities of Thailand the water supply is well chlorinated and so the risks associated with drinking mains tap water are limited. However many of the bedrooms will not be supplied with mains water so take care. Smell the water and if there is a distinct chlorine odour then it should be safe. Also remember that when you travel around the country, especially around the northern regions, the water supply may be grossly contaminated and so never drink the water or use it for brushing your teeth. Also no ice in your drinks under these circumstances.
There is a good selection of food in Thailand and you should have no great difficulty in finding food to suit your taste. In the majority of the restaurants the food is well cooked and maintained in a healthy sterile fashion. These are the places to eat. As you walk around the cities you will see many street traders selling food stuffs from their carts. The level of hygiene is very low and frequently the food will be contaminated. Never indulge yourself by eating from street vendors.
Under this title most travellers will only consider the possibility of developing malaria. This is of course one of the most important illnesses transmitted via mosquitoes but by no means the only one in Thailand. For most travellers to Thailand there will be no need to take malarial prophylaxis as the cities are deemed to be free of malaria. This does not mean that you will not be bitten by mosquitoes and develop some of the other diseases such as Dengue Fever or perhaps Japanese Encephalitis. Many travellers also develop a very severe reaction to the mosquito bite and so for all these reasons it is prudent to avoid being bitten whenever possible.
It would be wrong not to emphasize the very high risk which travellers face if they are unwise enough to indulge in any form of sexual activity in Thailand. The percentage of street girls with the Aids virus is rising each year and is now thought to be over 80%. This figure may be an underestimate. Be especially careful if you have taken any alcohol. The cities of Bangkok and Pattaya are thought to be among the main centres of HIV transmission throughout the world and within the next few years the extent of the Aids problem in S.E. Asia will have exceeded Africa. There is limited availability of condoms.
The traffic situation in Thailand is severe. The motorbikes have no insurance as they are too often involved in accidents. Use only regular taxi cabs and fix your price before you leave.
There are no compulsory vaccines for entry into Thailand from Ireland. Nevertheless the usual recommended vaccines include Polio, Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis A cover. For those trekking or staying for longer periods then cover against Hepatitis B and Rabies would be worth discussing.
Most travellers should start their vaccines about 4 to 5 weeks before they leave Ireland.
For the vast majority of Irish travellers a holiday in Thailand will be a time of great pleasure and, later, fond memories of the people, their customs and the countryside. Just remember that illness can occur so follow some good common sense rules and so you can enjoy yourself
and Travel in Health.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
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.
By Sophie DEVILLER with Dene-Hern CHEN
Bangkok, March 31, 2020 (AFP) - Underfed and chained up for endless hours, many elephants working in Thailand's tourism sector may starve, be sold to zoos or be shifted into the illegal logging trade, campaigners warn, as the coronavirus decimates visitor numbers. Before the virus, life for the kingdom's estimated 2,000 elephants working in tourism was already stressful, with abusive methods often used to 'break them' into giving rides and performing tricks at money-spinning animal shows. With global travel paralysed the animals are unable to pay their way, including the 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of food a day a captive elephant needs to survive.
Elephant camps and conservationists warn hunger and the threat of renewed exploitation lie ahead, without an urgent bailout. "My boss is doing what he can but we have no money," Kosin, a mahout -- or elephant handler -- says of the Chiang Mai camp where his elephant Ekkasit is living on a restricted diet. Chiang Mai is Thailand's northern tourist hub, an area of rolling hills dotted by elephant camps and sanctuaries ranging from the exploitative to the humane. Footage sent to AFP from another camp in the area shows lines of elephants tethered by a foot to wooden poles, some visibly distressed, rocking their heads back and forth.
Around 2,000 elephants are currently "unemployed" as the virus eviscerates Thailand's tourist industry, says Theerapat Trungprakan, president of the Thai Elephant Alliance Association. The lack of cash is limiting the fibrous food available to the elephants "which will have a physical effect", he added. Wages for the mahouts who look after them have dropped by 70 percent. Theerapat fears the creatures could soon be used in illegal logging activities along the Thai-Myanmar border -- in breach of a 30-year-old law banning the use of elephants to transport wood. Others "could be forced (to beg) on the streets," he said. It is yet another twist in the saga of the exploitation of elephants, which animal rights campaigners have long been fighting to protect from the abusive tourism industry.
- 'Crisis point' -
For those hawking a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the giant creatures -- whether from afar or up close -- the slump began in late January. Chinese visitors, who make up the majority of Thailand's 40 million tourists, plunged by more than 80 percent in February as China locked down cities hard-hit by the virus and banned external travel. By March, the travel restrictions into Thailand -- which has 1,388 confirmed cases of the virus -- had extended to Western countries.
With elephants increasingly malnourished due to the loss of income, the situation is "at a crisis point," says Saengduean Chailert, owner of Elephant Nature Park. Her sanctuary for around 80 rescued pachyderms only allows visitors to observe the creatures, a philosophy at odds with venues that have them performing tricks and offering rides. She has organised a fund to feed elephants and help mahouts in almost 50 camps nationwide, fearing the only options will soon be limited to zoos, starvation or logging work. For those restrained by short chains all day, the stress could lead to fights breaking out, says Saengduean, of camps that can no longer afford medical treatment for the creatures.
Calls are mounting for the government to fund stricken camps to ensure the welfare of elephants. "We need 1,000 baht a day (about $30) for each elephant," says Apichet Duangdee, who runs the Elephant Rescue Park. Freeing his eight mammals rescued from circuses and loggers into the forests is out of the question as they would likely be killed in territorial fights with wild elephants. He is planning to take out a two million baht ($61,000) loan soon to keep his elephants fed. "I will not abandon them," he added.
Bangkok, March 25, 2020 (AFP) - Thailand barred entry into the kingdom late on Wednesday, enacting sweeping emergency powers in a bid to stem the local spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The measures, which stopped short of a full lockdown after days of vacillation by the government, are a hammer blow to the country's vital tourism sector. Tens of thousands of travellers remain in the kingdom, facing uncertainty with airlines in chaos and restrictions on return to their countries.
Bangkok, a city of 10 million, was hushed Wednesday as shops and restaurants shuttered, and Buddhist monks seated a metre apart led an anti-virus prayer session televised nationwide. But social media showed thousands of foreigners jammed in chaotic lines at the capital's immigration office to file for visa extensions. The Royal Gazette announced Wednesday night that authorities would "close all checkpoints and gates" for its land borders, while entry by air and ship will also be halted. Diplomats and returning Thais who have health certificates will still be allowed to return.
All gatherings are also outlawed, and authorities have asked vulnerable people -- like the elderly -- stay home. But festive ceremonies, like weddings or family activities, may continue under rules issued by the government. Authorities also banned "reports of untrue news which could lead to fear", under penalty of up to two years in prison. The state of emergency will continue until April 30. Thailand currently has 934 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including four deaths. The highly infectious virus has killed more 18,000 globally, spurring governments to introduce harsh measures forbidding citizens from leaving their homes.
The kingdom was the first country to confirm a case outside China in January, but incremental measures were taken due to its flagging economy's reliance on tourism. The tripling in cases over the past week has sent Thais in a panic, and many have taken to social media to criticise the government's spotty containment measures. Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha warned earlier Wednesday against sharing "fake news" -- a rebuke coming days after a man was arrested for a Facebook post complaining of lax airport checks. Thailand has in the past enacted emergency laws to quell political riots, which critics say could be used to muzzle the press.
Bangkok, March 6, 2020 (AFP) - Thai health authorities on Friday said they would not order the compulsory quarantine of visitors from four countries hit hard by coronavirus, as the kingdom struggles to balance health fears with the needs of its flatlining economy. The holidays of possibly tens of thousands of people were cast into doubt on Tuesday when the health minister insisted a quarantine of all entrants from nine countries including China -- its territories of Hong Kong and Macau -- Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan, would be imposed. On Friday health authorities spiked the plan, instead "recommending" arrivals from just four countries -- China, Iran, Italy and South Korea -- stay indoors and report to authorities for monitoring. "We recommend home quarantine," Sukhum Kanchanapimai, from the health ministry told reporters, adding those who register with authorities will receive free food from Thailand's biggest grocery group.
All other travellers from the four countries will have to "report on their health status daily", said Tanarak Plipat of the Disease Control Department, or risk "punishment" under the law. A British man who entered the kingdom from Hong Kong became the country's 48th confirmed case of the virus, health authorities added. The kingdom has reported one death so far, but the number of cases detected has remained surprisingly low in a country that attracts some 40 million foreigners a year. Speculation is pointing to a limited testing regime at a time when Thailand is determined not to frighten off tourists.
Friday's announcement, for now, ends a week-long barrage of conflicting information, which baffled holidaymakers hunting winter sun. But the Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed Thursday the country could see a loss of six million visitors in 2020. As a result the country's tourist-reliant economy has hit the skids, with the impact of COVID-19 crisis hacking back at already sluggish growth forecasts to as low as two percent this year. With exports seizing up to China and other COVID-19 hit nations, experts warn Thailand is facing a hammer blow to its economy.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced Thailand to cancel full moon beach parties, pare back its celebrations of the annual water festival next month and postpone its leg of the MotoGP until October. While the number of detected virus cases is yet to spike, Thailand's social media is bubbling with coronavirus rumours and health safety advice. In a Thai-style antidote to the grim warnings over a deadly virus, the BTS - Bangkok's overground train service - on Friday released a jaunty 'COVID-19: Dance Against The Virus' track. It drew tens of thousands of likes on Facebook hours after making its debut.
Bangkok, March 5, 2020 (AFP) - A popular full-moon party in southern Thailand known for its raucous revelry has been cancelled because of the coronavirus, an official said Thursday, the latest hit to a tourism industry which foresees a loss of six million visitors this year. Tourism is a cornerstone of Thailand's economy, and the virus has wreaked havoc as visitor numbers have dwindled in the wake of the epidemic.
Attracting some 40 million foreigners a year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed Thursday the country could see a loss of six million visitors in 2020. Their absence, particularly the Chinese, has turned once-popular tourist attractions -- such as animal-themed parks in Pattaya and the sandy beaches of Phuket -- into near-ghost towns.
The full moon party on southern island Koh Phangan -- which draws some 10,000 partiers each month -- will be the latest casualty, according to a local official. "To prevent the spread of COVID-19, (the business association) has voted to suspend the party," Somchai Somwong, Koh Phangan's acting district chief, announced Thursday.
The cancellation comes the week the Thai government plunged tens of thousands of holiday plans in doubt. Its health minister announced -- and then swiftly rescinded -- an order for all inbound travellers from 11 countries and territories to undergo quarantine, sending waves of concern on Twitter among Thais and foreigner visitors.
On Thursday, the palace mouthpiece Royal Gazette said four countries -- South Korea, Italy, Iran, and China, including Macau and Hong Kong -- would be classified as "high-risk areas". But details on whether foreign travellers from the four countries would be subjected to a two-week quarantine were not immediately announced.
Thailand currently has 47 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The latest announced Thursday include a 42-year-old Thai man and a 29-year-old Italian man, who is currently hospitalised in Chonburi province. Both had returned from Italy, where there are more than 100 fatalities from the coronavirus.
Despite Bangkok being a major flight hub, Thailand's response to controlling the coronavirus spread has appeared ad hoc. Conflicting information given by ministries has added to public mistrust, fuelling panic buying of hand sanitisers and face masks across the country. The Commerce Ministry on Thursday sent out more than 100 "caravans" throughout the country to sell packs of face masks -- drawing lines of retail workers when they stopped at shopping malls.
World Travel News Headlines
Dublin, May 19, 2020 (AFP) - This year's Dublin marathon scheduled for October 25 was cancelled on Tuesday despite Ireland's move to lift coronavirus lockdown measures, indicating potential long-term disruption caused by the outbreak. Ireland plans to have fully lifted restrictions well before October, in a staggered process that began on Monday. But organisers indicated the race -- which had 22,500 entrants last year -- would still not go ahead because of safety fears. "We made the difficult decision in the best interest of the health and well-being of all those involved in making our events such a success from runners, supporters, volunteers, sponsors, to suppliers," said race director Jim Aughney. "We explored many alternatives for running the events safely but ultimately none were viable." Ireland's five-stage "roadmap" to reopen the nation is due to be completed in August, when the current ban on mass gatherings of more than 5,000 people is set to expire. The cancellation suggests coronavirus fallout may last longer than suggested by official plans and could hit similar events.
The London Marathon, which attracts tens of thousands of runners, has been postponed until October 4. "We need to be aware that we will continue to be in the acute emergency phase of this crisis for some time with further waves an ever present danger," the health department Secretary-General Jim Breslin told a special parliamentary committee on the crisis. "This is not a one, a two or even a three-day storm, after which we move to a recovery phase. The acute phase of this crisis will definitely be measured in months and most probably in years." Ireland has suffered 1,547 deaths from COVID-19, according to the department of health. On Monday the number of daily deaths had fallen from a peak of 77 to just four. "We have suppressed the virus and limited its impact on public health," said chief medical officer Tony Holohan on Monday. "We need to sustain this in the weeks and phases ahead."
Paris, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Air France said Monday it hoped to double the number of cities it serves, including over 40 European destinations, by the end of June as nations begin to lift coronavirus travel restrictions. "Between now and the end of June and subject to travel restrictions being lifted, Air France plans to gradually resume its flights," the airline said. Like other airlines, Air France grounded most of its planes as governments imposed stay-at-home orders and demand for travel evaporated.
Air France said it was currently operating between three and five percent of its usual schedule and serving 43 destinations for essential passenger traffic as well as cargo. The airline, which received a 7-billion-euro rescue package from the French government, listed more than 90 destinations it hopes to serve by the end of June. That would be equivalent to 15 percent of its normal schedule, and use 75 of its fleet of 224 aircraft.
Abuja, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Nigeria's government on Monday extended a coronavirus lockdown on the northern region of Kano after it became a hotspot for new infections. The head of the country's coronavirus taskforce, Boss Mustapha, said the lockdown on the economic hub -- which includes Nigeria's second biggest city -- would be prolonged for two weeks. The authorities will also start to impose "precision" lockdowns in any other areas that report a "rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises", he said. The outbreak in Kano has become a major cause of concern after medics and residents last month began reporting a spike in deaths.
Regional officials at first put the "unexplained" fatalities down to other ailments, but government investigators later said coronavirus was suspected in most cases. Neighbouring states to Kano have also begun reporting suspicious surges in death tolls that authorities are scrambling to investigate. Nigeria has confirmed 5,959 infections and 182 deaths from the novel coronavirus across the country. Kano is the second hardest hit region with 825 confirmed cases and 36 fatalities. The region has already been under lockdown for a month but enforcement has been lax and measures have been eased sporadically for people to buy food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Testing has been a key problem across Nigeria and only 35,345 samples have so far been screened in Africa's most populous nation of 200 million people. Mustapha insisted there had been a slowdown in the transmission rate of the virus, "elongating the doubling time" from seven to 11 days. But he announced that measures would remain in place limiting businesses and restricting crowds across the rest of the country despite earlier plans to gradually roll them back. "Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority," he said. The government has also imposed a night-time curfew and made mask wearing mandatory in all regions. Mustapha complained that "non-compliance was rampant" with social distancing measures. "The fight against COVID-19 is long-term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon," he said.
Stockholm, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Sweden, whose softer approach to the new coronavirus pandemic has garnered worldwide attention, recorded its deadliest month in almost three decades in April, according to statistics released on Monday. Sweden has stopped short of introducing the restrictive lockdowns seen elsewhere in Europe, instead opting for an approach based on the "principle of responsibility".
The Scandinavian country has kept schools open for children under the age of 16, along with cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses, and urged people to respect social distancing guidelines. A total of 10,458 deaths were recorded in the country of 10.3 million inhabitants in April, Statistics Sweden said. "We have to go back to December 1993 to find more dead during a single month," Tomas Johansson, population statistician at Statistics Sweden, said in a statement.
In total, 97,008 deaths were recorded in Sweden during the whole of 1993, which in turn was the deadliest year since 1918, when the Spanish flu pandemic ravaged the country. Johansson told AFP there was no official breakdown explaining the high death toll in December 1993 but said there was a flu epidemic at the time. According to preliminary data, the number of deaths has been on the decline since the end of April, including in Stockholm -- the epicentre of the Swedish epidemic -- where the highest number of deaths were recorded in early April.
The Swedish approach to the novel coronavisrus has come under criticism both at home and abroad, particularly as the number of deaths has far exceeded those in neighbouring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures. On Monday, Sweden reported a total of 30,377 confirmed cased of the new coronavirus and 3,698 deaths.
Helsinki, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Finland's national airline will restart routes between Europe and Asia in July once countries begin to lift coronavirus restrictions on travel, the company announced on Monday. Beijing and Shanghai will be the first long-haul destinations to reopen, alongside Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok and three Japanese routes, Finnair said in a statement.
Flights to Delhi and New York will follow in August. The move makes Finnair one of the first European carriers to restart intercontinental flights, after the Lufthansa Group announced on Friday it would resume 19 long-haul routes by early June. "We expect aviation to recover gradually, starting in July," Finnair chief commercial officer Ole Orver said in a statement, adding that the company intends to bring its operations back to one-third of normal capacity.
Finnair cut 90 percent of its flights on April 1 and issued a profit warning as coronavirus restrictions brought international passenger travel almost to a standstill. Facemasks will be mandatory on all Finnair flights "until at least the end of August," Finnair spokeswoman Paivyt Tallqvist told AFP. "We have also taken a number of steps to avoid unnecessary movement on board," Tallqvist said, including having passengers disembark in smaller groups, and limiting capacity of shuttle bus transport between aircraft and the terminal to 50 percent.
Flights along the so-called "shorter northern route" between Helsinki and Asia, bypassing the Middle East, have been a key part of the Finnish carrier's growth strategy in recent years, with passenger numbers on its Asian routes doubling between 2010 and 2018. On Monday, Finnair also announced it would restart 26 European routes in July, including to Brussels, Moscow, Prague and Paris. Destinations including Rome, Madrid and Warsaw would be added in August, the firm said. Finnair said it would open further routes on a monthly basis depending on demand and how travel restrictions change over the summer.
Dublin, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Ireland launched the first tentative step in its plan to lift coronavirus lockdown on Monday, with staff returning to outdoor workplaces as some shops resumed trade and sports facilities unlocked their doors. The modest tweaks to the restrictions in place since 28 March start a staggered process set to stretch until August.
"I'm both pleased and nervous," health minister Simon Harris told state broadcaster RTE. "I'm pleased that we've gotten to this point because of the incredible efforts of the Irish people in suppressing this virus." "I'm nervous because the virus hasn't gone away, there still isn't a vaccine, there's still people in our country getting very sick, and there's still people dying every day."
Shops such as garden centres, hardware stores and farmers markets were permitted to open their doors whilst outdoor staff such as builders and gardeners returned to workplaces. Football pitches, tennis courts and golf courses were also allowed to resume business whilst maintaining strict social distancing.
Meanwhile citizens were permitted to meet in small gatherings outside of people from different households. But Harris urged caution as the republic took its first step in trying "to live successfully and safely alongside the virus". "Just because somewhere is open doesn't mean we need to go," he said. There have been 1,543 deaths from COVID-19 in Ireland according to the department for health.
Reported daily deaths peaked at 77 on 20 April, but by Sunday the figure had fallen to just 10. As with other nations officials remain fearful a second wave of infections could inundate the healthcare system. But Prime minister Leo Varadkar confirmed on Friday that Ireland would press ahead to the first of its five step plan to reopen the nation. "This gives us reason to hope, but it is not a cause for celebration. We have a long way to go yet," Varadkar said in a statement.
The fallout of the lockdown changes will be monitored for three weeks before the government decides whether to move to the next stage in the "roadmap" to reopening. "Coronavirus is an inferno that is raging around the world", said Varadkar. "In Ireland it is now a fire in retreat but it's not defeated -- we must extinguish every spark."
By Román ORTEGA, Iván DUARTE y Germán CAMPOS
Puebla, Mexico, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Scores of Mexicans are dying from drinking adulterated liquor, a consequence of the shortage of mainstream alcoholic beverages during the coronavirus pandemic, authorities say. The first of at least 121 deaths in recent weeks occurred at the end of April in the western state of Jalisco, almost exactly a month after the government declared a health emergency over the spread of COVID-19. Much of Mexico has run out of beer after factories producing liquor and beer were shut down, along with other non-essential firms.
Beer stocks were practically depleted within a month, and in some areas the prices of what was left doubled, according to industry sources. Many of the 53 deaths in central Puebla province have been linked to a wake where people drank moonshine containing methanol -- a wood alcohol that in non-lethal doses can cause blindness and liver damage. Twenty-three people died in the hours following the gathering in the town of Chiconcuautla, according to authorities. The town's mayor said the popular "refino" drink, made from sugarcane, had been adulterated.
German Hernandez said his father died after being poisoned by drink known locally as "tejon" -- a blend of brandy with tejocote fruit (a type of hawthorn), in the Puebla town of Cacaloxuchitl. "They sell it in the stores, and you can buy it and take it out. My father began trembling and feeling weak. He told us he felt bad, and we took him to the hospital," Hernandez told AFP. "This has never happened before." Deaths have also been recorded in the central state of Morelos and Yucatan and Veracruz in the east.
- Mafia trade -
Gangs specializing in bootleg booze are trying to take advantage of the lack of alternative alcohol sources during the shutdown. "They usually have very well-structured mafias, and some escape the surveillance of the authorities," Ricardo Cardenas of the Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks told AFP. "We presume that, as a result of this shortage and demand being very high, some people are offering or trying to sell methanol instead of ethyl alcohol," said Denis de Santiago, head of Sanitary Risks in Jalisco.
Methanol is used in fuel, solvents and antifreeze. The country's largest beer producers, Grupo Modelo -- which makes the popular Corona beer -- and Heineken, which makes Sol, halted production in early April. Alcohol sales have been banned in some states, including Yucatan. In others, alcoholic beverages can only be purchased at certain times. Some drinks companies have switched production to antibacterial gel that they are donating to the federal government and health workers.
- 'Who would have thought?' -
In Yucatan, where 38 people have died so far, victims unknowingly drank methanol in their usual "pajaretes" -- a common cocktail that includes milk, coffee, vanilla and brand-name sugarcane alcohol. Humberto Macias, 36, said he saw three of his relatives die within days of each other after drinking a pajarete cocktail, made using a trusted brand of alcohol. "We had always drunk it, including myself, many people. Who would have thought it was like this?" Macias said.
In the Yucatan peninsula town of Acanceh, seven people have died from alcohol poisoning. "It's the first time I've heard of a case like this. I don't remember anything similar," the town's mayor Felipe Medina told AFP. In Veracruz, Morelos and Yucatan, investigators are still trying to determine what drinks the victims consumed.
By Gregory WALTON
Doha, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Qatar on Sunday began enforcing the world's toughest penalties of up to three years' in prison for failing to wear masks in public, in a country with one of the highest coronavirus infection rates. More than 32,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country -- 1.2 percent of the 2.75 million population -- although just 15 people have died. Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican have had higher per-capita infection rates, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Violators of Qatar's new rules will face up to hree years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000.
Drivers alone in their vehicles are exempt from the requirement, but police erected checkpoints across the capital Doha on Sunday evening to check compliance by motorists. Most customers gathered outside money lenders on Banks Street wore masks, while others produced a face covering when asked. "From today it's very strict," said Majeed, a taxi driver waiting for business in the busy pedestrian area, who wore a black mask. Heloisa, an expat resident, saw the steep penalties as "a bit of a scare tactic". Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.
Authorities in Chad have made it an offence to be unmasked in public, on pain of 15 days in prison. In Morocco, similar rules can see violators jailed for three months and fined up to 1,300 dirhams ($130). Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan may have increased infections. Abdullatif al-Khal, co-chair of Qatar's National Pandemic Preparedness Committee, said Thursday that there was "a huge risk in gatherings of families" for Ramadan meals. "(They) led to a significant increase in the number of infections among Qataris," he said. Neighbouring Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month to fight the coronavirus.
- Labourers at risk -
Mosques, along with schools, malls, and restaurants remain closed in Qatar to prevent the disease's spread. But construction sites remain open as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, although foremen and government inspectors are attempting to enforce social distancing rules. Officials have said workers at three stadiums have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus. Masks have been compulsory for construction workers since April 26. A 12-strong team of masked labourers kept their distance from one another as they worked under baking sun on a road project in Doha's blue-collar Msheireb district on Sunday.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers were quarantined in Doha's gritty Industrial Area after a number of infections were confirmed there in mid-March, but authorities have begun to ease restrictions. Khal said that most new cases were among migrant workers, although there has been a jump in infections among Qataris. He said the country had not yet reached the peak of its contagion. Rights groups have warned that Gulf labourers' cramped living conditions, communal food preparation areas and shared bathrooms could undermine social distancing efforts and speed up the spread of the virus.
Tehran, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Iran said Friday it had recorded nearly 7,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, warning of infection clusters in new regions after it partially eased lockdown measures. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the COVID-19 illness had claimed a further 51 lives over 24 hours into Sunday. The ministry raised the overall death toll to 6,988 since Iran announced its first fatalities in the Shiite pilgrimage city of Qom in February. Jahanpour warned that cases were rising "in the province of Lorestan, and to some extent in Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan". "Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation," he added.
The southwestern province has become Iran's new coronavirus focal point, with the most critical "red" ranking on the country's colour-coded risk scale. It is the only region so far where authorities have reimposed business lockdowns after a country-wide relaxation in April. Iran stopped publishing provincial figures for the coronavirus last month, but the health ministry's latest report said there is a "rising trend or the beginning of a peak" in eight provinces, including Khuzestan. The country on Friday reported its highest number of new infections in more than a month. A virus taskforce official said Sunday that the increase was due to a surge in testing, not just of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.
Early in the outbreak "our focus was on severe cases that had to be hospitalised, but as we started to manage the disease we looked at those infected and not hospitalised," said Ali Akbar Haghdoost, head of the taskforce's epidemiology committee. "It is possible that the reported number of infections have gone up, but this in no way means more have been infected with COVID-19," he told ISNA news agency. According to Jahanpour, 1,806 new cases had been confirmed across Iran in the past day, bringing the total to 120,198. Over 1,460 of the new cases were "outpatients, including those who had been in close contact with the infected," he said.
The ministry said 94,464 people hospitalised with the virus have recovered and been discharged. Experts both at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran's official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher. Iran also cancelled rallies held annually in solidarity with the Palestinians, set for Friday next week. President Hassan Rouhani had said Saturday that the Qods (Jerusalem) Day parades would go ahead with some measures against the virus. But organisers said Sunday the event could not be held "decently" and would be scrapped apart from a televised speech by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Antananarivo, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Madagascar on Sunday reported the first death of a patient suffering from novel coronavirus nearly two months after it was first detected in the country, official statistics showed. The Indian ocean island which has reported 304 cases has hit the headlines over a home-grown herbal concoction that President Andry Rajoelina claims can cure people infected with the virus.
Several African countries have ordered or expressed interest in the purported remedy, which is known as Covid-Organics. The tonic drink is derived from artemisia -- a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment -- and other indigenous herbs. But the World Health Organization has warned against "adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy".