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.
May 19, 2008
Lithuania is a stable democracy undergoing rapid economic growth. Tourist facilities in Vilnius, the capital, and to a lesser extent in Kaunas and Klaipeda, are simi
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required to enter Lithuania. As there are no direct flights from the U.S. to Lithuania, U.S. citizens should be aware of passport validity requirements in transit countries. American citizens do not need a visa to travel to Lithuania for business or pleasure for up to 90 days. That 90-day period begins with entry to any of the “Schengen Group” countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden. Multiple visits to Schengen countries may not exceed 90 days in any 6 month period. Travelers remaining in Lithuania for more than 90 days within any six-month period must apply for temporary residency.
Lithuanian authorities recommend applying or a residency permit through a Lithuanian embassy or consulate before initial entry into Lithuania, as processing times can run beyond 90 days. All foreigners of non-European Union countries seeking entry into Lithuania must carry proof of a medical insurance policy contracted for payment of all costs of hospitalization and medical treatment in Lithuania. Visitors unable to demonstrate sufficient proof of medical insurance must purchase short-term insurance at the border from a Lithuanian provider for roughly $1.00 per day. The number of days will be calculated from the day of entry until the date on the return ticket. Children residing in Lithuania must have written permission to travel outside the country from at least one parent if their parents are not accompanying them on their trip. This policy is not applicable to temporary visitors. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Lithuania and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Lithuania web site at www.ltembassyus.org for the most current visa information.
Note: Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passport upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function. If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passport may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information abut customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Civil unrest is not a problem in Lithuania, and there have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests. Incidents of anti-Americanism are rare.
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, including 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., 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: Lithuania is a relatively safe country. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Large amounts of cash and expensive jewelry should be secured in a hotel safe or left at home. Crimes against foreigners, while usually non-violent, do occur. Pickpocketing and thefts are problems, so personal belongings should be well protected at all times. Theft from cars and car thefts occur regularly. Drivers should be wary of persons indicating they should pull over or that something is wrong with their car. Often, a second car or person is following, and when the driver of the targeted car gets out to see if there is a problem the person who has been following will either steal the driver’s belongings from the vehicle or get in and drive off with the car. Drivers should never get out of the car to check for damage without first turning off the ignition and taking the keys. Valuables should not be left in plain sight in parked vehicles, as there have been increasing reports of car windows smashed and items stolen. If possible, American citizens should avoid walking alone at night. ATMs should be avoided after dark. In any public area, one should always be alert to being surrounded by two or more people at once. Additionally, criminals have a penchant for taking advantage of drunken pedestrians. Americans have reported being robbed and/or scammed while intoxicated.
Following a trend that has spread across Eastern and Central Europe, racially motivated verbal, and sometimes physical, harassment of foreigners of non-Caucasian ethnicity has been reported in major cities. Incidents of racially motivated attacks against American citizens have been reported in Klaipeda and Vilnius.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on these serious problems is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, 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. For more information about assistance for victims of crime in Lithuania, please visit the Embassy’s web site at http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/service/crime-victim-assistance.html.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in Lithuania has improved in the last 15 years, but medical facilities do not always meet Western standards. There are a few private clinics with medical supplies and services that nearly equal Western European or U.S. standards. Most medical supplies are now widely available, including disposable needles, anesthetics, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. However, hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. Lithuania has highly trained medical professionals, some of whom speak English, but their availability is decreasing as they leave for employment opportunities abroad. Depending on his or her condition, a patient may not receive an appointment with a specialist for several weeks. Western-quality dental care can be obtained in major cities. Elderly travelers who require medical care may face difficulties. Most pharmaceuticals sold in Lithuania are from Europe; travelers will not necessarily find the same brands that they use in the United States. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, particularly if immigration status in Lithuania is unclear.
Tick-borne encephalitis and lyme disease are widespread throughout the country. Those intending to visit parks or forested areas in Lithuania are urged to speak with their health care practitioners about immunization. Rabies is also increasingly prevalent in rural areas.
The Lithuanian Government does not require HIV testing for U.S. citizens. However, sexually transmitted diseases are a growing public health problem.
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 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.
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. All foreigners of non-European Union countries seeking entry into Lithuania must carry proof of a medical insurance policy contracted for payment of all costs of hospitalization and medical treatment in Lithuania (please see entry/exit requirements above). 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 Lithuania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
The Police allow Americans to drive in Lithuania with an American driver’s license for up to 90 days. Americans who reside in Lithuania for 185 days or more in one calendar year and who wish to continue driving in Lithuania must acquire a Lithuanian driver's license. The foreign license must be given to the Lithuanian Road Police to be processed by the Consular Department of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in turn sends it to the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section, where the owner is expected to claim it.
Roads in Lithuania range from well-maintained two- to four-lane highways connecting major cities to small dirt roads traversing the countryside. Violation of traffic rules is common. It is not unusual to be overtaken by other automobiles, traveling at high speed, even in crowded urban areas. Driving at night, especially in the countryside, can be particularly hazardous. In summer, older seasonal vehicles and inexperienced drivers are extra hazards. Driving with caution is urged at all times. Driving while intoxicated is a very serious offense and carries heavy penalties. The speed limit is 50 km/hr in town and 90 km/hr out of town unless otherwise indicated. The phone number for roadside assistance is 8-800-01414 from a regular phone and 1414 from a GSM mobile phone.
Seatbelts are mandatory for the driver and all passengers except children under the age of 12. During the winter, most major roads are cleared of snow. Winter or all-season tires are required from November 10th through April 1st. Studded tires are not allowed from April 10th through October 31st. Drivers must have at least their low beam lights on at all times while driving. Public transportation is generally safe.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at www.tourism.lt and at www.lra.lt/index_en.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Lithuania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lithuania’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 www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Lithuanian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary importation into or export from Lithuania of items such as firearms and antiquities. Please see our Customs Information.
Telephone connections are generally good. American 1-800 numbers can be accessed from Lithuania but not on a toll-free basis; the international long distance rate per minute will be charged. Local Internet cafes offer computer access. ATMs are widely available. Most hotels and other businesses accept major credit cards.
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 Lithuanian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Lithuania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or possessing or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. For more information about arrest procedures in Lithuania, please visit the Embassy’s web site at http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/arrests.html. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues web page.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Lithuania are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Lithuania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Akmenu Gatve 6, tel. (370) (5) 266-5500 or 266-5600; fax (370) (5) 266-5590. Consular information can also be found on the Embassy Vilnius web site at http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 5, 2007 to update sections on Crime and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
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A report in Eurosurveillance Weekly in 2004 stated, "Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is endemic in virtually all countries in Central and Eastern Europe. It is caused by several closely related but distinct flaviviruses. 3 subtypes are recognised at present: a Far-Eastern subtype, a Siberian subtype and a European subtype. The Siberian subtype is associated with Russian spring-summer encephalitis and is transmitted predominantly by the tick _Ixodes persulcatus_, whereas the European subtype causes central European encephalitis and is transmitted by _Ixodes ricinus_.
Vilnius, July 3, 2019 (AFP) - Lithuania declared an emergency on Wednesday as a severe drought hit the Baltic EU state, threatening to slash this year's harvest by up to half. Apart from jeopardising crops, scant rainfall has also drastically reduced water levels in some rivers, threatening fish stocks and shipping activities.
The formal declaration of an "emergency situation" will allow the government to compensate farmers for some losses as well as help them to avoid EU financial sanctions should they fail to reach production goals. "Farmers believe their harvest can be slashed by 40 percent or 50 percent, while fish stocks are also endangered," environment minister Kestutis Mazeika told AFP.
Mazeika said "nobody has any doubt" that global climate change is behind the prolonged and more intensive dry spells and heatwaves in recent years. He also appealed to neighbouring Belarus to increase the water level in the Neris river by allowing more water to flow from its reservoirs. Last month was the hottest June ever recorded with soaring temperatures worldwide capped off by a record-breaking heatwave across Western Europe, satellite data showed Tuesday. Lithuania also registered its hottest-ever June, with a peak of 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.2 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded on June 12.
Over the last week, firefighters have fought wildfires triggered by the heat in peat bogs in western Lithuania and neighbouring Latvia. Elsewhere in Central Europe, Polish authorities said this week that varying degrees of drought have put grain crops at risk in 14 of the EU country's 16 regional districts. The Czech Academy of Sciences said it expects drought to affect the entire country, with 80 percent of the territory facing "exceptional to extreme drought".
Vilnius, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - Lithuanian temperatures have hit record June highs, meteorologists said Thursday, as a heatwave forced school closures and threatened to reduce harvests in the draught-hit Baltic region. Kaisiadorys in central Lithuania was the hottest place at 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, the highest-ever temperature recorded for June in the country, weather forecaster Paulius Starkus told AFP. Six people drowned in the Baltic EU state on Wednesday, the deadliest day of the year to date, while some schools put classes on hold or cut lessons short due to the heatwave.
Scientists say the extreme weather is in part a result of climate change. "Lithuania used to have heatwaves but now they occur more often and are more intense due to climate change," Vilnius University climatologist Donatas Valiukas told AFP. Starkus said a downpour with thunder and hail could follow in some areas on Thursday afternoon. Agriculture Minister Giedrius Surplys told lawmakers that some areas were experiencing "a real climatic draught" threatening harvests, while hydrologists warned that river water levels posed a threat to fish. Demand for air-conditioning has also soared in recent weeks. Lithuania's hot weather is expected to last through the week, then temperatures may ease below 30 degrees Celsius starting Monday. Fellow Baltic state Latvia is also experiencing unusual heat for June, with temperatures over 32 degrees Celsius.
In recent days, Latvia's western region of Kurzeme saw thunderstorms with hail damaging buildings, smashing greenhouses and tearing power lines. Two people have been hospitalised in the northern Latvian town of Cesis after a tree fell on their camper van while they were inside. Fellow Baltic state Estonia had a heatwave last week and is now experiencing rainy and windy weather. Poland has also been experiencing high temperatures this month, which has resulted in increased air-conditioner use. The power transmission system operator PSE said that on Wednesday there was record electricity demand for a summer morning at nearly 24.10 gigawatts (GW). Forty-two people have already drowned in Poland this month, according to the government security centre RCB.
Vilnius, Oct 11, 2018 (AFP) - Lithuania's parliament on Thursday passed a law that will allow doctors to prescribe marijuana-based medicine in the Baltic EU state. The lawmakers voted 90-0 with three abstentions in favour of the legislation that will now go to President Dalia Grybauskaite to be signed into law. "It is a historic decision to ensure that patients can receive the best possible treatment," said lawmaker Mykolas Majauskas who tabled the bill.
Other European countries have legalised cannabis for medical purposes including Austria, Britain, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece and Italy among them. "Of course, it does not mean cannabis will be available to get at a drugstore to smoke before going to a nightclub," Majauskas said. The law will come into force in May next year. Selling the drugs will require a licence from the state regulator. Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Lithuania, a Baltic state of 2.8 million people.
Brazil is the largest country in South America and extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean to the depths of the Amazon basin. The climate varies throughout the country but generally it experiences a humid
Safety & Security
The level of crime in many of the main urban centres is certainly rising and tourists need to be aware of the risks involved in travelling particularly in the evening hours. It is wise to use an official taxi for any journeys after dark. It is sensible not to flaunt any personal wealth and to use the hotel safety boxes for any valuables and your travel documents. The amount of crime against tourists tends to be greater in areas surrounding hotels, discotheques, bars, nightclubs and other similar establishments that cater to visitors, especially at dusk and during the evening hours. There are frequent reports of theft on city buses and such transportation should be avoided. A number of the main cities have established specialised tourist police units to patrol areas frequented by tourists. Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia all continue to experience a high incidence of crime.
Throughout this huge country the state of the roads varies greatly. In many regions the roads are dirt tracks and assistance would be hard to obtain for those travelling off from the main tourists routes. Bag snatching from traffic lights occurs in the main cities. If considering hiring a car make certain that your travel insurance is sufficient.
After your flight you will experience a degree of jet lag. Travelling from Europe this will be less than when you travel home but nevertheless it will still cause your body to complain for 24 to 48 hours. Try to have a more relaxing time for the first few days (and also after returning home if possible!). Be careful not to fall asleep by the pool and then awaken with sunburn which could ruin your time abroad.
In any country of this size the level of medical care will vary greatly. This is particular true out side the main tourist resorts. English speaking doctors should be available but the level of hospital care can be worrisome. Make certain you carry sufficient supplies of any medication you may require for your entire holiday. Essential drugs (asthma, diabetes, epilepsy etc) should be divided for security.
Sun Exposure and Dehydration
The hot humid tropical climate often leads to quite significant problems for the Irish traveller. Make sure you cover your head when out in the sunlight and drink plenty of fluids to replenish that lost through perspiration. Replace the salt you loose by eating crisps etc orby putting salt on your meal (providing there is no contraindication).
Visiting the Iguassu Falls
These huge waterfalls border Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. There is only minimal risk of malaria and so malaria prophylaxis is not generally recommended. Also, Yellow fever is not transmitted in this area but mosquitoes can abound. Sensible insect bite precautions should be followed at all times.
Food & Water
Many tourists who visit Brazil stay in the main resorts along the southern coast. The food and water preparation in the hotels is normally excellent but eating food from street vendors is generally unwise. Shell fish (bivalve oysters, mussels, clams etc) are unwise even in a five star hotel. Check the water from the cold water tap in your room. If you can’t easily smell chlorine (swimming pool style) don’t use it even for brushing your teeth. If travelling around the country (Caribbean coast or into the Amazon regions) take significantly more care.
This viral disease occurs throughout Brazil and it is usually transmitted through the bite from an infected warm-blooded animal (eg dogs, cats & monkeys). Any contact should be avoided but if it occurs treat it very seriously and seek competent medical attention immediately after you wash out the area and apply an antiseptic.
The risk of malaria is significant all year throughout the Amazon regions. There is insignificant risk for those staying along the coast up as far as Fortaleza and for those remaining in this region prophylaxis is not usually recommended. The risk in the region of Brasilia is also thought to be minimal though this is an area which has unusually experience an outbreak of Yellow Fever recently, and so the situation will require review.
Mosquito Borne Diseases Apart from malaria the other two main diseases transmitted by mosquitoes which cause problems in Brazil are Dengue Fever (mainly along Caribbean Coast but has been reported much further south) and Yellow Fever (mainly in the Amazon Basin but thought to be spreading to other regions). Avoidance techniques are important at all times throughout the day. Swimming **************************************** Most of the main tourist swimming pools will be well maintained and the smell of chlorine will be evident. If sea swimming is on your agenda make sure you go where there are plenty of others and never swim alone. Look for warning signs and pay attention to local advice. Be very careful of local currents which can be dangerous. Vaccinations **************************************** The Brazilian Embassy is advising all travellers to Brazil to have vaccination cover against Yellow Fever. Also for your personal protection it is wise to consider some further vaccines. Generally we would recommend the following vaccination cover; * Yellow Fever (mosquito borne) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water borne) * Hepatitis A (food & water borne) For those travelling more extensively or staying in the country for longer periods we would usually suggest that further vaccines are considered including Hepatitis B, Meningitis and Rabies. Summary **************************************** Many travellers to Brazil will remain perfectly healthy and well providing they follow some sensible precautions. Further information is available from either of our centres regarding any recent disease outbreaks.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Rio de Janeiro, Feb 5, 2020 (AFP) - A tourist who was robbed while vacationing in Rio de Janeiro posted a disgusted message online... only to have Brazil's national tourism board post it to its official Instagram account by mistake. "Rio is such a beautiful city," begins the message posted by Instagram user @withlai -- and that is perhaps as far as the Brazilian Tourist Board's social media department read before clicking "share." But the message continues: "Beautiful is not enough." During a three-day stay in Rio, @withlai wrote, "my family and I were robbed and my nine-year-old sister witnessed a violent robbery. I can't recommend a visit to a city where I felt afraid of even leaving the apartment."
Embratur, as the tourism board is known, shared the message on its own Instagram account Tuesday evening, leaving it up long enough for the gaffe to go viral before deleting the post. "This message was shared by mistake," Embratur said in a red-faced statement, adding that it was in fact working to "publicize the drop in violent crime (in Brazil) in 2019." Rio, the port of entry for many of the millions of tourists who visit Brazil each year, is known for the breath-taking beauty of its sun-soaked beaches and emerald mountains, but also its violent crime. Rio de Janeiro state, of which the city is the capital, registered nearly 4,000 murders and 120,500 muggings last year -- though that was a drop of 19 percent and eight percent, respectively.
Source: Globo.com [in Portuguese, trans. ProMED Mod.PMB, edited]
Monkey deaths due to yellow fever (YF) in Parana state have increased to 46 from 40 the previous week. According to a report issued by the state secretary of health, no case has been confirmed in humans so far, although 16 suspected cases are being investigated. Five of the new confirmed monkey cases were from Lapa, in the metropolitan region of Curitiba. This municipality had no previous record of dead monkeys due to YF. Another monkey death due to YF was in Antonio Olinto, in Southern Parana state. That city already had reported a confirmed case in monkeys.
The previous list of localities with records of monkey deaths due to YF is as follows: Castro: 11 Ponta Grossa: 8 Lapa: 5 Candido de Abreu, Sapopema, Teixeira Soares, Antonio Olinto, Ipiranga and PiraÃ do Sul: 2 Balsa Nova, Mandirituba, Quatro Barros, Rio Negro, Palmeira, Sao Joao do Triunfo, Imbituva, Mallet, PrudentÃ³polis and Sao Mateus do Sul: 1. "The weekly newsletter is useful to monitor the outbreaks and alert on the presence of the virus in these localities", said the secretary of health, Beto Preto. Citizens of Parana state are being summoned to local units of health to receive vaccination against YF.
The vaccine is indicated for adults of up to 59 years old, and children from 9 months of age, with a booster at the age of 4 years. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children up to 9 months of age and adults over 60, people with severe egg allergy or immunocompromised people should be vaccinated only after medical assessment.
[The current expansion of YF in South America raises concern for public health and also about potential conservation problems for susceptible non-human primate species in the continent. The virus is endemic in much of central and northern South America, and makes sporadic incursions to southern areas of the continent, like the states of Santa Catarina, Parano and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, Misiones in Argentina, or Paraguay.
The YF virus was introduced into the Americas about 400 years ago, yet the complex interactions that were established after its introduction are far from being elucidated. There is need for more research on the eco-epidemiology of the disease in the continent, specifically on the role of each non-human primate species, and especially in the presence of the persistent anthropogenic global environmental change. - ProMED Mod.PMB]
[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Brazil:
February 10, 2009
Vanuatu consists of more than 80 islands in a Y-shaped archipelago, 1300 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia.
It is an independent parliamentary democracy a
Tourist facilities are limited outside the capital, Port Vila, which is located on the Island of Efate.
The National Tourism Office of Vanuatu can be contacted at PO Box 209, Port Vila, Vanuatu, telephone (678) 22515, 22685, 22813, fax (678) 23889, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Vanuatu for additional information.
A valid passport and onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required.
Visas are not required for stays up to 30 days after which an extension of the stay of up to 120 days is possible.
For further information on entry requirements, particularly for those persons planning to enter by a sailing vessel, please contact the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Vanuatu to the United Nations,
800 Second Avenue, Suite 400B, New York, N.Y. 10017, Telephone: (212) 661-4303; fax: (212) 422-3427, (212) 661-5544, e-mail: email@example.com
Travelers who plan to transit or visit Australia must enter that country with an Australian visa or, if eligible, through Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). The ETA replaces a visa and allows eligible travelers a stay of up to three months in Australia. An ETA may be obtained for a small service fee at http://www.eta.immi.gov.au/. Airlines and many travel agents in the United States are also able to issue ETA’s.
Travelers may obtain more information about the ETA and Australian entry requirements from the Australian Embassy at 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC
20036, tel. (202) 797-3000.
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:
Civil disorder is rare; however, U.S. citizens are advised to avoid public demonstrations and/or political rallies if they occur.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's, 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 A Safe Trip Abroad.
Although violent crime is rare in Vanuatu, the level of criminal activity has increased in the past year. Typical crimes in Vanuatu are theft, burglary and sexual harassment/assault. Tourists, therefore, should take reasonable precautions to avoid exposing themselves to undue risk especially in Luganville (Espiritu Santo island), Lakatoro (Malekula island), and Lenakel (Tanna island).
Women have sometimes been victims of sexual assault or harassment in Vanuatu; therefore, it is advisable that women travelers not travel alone.
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 U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby for assistance.
The Embassy staff can assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney, if needed.The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Vanuatu is 112.
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 those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Vanuatu’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Vanuatu 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.
Vanuatu and Australian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Vanuatu of items such as firearms, certain prescription drugs, wooden artifacts, exotic animals, food, and sexually explicit material.
Other products may be subject to quarantine.
It is advisable to contact the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Vanuatu to the United Nations,
800 Second Avenue, Suite 400B, New York, N.Y. 10017, Telephone: (212) 661-4303; fax: (212) 422-3427, (212) 661-5544, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and the Australian Embassy for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our Customs Information sheet.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and proof of U.S. citizenship are readily available.
Vanuatu is prone to sudden tidal movements, tropical storms, and cyclones. The Pacific cyclone season lasts from November through April.
Local media and hotels will convey cyclone alerts issued by local authorities, and detailed weather information is published by the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Center, Météo-France in New Caledonia and the Fiji Meteorological Service.
Volcanoes/Earthquakes: Vanuatu is situated on in active seismic zone, and prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, sometimes followed by tsunamis.
The risk level of Vanuatu’s many active volcanoes can change on a daily basis. Travelers to areas where there are volcanoes can contact the Department of Geology and Mines at 22423 to obtain information about the activity of a volcano.
Please contact the Vanuatu Tourism Office prior to traveling to areas where volcanic activity may occur.
Detailed information about earthquakes is available from the National Earthquake Information Center of the United States Geological Survey.
If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) and from the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Center.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities are limited.
The nearest reliable medical treatment is in Australia or New Zealand.
There are two hyperbaric recompression chambers in Vanuatu; one in Luganville, on Espiritu Santo Island, and the other in Port Vila, on Efate Island.
Please note, however, that diving-related injuries may require medical evacuation to Australia or New Zealand.
There is a paramedic service in Vanuatu called ProMedical, which is manned by Australian and New Zealand personnel. They also handle any medical evacuations.
Serious injuries requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States or elsewhere can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for their services.
Pharmacies in Vanuatu are found only in urban centers and at missionary clinics.
They are small and may be inadequately stocked.
Travelers should bring adequate supplies of their medications for their stay in Vanuatu.
Travelers who anticipate the possible need for medical treatment in Australia should obtain entry permission for Australia in advance.
Entry permission for Australian can be granted by the Australian High Commission in Port Vila, but it may be easier to obtain a visa or ETA prior to leaving the United States (See the section above on Entry/Exit Requirements).
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 web site.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site. Malaria is prevalent in some areas.
Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
The Government of Vanuatu does not impose any entry restrictions for persons with the HIV/AIDS virus, as long as they include the information on the arrival form.
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 Vanuatu is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Vehicular traffic in Vanuatu moves on the right.
Travel on highways outside of major towns can be hazardous.
Drivers and passengers are advised to wear seatbelts.
There is no country-wide road network; roads are generally in poor repair.
Because Vanuatu is a chain of islands and atolls, most long-distance travel is by air or sea.
Only the capital city of Port Vila (on Efate Island) and the town of Luganville (on Espiritu Santo Island) have consistently paved roads, which have a maximum speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour.
These paved roads can be quite narrow in spots; drivers should take care, especially at night or along unfamiliar routes.
The roads in all other areas are mostly unpaved or dirt tracks.
Drivers on all roads should give way to traffic coming from the right, and to traffic coming from the left at a round-about.
Travelers must take care when driving off main roads to avoid trespassing on communal land.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
For specific information concerning Vanuatu driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the National Tourism Office of Vanuatu or the Vanuatu Mission to the United Nations at email@example.com
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Vanuatu, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Vanuatu’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.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
The U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea
provides primary assistance for U.S. citizens in Vanuatu.
The Embassy is located on Douglas Street, adjacent to the Bank of Papua New Guinea, in Port Moresby.
Use that address for courier service deliveries.
The mailing address is PO Box 1492, Port Moresby, N.C.D. 121, Papua New Guinea; the telephone number is (675) 321-1455; after hours duty officer telephone number is (675) 683-7943; fax (675) 321-1593.
American citizens may submit consular inquiries via e-mail to ConsularPortMoresby@state.gov.
Americans living or traveling in Vanuatu are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby through the State Department’s travel registration web site, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Vanuatu.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Vanuatu dated July 18, 2008, to update sections on Crime, Special Circumstances and Medical Facilities.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Wellington, July 31, 2019 (AFP) - A strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck near the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu Thursday, the US Geological Survey said, but no tsunami warning was issued. USGS said the quake hit about 178 kilometres (110 miles) northwest of the capital Port Vila at 2:02 am (1502 GMT Wednesday) at a depth of 179 kilometres. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami threat from the quake. USGS said there was a low likelihood of casualties and damage. Vanuatu is part of the "Ring of Fire," a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific frequently subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Sydney, Dec 18, 2018 (AFP) - A one-month-old on a remote island in the Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu became the first child to be immunised in a commercial trial of drone-delivered vaccines, the UN children's fund UNICEF said Tuesday. Aid agencies hope the successful run in the country, where one in five children is not fully immunised, could eventually help governments and organisations reach others in far-flung places around the world. "Today's small flight by drone is a big leap for global health," UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement. "With the world still struggling to immunise the hardest to reach children, drone technologies can be a game changer for bridging that last mile to reach every child."
While this is not the first time that drones have been used to deliver vaccines, it is the first time such a method has been deployed in Vanuatu, which has 83 islands, most only accessible by boat. It is also the first time a commercial contract is being used for routine immunisations, UNICEF said. A key requirement for the deliveries is maintaining the temperatures at which the vaccines are carried. In warmer places such as Vanuatu, transportation across limited roads has its challenges. In the trial, the drone travelled across almost 40 kilometres (25 miles) of rough and mountainous terrain from the west of the southern island of Erromango to its east, arriving at the remote Cook's Bay.
The vaccines were kept in styrofoam boxes that carried ice-packs and a temperature sensor that would be triggered if it exceeded the required range. A total of 13 children and five pregnant women were vaccinated by a registered nurse, UNICEF added. "As the journey is often long and difficult, I can only go there once a month to vaccinate children. But now, with these drones, we can hope to reach many more children in the remotest areas of the island," the nurse, Miriam Nampil, told UNICEF. The agency said Vanuatu's government was considering incorporating drone deliveries of vaccines into their national immunisation programme, and with the supply of other health aids.
Sydney, Aug 21, 2018 (AFP) - A 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Wednesday morning, the US Geological Survey said, but no tsunami warning was issued. The quake struck at a moderate depth of 30 kilometres (19 miles) with the epicentre just off the northern tip of Vanuatu's sparsely-populated Ambrym island.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami risk. "Shaking would have been felt throughout the whole of Vanuatu," Geoscience Australia senior seismologist Eddie Leask told AFP. "But it's hard to tell whether it will cause damage. It's reasonably shallow but it all depends on the buildings, soil type and so on."
On its website, Geoscience put the potential damage radius at 63 kilometres. The nearest city, Lakatoro, is 78 kilometres away, with the capital Port Vila 187 kilometres north of the epicentre. "We get a lot of five and six magnitude quakes coming through Vanuatu," added Leask. "We'd expect to see smaller aftershocks, and even a bigger one." The Vanuatu Disaster Management Office told AFP it was not aware of any immediate damage.
Vanuatu, with a population of about 280,000 spread over 65 inhabited islands, is regarded as one of the world's most disaster-prone countries. It sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," making it vulnerable to strong earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, while powerful cyclones also regularly lash the islands. A 7.0-magnitude quake struck in 2017, but no damage was reported.
Wellington, July 27, 2018 (AFP) - Vanuatu renewed a state of emergency on the volcano-hit island of Ambae Friday and ordered the compulsory evacuation of all residents. A series of eruptions at the Manaro volcano that began last September intensified this week, sending a 12 kilometre (7.5 mile) column of ash spewing into the atmosphere.
The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards department has described the volcano as a "danger to direct safety to life" and warned people to stay three kilometres from its vent. "The local population from Ambae and from neighbouring islands will continue to hear rumbling, volcanic explosions (and) smell volcanic gases," it said.
The Red Cross reported that a thick cloud of ash had covered the Pacific island, choking crops and cutting visibility to two metres in some areas. Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said the government had decided to order the island's population to be evacuated. "Cabinet has reimposed the state of emergency and ordered the compulsory evacuation of the entire population of Ambae," he tweeted.
The island has already undergone two evacuations since September. In the first one, just after the volcano started rumbling, authorities scrambled to temporarily remove all 11,000 residents using ferries and small private boats. The second evacuation in May was better organised, with thousands of people shipped to camps set up on neighbouring islands. However, it was not compulsory and many villagers indicated they wanted to stay. It is unclear whether the government is planning to make the latest compulsory evacuation permanent.
October 02, 2008
Latvia is a stable democracy with a developing economy. Most tourist facilities found in a western European city are available in the capital city of Riga. However,
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Latvia is a party to the Schengen agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter Latvia for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our fact sheet. Travelers remaining in Latvia for more than 90 days, including 180 day periods that cross over two half-calendar years, must apply for temporary residence. All travelers must have a valid insurance policy, covering medical expenses while in Latvia. Repatriation costs, including funeral and disposition of remains costs also have to be covered by the policy. In addition, upon entering or exiting the country, travelers must declare cash in excess of 10,000 euros to Latvian customs. For more information, travelers may contact the Latvian Embassy, at 2306 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202)328-2840, fax (202) 328-2860. For further information, visit http://www.latvia-usa.org. Within Latvia, contact the Ministry of Interiors Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs at Ciekurkalna 1, linija 1,k,3,Riga, LV 1026. Tel. (371)67219645, (371)67219679, (371)80007657, fax (371)67219654, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web site http://www.ocma.gov.
Any traveler to Russia, even in transit, is advised to obtain a visa prior to entry into Latvia. The process of obtaining a visa at the Russian Embassy in Riga can be lengthy, and involve surrender of the passport for an undetermined period of time. Visit the Embassy of Latvia web site at http://www.latvia-usa.org for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Civil unrest is not a problem in Riga. Nonetheless, in the past, Riga has seen large, peaceful demonstrations related to internal political issues. While demonstrations have been peaceful, American citizens are nevertheless cautioned to avoid any large public demonstrations. There have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests. Incidents of anti-Americanism are rare. However, instances of racially motivated verbal harassment, and on occasion, physical assaults on non-Caucasian foreigners, have occurred in Riga. There have also been reports of non-Caucasian foreigners being subjected to extra scrutiny by security guards in shops and malls in Riga. Additionally, individuals displaying alternative lifestyles have experienced harassment.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., 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 notice A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Crime in Riga is generally non-violent. The majority of non-violent crime tends toward acts of pickpocketing, identity theft, and personal scams. However, there have been instances of serious violent assaults and robberies. Street crime is a serious problem, particularly for tourists. In addition to pickpockets in all public areas, there are numerous scam artists targeting foreigners in the tourist pubs and restaurants. There have been a number of reports recently of foreign tourists being charged xorbitant prices for drinks in bars. Some have then been assaulted or forced to withdraw money from an ATM to pay the bill. You can avoid situations like this by ensuring that you check the price of drinks before ordering, pay for one round at a time and seek recommendations for bars from trustworthy sources. There have also been a few cases of tourists and residents being drugged in bars and restaurants and then taken outside or to their residences and robbed. In any public area, one should always be alert, particularly to being surrounded by two or more people at once. It is not uncommon for groups of pickpockets to attempt to overwhelm their victim. Gangs of professional pickpockets are specifically targeting foreigners, particularly those carrying backpacks. In addition, Riga has one of the highest rates of car theft in the world.
Internet crime is a growing concern in Latvia. Common fraudulent schemes involve both Internet auction sites and Internet job search sites. In the first scam, criminals offer valuable items for sale at low prices on Internet auctions and request that payments be sent by wire transfer to a bank in Latvia or through a fraudulent escrow site that they have created themselves. In this scheme, the money passes through a bank in Latvia and is quickly withdrawn by ATM or transferred to a bank in another country. It is very difficult in these cases to discover the identities of the account holders or recover the funds.
The second common scam involves identity theft through false job offers. In this scheme, a company claiming to be located in Latvia, but which has a non-existent address, offers the victim employment as a U.S. – based agent or freight forwarder. When the victim responds to the job offer, commonly posted on one of several popular Internet job sites, a Social Security Number and other identifying information needed for the identity theft is required under the guise of conducting a background check.
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 or Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. For more information, see Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in Latvia is steadily improving, but remains limited in several important respects. There are a few private clinics with medical supplies and services, including disposable needles and basic modern diagnostics, which are nearly equal to Western Europe or U.S. standards. However, because of the lack of equipment and resources, most major invasive procedures or surgeries in Latvia are not recommended. Hospital services have shown good progress but are still not equal to Western standards. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Most, but not all, antibiotics and prescription medications are available but as they are generally produced in Europe or Latvia, they often have different names and instructions are usually not printed in English. Diphtheria, hepatitis and tick-borne encephalitis are present. According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis is a significant problem in Latvia, with 9% of all cases being multi-drug resistant. For further information, please consult the CDC’s Travel notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx. State ambulance service for emergencies is available by dialing 112 anywhere in Latvia. However, response time is poor in rural areas. Air ambulance service is available for medical evacuations. In general, private air ambulance services are very expensive and require advance payment before the patient is transported.
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 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
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 Latvia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Foreign visitors to Latvia planning to operate a motor vehicle are required to obtain an International Driving Permit. These may be obtained through the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance for a small fee. A U.S. state driver’s license is not sufficient. These requirements apply to those operating rental cars as well, whether or not the rental company chooses to enforce the requirement as a condition of rental. Individuals driving without an International Driving Permit may have their vehicle confiscated by the police. Americans resident in Latvia for more than six months are required to apply for a Latvian driver’s license. Upon receipt of a Latvian driver’s license, American citizens are required to surrender their US driver’s license to the Latvian authorities. The licenses are then returned to their respective states of issuance. For more information, visit the Latvian Road and Traffic Safety Department at http://www.csdd.lv
Latvia has one of the highest rates of automobile accidents and fatalities in Europe. While recent reports show a decrease in the number of traffic accident fatalities, there are still a number of hazards to watch out for. Drivers should be alert for pedestrians and slow moving vehicles in traffic. Additionally, violation of traffic rules is common, and it is not unusual to be overtaken by other automobiles traveling at high speeds, even in crowed urban areas. Drivers do not always yield to pedestrians, even at marked intersections. During winter, most major roads are cleared of snow. However, drivers should be alert for fog, snow, and ice while driving. Driving while intoxicated is a very serous offense and carries heavy penalties. Local authorities use roadblocks and Breathalyzer tests as enforcement tools. Drivers and pedestrians should be alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians wandering on the road. Drivers must use their headlights at all times. Speed limits are usually 50 km/hr in the city and 90 km/hr on the highways. Public transportation is generally considered safe, but travelers are encouraged to select well-marked taxis. Emergency services are fair but improving (See section on Medical Facilities above); response time may be especially slow in traffic or in rural settings. Dial 112 for ambulance service.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for information. Visit the website of Latvia’s national tourist office at http://latviatourism.lv/info.php and the national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.csdd.lv/
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Latvia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Latvia’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 www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
Banks and currency exchange counters may refuse to accept U.S. currency that is crumpled, torn, discolored or defaced (even small pen stokes, hand written numbers and letters are considered defacing). If such notes are accepted for exchange, an additional processing fee, based on the size of the transaction, may be charged. ATMs are widely available in Riga and in major towns. For security purposes, it is recommended that visitors use ATMs located inside major hotels or shopping malls, versus those located on the street, in high-volume tourist areas. Telephone connections with the United States are reliable. However, 1-800 numbers cannot be accessed from Latvia. Please check with your long distance carrier before departure to see if they offer service in Latvia. Local Internet cafés offer computer access, and fax machines are widely available.
Latvian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Latvia of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, drugs, etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Latvia in Washington or one of the Latvian consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements at http://www.latvia-usa.org.
Please see our information on 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 Latvian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Latvia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit 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 web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living or traveling in Latvia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy of Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/ and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Latvia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 7 Raina Blvd. Riga, LV-1510, and may be reached by dialing +371-703-6200. The fax number for the Consular American Citizen Services section is+371-781-4088. You can find the ACS section online at http://riga.usembassy.gov/
* * * * * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated March 12, 2008 with updated information on Entry Requirements.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Riga, Nov 7, 2019 (AFP) - Thousands of doctors and nurses rallied Thursday in front of the Latvian parliament in Riga calling for better pay in what was the Baltic state's largest protest in over a decade. Police said more than 5,000 people, including patients, turned out for the protest, which featured coffins and signs with slogans such as "United for health", "I only want to work one job" and "Patients supporting doctors and nurses". The LVSADA medical labour union organised the rally to condemn lawmakers for planning to increase their own salaries next year while reneging on a promise to boost wages in the chronically underfunded medical profession. "We won't allow the healthcare system to be starved again," LVSADA chief Valdis Keris said at the rally, which state hospital employees attended by taking a day of unpaid leave.
Some doctors also participated in the protest by only performing emergency surgery and tending to emergency patients on Thursday while rescheduling everything else. "The average monthly wage for a doctor at a Latvian public hospital is only between 1,000-3,000 euros ($1,100-$3,300)," protester and doctor Roberts Furmanis said in a statement sent to media. "I work my daily shift at one hospital, at night I also work overtime driving around in an ambulance, plus sometimes I lecture at medical schools on my rare days off," he added. "I get less than 3,000 euros a month for those jobs combined. How am I supposed to support my family?" Last year, lawmakers voted to raise wages for almost all employees of the government-run healthcare system, but now say that they are unable to find the necessary funds in the 2020 state budget. "I express deep regret for last year's promise, which we cannot carry out," speaker of parliament Inara Murniece told the rally.
Those protesting, however, point out that the 2020 state budget exceeds 10 billion euros for the first time ever in the country of just 1.9 million people -- or 700 million more euros than this year. Medical workers are upset that while there is no room for better healthcare wages in the new budget, the country's lawmakers and ministers plan to increase their own salaries next year and have also earmarked taxpayer money for their respective political parties. Thursday's rally was Latvia's largest since some 10,000 people attended a January 2009 protest against government cuts, which grew violent and resulted in dozens of arrests.
Source: Food Safety News [edited]
Officials in Latvia are investigating 40 _Salmonella_ and Shiga toxin-producing _E. coli_ illnesses with mostly children affected. A total of 36 children and 4 employees of educational institutions are ill, according to the Latvian Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC). Salmonellosis has been laboratory confirmed in 9 children with symptoms of acute intestinal infection thought to have occurred from [9 to 11 Sep 2019]. Patients have been recorded at Levina and Tornisi kindergartens. Shiga toxin-producing also called enterotoxigenic _E. coli_ (EHEC) infections have been linked to schools identified as Levina, Saulite and Piladzitis in Sigulda, a town in the country.
At least 4 children aged 3 to 6 years old have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after EHEC infection from early September 2019 in Sigulda. HUS is a type of kidney failure associated with EHEC infection. It can occur in people of any age but is most common in children under 5 years old. The SPKC has surveyed parents of sick children, visited preschools to obtain information on absent children and staff and the cause, analysed food menus and possible risk factors. A total of 19 infections at 3 other pre-school facilities in Ikskile, Garkalne and Ogre are not thought to be related to those ill in Sigulda.
The Latvian Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) has been investigating catering units at the 3 sites linked to _E. coli_ infection where catering comes from one company. Initial suspicions pointed to contaminated watermelons. Inspections at the catering units did not reveal violations of hygiene requirements that could contribute to the spread of infection. The sites also underwent cleaning and disinfection. PVD suspended operations of a vegetable processing firm called "Jelgavas AugÄ¼i" due to violations of hygiene requirements, product traceability and inadequate storage temperature for pre-packed vegetables that were stored at 13 deg. C [approx. 55 deg. F] instead of the required 6 deg. C [approx. 42 deg. F].
The company, through Baltic Restaurants Latvia, supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to Sigulda educational institutions but a connection to the outbreak has not been established. Testing at the firm so far has not found _E. coli_. Other results are pending but the company will be allowed to resume operations if they are negative and when it corrects the deficiencies identified by authorities. Authorities have also found issues with transportation of food by the company "Point to Point" Ltd between educational institutions.
[These are two outbreaks of enteric pathogens that appear to be related to food supplied to schools. The EHEC outbreak has been possibly linked to watermelon. With 9 cases of EHEC and 4 of them developing HUS, it is possible that the strain is a hyperproducer of Shiga toxin but most likely related to use of antimicrobials early in the infection which increases the risk of HUS. - ProMED Mod.LL]
[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Latvia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/119>]
Riga, May 15, 2019 (AFP) - A second Albanian soldier has died of his injuries from a World War II landmine blast last week during a NATO exercise in Latvia, the Baltic state's defence minister said Wednesday. Klodian Tanushi, who held the rank of major, died following surgery at a Riga hospital over the weekend, days after the landmine explosion that also killed another soldier. "I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the soldiers' relatives and friends, to their fellow service members and to the people of Albania," Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks told AFP. "Latvia is very grateful to our ally Albania for contributing to NATO's expanded presence in Latvia."
In 2016, NATO deployed four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states to guard against possible Russian adventurism. The defence group's rotating battalion in Latvia is led by Canada and also includes soldiers from Albania, the Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Tanushi, a father-of-three, was the commanding officer of the Albanian contingent stationed at the NATO base in the central village of Adazi. Both world wars left Latvia littered with many unexploded sea and landmines as well as artillery shells, which continue to be found on a daily basis. Clearing areas of such explosives is a frequent focus of NATO military exercises in the region.
Riga, July 22, 2018 (AFP) - Fires raging for five days have destroyed more than 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of western Latvia, authorities said Sunday, with continuing extreme temperatures hampering firefighters' efforts. Satellite images showed the fires have wiped out 170 acres of forest, 257 hectares of scrubland and nearly 400 hectares of peatland.
A peat fire in the Courland region broke out last Tuesday and spread eastwards, with the smoke noticeable in the resort town of Jurmala, more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) away in the neighbouring Riga region. "Peatland fires burn downward, but when there's wind, which brings oxygen, the fires can erupt into flames," Latvian fire services spokesman Inta Palkavniece told reporters. "The main goal is to prevent the fires from spreading," he added. The fire services said on its website that firefighting efforts would be "long and troublesome". "The weather is unfavourable to firefighting and will remain so over the next days," it said.
The Courland region is sparsely populated, with few roads and many areas inaccessible because of its vast marshes. Residents of Stikli, a village that was evacuated because of the fire, began to return home after the wind changed "of their own accord", the mayor of its municipality Ventspils, Aivars Mucenieks, told reporters. Pupils of a school for disabled children in Stikli will not return until the situation is fully under control, he added.
Meteorologists warned that the high temperatures are persisting and no rain is expected for the next two weeks. Latvia has experienced severe drought over the last few months, prompting authorities to declare a natural catastrophe in the agricultural sector. The Baltic country has not yet asked for help from other European countries and has no proposals to do so for the time being. But other countries in Europe have been in the grip of an unusually long heatwave for recent weeks with little prospect of rain for the time being.
In Sweden, where temperatures are the highest for a century, farmers are even sending their animals to slaughter because there is no hay left to feed them. It has asked for help from other European countries, because of the lack of manpower and capacity to tackle such natural catastrophes. Poland has asked the EU for financial aid after more than 91,000 farms were affected by an unusual spring drought, according to the agriculture ministry. In Germany, which suffered a drought in May and June, agricultural producers warned the harvest this year will be down by between 20 and 50 percent.
World Travel News Headlines
Damascus, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - A bomb explosion wounded two people in Damascus Thursday, the state news agency reported, the latest of several such attacks in the Syrian capital. "An explosive device planted on a pickup truck went off in the Marjeh area" in central Damascus, SANA said, adding that two civilians were wounded by the blast.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the device was a "sticky bomb" planted on a military vehicle, although it was not immediately clear what the target was. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, nor for a similar explosion that wounded five people in another neighbourhood of Damascus on Tuesday. The Syrian capital was routinely targeted by major car bomb attacks in the course of the nine-year-old conflict but blasts have been less frequent since regime forces reclaimed full control of the Damascus region in 2018.
By Laurent Thomet, with Miwa Suzuki in Tokyo
Beijing, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - China on Thursday touted a big drop in new virus infections as proof its epidemic control efforts are working, but the toll grew abroad with deaths in Japan and South Korea. Fatalities in China hit 2,118 as 114 more people died, but health officials reported the lowest number of new cases in nearly a month, including in hardest-hit Hubei province.
More than 74,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus in China, and hundreds more in over 25 countries. The number of deaths outside mainland China climbed to 11. Japan's toll rose to three as a man and a woman in their 80s who had been aboard a quarantined cruise ship died, while fears there mounted about other passengers who disembarked the Diamond Princess after testing negative.
South Korea reported its first death, and the number of infections in the country nearly doubled Thursday to 104 -- including 15 at a hospital in Cheongdo county. The mayor of Daegu -- South Korea's fourth-largest, with 2.5 million people -- advised residents to stay indoors, while commanders at a major US military base in the area restricted access. Iran reported two deaths on Wednesday, the first in the Middle East. Deaths have previously been confirmed in France, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Chinese officials say their drastic containment efforts, including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in cities nationwide, have started to pay off. "Results show that our control efforts are working," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a special meeting on the virus with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos, citing the latest data. Wang said the situation was "significantly improving" in Hubei and Wuhan, but an official in a central government team dealing with the epidemic said it was still "very severe".
- 'Not turning point' -
Although more than 600 new infections were reported in Hubei's capital Wuhan, it was the lowest daily tally since late January and well down from the 1,749 new cases the day before. The national figure has now fallen for three straight days. Chinese authorities placed the city of 11 million under quarantine on January 23 and quickly locked down the rest of the province in the days that followed.
Wuhan authorities this week carried out a three-day, door-to-door check on residents, with the local Communist Party chief warning that officials would be "held accountable" if any infections were missed. Cities far from the epicentre have limited the number of people who can leave their homes for groceries, while rural villages have sealed off access to outsiders. Richard Brennan, a World Health Organization official, said in Cairo that China was making "tremendous progress" and "trends are very encouraging, but we are not at a turning point yet".
- 'Chaotic' cruise quarantine -
While China has boasted progress in its fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, Japan's government has been criticised for the quarantine measures it placed on the Diamond Princess. The huge vessel moored in Yokohama is easily the biggest coronavirus cluster outside the Chinese epicentre, with 634 cases confirmed among passengers and crew. Another 13 people on board the ship were diagnosed with the virus Thursday, Japan's health ministry said. Still, passengers were disembarking after negative tests and having completed a 14-day quarantine period -- packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports.
Questions were asked over the wisdom of allowing them to mingle in Japan's crowded cities. "Is it really safe to get off?" screamed a headline in the Nikkan Sports tabloid. The paper quoted one passenger who said he was tested on February 15, but only left four days later. "I thought I could be infected during the four days. I thought 'Is it really OK'?"
A specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University slammed as "completely chaotic" the quarantine procedures on board in rare criticism from a Japanese academic. "The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of infection control," said Kentaro Iwata in videos he has since deleted.
South Korea, meanwhile, announced 51 new cases, with more than 40 in a cluster centred on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, an entity often accused of being a cult. The infections apparently came from a 61-year-old woman who first developed a fever on February 10 and attended at least four services before being diagnosed. Local media said she had twice refused to be tested for the coronavirus on the grounds she had not recently travelled abroad. Authorities were investigating whether she might have visited the hospital where a long-term patient contracted the virus and later died.
Some 15 other patients have now been found to have the virus. Shincheonji claims its founder, Lee Man-hee, has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to heaven on the day of judgement. A man in his 60s tested positive for the coronavirus after dying Wednesday following symptoms of pneumonia, South Korean authorities said.
Lagos, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - An outbreak of Lassa in Nigeria has killed 103 people this year, health authorities said, as the first confirmed case was reported in the economic hub Lagos. "Cumulatively from week 1 to week 07, 2020, 103 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate of 17.6%," said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its latest statistics on the virus released on Wednesday. The overall number of confirmed cases rose by 115 last week to a total of 586 across the country.
Separately, health authorities in Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city with 20 million inhabitants, said an infected person was diagnosed there on February 17 and being treated in isolation in hospital. "Sixty-three people that may have been in contact with the patient and who may have been infected in the process have been identified and are being monitored," the state government wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Endemic to Nigeria, Lassa fever belongs to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, but is much less deadly. The disease is spread by contact with rat faeces or urine or the bodily fluids of an infected person. The majority of those infected do not show symptoms but the disease can go on to cause severe bleeding and organ failure in about 20 percent of cases.
An outbreak of Lassa fever killed some 170 people around Nigeria last year. The number of cases usually climbs around the start of the year linked to the dry season. While the overall number of confirmed cases and deaths is up this year on the same period in 2019, the mortality rate is lower. Twenty health workers across the country have been confirmed as contracting the disease so far in 2020. The virus takes its name from the town of Lassa in northern Nigeria, where it was first identified in 1969.
By Nicolas DELAUNAY
Les Mamelles, Seychelles, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - On a plain suburban street in Seychelles, far from the idyllic coastline and luxury resorts pampering honeymooners and paradise-seekers, heroin addicts queue anxiously for their daily dose of methadone. It is a scene few outsiders would associate with the tropical nirvana adrift in the Indian Ocean, and one rarely, if ever, glimpsed by tourists as they shuttle from the airport to five-star luxury on white-sand beaches.
But life for many Seychellois is far from picture perfect: the tiny archipelago nation is battling what officials say are the world's highest rates of heroin addiction. Nearly 5,000 people are hooked, government figures show, equivalent to nearly 0 percent of the national workforce -- a statistic that has startled the government into action.
In comparison, 0.4 percent of the global population consumed opioids in 2016, half of them in Asia, according to a United Nations report that puts Seychelles among the top consumers alongside producing countries such as Afghanistan. The Seychelles' heroin boom, which took off over the past decade, gripped young and old alike and cut across class lines. Among those queueing in the town of Les Mamelles for methadone -- a substitute narcotic used to wean users off heroin -- are parents with young children, an old man leaning on a cane and a taxi driver between shifts.
Graham Moustache, a 29-year-old father of two, described how the arrival of affordable and high-quality heroin in Seychelles swept up his entire family. "I have four brothers and two sisters, and we have all been heroin addicts at one point," he told AFP, tracing his fingers over the needle scars on his arms. "I've been to prison twice," he said, adding his mother had turned him in as "she didn't know what to do any more". "Sometimes, I didn't have enough to eat and I had to choose between eating and buying heroin. I chose heroin."
- Soaring addiction -
The rise of new trafficking routes through East Africa in the late 2000s, coupled with porous borders and relatively high purchasing power among Seychellois, flooded the paradisal islands with heroin. The average salary in the archipelago is $420 (390) -- high compared to other African nations. The World Bank considers the Seychelles the only high-income country on the continent, thanks to the growing tourism industry. But around 40 percent of the population still lives in poverty.
By 2011, around 1,200 people were addicted, prompting a punitive crackdown. "We did not make a difference between the victim and the trafficker," said Patrick Herminie, director of the state-run Agency for Drug Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation (APDAR). By 2017, addiction had risen four-fold, placing Seychelles among the world's most drug-dependent nations. The government, realising its war on drugs had failed, changed tack and declared a public health emergency. "The magnitude of the problem is simply because we reacted a bit late," Herminie said.
Money has poured into combating the scourge, with state funds for drug prevention and rehabilitation programmes soaring to 75 million Seychelles rupees ($5.5 million) in 2020 -- almost 10 times the 2016 budget. APDAR, a specialist drug agency created in 2017 to tackle the problem, employs four times as many staff as the body that preceded it. A state-run methadone programme has reached 2,500 people, with medical follow-ups helping to track their progress. But the free availability of methadone has also prompted drug dealers to lower their prices.
Mobile clinics drive around offering methadone to addicts and providing free health checks and advice. "I've been clean for more than a year. I found a job as a fisherman, and I can see my two kids," said Moustache proudly, as he queued at the white methadone van staffed with healthcare workers. Others have struggled to stay the course. "Methadone helps me a lot, but it's difficult not to take heroin at all," said Gisele Moumou, an emaciated 32-year-old addict, drawing ragged breaths and sweating as she waits for her small cup of methadone.
- Stopping the scourge -
Schoolchildren are being taught about the damage done by drugs through awareness campaigns and billboards in classrooms. But there is much work to be done, especially among children from families affected by drug use, says Noellie Gonthier from CARE, a local harm-reduction charity. "Sometimes, four- or five-year-olds at school mimic injecting heroin," she said. "Our challenge is to make them understand that what they consider normal -- because of their family context -- actually isn't at all." On Mahe, a small, mountainous island with lush vegetation, most of the population lives near the water. Life is quiet here, without traffic, and the streets are mostly clean.
Poverty is largely hidden, concentrated in a few neighbourhoods behind faded walls or in the hills. So why do so many Seychellois take drugs? The authorities admit they haven't quite figured it out, but say it appears that while poverty does not quite allow people to live well, it allows them enough money to buy drugs to forget their woes. "The root of the cause, we're still working on it," said Herminie. Early studies show that health and social problems associated with heroin use have declined since the government switched its response from punishment to prevention, officials say.
Crime has nearly halved and annual cases of new hepatitis C infections have fallen 60 percent. Youth unemployment, meanwhile, has shrunk from 6.5 percent to 2.1 percent in recent years. One recovering addict, a taxi driver who did not want to be named, offered a bleak assessment as he waited for his daily methadone in an empty car park in Les Mamelles. "We're a small island in the middle of the ocean. What else is there to do here?" he said.
By Michael O'HAGAN
Otuke, Uganda, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Under a warm morning sun scores of weary soldiers stare as millions of yellow locusts rise into the northern Ugandan sky, despite hours spent spraying vegetation with chemicals in an attempt to kill them. From the tops of shea trees, fields of pea plants and tall grass savanna, the insects rise in a hypnotic murmuration, disappearing quickly to wreak devastation elsewhere. The soldiers and agricultural officers will now have to hunt the elusive fast-moving swarms -- a sign of the challenge facing nine east African countries now battling huge swarms of hungry desert locusts.
They arrived in conflict-torn South Sudan this week, with concerns already high of a humanitarian crisis in a region where 12 million are going hungry, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "One swarm of 40 to 80 million can consume food" for over 35,000 people in a day, Priya Gujadhur, a senior FAO official in Uganda, told AFP.
In Atira -- a remote village of grass-thatched huts in northern Uganda -- some 160 soldiers wearing protective plastic overalls, masks and goggles sprayed trees and plants with pesticide from before dawn in a bid to kill the resting insects. But even after hours of work they were mostly able to reach only lower parts of the vegetation. Major General Kavuma sits in the shade of a Neem Tree alongside civilian officials as locusts sprayed with pesticide earlier that morning fall around them, convulsing as they die. An intense chemical smell hangs in the air.
- 'They surrounded me' -
Zakaria Sagal, a 73-year-old subsistence farmer was weeding his field in Lopei village some 120 kilometres (75 miles) away, preparing to plant maize and sorghum, when without warning a swarm of locusts descended around him. "From this side and this side and this side, they surrounded me," Sagal said, waving his arms in every direction. "We have not yet planted our crops but if they return at harvest time they will destroy everything. We are not at all prepared."
East Africa's regional expert group, the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), warned Tuesday that eggs laid across the migratory path will hatch in the next two months, and will continue breeding as the rainy season arrives in the region. This will coincide with the main cropping season and could cause "significant crop losses... and could potentially worsen the food security situation", ICPAC said in a statement.
- 'Panic mode' -
Since 2018 a long period of dry weather followed by a series of cyclones that dumped water on the region created "excessively ideal conditions" for locusts to breed, says Gujadhur. Nevertheless, governments in East Africa have been caught off guard and are currently in "panic mode" Gujadhur said. The locusts arrived in South Sudan this week after hitting Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda. Desert locusts take over on a dizzying scale.
One swarm in Kenya reached around 2,400 square kilometres (about 930 square miles) -- an area almost the size of Moscow -- meaning it could contain up to 200 billion locusts. "A swarm that size can consume food for 85 million people per day," said Gujadhur. Ugandan authorities are aware that subsequent waves of locusts may pose problems in the weeks to come, but in the meantime they are attempting to control the current generation.
Gujadhur is quick to praise the "quite strong and very quick" response from the Ugandan government but is concerned that while the army can provide valuable personnel, a military-led response may not be as effective as is necessary. "It needs to be the scientists and (agriculture officials) who take the lead about where the control operations need to be and how and when and what time," she said.
- 'They eat anything green' -
The soldiers have been working non-stop for two days, criss-crossing the plains on the few navigable roads, trying to keep up with the unpredictable swarms. Major General Kavuma recognises that the biggest threat is from the eggs which are yet to hatch but is confident the army will be able to control this enemy. "We have the chemicals to spray them, all we need is to map the places they have been landing and sleeping," he said. "In two weeks time we will come back and by that time they will have hatched and that will be the time to destroy them by praying."
Back in Lopei village, Elizabeth Namoe, 40, a shopkeeper in nearby Moroto had been visiting family when the swarm arrived. "When the locusts settle they eat anything green, the animals will die because they have nothing to feed on, then even the people (will suffer)," she said. "The children will be affected by hunger and famine since all life comes from all that is green. I fear so much."
Beijing, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - China's President Xi Jinping called Wednesday for greater protection of medical staff fighting the new coronavirus after the deaths of prominent doctors sparked national anger at the government's handling of the outbreak. At least seven medical workers have died from the virus, while 1,716 have been confirmed as infected, most at the epicentre of the epidemic in central Hubei province where hospitals have dealt with a huge influx of patients.
Staff have faced shortages of masks and protective bodysuits, with some even wearing makeshift suits and continuing to work despite showing respiratory symptoms, health workers have told AFP. Xi said China must "strengthen efforts to relieve the stress of medical workers, provide them with daily necessities, arrange time for their rest and give them encouragement", the official Xinhua news agency reported. Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Hubei's capital Wuhan, died Tuesday, more than a week after the death of whistleblowing ophthalmologist Li Wenliang in the same city prompted nationwide mourning and calls for political reforms.
- 'Majestic spirit' -
A paper published by China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention said an additional 1,300 health workers may have been infected but have yet to receive a diagnosis. Xi said China must ensure medical teams in Hubei and Wuhan "carry out work in a safe, orderly, coordinated, effective and swift manner", Xinhua reported. The deaths of frontline medical workers "reflected doctors' humane and majestic spirit", Xi said. The death toll from the virus jumped past 2,000 on Wednesday, while 74,185 cases of infection have been confirmed in mainland China.
Tehran, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Two people in Iran tested positive Wednesday for the deadly new coronavirus, the health ministry said, in the Islamic republic's first cases of the disease. Kianoush Jahanpour, a ministry spokesman, said the cases were detected in the holy city of Qom, south of the Iranian capital. "In the past two days, some suspect cases of the new coronavirus were observed in Qom city," he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
"Teams were dispatched after receiving the reports, and based on the existing protocols the suspect cases were isolated and tested," said Jahanpour. "Out of the samples sent, a laboratory tested two of them as positive for coronavirus just minutes ago and some of the other samples were type B influenza."
The health ministry spokesman said additional tests were being done on the two cases and final results would be announced "as soon as possible". The new coronavirus epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000. It has spread to at least two dozen countries. The United Arab Emirates was the first country in the Middle East to report cases of coronavirus last month.