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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Miami, Sept 24, 2019 (AFP) - A strong 6.0 magnitude struck off the northwest coast of Puerto Rico late Monday, the United States Geological Survey said, although no casualties or damage were reported. The quake struck 62km northwest of San Antonio at 11:23 pm local time (03:20 GMT) at a depth of 10km, the agency said. San Antonio is home to Rafael Hernandez Airport, a key air link to the mainland US. In 2010 nearby Haiti was struck by a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled the nation's infrastructure.
San Juan, Feb 12, 2018 (AFP) - Most of San Juan and a strip of northern Puerto Rico municipalities were plunged into darkness Sunday night after an explosion at a power station, five months after two hurricanes destroyed the island's electricity network.
The state electric power authority (AEE) said the blast was caused by a broken-down switch in Rio Piedras, resulting in a blackout in central San Juan and Palo Seco in the north. "We have personnel working to restore the system as soon as possible," the AEE said. San Juan's mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, said on Twitter that emergency services and local officials attended the scene in the neighbourhood of Monacillos, but no injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican capital's airport said it was maintaining its schedule using emergency generators. The blackout comes as nearly 500,000 of AEE's 1.6 million customers remain without power since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the US territory in September 2017. AEE engineer Jorge Bracero warned on Twitter that the outage was "serious," and advised those affected that power would not be restored until Monday.
By Leila MACOR
Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Dec 13, 2017 (AFP) - Until Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Jose Figueroa did brisk business renting kayaks to tourists itching to see a lagoon that lights up by night thanks to millions of microorganisms. Today, things are so dire he's considering selling water to motorists stopped at red lights. "Now we are trying to survive," the 46-year-old tour guide said.
It used to be that visitors had to reserve a month in advance to get one of his kayaks and paddle around in the dark on the enchanting, bioluminescent body of water called Laguna Grande. But tourists are scarce these days as the Caribbean island tries to recover from the ravages of the storm back in September. "We do not know if we will have any work tonight," Figueroa said. "Last week, we worked only one day." He and another employee of a company called Glass Bottom PR are cleaning kayaks on the seaside promenade of Fajardo, a tourist town in eastern Puerto Rico whose main attraction is the so-called Bio Bay.
The year started off well for Puerto Rico, with the global success of the song "Despacito" by local musicians Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. The catchy tune helped promote the US commonwealth island of 3.4 million people, which is saddled with huge debts and declared bankruptcy in May. But the hurricane turned what should be an island bustling with tourists into one with deserted beaches, shuttered restaurants and hotels full of mainland US officials working on the rebuilding of the island. "What few tourists we have are the federal officials themselves," said Figueroa.
- Locals only -
The grim outlook spreads up and down the seaside promenade of Fajardo, where many restaurants are closed because there is no electricity. On this particular day around noon, the only restaurant open is one called Racar Seafood. It has its own emergency generator. "We get by on local tourists," said its 61-year-old owner, Justino Cruz. "Our clients are local -- those who have no electricity, no generator, cold food or no food."
Puerto Rico's once-devastated power grid is now back up to 70 percent capacity, but this is mainly concentrated in the capital San Juan. So while inland towns that depend on tourism are struggling mightily, things are getting better in San Juan as cruise ships are once again docking. On November 30, the first cruise ship since the storm arrived with thousands of vacationers on board. They were received with great fanfare -- quite literally, with trumpet blaring and cymbals crashing.
- Pitching in to help -
The World Travel & Tourism Council, based in London, says tourism accounted for about eight percent of Puerto Rico's GDP in 2016, or $8.1 billion. Hurricane Maria's damage has been uneven. Although some tour guides now have no work and many eateries are shut down, hotels that have their own generators are doing just fine. Thanks to the thousands of US government officials and reconstruction crew members that came in after the storm, the hotels that are open -- about 80 percent of the total -- are pretty much full.
These people are starting to leave the island this month but hotels may receive tourists around Christmas, at least in San Juan, where power has for the most part been restored. The hurricane "undoubtedly cost billions in lost revenue," said Jose Izquierdo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. But Izquierdo nevertheless says he is "optimistic" and suggests an alternative: put tourists to work as volunteers in the gargantuan reconstruction effort that the island needs. "We want to look for travellers who want to travel with a purpose, who might have the commitment to help rebuild," said Izquierdo.
The program, called "Meaningful Travel" and launched in mid-November, organizes trips on which residents, Puerto Ricans living abroad and tourists are invited to help the island get back on its feet. "The plan aims to create empathy with this tourist destination," said Izquierdo. "We want to be like New Orleans after Katrina, where 10 years after the hurricane, tourism is the driving force of its economy. We want to build that narrative of recovery," he added. "There are different ways in which the world wants to help Puerto Rico. The best way is to visit us."
By Marcos PÉREZ RAMÍREZ
San Juan, Nov 9, 2017 (AFP) - Andrea Olivero, 11, consults her classmate Ada about an exercise during their daily English class at San Juan's Sotero Figueroa Elementary School. The task: list the positive and negative aspects of Hurricane Maria's passing almost two months ago.
The girls only have to look around. There is no electricity and they "roast" in the heat, Andrea says. At the back of the room, computers and televisions collect dust. "We would like to move past the topic of the hurricane a bit. It is already getting repetitive," Andrea told AFP. She is one of more than 300,000 pupils in the public education system, although only half of schools are functioning. Barely 42 per cent of Puerto Ricans have electricity seven weeks after Maria struck, killing at least 51 in the American territory.
The lack of power has prompted disorienting timetable changes on the tropical island, to avoid both the hottest hours of the day and the use of dining facilities. "The children are very anxious. We manage to make progress in lessons and they change the hours again. Everything is messed up and we fall behind," English teacher Joan Rodriguez explained. "We can't use the computers to illustrate classes," she said. "They are reading the novel "Charlotte's Web," and we wanted to do exercises comparing it to the film version. But we cannot use the television.
- Suspicions -
From October 23, some directors reopened their schools in the western region of Mayaguez and San Juan. But last Thursday, the Department of Education ordered their closure, insisting they must be evaluated by engineering and architectural firms, then certified by the US Army Corps of Engineers. One of those schools was Vila Mayo, also in San Juan. The community presumed it would open, as it had been used as a shelter, its electrical infrastructure had been inspected and it had not suffered structural damage.
But Luis Orengo, the education department's director in San Juan, told protesters outside the school it was closed as inspectors' findings had not reached the central government. "This is unacceptable! The school is ready to give classes but they don't want to open it. Our children cannot lose a year," fumed Enid Guzman, who protested with her 11-year-old son, Reanny De la Cruz. There are suspicions the stalled reopening of schools is, in part, related to the prior closure of 240 schools over the past year during Puerto Rico's long-running financial crisis. The fiscal difficulties have seen the island's population drop over the past decade by 14 percent, leading in turn to a fall in school enrolment.
Before the storms, 300 schools were at risk of closure -- and for the president of Puerto Rico's federation of teachers, Mercedes Martinez, the government's aim is clear. "Secretary (Julia) Keleher seems to have an orchestrated plan to close schools," she said, referring to the education secretary. "Why do you have to wait 30 days to get a certification so a school can open?" Keleher has announced she expects most schools to be open by the middle of November.
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.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
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.
November 25, 2008
Belarus became an independent republic in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
In 1996, a constitutional referendum, not recognized by the internat
Economic and political reform in Belarus has stalled or is being reversed under his authoritarian government.
The Belarusian Government’s human rights record remains very poor.
President Lukashenka gained a third five-year term as president in March 2006, in an election that international observers judged to be seriously flawed.
Democratic nations, including the United States and the members of the European Union, condemned the subsequent governmental crackdown on peaceful protests in Minsk, and imposed visa restrictions and other sanctions on senior Belarusian officials. As a result of the release of political prisoners in August 2008, the EU lifted its visa restrictions, but those of the United States remain in effect.
Both Belarusian and Russian are official languages, and Russian is widely spoken throughout the country, particularly in the cities.
Tourist facilities are not highly developed, but food and lodging in the capital and some regional centers are adequate.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Belarus for additional information.
A passport and visa are required.
Travelers must obtain a visa in advance to visit or transit through Belarus.
Travelers who do not have a visa cannot register at hotels.
U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Belarus are required to register with the local office of the Citizenship and Migration Department of the Ministry of Interior (formerly OVIR) within three business days after arrival.
The registration fee is one National Minimum Tariff Unit (currently about $17).
Failure to register can result in fines and difficulties when departing.
U.S. citizens staying in hotels are automatically registered at check-in.
Visa validity dates are strictly enforced; travelers should request visas of sufficient length to allow for changes in arrival and departure plans, and should carefully review the beginning and ending dates of their visas before traveling.
A valid exit visa is necessary to depart Belarus.
Generally, the visa issued by a Belarusian Embassy or Consulate is valid for both entry and exit.
Photocopies of visas may be helpful in the event of loss, but note that a copy of a visa will not be sufficient for entry or departure, as Belarusian border officials always require original travel documents.
Travelers who overstay their visa’s validity -- even for one day -- will be prevented from leaving until they have been granted an extension by the Department of Citizenship and Migration.
United States citizens without valid visas face delays in leaving Belarus and may have trouble finding adequate accommodation.
By Belarusian law, travelers with an expired visa may not check in at any hotel or other lodging establishment.
U.S. citizens traveling through Belarus to other countries are strongly advised that there is a transit visa requirement for entering and leaving Belarus.
Transit visas are required even for travelers transiting on direct overnight trains with no stops or transfers on Belarusian territory. Transit visas should be obtained prior to any journey that requires travel through Belarus.
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Russian visas are no substitute for this transit visa.
Most travel agencies, including those in Russia and CIS countries, as well as train ticket sales personnel, are often not aware of this visa requirement and may not seek a transit visa for a traveler unless instructed by the traveler to do so.
U.S. citizens attempting to transit Belarus without a valid Belarusian transit visa have been denied entry into the country and forcibly removed from trains.
In some instances, local border and railway authorities have threatened passengers who did not possess a valid transit visa with jail or extorted “fines.”
American citizens are advised not to pay any border or railway officials for transit visas or “transit visa fines,” as these officials are not authorized to issue such visas.
Americans finding themselves in Belarus without transit visas, if confronted by border or train personnel, should request to be put in contact with consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.
U.S. citizens traveling to Belarus via Russia are reminded that they must possess a Russian transit visa in addition to their Belarusian visa. Russian Embassies outside of the United States, including the Russian Embassy in Belarus, generally do not issue transit or tourist visas to Americans.
Russian transit visas are not normally obtainable at Russian airports.
The Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons in the Republic of Belarus states that all foreign citizens may be granted permission for a temporary stay (up to 90 days within a chronological year), temporary residence (up to one year), or permanent residence.
Belarusian Embassies and Consulates will issue visas for temporary stays.
A temporary stay visa will allow the bearer to be present physically in Belarus for a maximum of 90 days within the 365-day period for which the visa is issued.
Once an individual has spent 90 days in Belarus, at one time or through a combination of visits, he or she will not be eligible to receive another visa until the original 365-day period has passed.
Individuals who receive visas for a temporary stay, but wish to remain in Belarus for longer than 90 days, must apply for temporary or permanent residence with the Ministry of Interior.
Individuals must make the application in Belarus within the 90 days allotted for a temporary stay.
Permission for temporary residence can be granted to students, spouses, or close relatives of Belarusian citizens, or for “work, business, or other activities.”
Travelers may contact the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk for information about application procedures for temporary or permanent residence.
Every foreigner entering Belarus is required to fill out a migration card.
This card should be retained for the whole period of stay and should be presented to the border authorities when exiting Belarus.
Foreign citizens without a valid Belarusian visa, migration card, or proper registration with the Department of Citizenship and Migration as a temporary visitor or resident can be subject to sanctions up to and including deportation under the provisions of the Code of Administrative Violations.
Depending on the circumstances, deportees also can be banned from returning to Belarus for a period from one to ten years.
Foreign citizens visiting and transiting Belarus also should be prepared to demonstrate sufficient financial means to support their stay.
For individuals staying in Belarus for less than one month, this amount is equal to approximately $15/day/person.
For those staying for longer than one month, the requirements call for $375/month/person.
Belarusian officials may request this proof of funds at the time of visa application, at the border, or during registration.
According to the Ministry of Interior, cash, credit cards, paid hotel reservations, or a letter from an inviting party pledging full financial support are sufficient means to demonstrate financial wherewithal.
Belarus requires all foreign nationals (other than accredited diplomats) entering the country to purchase medical insurance at the port-of-entry, regardless of any other insurance they might have.
Costs for this insurance will vary according to the length of stay.
(Subject to change, current information puts costs at approximately $1 for a one or two day stay, $15 for a stay of up to 31 days, and $85 for a stay of one year.)
Travelers entering Belarus by air with more than 35 kilograms of luggage (77 pounds) will be charged 2 Euros per kilogram in excess of that limit.
The fee must be paid in dollars or Euros.
In accordance with current customs regulations, foreigners may enter Belarus with up to $10,000 and exit the country with up to $3,000 without submitting a written declaration.
For additional information on customs rules for Belarus please see the Belarusian State Customs Committee official web site.
The Belarusian Government enforces a requirement for special permits to travel in “protected border zones.”
The Government of Belarus has not provided information defining the parameters of those zones.
Travelers should be alert for warning signs, road barriers, and/or border guard posts, and are advised not to cross into such areas without permission.
Foreign missionaries may not engage in religious activities outside the institutions that invited them unless they have a religious worker visa.
One-year validity, multiple-entry, "spiritual activities" visas, which are required of foreign missionaries, can be difficult to get, even for faiths that are registered with the government and have a long history in the country.
Approval often involves a difficult bureaucratic process.
A law enacted in 2002 required all religious groups and organizations, including recognized “traditional” religions such as Russian Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism, Sunni Islam, and Lutheranism, to re-register; most organizations have done so.
Unregistered religious groups may not legally gather for religious purposes.
Many unregistered groups continue to meet, however, leaving them vulnerable to selective implementation of the law by authorities.
The law also stipulates that only Belarusian citizens can head religious organizations in Belarus.
In recent years, authorities have harassed, warned, fined, and briefly detained members of some unregistered and so-called "non-traditional" faiths for engaging in unsanctioned worship or proselytism. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that any U.S. citizen who chooses to attend a religious service of an unregistered religious group do so only after consulting with members of the group about the risk of harassment or possible arrest by local law enforcement authorities.
U.S. citizens are also urged to contact the U.S. Embassy should they encounter any problems with authorities due to their participation in such services or events.
Naturalized U.S. citizens originally from Belarus do not automatically lose Belarusian citizenship upon naturalization.
Such individuals retain Belarusian citizenship unless they take specific steps to renounce it.
The Belarusian authorities will allow naturalized U.S. citizens from Belarus to enter the country without a valid Belarusian passport on a “certificate of return” issued by Belarusian Embassies and Consulates, but please note that a valid Belarusian passport will be required to leave the country.
It can take two to four weeks to receive a new Belarusian passport.
For additional information please consult with the Embassy of Belarus at http://www.belarusembassy.org.
Belarusian citizens, including dual nationals, are subject to Belarusian laws requiring service in Belarus’ armed forces, as well as other laws pertaining to passports and nationality.
American-Belarusian dual nationals of military age who do not wish to serve in the Belarusian armed forces should contact the Embassy of Belarus in Washington, D.C. to learn more about an exemption or deferment from Belarusian military service before going to Belarus.
Without this exemption or deferment document, they may not be able to leave Belarus without completing military service, or may be subject to criminal penalties for failure to serve.
Children born to Belarusian parent(s) before August 15, 2002, even if born in the United States and in possession of a U.S. passport, may not be issued a Belarusian visa for travel to Belarus.
The Belarusian government considers these children to be Belarusian citizens until age 16, when they may choose to accept or reject that claim to citizenship.
Instead of a visa, a "certificate of return" is issued that will allow the child to enter Belarus.
It is imperative that parents of such children understand that, in order to leave the country, the child will be required to have a Belarusian passport if he/she does not already have one.
It can take anywhere from two to four weeks to complete the application procedures and receive a new Belarusian passport.
(Note: if the parent left Belarus on a series PP passport, given to Belarusians who reside abroad and have cancelled their local registration, then Belarus would not require the child to reject his/her claim to citizenship).
For children born to one Belarusian parent and one foreign parent after 2002, the parents must by mutual consent agree to Belarusian citizenship for the child, regardless of the place of birth.
If the parents cannot reach consensus, Belarus would only force Belarusian citizenship on a child in cases where the child would be left stateless.
Visit the Embassy of Belarus web site at http://www.belarusembassy.org/ for the most current visa information, or contact the Embassy of Belarus at 1619 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, tel: 202-986-1606, fax: 202-986-1805, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
Both organized and spontaneous demonstrations occur in Belarus.
Localized street disturbances relating to political events occur most frequently in Minsk or larger cities.
In some instances, authorities may use force to disperse protesters; bystanders, including foreign nationals, may face the possibility of arrest, beating, or detention.
Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can sometimes become confrontational and escalate into violence.
For this reason, it is recommended that American citizens avoid all demonstrations and protest gatherings.
Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance.
Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.
These sites are not always clearly marked and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation.
For the latest security information, Americans living or traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
Belarus has a moderate incidence of street crime. Though violent crime against foreigners is rare, criminals have been known to use force if met with resistance from victims.
Common street crime, such as mugging and pocket picking, occurs most frequently near public transportation venues, near hotels frequented by foreigners, and/or at night in poorly lit areas.
American citizens and other foreigners in Belarus have also been the victims of car theft, car vandalism, and hotel and residential break-ins.
Foreigners visiting nightclubs should pay particular attention to their surroundings, as criminal elements may rob unsuspecting patrons after surreptitiously drugging their drinks.
Travelers should keep a copy of their passport in a separate location from their original passport.
As in many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available in Belarus. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you in finding appropriate medical care, contacting family members or friends and explaining 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.
To see if you can be compensated in the U.S. as a victim of violent crime overseas, see our information on Victims of Crime.
The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in Belarus are: 111 Fire and Rescue Squad, 102 Police, 103 Ambulance (Medical Emergency)
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care in Belarus is limited.
There is a severe shortage of basic medical supplies, including anesthetics, vaccines and antibiotics.
Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Travelers are encouraged to ensure that they bring an adequate supply of prescription medications in the event that there are delays in departing Belarus.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Belarus.
For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to Belarus on a 30 day visit.
Long-term residents or students must obtain an HIV/AIDS test in Belarus and submit the results to the Department of Citizenship and Migration.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Belarus is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
American citizens on short-term visits to Belarus (up to 90 days) are permitted to drive with a valid U.S. state driver’s license.
U.S. citizens should, therefore, always carry their passports with them to prove date of entry into the country in the event that police stop them.
If residing in Belarus for more than 90 days, one should apply for a Belarusian driver’s license.
Drivers will be required to successfully complete a two-part test in Russian; the first part is a computer-based multiple-choice test on local driving rules, and the second part is a driving test.
To receive a local driver’s license, drivers will also need to complete a medical exam at a special medical clinic, which will include a general physical, a chest x-ray, and an eye exam.
Radar traps and road construction sites, often unlit at night, are widespread.
Except for a stretch of the main east-west highway, where the speed limit is 100 km/h (60 mph), the maximum speed limit on divided highways or main roads outside village, town or city limits is 90 km/h (55 mph).
Speed limits in cities are 60 km/h unless marked and will usually range between 40 km/h and 70 km/h, with frequent radar traps.
Visible and hidden dangers exist, including potholes, unlit or poorly lit streets, inattentive and dark-clothed pedestrians walking on unlit roads, drivers and pedestrians under the influence of alcohol, and disregard for traffic rules.
Driving in winter is especially dangerous because of ice and snow.
Driving with caution is urged at all times.
Radio-dispatched taxi services are generally reliable, arrive promptly once called and usually offer the lowest fare.
Most radio-dispatched taxis are metered, although fares can vary greatly and are considerably higher in the late evening and overnight hours.
The use of informal taxis or "gypsy cabs" is not recommended.
Minsk has a clean, safe, and efficient subway system that easily reaches most of the city center. Service is stopped briefly during the early morning hours, but otherwise runs regularly throughout the day.
Ticket prices are extremely low by western standards.
Though their routes are extensive, buses and trolleys lack heating or cooling capabilities and are usually crowded.
Travelers on all public transportation should be wary of pickpockets and other petty crime.
For travelers interested in car rental, only one major western rental agency currently operates in Minsk.
In general, rental car networks in Belarus are not well developed.
Travelers may experience significant delays (of several hours) in crossing the border by road into neighboring countries.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Also visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at: http://siteks.com/sites/touragency/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Belarus, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Belarus’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Traveler's checks are normally not accepted in Belarus as a means of payment, but can be freely exchanged for cash at any bank.
Most hotels, restaurants, and stores accept major credit cards.
All Belarusian banks provide cash from major credit cards.
All payments in Belarus are made in Belarusian rubles.
Authorized currency exchange centers are widely available throughout major cities.
ATMs are also available for use, and it has become easier to use credit cards and debit cards in Belarus, especially in Minsk; however, this does not mean that it is safer to do so.
There have been reports of instances in which U.S. citizens have had their card numbers “skimmed” and the money in their debit accounts stolen or their credit cards fraudulently charged.
(“Skimming” is the theft of credit card information by an employee of a legitimate merchant or bank, manually copying down numbers or using a magnetic stripe reader.)
In addition to skimming, the risk of physical theft of credit or debit cards also exists.
To prevent such theft, the Embassy recommends that travelers keep close track of their personal belongings and only carry what is needed when out.
If travelers choose to use credit cards, they should regularly check their account status to ensure its integrity.
Persons seeking to marry in Belarus should consult the information located on the Embassy web site at http://minsk.usembassy.gov/marriage.html.
Please see our Customs Information.
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 Belarusian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Belarus 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.
Access for U.S. consular officers to U.S. citizens in detention is often limited and/or delayed.
Although U.S. citizens are able to obtain legal representation, there has been at least one case of delayed notification, hindered consular access, limited medical treatment, and trial behind closed doors. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Belarus are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Belarus.
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 in Minsk at 46 Starovilenskaya Ulitsa; telephone (375 17) 210-1283 or after hours (375 29) 676-0134, fax (375 17) 334-7853 or (375 17) 17-217-7160 (consular section).
The Consular Section may also be reached by email at ConsularMinsk@state.gov
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Belarus dated December 7, 2007, and updates the sections on Exit/Entry Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Criminal Penalties.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Tatiana Kalinovskaya
Minsk, Aug 2, 2018 (AFP) - A massive corruption scandal has rocked the health service of ex-Soviet Belarus, leading even officials in the country dubbed "Europe's last dictatorship" to call for an overhaul of the system. Authorities have arrested dozens of medics, drug company representatives and bureaucrats on suspicion of siphoning off millions of dollars in state funding. Valery Vakulchik, head of the powerful KGB state security service, in televised comments last month denounced what he called a vast system of procurement of drugs and medical equipment at inflated prices. Prices were habitually hiked by up to 60 percent and in some cases even doubled, he said. Following his announcement, 37 top health officials were arrested and criminal investigations were opened involving 60 people including local representatives of international pharmaceutical companies.
The KGB chief acknowledged that the Soviet-style bureaucracy in the country bordering the European Union, ruled by strongman Alexander Lukashenko, helped promote corruption. "The existing system of procuring medical equipment and drugs created the conditions for corrupt practices," he said. "Bona fide suppliers could not rely on a positive outcome," he added, while procurements were made not directly from producers but "via numerous middlemen (and) finance companies." Those detained in the scandal include deputy health minister Igor Lositsky, doctors at reputed clinics and leading business figures involved in producing and importing medicines. One of the arrested businessmen is Sergei Shakutin, director of Iskamed group, who is the brother of one of Lukashenko's close associates. Belta state news agency has published photos of searches at the home of a medical centre director that uncovered $500,000 in cash. Officers also found $620,000 in the garage of the director of a public enterprise that imported medical equipment.
The KGB chief said bribes paid to corrupt officials amounted to millions of dollars. "There will be further arrests since the people detained so far are just the perpetrators," Sergei Satsuk, editor of news site Yezhednevnik, who is familiar with the case, told AFP. The chief beneficiaries in such schemes were retired law enforcement officials who set up companies to enter the lucrative medical equipment market, Satsuk said. "In 10 years they drained all the juice out of the country's medical system," he said. He said this involved supplying equipment that was not just over-priced but also often lacked the necessary certification or came with faked documentation. Some equipment was imported as second-hand but re-sold as new.
- Powerful temptation -
This is one of the biggest corruption scandals in the history of Belarus, which is wedged between Russia and Poland and has been led by Lukashenko since 1994. "Bureaucracy has privatised the state. We need to reform the whole system of state management, otherwise corruption schemes will spring up wherever budget funds are being spent," independent economist Yaroslav Romanchuk told AFP.
Other smaller corruption scandals have in recent years hit the sports, forestry and energy ministries as well as large companies, factories and banks. Three ministers have been sacked and senior bureaucrats and regional officials have been arrested. "Even if you clean out the state structures of bribe-takers, corruption won't die in Belarus for a single day," said Romanchuk. "The very next day new people in old posts in the old system will relaunch the old corruption schemes." The system "creates the most powerful temptation to set up schemes with kickbacks, bribes, swindling and abuses of office," Romanchuk said.
Minsk, July 24, 2018 (AFP) - Belarus on Tuesday announced that it is extending visa-free travel for tourists from five days to 30 days in a move that could attract more visitors to the ex-Soviet state on the European Union's doorstep.
Strongman ruler Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree allowing visitors from 80 countries including 39 in Europe, as well as the United States, Australia and Japan to stay for 30 days. The ruling will enter force when the decree is published in one or two days. The decree says the move is aimed at "promoting further development of the Belarusian tourism sector" as well as making the country more attractive as a host for sports events and festivals and improving its connectedness to the global economy.
Belarus said it is keen to promote itself as a medical tourism venue and for people keen to recuperate and undergo spa procedures at its sanatoriums. The visa-free rule requires visitors to fly in and out of Minsk's main airport. As before, the visa exemption does not apply to foreigners arriving or leaving from Russia because of a lack of border controls betweeen the neighbours.
Minsk has close ties to former Soviet master Moscow, with Belarus part of an economic union with Russia. Chinese people will also be covered by a separate visa agreement that comes into force in August. Ties between Belarus and the European Union have improved since the 28-nation bloc began lifting most of its sanctions on the country in 2015 after Lukashenko released high-profile political prisoners.
Belmopan, Belize, May 17, 2016 (AFP) - Belize has joined the growing number of Latin American nations grappling with the Zika virus, after the health ministry confirmed the country's first known case. Authorities said Monday the infected person resides in Belize City, adding that efforts would be taken to prevent the virus from spreading.
"An immediate investigation was launched and several actions were simultaneously initiated to minimize and contain a potential outbreak," a health ministry statement said. The mosquito-borne Zika virus can cause the birth defect microcephaly, which can cause babies to be born with unusually small heads and deformed brains.
[Nearly 10,000 people sought medical aid after tick bites in Moscow for the period April-June of this year (2015), among them there are more than 1900 children up to 17 years. Last year (2014) for the same period it was recorded that around 8000 people sought medical aid after tick bites. The ticks attacked people mainly in the territory of the Moscow region.
[The HealthMap/ProMED map of Belarus can be found at:
April 21, 2008
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burundi is a small, densely populated central African nation bordering Lake Tanganyika, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democrati
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport, visa and evidence of immunization against yellow fever are required for entry. Travelers with an expired visa are not permitted to leave the country without acquiring an exit visa prior to departure. The latest information about visas may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Burundi, Suite 212, 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007, telephone (202) 342-2574, or from the Permanent Mission of Burundi to the United Nations in New York at telephone (212) 499-0001 thru 0006.
For information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction, please refer to related web pages at http://travel.state.gov. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
See the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Burundi.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their 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: Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits, poses a high risk for foreign visitors to Bujumbura and Burundi in general. Common crimes include mugging, purse-snatching, pick pocketing, burglary, automobile break-ins and carjacking. Many criminal incidents involve armed attackers. Armed criminals often ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. Criminals in Bujumbura often operate in pairs or in small groups involving six or more individuals. Due to insufficient resources, local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance in case of need.
U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets during the hours of darkness and using local, public transportation. Foreigners, whether in vehicles or at home, are always potential crime targets. Americans should exercise common sense judgment and take the same precautions as one would in any major city.
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 the local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, help you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Burundi generally do not meet Western standards of care. Travelers should carry an ample supply of properly-labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them, as certain medications and prescription drugs are unavailable or in short supply. Sterility of equipment is questionable, and treatment is unreliable. Ambulance assistance is non-existent. Hospital care in Burundi should be considered in only the most serious cases and when no reasonable alternatives are available.
Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for travel to all parts of Burundi.
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/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance companies prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policies apply overseas and/or cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: When in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Burundi is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
While travel on most roads is generally safe during the day, travelers must maintain constant vigilance. There have been regular reports of violent attacks on vehicles traveling the roads throughout the country outside of Bujumbura. U.S. Government personnel are required to travel upcountry via two-vehicle convoys and have their trips pre-approved by the Regional Security Officer. The Embassy recommends that Americans not travel on the national highways from dusk to dawn. Drivers without valid permits, and the ease with which a driver's license can be acquired without training, make Burundian drivers less careful, predictable, or mindful of driving rules than Western drivers may expect.
There are no traffic signals in Bujumbura, and virtually nothing of the kind elsewhere in the country. Roadways are not marked, and the lack of streetlights or shoulders makes driving in the countryside at night especially dangerous. Additionally, drivers may encounter cyclists, pedestrians, and livestock in the roadway, including in and around the capital. Mini-vans used as buses for 18 persons should be given a wide berth as they start and stop abruptly, often without pulling to the side of the road.
Large holes or damaged portions of roadway may be encountered anywhere in the country, including in Bujumbura; when driving in the countryside, it is recommended that travelers carry multiple spare tires. During the rainy season, many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Burundi’s supply of gasoline and diesel fuel are imported predominantly from Kenya and Tanzania, and are relatively expensive due to high transportation costs. Service stations are rare outside of the major cities.
Third-party insurance is required, and it will cover any damages (property, injury, or death). If you are found to have caused an accident, you automatically will be fined 10,000 Burundian francs (approximately $10 U.S.) and your driver's license will be confiscated until the police investigation is completed. Although the law provides for the arrest of drunk drivers, in practice, the police do not act on this law. In the city of Bujumbura, the number for police assistance is 22-22-37-77; there is no comparable number outside the capital. If you are involved in an accident causing death, it is advised that you leave the scene of the accident and proceed to the nearest police station.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Burundi, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burundi’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
There are no ATMs located in the country and most Burundian hotels and businesses do not accept credit cards. Many hotels in Bujumbura accept payment in U.S. dollars or Euros from non-Burundians. Travelers should be aware that Burundian banking practices prohibit acceptance of U. S. currency printed before the year 2003.
The Embassy recommends that visitors do not photograph airports, military installations, or other government buildings, and obtain permission from individuals before taking their photographs. Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Burundian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled from the country, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burundi are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Burundi are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel within Burundi and the Embassy’s current security policies, including areas that are off-limits to U.S. Government personnel for security reasons. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located on Avenue des Etats-Unis, telephone (257) 22-22-34-54, fax (257) 22-22-29-26. The Embassy's web site is http://burundi.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Burundi dated July 18, 2007, to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Nairobi, Aug 14, 2019 (AFP) - The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that Burundi had begun vaccinating frontline workers against Ebola at its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an outbreak of the virus has killed close to 1,900 people. The campaign to vaccinate at-risk staff against the deadly hemorrhagic fever started Tuesday at Gatumba, the main crossing point from Burundi to its much-larger neighbour, WHO said.
Burundi has received doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, an unlicensed product that has been shown to be effective against the Zairian strain of the virus raging in DR Congo. It would be administered to those at greatest risk such as health workers along the border, laboratory staff and burial teams, WHO said. "The vaccination of health and frontline staff is a significant step forward in preparing for the response to this disease," said Dr Kazadi Mulombo, WHO representative in Burundi.
The vaccine, developed by US pharmaceutical group Merck, proved "highly effective" in a trial conducted in Guinea in 2015 during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, he added. The vaccination campaign will be overseen by WHO and Burundi's health ministry. The Ebola outbreak in eastern DR Congo is the second-worst in history. A total of 1,892 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak began on August 1 2018. No cases of Ebola have been recorded so far in Burundi, a tiny nation of 11 million. But its border with DR Congo is 236 kilometres (147 miles) long and considered highly porous, and the whole region is on high alert.
In June, three people from one family died in Uganda from Ebola after returning from DR Congo via an unofficial crossing point. Burundi also shares a border with Rwanda and Tanzania. The Congo outbreak is the first where vaccines have been rolled out on a large-scale. The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine has already been administered to some 170,000 people, especially frontline workers, in DR Congo. This week, US researchers announced that two prototype drugs being tested among Ebola patients in eastern DR Congo boost chances of surviving the disease.
Nairobi, Aug 6, 2019 (AFP) - Malaria has killed more than 1,800 people in Burundi this year, the UN's humanitarian agency says, a death toll rivalling a deadly Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. In its latest situation report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 5.7 million cases of malaria had been recorded in Burundi in 2019 -- a figure roughly equal to half its entire population. Of those cases, a total of 1,801 died from the mosquito-born disease in Burundi between January 1 and July 21, OCHA said.
The tiny country of 11 million people in the African Great Lakes region has still not declared a national emergency, despite OCHA saying the outbreak crossed "epidemic proportions" in May. "The national malaria outbreak response plan, which is currently being validated, has highlighted a lack of human, logistical and financial resources for effective response," OCHA said in its latest weekly bulletin on humanitarian emergencies. "All stakeholders, including the national authorities and partners are called upon to provide the requisite resources to mount a robust response to this event before it escalates." A lack of preventative measures like mosquito nets, climatic changes and increased movements of people from mountain areas with low immunity to malaria were driving the crisis, OCHA said.
- 'Many crises' -
An OCHA official told AFP that "the decision to declare an epidemic is the sovereignty of the Burundian state". The country declared a malaria epidemic in March 2017, when the country had recorded 1.8 million cases and 700 deaths, but was resisting doing the same now. A senior government official, who declined to be named, said the government did not want to admit weakness with elections set for 2020. "We are less than a year away from the presidential election. (President Pierre) Nkurunziza, who is facing many crises, does not want to recognise what could be considered a failure of his health policy," the official told AFP. Burundi has been in crisis since 2015, when Nkurunziza ran for a third term and was re-elected in elections boycotted by most of the opposition.
At least 1,200 people were killed and more than 400,000 displaced in violence the UN says was mostly carried out by state security forces. Nkurunziza announced in 2018 that he would not stand again, confounding critics who accused him of working to extend his grip on power. UN investigators said in July that "drastic" steps were needed to boost democratic freedoms in Burundi if the government wanted the elections to be considered credible.
Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the region, abuts DR Congo, where the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history has killed more than 1,800 people amid fears the infectious fever could spread beyond its borders. But malaria is a much bigger killer on the continent. The World Health Organization recorded nearly 220 million cases of the parasitic illness in 2017, with an estimated 435,000 deaths. More than 90 percent of malaria cases and deaths were in Africa.
Nairobi, March 16, 2018 (AFP) - Nine workers at a construction site outside Burundi's capital Bujumbura were killed in a landslide on Friday, police said. Heavy seasonal rains caused the hillside next to the Gasenyi river, east of the city, to collapse burying the workers who were building a channel to redirect the river's floodwaters. Police said in a statement that nine bodies had so far been found, while rescue efforts continue.
The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b
During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.
Safety & Security:
The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.
Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.
Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.
River Boat Travel:
Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.
Altitude Sickness in Tibet:
Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.
The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.
Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.
AIDS risk in China:
Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.
Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.
There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.
China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing. Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed. "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster". A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!" Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.
The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car. She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her. Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case. Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave". The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release. East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said. The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings. Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties. The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties. Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far. "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.
An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt. Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku. Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
World Travel News Headlines
Manila, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Parents lined up from sunrise holding sleeping infants as the Philippines launched a campaign on Monday to vaccinate millions of children against polio, which has re-emerged nearly two decades after the nation's last cases. Years of falling vaccination rates, made worse by the botched rollout of a dengue vaccine, culminated in an outbreak of the preventable disease in September. "This is for the welfare of my child," Ruth Miranda told AFP after the vaccine was squirted into her child's mouth at the Manila slum they call home.
Miranda's child is among scores who are unprotected in the capital of about 13 million people, where vaccination rates of young children plunged from 77 percent in 2016 to a mere 24 percent in June. The atmosphere at the event in Manila was festive -- with ice cream vendors and music -- but the stakes for the campaign are high.
Polio, which can cause paralysis and can be fatal in rare cases, has no cure and can only be prevented with several doses of oral and injectable vaccines. Two cases were detected in September, the first polio infections in the Philippines since 2001, adding to the woes of a country already hit by deadly measles and dengue epidemic. The risk of the disease spreading within the Philippines is high, according to World Health Organization, due to low immunisation coverage partly blamed to a dengue vaccine scandal.
The Philippines was the first nation to use Dengvaxia in a mass programme in 2016, but a botched rollout led to claims that children had died after being vaccinated. A dramatic drop in vaccine confidence followed, with trust plunging from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2018, according to a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Philippines polio outbreak has been traced back to the weakened form of the virus used in vaccines, which is excreted by people for a time after they receive it. According to the WHO, that form can mutate and spread in the surrounding community when immunisation rates get too low.
By Shingo ITO, Sara HUSSEIN
Tokyo, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of rescue workers in Japan battled on Monday to find survivors of a powerful typhoon that killed at least 43 people, as fresh rain threatened to hamper efforts. Typhoon Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night, unleashing high winds and torrential rain across 36 of the country's 47 prefectures, and triggering landslides and catastrophic flooding. "Even now, many people are still unaccounted for in the disaster-hit area," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an emergency disaster meeting on Monday. "Units are trying their best to search for and rescue them, working day and night," Abe said.
But even as rescuers, including troops, combed through debris, the country's weather agency forecast rain in central and eastern Japan that it warned could cause further flooding and new landslides. "I would like to ask people to stay fully vigilant and continue watching for landslides and river flooding," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. In Nagano, one of the worst-hit regions, rain was already falling and was expect to intensify. "We are concerned about the impact of the latest rain on rescue and recovery efforts," local official Hiroki Yamaguchi told AFP. "We will continue operations while watching out for secondary disasters due to the current rain."
- 43 dead, 16 missing: NHK -
By late Monday afternoon, national broadcaster NHK said the toll had risen to 43 dead, with 16 others missing and over 200 people injured. The government gave lower figures but was continuing to update its information. The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least seven crew from a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night, a coast guard spokesman said. Four others, from China, Myanmar and Vietnam, were rescued when the boat sank and the coast guard was still searching for a last crew member. While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, it was the heavy rains that caused most damage.
A total of 142 rivers flooded, mainly in eastern and northern Japan, with river banks collapsing in two dozen places, local media said. In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor. As water slowly receded Monday, television footage showed patients being transferred by ambulance from a Nagano hospital where some 200 people had been cut off by flooding. Elsewhere, rescuers used helicopters to winch survivors from roofs and balconies, or steered boats through muddy waters to reach those trapped.
- Japan dedicates rugby win to victims -
By Monday afternoon, some 75,900 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages. The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home. "Everything from my house was washed away before my eyes, I wasn't sure if it was a dream or real," a woman in Nagano told NHK. "I feel lucky I'm still alive." The storm brought travel chaos over the holiday weekend, grounding flights and halting commuter and bullet train services.
By Monday, most subway trains had resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted. The storm also brought havoc to the sporting world, forcing the delay of Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and the cancellation of three Rugby World Cup matches. But a crucial decider pitting Japan against Scotland went ahead, with the hosts dedicating their stunning 28-21 win to the victims of the disaster. "To everyone that's suffering from the typhoon, this game was for you guys," said Japan captain Michael Leitch.
Kinshasa, Oct 13, 2019 (AFP) - Doctors will use a second Ebola vaccine from November in three eastern provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the deadly virus, medical officials said Sunday. "It's time to use the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson's Belgian subsidiary," said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who leads the national anti-Ebola operation in the DRC. It will arrive in the eastern city of Goma, in North Kivu province, on October 18 and be used from the beginning of next month, he added. DRC's latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.
Muyembe said the communes of Majingo and Kahembe had been selected to receive the vaccine as they were considered the epicentres of the epidemic. "We will extend this vaccination to our small traders who often go to Rwanda to protect our neighbours," he added. "If it works well, we will expand vaccination in South Kivu and Ituri." DR Congo's eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu sit on the borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The Belgian laboratory will send a batch of 200,000 doses to neighbouring Rwanda and 500,000 doses in the DRC, Muyembe said. More than 237,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma company Merck Sharpe and Dohme since August 8, 2018.
The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC's former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high. But Ilunga's resignation in July appears to have paved the way for approval of the second vaccine. He currently faces charges that he embezzled funds intended for the fight against Ebola. In his letter of resignation Ilunga said "actors who have demonstrated a lack of ethics" want to introduce a second vaccine, but did not elaborate. Muyembe, who took over the Ebola fight in the DRC in July, said "The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the most science-based data."
By Robbie COREY-BOULET
Addis Ababa, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - A palace that once housed Ethiopia's emperors and also served as a torture site under the communist Derg regime is to open to the public in a controversial government tourism project. The palace compound in Addis Ababa, which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government has rebranded "Unity Park", was formally launched Thursday and will be open from Friday. Abiy's office said on Twitter Thursday that the project "symbolises our ability to come together".
But critics have dismissed it as vanity project for Abiy that could prove divisive. Backed by the United Arab Emirates, the project cost more than $160 million (145 million euros), Ethiopian officials told reporters at a briefing earlier this week. Built in the late 1800s by Emperor Menelik II, who founded Addis Ababa, the palace was the residence of Ethiopia's rulers for more than a century. Abiy himself does not live there, and it has seen little activity in recent years. Abiy's advisers say he has taken a keen interest in transforming the palace into a tourist attraction since coming to power in April 2018 -- visiting the site every day in recent weeks to monitor progress.
The government's "Home-Grown Economic Reform" agenda, unveiled last month, describes tourism as a primary engine of potential job creation. On Thursday, government officials and the diplomatic corps toured the expansive site before attending a banquet that was expected to draw five regional heads of state and other dignitaries. The restored rooms feature items like Menelik's sword and a life-size wax replica of former Emperor Haile Selassie, who lived at the palace and was then etained there after the Derg overthrew him in 1974.
The site also includes a sculpture garden with installations representing Ethiopia's nine regions, and a zoo is expected to open by the end of the year. Aklilu Fikresilassie, an Ethiopian employee of the United Nations who attended the launch Thursday, said he was "really fascinated" to set foot inside a place that had been closed to the public his entire life. "For us it's like a government house, so now when you enter that palace it tells you that we are getting somehow closer to our leaders," he said.
But not everyone is convinced the palace will succeed in bringing Ethiopians together. In a country grappling with ethnic divisions, some worry that the palace could alienate ethnic Oromos who contend that their ancestors were forced off their land when Addis Ababa was built. Journalist and former political prisoner Eskinder Nega said the renovations were undertaken "without consultation from the public", which he called "a huge mistake." "This is all about heritage, about preserving heritage. The people should have had a say in it," he said. "Like everything else this was decided from the top and implemented only by the decision of the prime minister."
Hanoi, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Selfie-snapping tourists railed against the closure of Hanoi's 'train street' on Thursday after police blocked off the Instragram-famous tracks for safety reasons. The narrow railway corridor in central Hanoi has become a hotspot among visitors seeking the perfect holiday snap on the tracks -- often dodging trains that rumble through daily. But Hanoi authorities said this week they would block people from the tracks to avoid accidents, and police on Thursday erected barricades to keep out disappointed visitors. "I'm very frustrated because today I can't go in and take a picture," Malaysian tourist Mustaza bin Mustapha told AFP, vowing to come back later.
Dozens of other tourists were turned away, though some managed to get onto still-open sections of the railway, moving out of the way as an afternoon train chugged past. Built by former colonial rulers, the railway once shipped goods and people across France's former Indochina colony and remains in use today by communist Vietnam's state-run railway company. The stretch of the tracks was once known as a rough part of town, occupied by drug users and squatters until their recent discovery by camera-wielding holidaymakers who have splashed images of the area across social media.
Cafe owners complained that business would be hurt thanks to the new regulations, and that tourists always moved out of the way for oncoming trains. "There has never been any regretful accidents here," said Le Tuan Anh, who runs a cafe from his home along the tracks. "Compared to traffic density elsewhere in the city, this is much safer," he said, referring to Hanoi's chaotic, motorbike-clogged streets. New signs were installed in the area Thursday, warning passersby not to take photos or videos in the "dangerous area", much to the chagrin of British tourist Harriet Hayes. "People come from all over the world to Hanoi just to see the train go past," she told AFP. "It's such a shame that we come and have been told that we have to leave."
By Holly ROBERTSON
Sydney, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Large numbers of tourists are rushing to scale Uluru -- also known as Ayers Rock -- ahead of a looming ban on climbing a site sacred to indigenous Australians. Photographs of hundreds of people clambering up the giant red monolith have provoked a social media backlash, with critics lashing as "ignorant" those going against the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu. "A mass of morally and ethically bankrupt people," indigenous woman Laura McBride tweeted alongside an image showing a queue of people snaking up the side of Uluru. "One even hiking a toddler up, teaching the next generation how to be ignorant." "Imagine rushing to climb Uluru before it closes just so you could brag about disrespecting the oldest living culture in the world," tweeted National Indigenous Television journalist Madeline Hayman-Reber, who called the scenes "embarrassing".
Officials say the ban, which comes into effect on October 26, is intended to show respect for cultural practices, protect the site from further environmental damage and to ensure visitors' safety. More than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park in the 12 months to June 2019, according to Parks Australia, about 20 percent more than the previous year. Around 13 percent of those who visited during that period made the climb, park authorities said. More recent figures are not available but Tourism Central Australia CEO Stephen Schwer said there had been a "significant jump" in the number of people visiting in recent weeks, with the period leading up to the ban coinciding in part with school holidays. "Its been very busy, particularly down in the national park precinct itself," he told AFP. "We've had quite an issue with accommodation availability, because there's a lot of people want to climb Uluru before it closes. It's been a busier than normal holiday period." Japanese visitors and Australians on driving holidays were most likely to want to scale Uluru, Schwer said, though he urged them not to do so.
Australian tourist Belinda Moore, 33, drove to Uluru from her home in central Queensland state to ascend the rock, an experience she said she "absolutely loved". "It's always been something to tick off the bucket list and when we heard it was closing, we knew it was now or never," she told AFP. Moore said she did not think her climb was disrespectful to traditional owners as she was not Aboriginal. "It may be for their own people, because it's their sacred site," she said. "I'm pretty sad that they're closing it, but it's still amazing just to see it. I would still recommend it." The climb will be permanently closed as of October 26, the anniversary of ownership being handed back to the Anangu people.
Uluru has great spiritual and cultural significance to indigenous Australians, with their connection to the site dating back tens of thousands of years. Though visitor numbers were expected to decline once the ban was in place, Schwer said local tourism operators were "not particularly concerned" as it would return the area to normality. "People need to remember that in central Australia we're a very interconnected community," he said. "The people who are requesting the climb closure are our friends and colleagues. "We're just looking forward to being able to have the climb consigned to the annals of history."
Kinshasa, Oct 9, 2019 (AFP) - Six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo after torrential rains hit the capital Kinshasa, flooding several neighbourhoods. a local official said. The bodies were found between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Five people were killed in the capital's Selembao municipality where around 30 houses collapsed, local mayor Augustin Mankesi told Top Congo radio station. One woman died in the Pelende district after she was electrocuted, he added. "Our community is stricken," Mankesi added, calling on the Congolese authorities for help. Fatal floods and rains are frequent in Kinshasa. In January last year 48 people were killed in landslides, floods and after houses collapsed, according to authorities. Residents told AFP the road from the sea port district of Matadi to the Kinshasa turnoff has been closed due to erosion caused by the rain. The passage is Kinshasa's main supply route for imported goods and also serves as an exit point for exports.
By Margioni BERMÚDEZ
Caracas, Oct 8, 2019 (AFP) - The small waiting room at the home of self-styled healer "Brother Guayanes" in Caracas' rundown Petare district fills up quickly with patients -- business has never been better. With Venezuela's chronic medicine shortages and hyperinflation, more and more people are turning to alternative medicine to treat common ailments in the crisis-wracked South American country. "We go to the hospital and there's nothing there. They don't have medicines, or they're too expensive, what are we to do?" said Rosa Saez, 77, who has come to get treatment for a painful arm. Carlos Rosales -- he uses the more ceremonious "Brother Guayanes" for his business -- is finishing up a "spiritual intervention" on a patient in what passes for his surgery. The patient lies, eyes closed, on a cot as, in a series of swishes and clicks, the healer waves five pairs of scissors one after another over his prone body. The healer says he performs 200 such interventions a week in a dim, candle-lit room that features two camp beds and an array of plaster statues that Rosales says represent "spiritual entities". A regular visitor to the spiritual center, Saez says she has faith in Rosales' methods: "He healed my kidneys."
- Natural healing -
All across Venezuela, but particularly in poor areas like Petare, patients cannot hope to afford the price of medicines that due to the economic crisis, have become exceedingly rare. Venezuela's pharmacists' federation say pharmacies and hospitals have on average only about 20 percent of the medicine stock needed. Rosales' clinic is muggy with the smell of tobacco. A crucifix suspended from a chain around his neck, he practices a seeming mixture of smoke-blowing shamanism, plant-based medicine and mainstream religion. Posters hung near the entrance remind clients to arrive with a candle and tobacco and "Don't forget that payment is in cash". Much like a general practitioner, Rosales spends time consulting with his patients, examining them with a stethoscope, before offering a diagnosis. Often he prescribes potions based on plants and fruit, such as pineapple and a type of local squash known as chayote. "We know medicines are necessary," he says. "I'm not against medicine, but my medicine is botany."
- Plants replace drugs -
At her stall in a downtown Caracas market, 72-year-old Lilia Reyes says she has seen her trade in medicinal plants flourish. "I can't keep up with the demand," she said at her stall, bathed in the aroma of camomile, one of the 150 plants she sells. Careless consumption of some herbs can be deadly, warns Grismery Morillo. A doctor at a Caracas public hospital, she says she has seen many cases of acute liver failure in people who have eaten certain roots. According to Venezuela's opposition parties, some 300,000 chronically ill people are in danger of dying from the shortages of medicines.
But despite the risks, people like Carmen Teresa say they have no alternative. In the kitchen of her restaurant which closed down three years ago as the economic crisis took hold, the 58-year-old Colombian prepares an infusion of fig leaves to treat "diabetic neuropathy". The painkillers needed for the condition are "too expensive" and prices are going up due to hyperinflation, so she is cutting back on the pills and supplementing her treatment with herbal infusions. She needs at least four tablets a day to keep her diabetes at bay. Her mother, bedridden since breaking a leg a year ago, suffers from Alzheimer's disease and needs five pills a day for hypertension. "I'm still taking my pills, but I reduced the dose," says Teresa, who is also replacing cholesterol pills with lemon juice.
Riyadh, Oct 6, 2019 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia announced Sunday it would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together as the ultraconservative kingdom begins offering up tourist visas for the first time. The tourism authority said in a statement published on Twitter that Saudi women travelling alone would also be able to check into a hotel by presenting valid ID.
In the past, couples wanting to stay in a hotel had to prove they were married. "This is no longer required for tourists," the statement said. Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it was opening its doors to holidaymakers with the goal of diversifying its oil-dependent economy. The kingdom had previously only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers, and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.
Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era. Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations. On September 28, Saudi authorities warned that tourists who violated "public decency", including with immodest clothing and public displays of affection, would be subject to fines.
By Giovanna FLEITAS
Petorca, Chile, Oct 5, 2019 (AFP) - For Erick Hurtado, the worst thing about the drought that has devastated his family farm in Chile is the dead animals. "Going out and seeing the animals dead on the ground is so horrible," Hurtado says as he gazes across the dusty paddocks of his farm in Petorca, near the coastal city of Valparaiso.
Farmers are counting the cost of one of the driest austral winters in six decades, which has destroyed crops and left tens of thousands of farm animals dead in the fields of central Chile. Hurtado's farm, owned by his grandfather, has lost half its 60 head of cattle. So far, 106,000 animals have died due to lack of water and fodder, mostly goats, cattle and sheep, according to the agriculture ministry. President Sebastian Pinera, who last month announced a $5 billion plan to improve water distribution, this week set up a crisis group of government agencies to tackle the water crisis, which he said had become "more extensive and more intense."
In Colina, north of the capital Santiago, the drought has been hard on small farmers. Scrawny cattle pick at sprigs of strawy grass on pastures that have turned to dust. Cows, goats and horses roam hungry on hills have turned to a dry muddy brown. "The drought has been disastrous for us," said Sandra Aguilar. Her family owned about a hundred head of cattle. Today, only half survive thanks to a trickle of water provided by a neighbor who still has some reserves. "The situation is complicated," said Javier Maldonado, governor of the province of Chacabuco, where several agricultural areas have been hit particularly hard by the drought. "We have to be realistic, climate change is here to stay," he said.
- Water shortages -
Dominga Mondaca points out the deep fissures that run through the garden behind her house in the village of La Ligua near Valparaiso. The garden used to be full of strawberries and citrus trees; now it's cracked earth. "We have had many years with little water. But the last year, it didn't rain at all," said the 73-year-old, one of more than 600,000 people the government is supplying by tanker trucks as part of emergency measures. She says she has had to give up raising chickens, in order to keep what little water she and her husband receive for their own consumption, washing and cleaning. Whatever is left, she uses to sprinkle on herbs in a small kitchen garden. The agriculture ministry says 37,000 family farms need assistance in the central Chile.
- Thirsty avocados? -
In Petorca, some rivers have run dry, and the landscape has been left parched, but lush avocado and citrus plantations are nevertheless thriving. Locals in Petorca say the real, long-term problem is the mismanagement of water resources. "There is an excess of monoculture plantations that consume all the water," said Diego Soto of the Movement for the Defense of Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection (MODATIMA) told AFP. Avocados need a lot of water to grow, said Soto. "An avocado tree needs 600 liters of water per week, whereas humans consume 50 liters a day, or 350 liters a week," he said. Producers refute these figures and say the real problem is a lack of infrastructure to store water, both above and below ground. "The avocado is not a crop that needs more water," insisted Francisco Contardo, chairman of the local producers' committee. Avocados are a key export for Chile, mostly to the US and China, but drought has reduced exports by 25 percent.
- Less snow -
For many though, the changes being wrought by climate change are overwhelmingly obvious. Snow in the highlands of central Chile was relatively scarce this year. Scientists predict an average decrease of between five and 10 percent snowfall every 10 years in almost the entire Andes mountains, one of the country's main sources of water. "The central zone of Chile is highly dependent on the summer melt season, its snow and glaciers, which means that if the snow cover is reduced, there is also a reduction in the availability of water resources," said Paul Cordero, climate change expert at the University of Santiago. Weak snowfall forced the country's main ski resorts to use artificial snow machines much earlier and more often this season than in previous years. "Chile has been living as if it were a country with an abundance of water," said Pinera. "Climate change and global warming have changed this situation probably forever."