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.
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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.
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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.
Miami, Jan 6, 2020 (AFP) - A 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook Puerto Rico Monday, toppling houses and causing power outages and small landslides but there were no reports of casualties, the US Geological Survey said. The quake, just off the US territory's southern Caribbean coastline, was felt throughout much of the island, including the capital San Juan.
Some 250,000 customers were hit by electric power outages after the quake, which struck at 6:32 am local time (1032GMT). Images posted on social media showed houses tumbled from their supporting pillars, cracks in walls, cars crushed under collapsed houses and small scale landslides. The quake was the strongest of a series that have rippled through the island since December 28, and it was followed by at least eight aftershocks, officials said. No tsunami alerts were issued.
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.
The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b
During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.
Safety & Security:
The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.
Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.
Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.
River Boat Travel:
Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.
Altitude Sickness in Tibet:
Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.
The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.
Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.
AIDS risk in China:
Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.
Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.
There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.
China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.
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Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing. Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed. "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster". A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!" Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.
The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car. She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her. Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case. Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave". The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release. East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said. The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings. Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties. The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties. Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far. "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.
An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt. Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku. Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
World Travel News Headlines
Beijing, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - China has quarantined cities and shut major tourist attractions from Disneyland to the Forbidden City and a section of the Great Wall as it scrambles to stop a deadly SARS-like virus from spreading further. The drastic moves come as hundreds of millions of people criss-crossed the country in recent days to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, which officially started Friday and is typically a joyous time of gatherings and public celebration. Here is a rundown of the measures taken so far in an unprecedented quarantine effort:
- Cities under lockdown -
Public transport has been stopped in 13 cities in central Hubei province, with train stations shut, events cancelled and theatres, libraries and karaoke bars closed in some locations. The epicentre of the outbreak is provincial capital Wuhan, the biggest city on lockdown, where the government has halted all travel out of the Yangtze River metropolis of 11 million. Wuhan residents have been told to stay home and authorities are limiting the number of taxis allowed on roads. There are few flights available to the city, deepening the isolation. Similar quarantine measures are being taken in the other, smaller cities. These include strict controls on weddings and funerals, temperature screening of people as they arrive and the suspension of online taxi services. More than 41 million people in total are affected by the city shutdowns.
- Festivities cancelled -
Wuhan and Beijing have cancelled public events that usually attract hundreds of thousands of people to temples during the New Year holiday. Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has asked China's 1.4 billion citizens to forego New Year gatherings and confine themselves at home until all is clear. To discourage nationwide travel, the government also said all tickets for rail, air, road, or water transport could be refunded.
- Attractions closed -
The historic Forbidden City, a sprawling imperial palace in Beijing that is one of the country's most revered cultural sites, will temporarily close from Saturday. Other famous landmarks including a section of the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs and Yinshan Pagoda are also not open to visitors. Shanghai Disneyland said it would shut for an indefinite period "to ensure the health and safety of our guests and cast". Women's Olympics football qualifiers scheduled for February 3-9 in Wuhan have been moved to the eastern city of Nanjing.
- Temperature checks -
Staff in full body protective suits were seen checking the temperatures of people entering a subway station in Beijing on Friday. The country has ordered sterilisation and ventilation at airports and bus stations, as well as inside planes and trains, while travellers are being screened for fever. Health authorities are urging people to wash their hands regularly, avoid crowded places, get plenty of fresh air and wear a mask if they have a cough. In Wuhan, city authorities have made it mandatory to wear a mask in public places. In response to skyrocketing demand for masks -- starting to sell out at pharmacies and on some popular websites -- China's industry and information technology ministry said it would "spare no effort in increasing supply".
- A new hospital -
In Wuhan, authorities are rushing to build a new hospital in a staggering 10 days as a rising number of patients are infected by the new coronavirus. The facility is expected to be in use by February 3 and will have a capacity of 1,000 beds spread over 25,000 square metres, according to state media. Dozens of excavators and trucks were filmed working on the site by state broadcaster CCTV. Its construction began after reports surfaced of bed shortages in hospitals designated as dealing with the outbreak, which has now infected 830 people across China.
Beijing, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - China announced Friday it will close a section of the Great Wall and other famous Beijing landmarks to control the spread of a deadly virus that has infected hundreds of people across the country. A range of Lunar New Year festivities have been cancelled to try to contain the virus, and Beijing's Forbidden City and Shanghai's Disneyland have also been closed temporarily.
The Ming Tombs and Yinshan Pagoda will also be closed from Saturday, the authority that oversees the sites said, while the Bird's Nest stadium -- the site of the 2008 Olympic Games -- was shuttered from Friday. The Great Wall attracts around 10 million tourists a year and is a popular destination for visitors during the New Year holiday. The Juyongguan section will close, while the Great Wall temple fair was cancelled at the Simatai section of the famous landmark.
Tourists at the Gubei water town by the Simatai section will have their temperature tested, the authority said in a statement on the WeChat social media app. The Bird's Nest will be closed until January 30 in order to "prevent and control" the spread of the virus, authorities said. An ice and snow show taking place on the pitch will be closed. The measures in the capital are the latest to try and control the outbreak of the new coronavirus, after authorities rapidly expanded a mammoth
The previously unknown virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. Although there have only been 29 confirmed cases in Beijing, city authorities have cancelled large-scaled Lunar New Year events this week. The city government said it would call off events including two popular temple fairs, which have attracted massive crowds of tourists in past years. Beijing's Forbidden City -- which saw 19 million visitors last year -- is usually packed with tourists during the Lunar New Year festival, when hundreds of millions of people travel across China.
By Sébastien RICCI
Wuhan, China, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - Chinese authorities rapidly expanded a mammoth quarantine effort aimed at containing a deadly contagion on Friday to 13 cities and a staggering 41 million people, as nervous residents were checked for fevers and the death toll climbed to 26.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) held off on declaring a global emergency despite confirmed cases in half a dozen other countries, China expanded its lockdown to cover an area with a total population greater than Canada's. A range of Lunar New Year festivities have been cancelled, while temporary closures of Beijing's Forbidden City, Shanghai's Disneyland and a section of the Great Wall were announced to prevent the disease from spreading further. The previously unknown virus habeis caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
The WHO said China faced a national emergency but stopped short of making a declaration that would have prompted greater global cooperation, including possible trade and travel restrictions. The outbreak emerged in late December in Wuhan, an industrial and transport hub of 11 million people in China's centre, spreading to several other countries including the United States. China is in the midst of its Lunar New Year holiday, a typically joyous time of family gatherings and public festivities. But on Friday Wuhan was a ghost town, its streets deserted and stores shuttered.
- Worried patients -
Hospitals visited by AFP journalists bustled with worried patients being screened by staff wearing full-body protective suits. At a temperature-check station, a medical staffer in bodysuit, face mask and goggles took a thermometer from a middle-aged woman, pausing to examine the reading before quickly turning back to the patient. "Have you registered? Then go and see the doctor," the staffer said. One 35-year-old man surnamed Li voiced the fears of many. "I have a fever and cough, so I'm worried that I'm infected," he said. "I don't know the results yet."
With hundreds of millions of people on the move across China for the holiday, the government has halted all travel out of Wuhan, shut down its public transport and told residents to stay home. Deepening the isolation, there were few flights available to the city. "This year we have a very scary Chinese New Year. People are not going outside because of the virus," said a taxi driver in the city, who asked not to be named. But said a prolonged shutdown should not pose food-shortage problems because many Chinese had stocked up for the holiday.
Besides Wuhan, 12 other smaller cities nearby have battened down the hatches, with most of them going public on Friday with various measures ranging from closing public venues and restricting large gatherings to halting public transportation and asking citizens not to leave their cities. Several of the cities have populations numbering several million, led by Huanggang, which has 7.5 million. The pathogen -- 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) -- has caused many outlets in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities to sell out their stocks of face masks. As reports surfaced of bed shortages in Wuhan hospitals, state media said authorities were rushing to build a new facility devoted to the outbreak in a mind-blowing 10 days.
The Wuhan hospital is targeted to be ready by February 3. Dozens of excavators and trucks were filmed working on the site by state television. To discourage nationwide travel, the government has said all tickets for rail, air, road, or water transport could be exchanged for a refund. On Friday, staff in full body protective suits were seen checking the temperatures of people entering a subway station in Beijing. Thermal cameras scanned passengers arriving at Beijing's West Railway Station.
- 'Work as one' -
Chinese authorities said the number of cases leapt overnight to more than 800, with 177 in serious condition. There were another 1,072 suspected cases. Officials also said that a virus patient died in Heilongjiang province in China's far northeast, the second death outside the Wuhan epicentre. Beijing has been praised for its response in contrast to SARS, when it took months to report the disease and initially denied WHO experts any access.
Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, asked China's people to forego New Year gatherings this year and confine themselves at home until the all-clear. "If we all work as one, we can contain the virus in Wuhan and add no more cases exported from Wuhan, so as to stem the virus nationwide," Gao told state TV. Beijing has cancelled popular New Year public events at temples in the capital, the historic Forbidden City will close from Saturday, and Shanghai Disneyland said it also will shut down for an indefinite period from Saturday to protect visitors and staff.
Shanghai, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - Shanghai Disneyland will close until further notice this weekend due to a deadly virus outbreak that has infected hundreds of people in China, the amusement park said Friday. The closure comes as China entered its nearly week-long Lunar New Year holiday, and the home of Mickey Mouse had prepared special "Year of the Mouse" celebrations for its guests.
But the park and resort said on its website it would temporarily close from Saturday "in response to the prevention and control of the disease outbreak and in order to ensure the health and safety" of its guests and staff. "We will continue to carefully monitor the situation and be in close contact with the local government, and we will announce the reopening date upon confirmation," it said, adding that guests who had purchased tickets or booked a resort hotel would be reimbursed. The entertainment conglomerate opened its $5.5 billion theme park in Shanghai in June 2016, Disney's sixth amusement park and third in Asia.
By Rusmir SMAJILHODZIC with Emmy VARLEY in Belgrade
Sarajevo, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - As winter grips the Balkans, the poor are caught in a cruel bind, being forced to light fires at home for heating while fuelling a pollution crisis smothering the region. In recent weeks, Balkan capitals from Belgrade and Sarajevo to Skopje and Pristina have been ranked among the world's top 10 most polluted major cities, according to the monitoring application AirVisual.
While these are small cities compared to leading Asian polluters like New Delhi and Dhaka, a combination of coal-fired power plants, old cars and fires to heat homes are pumping the air with toxins. "I know it is polluting. I am not an idiot but my only other choice would be to heat this home with electricity and that is damn expensive," said Trajan Nestorovski, who like many in his working-class Skopje neighbourhood burns wood to stay warm in winter. His wife Vera added: "There are a couple of factories near our neighbourhood that are burning God knows what in the evenings".
Thanks to the rise of mobile phone apps that measure air quality, like the local Moj Vozduh (My Air) created by a Macedonian developer, citizens are finally grasping the full extent of the crisis. "Serbia is suffocating, has anyone seen the minister of the environment?", said a recent headline in Belgrade's local Blic newspaper, speaking of the fog and dirty air enveloping the city. Protests have been erupting around the region in recent days.
In Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, young people have taken inspiration from Swedish activist Greta Thunberg by holding a spate of protests on Fridays. "Greta inspired all of us," said 17-year-old Iskra Ilieska. "In winter, half of my school class is absent because of lung problems. That is not normal," she said.
In neighbouring Bosnia, several hundred people wearing face masks gathered in the city of Tuzla to demand a plan from authorities to tackle pollution and phase out coal-fired plants in the next five years. "The only recommended measures are that we stay shut up at home... when you go out on the streets, in the playgrounds, you won't see children anywhere," said Alisa Kasumovic, a mother in her forties.
- Silent killer -
According to a recent UN environment report, air pollution causes nearly 20 percent of premature deaths in 19 Western Balkan cities. The main sources of the dust, soot and smoke are low-grade coal plants and household heating, the report said. More than 60 percent of people in the region rely on coal and firewood to heat their homes, the report said. Only 12 percent of buildings are connected to district heating systems.
Governments need to make "clean energy more accessible", ban old polluting vehicles and tighten regulations on industry emissions and power plants, the UN urged. Many people cannot afford cleaner heating options at home in countries where average wages are around 500 euros or less. Sali Ademi, a 78-year-old in Kosovo's capital Pristina, uses coal. "There's no worse thing, but what can you do?" he said in a city whose air is already poisoned by two nearby coal-fired power plants running on outdated technology.
- Cable car escape -
Those who warm their homes with fires also bear the brunt of health risks, according to experts. "Some of the emissions from these stoves stay in the house and poison them," warned Anes Podic, president of an environmental group in Bosnia who has called on the government to replace inefficient wood stoves in the country.
In cities like Sarajevo and Skopje, a circle of mountains helps trap the hazardous air in the valleys where residents live. Sakiba Sahman, 60, is a Sarajevan taking advantage of a recent reduction on ticket prices for a cable car that rides to the top of the 1,160-metre-high (3,800-foot-high) Mount Trebevic, which peaks above the smog over the Bosnian capital. "We've come to spend a few hours to ventilate the lungs," she told AFP. Down below, "the pollution is enormous, there are a lot of cars, everything is dirty, grey and depressing."
Lima, Jan 23, 2020 (AFP) - Peru's government promised on Thursday to protect the Machu Picchu sanctuary and other Inca ruins when building a new airport to serve the ancient civilization's capital of Cusco. Machu Picchu and the Inca road system are UNESCO World Heritage sites, and the UN agency has previously expressed concerns over the proposed airport at Chinchero, less than 60 kilometers from the Inca sanctuary that was built in the 15th century. "We have made a commitment that before work begins on constructing the Chinchero airport, in June of this year, we will present the heritage impact study that UNESCO demands," Transport Minister Edmer Trujillo, who is responsible for the project, told journalists.
UNESCO has told Peru that even though the airport will be built outside of the archeological areas, it is necessary to study how a potential increase in tourists would affect them. The new airport will be able to receive six million passengers per year -- 60 percent more than the current Cusco airport, which has a capacity for 3,000 passengers a day but receives 5,000.
The existing airport cannot grow because it is inside Cusco, a major Andean city in southeast Peru. Machu Picchu -- the most iconic site from the Inca empire that ruled a large swathe of western South America for 100 years before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century -- is Peru's most popular tourist attraction, located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Cusco. Trujillo said construction of the new airport would be constantly monitored
The airport will be built at 3,780 meters above sea level in the old Inca Sacred Valley. Many have criticized the impact it could have not only on the country's national treasures but on rural communities. "Building an airport in the Sacred Valley will have irreparable effects in terms of noise, increase in traffic and uncontrolled urbanization," historian Natalia Majluf said in August. But local Cusco authorities say it will bring in vital tourism revenue, which the region depends on.
_Mastomys natalensis_: <https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/45326-Mastomys-natalensis>
_Mastomys erythroleucus_ and _Hylomyscus pamfi_: <http://punchng.com/nigerias-large-rat-population-threatens-lassa-fever-war/>
The pygmy mouse (_Mus baoulei_) has recently been implicated as a reservoir species in West Africa but not in Nigeria.
Source: Ahora Noticias, Costa Rica [in Spanish, machine trans., edited]
As many as 22 people suffered from hepatitis A infection in San Ramon de Alajuela, and consequently the Health authorities closed a pizzeria in the area. A source close to this media confirmed the existence of the cases which were detected since 13 Jan 2020.
The cases were thought to be related to food consumption in that establishment 4 of patients were employees of the pizzeria. In statements to the media La NaciÃ³n, Azalea Espinoza of the Directorate of Surveillance of the Ministry of Health, said they intervened in the business, issued a closing health order, and proceeded to cleaning and disinfecting it. [Byline: Carlos Miranda]
[Although the eating establishment was identified as a pizzeria, pizza itself is not likely to be the vehicle of transmission as it is cooked before serving unless ingredients are added after the cooking process. It is unclear if the pizzeria employees were the source of, or just part of, the outbreak.
With an incubation period averaging 28 but up to 45 days, more cases may occur. The cases are not broken down in regard to age. In children, most cases of HAV infection are subclinical so it is likely that the cases reported were in adults. In the developing world, HAV is not reported much in adults as most children have been infected, and therefore immune to subsequent infection, by the age of 10. That outbreaks are occurring in the area suggests improvement in potable water so fewer children are infected and therefore still susceptible to HAV as adults. - ProMED Mod.LL]
[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Costa Rica:
By Eva XIAO
Beijing, Jan 23, 2020 (AFP) - The first fatality of China's new virus would come to represent a common set of traits for those who died to the disease: he was over the age of 60 and in poor health. Since China reported the emergence of a new coronavirus at the end of December, the SARS-like virus has infected more than 500 and killed 17. So far, the majority of the victims were elderly individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes and liver cirrhosis. All hailed from central Hubei province, where a local seafood market in the capital city of Wuhan is believed to be the epicentre of the epidemic. But while older individuals have died from the Wuhan virus, some younger patients -- including a 10-year-old boy -- have since been released from the hospital. Here's what we know so far about the deaths:
Most victims were over 60
According to details released by China's National Health Commission (NHC) on Thursday, the 17 victims of the virus were between 48 and 89 years old. Only two were under the age of 60, while the average age of the victims was 73. Most of them died this week, according to the NHC. Among those who have been discharged from the hospital were younger patients, including a 35-year-old man from Shenzhen, a bustling tech hub in southern Guangdong province. He was released from the hospital on Thursday, according to the local health commission, as well as the 10-year-old boy who had visited relatives in Wuhan before falling ill.
Many had pre-existing health conditions
Many of those who died from the virus also had pre-existing health issues before contracting the Wuhan disease, such as diabetes and hypertension. One man, an 86-year-old who was hospitalised on January 9, had surgery for colon cancer four years prior, on top of suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes. Another, an 80-year-old woman surnamed Hu, had Parkinson's Disease and more than 20 years of high blood pressure and diabetes in her medical history.
Some were hospitalised for weeks before dying
Several of the 17 victims were hospitalised for weeks before dying -- raising questions on the preparedness of hospitals that may have to treat patients for long periods of time. The youngest victim of the Wuhan virus, a woman surnamed Yin, was hospitalised for more than a month before succumbing to the virus. On December 10, the 48-year-old woman reported a fever, coughing, body soreness, and fatigue, and underwent anti-infection treatment for two weeks, according to the NHC. Later in the end of the month, Yin suffered shortness of breath and chest tightness, and she passed away on January 20.
Not all of them had a fever
Currently, Wuhan authorities are screening passengers for fever at the airport, railway stations, and bus terminals. At four airports in Thailand, authorities introduced mandatory thermal scans of passengers arriving from high-risk areas of China. But not all those who died after being infected reported a fever before being hospitalised, according to the NHC. A 66-year-old man surnamed Luo reported a "mainly dry cough" but no fever on December 22 before suffering from shortness of breath more than a week later.
By mid-January, Luo required a ventilator to help him breathe. "A major concern is the range of severity of symptoms this virus is causing," said Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust. "It is clear some people are being affected and are infectious while experiencing only very mild symptoms or possibly without experiencing symptoms at all," he said in an emailed statement. "This may be masking the true numbers infected and the extent of person to person transmission," he added.
Singapore, Jan 23, 2020 (AFP) - Singapore Thursday confirmed its first case of the new SARS-like virus which has killed 17 people in China and spread to multiple countries including the United States. The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the patient was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with his family on Monday. He was immediately isolated after arriving at a hospital with a fever and cough, and test results later confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus. One of his travelling companions, a 37-year-old man from Wuhan, has also been admitted to hospital as a suspect case.
Prior to admission, they had stayed at a hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, the ministry said. It added that Singapore was expecting more cases and alarms "given the high volume of international travel". Singapore's Changi Airport started screening flights from Wuhan at the beginning of the month, and on Wednesday extended the checks to all flights from China. The travel hub receives over 430 flights from China every week. The virus has caused alarm in China and abroad because of its genetic similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Singapore was among the hardest hit by SARS with 33 deaths. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in Davos for the World Economic Forum, said there was "no need to panic". Speaking to reporters travelling with him, Lee said Singapore has beefed up its hospital facilities and laid out response measures since the SARS epidemic. "I think we are much better prepared now," he said in remarks carried by the Straits Times newspaper.