WORLD NEWS

Getting countries ...
Select countries and read reports below or

United Arab Emirates

United Arab Emirates US Consular Information Sheet
28th February 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven independent emirates, each with its own ruler.
The federal government is a constitutional re
ublic, headed by a president and council of ministers.
Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs, laws and practices. The UAE is a modern, developed country, and tourist facilities are widely available. Read the Department of State Background Notes on the United Arab Emirates for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. For stays of less than 60 days, U.S. citizens holding valid passports may obtain visitor visas at the port of entry for no fee. For a longer stay, a traveler must obtain a visa before arrival in the UAE. In addition, an AIDS test is required for work or residence permits; testing must be performed after arrival. A U.S. AIDS test is not accepted. For further information, travelers can contact the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, 3522 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20037, telephone (202) 243-2400.
Visit the web site of the UAE's Ministry of Information regarding tourism, business, and residence in the UAE at http://www.uaeinteract.org.

Unlike other countries in the region that accept U.S. military ID cards as valid travel documents, the UAE requires U.S. military personnel to present a valid passport for entry/exit.

UAE authorities will confiscate any weapons, weapon parts, ammunition, body armor, handcuffs, and/or other military/police equipment transported to or through a civilian airport.
Americans have been arrested and jailed for transporting such weapons and equipment without the express written authorization of the UAE government, even though airline and U.S. authorities allowed shipment on a US-originating flight.

U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries that are not members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), who depart the UAE via land are required to pay a departure fee. This fee is 20 UAE dirhams and is payable only in the local UAE dirham currency.

Visit the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates web site at http://uae-embassy.org for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Americans in the United Arab Emirates should exercise a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with caution. In addition, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local authorities.
U.S. Government personnel overseas have been advised to take the same precautions. In addition, U.S. Government facilities may temporarily close or suspend public services from time to time as necessary to review their security posture and ensure its adequacy.

Taking photographs of potentially-sensitive UAE military and civilian sites, or foreign diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy, may result in arrest, detention and/or prosecution by local authorities.
In addition, engaging in mapping activities, especially mapping which includes the use of GPS equipment, without coordination with UAE authorities, may have the same consequences.

On several occasions in the past three years, small groups of expatriate recreational boaters were detained by the Iranian Coast Guard for alleged violation of Iranian territorial waters while fishing near the island of Abu Musa, approximately 20 miles from Dubai.
The UAE and Iran have had a long-standing dispute concerning jurisdiction of Abu Musa.
Fishing or sailing in these waters may result in seizure of vessels and detention of passengers and crew in Iran.
Obtaining consular assistance in Iran is difficult and can only be done through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which acts as a Protecting Power, providing limited U.S. consular services.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves overseas, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Crime generally is not a problem for travelers in the UAE. However, the U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens to take normal precautions against theft, such as not leaving a wallet, purse, or credit card unattended. Although vehicle break-ins in the UAE are rare, U.S. citizens are encouraged to ensure that unattended vehicles are locked and that valuables are not left out in plain sight.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Basic modern medical care and medicines are available in the principal cities of the UAE, but not necessarily in outlying areas.

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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the United Arab Emirates is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

The police emergency number and ambulance number is 999. Mobile phones are widely used throughout the UAE, so passers-by usually request emergency police and medical services quickly. Response time by emergency services is adequate. However, medical personnel emphasize transport of the injured to the hospital rather than treatment on site. Traffic accidents are a leading cause of death in the UAE because drivers often drive at high speeds. Unsafe driving practices are common, especially on inter-city highways. On highways, unmarked speed bumps and drifting sand create additional hazards.

Country-wide traffic laws impose stringent penalties for certain violations, particularly driving under the influence of alcohol.
In the UAE, there is zero tolerance for driving after consumption of alcohol.
Penalties may include hefty jail sentences and fines over $6,000 and, for Muslims (even those holding U.S. citizenship), lashings. Persons involved in an accident in which another party is injured automatically go to jail, until the injured person is released from the hospital. Should a person die in a traffic accident, the driver of the other vehicle is liable for payment of compensation for the death (known as "dhiyya"), usually the equivalent of 55,000 U.S. dollars. Even relatively minor accidents may result in lengthy proceedings, during which both drivers may be prohibited from leaving the country.

In order to drive, UAE residents must obtain a UAE driver's license. Foreign driver's licenses are not recognized. However, a non-resident visitor to the UAE can drive if he/she obtains a valid international driver's license issued by the motor vehicle authority of the country whose passport the traveler holds. The UAE recognizes driver's licenses issued by other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states only if the bearer is driving a vehicle registered to the same GCC state. Under no circumstances should anyone drive without a valid license.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
You may also visit the web site of the UAE’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.uaeinteract.org.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the United Arab Emirates’ Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the United Arab Emirates' air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The UAE government does not recognize dual nationality.
Children of UAE fathers automatically acquire UAE citizenship at birth and must enter the UAE on UAE passports. UAE authorities have confiscated U.S. passports of UAE/U.S. dual nationals in the past. This act does not constitute loss of U.S. citizenship, but should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai. In addition to being subject to all UAE laws, U.S. citizens who also hold UAE citizenship may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on citizens of the UAE.
For additional information, please refer to our Dual Nationality flyer.

U.S. citizens have at times become involved in disputes of a commercial nature that have prompted local firms or courts to take possession of the U.S. citizen's passport. Travel bans may also be enforced against U.S. citizens involved in financial disputes with a local sponsor or firm. Such travel bans, which are rigidly enforced, effectively prevent the individual from leaving the UAE for any reason until the dispute is resolved. Although it is customary for a local sponsor to hold an employee's passport, it is illegal to do so under UAE law. Most contractual/labor disputes can be avoided by clearly establishing all terms and conditions of employment or sponsorship in the labor contract at the beginning of any employment. Should a dispute arise, the UAE Ministry of Labor has established a special department to review and arbitrate labor claims. A list of local attorneys capable of representing Americans in such matters is available from the Consular and Commercial sections of the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai.

Codes of behavior and dress in the UAE reflect the country's Islamic traditions and are more conservative than those of the United States. Visitors to the UAE should be respectful of this conservative heritage, especially in the Emirate of Sharjah where rules of decency and public conduct are strictly enforced. Female travelers should keep in mind the cultural differences among the many people who coexist in the UAE and should be cognizant that unwitting actions may invite unwanted attention to them. Isolated incidents of verbal and physical harassment of Western women have occurred. Victims of harassment are encouraged to report such incidents to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the Consulate General in Dubai.

American citizens intending to reside and work in the UAE may have to present personal documents authenticated by the Department of State's Office of Authentications in Washington, D.C. before traveling to the UAE. This can be a complex process involving local, state and federal offices and requiring several weeks to complete.
For procedural information, the Office of Authentications may be contacted by telephone from within the United States at 800-688-9889 or 202-647-5002, by fax at 202-663-3636, or by e-mail at aoprgsmauth@state.gov.
In order to meet UAE government requirements for school registrations and residency sponsorship for family members, Americans intending to bring their families to reside with them in the UAE will need to have their marriage certificate and children's birth certificates, or custody/adoption decrees, if appropriate, authenticated by the Department of State in Washington, DC.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General cannot authenticate U.S. local- and state-issued personal, academic or professional documents; they will only be able to authenticate the final authentication document from the Department of State.
Additional information on authentication of documents can be found at http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/.
In terms of employment, a recent change to UAE labor law requires local sponsors to have employees' diplomas, academic and/or occupational/professional certificates validated through a “Degree Verification” process established in the UAE.
Prospective employees will be required to submit photocopies of such documents for verification to a firm under contract to the Ministry of Labor.

In addition, persons in the education and health professions reportedly have to meet two requirements for validation of their educational credentials at this time – the formal “chain” authentication of academic/professional credentials in the U.S. and the “Degree Verification” process in the UAE.
Different UAE Ministries have different requirements in this regard.
Determining these requirements with one’s prospective employer is strongly recommended before arrival in the UAE.

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 UAE laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the UAE 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.

Legislation enacted in January 1996 imposes the death sentence for convicted drug traffickers. Since January 2006, possession of even trace amounts of illegal drugs has resulted in sentences of four years imprisonment for foreign citizens transiting the UAE. American citizens transiting and entering the UAE’s airports and in possession of illegal drugs have been discovered, arrested and prosecuted by UAE authorities.
As mentioned, in such cases the minimum penalty is four years imprisonment.

Some drugs normally taken under a doctor's supervision in the United States, and even some over-the-counter U.S. drugs and medications, are classified as narcotics in the UAE and are illegal to possess.
A doctor's prescription should be carried along with any medication that is brought into the country.
A person may be subject to arrest and prosecution if possession of prescribed medicines (especially those containing codeine and similar narcotic-like ingredients) comes to the attention of local authorities.
The U.S. Embassy’s web site includes an unofficial list of such medicines, obtained from the UAE Ministry of Health.
Most medications available in the U.S. are also available by doctors’ prescription through hospitals and pharmacies in the UAE.

In addition, the UAE's tough anti-narcotics program also includes poppy seeds, widely used in other cultures, including the U.S., for culinary purposes, on its list of controlled substances. The importation and possession of poppy seeds in any and all forms is strictly prohibited. Persons found to possess even very small quantities of controlled substances listed by the UAE are subject to prosecution by the authorities and may be given lengthy prison terms of up to 15 years. Travelers with questions regarding the items on the list of controlled substances should contact the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi or the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai. If suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, individuals may be required to submit to blood and/or urine tests and may be subject to prosecution.

Crimes of fraud, including passing bad checks and non-payment of bills (including hotel bills), are regarded seriously in the UAE and can result in imprisonment and/or fines. Bail generally is not available to non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for crimes involving fraud.

Drinking or possession of alcohol without a Ministry of Interior liquor permit is illegal and could result in arrest and/or fines and imprisonment. Alcohol is served at bars in most major hotels but is intended for guests of the hotel. Persons who are not guests of the hotel, and who consume alcohol in the restaurants and bars, technically are required to have their own personal liquor licenses. Liquor licenses are issued only to non-Muslim persons who possess UAE residency permits. Drinking and driving is considered a serious offense. Penalties generally are assessed according to religious law.

While individuals are free to worship as they choose, and facilities are available for that purpose, religious proselytizing is not permitted in the UAE.
Persons violating this law, even unknowingly, may be imprisoned or deported.

If arrested, U.S. citizens should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General for assistance. The U.S. Consul will provide information on the local judicial system and a list of local attorneys. In Dubai, the U.S. Consul can also arrange for U.S. citizen detainees to meet with an ombudsman from the Human Rights Department of the Dubai police headquarters, if the detainee believes he or she is not being treated fairly.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in the United Arab Emirates 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 the United Arab Emirates. 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 in Abu Dhabi is located at Embassies District, Plot 38, Sector W59-02, Street No. 4, P.O. Box 4009. The telephone number is (971) (2) 414-2200, and the Consular Section fax number is (971) (2) 414-2241. The email address for American Citizens Services inquiries, including passport questions, is abudhabiacs@state.gov. The after-hours telephone number is (971) (2) 414-2500. The Embassy Internet web site is http://uae.usembassy.gov.

The U.S. Consulate General in Dubai is located on the 21st floor of the Dubai World Trade Center, P.O. Box 9343. The telephone number is (971) (4) 311-6000 (for after-hours emergencies, contact the Embassy at (971)(2) 414-2200 for the Dubai Duty Officer, and the Consular Section fax number is (971) (4) 311-6213. The email address for American Citizens Services inquiries, including passport questions, is dubaiwarden@state.gov. The web site for the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai is http://dubai.usconsulate.gov.

The workweek for both the Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General in Dubai is Sunday through Thursday.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for the UAE dated July 06, 2007, to update the sections on Traffic Safety and Road Conditions and Criminal Penalties.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2019 11:58:53 +0100
By Shatha Yaish

Hatta, United Arab Emirates, March 8, 2019 (AFP) - Just over 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Dubai's skyscrapers, Mohammed al-Kaabi strolls through the tranquil desert with his friends as the sun sets.   Kaabi, 27, hails from a long line of Emiratis, a people with a centuries-old bedouin history tied inextricably to the local desert.    Today, he is among a fast-growing group drawn to a new wave of a tradition of desert camping but with all the trappings of comfort, style and modernity.   With "glamping", short for "glamorous camping", Dubai aims to expand on its renown for luxurious city living and its tradition of camping.

Betting on tourism at a time of low oil prices, Dubai is now offering stays in chic desert trailers, in plush mountainside lodgings and beach camps, as it seeks to put its own mark on the glamping trend that has swept world tourism destinations.   "This place is far from the cities and the high-rises," said Kaabi, sporting the traditional full-length white Emirati robe worn by men.   "Camping is very popular in the UAE, but when you want to bring the family it becomes more complicated," he added, at a campsite in Hatta, near the Omani border.   "But here, safety and comfort are provided for."

- A room with... a bed -
Camping is still a beloved way of life for many Emiratis, who take their equipment and head for the desert from the fall months onwards, when the scorching summer heat has faded.    Tourists and expat residents also increasingly opt to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Dubai welcomed a record 15.9 million visitors in 2018, many of whom were drawn to its mega malls, luxurious hotels and pristine beaches.   It hopes to push the figure up to 20 million visitors annually by next year, when it hosts the six-month global trade fair, Expo 2020.    The mountainous eastern Hatta desert has lots to offer "glampers" with a taste for adventure but also for their home comforts.   Near the Hatta dam, campers have a choice between a trailer, caravan or five-star lodge fully equipped with TVs and power points for charging a smartphone.

Seated outside a trailer, Jamil Fahmy, a Dubai resident from Saudi Arabia, said glamping was the perfect way to escape the city without compromising on hygiene.    "It's fun, with the fire and hanging with friends and all that, but I personally prefer to sleep in a room with a bed and a private bathroom, and that's what we get here," he told AFP.    "It's great to be an adventurer and explore and cook fireside, and that's what we did.   "But when the time came, we retreated into the beautiful room and slept on a bed."

- 'Five-star camping' -
Rooms with modern amenities, including bathrooms and beds, start from 400 dirhams (about $110, 100 euros) per night at the Hatta site, which opened in October.    The Hatta camping project, part of Dubai's plan to use tourism to diversify revenues, is also home to a 350-metre zip wire.   Last year, Dubai faced a downturn in the real-estate market due to a supply glut, while oil prices also dropped, affecting the UAE as a whole.    Several glamping sites, some on the beach, have popped up across the UAE in recent years, with options to participate in yoga classes, star gazing or kayaking.

For Jay, a 37-year-old Briton, glamping offers a new experience after a decade in the UAE.    "We're fairly outdoorsy, we came here kayaking before, we did the big zip line," he told AFP, referring to the Hatta zip wire.    But, he added with a laugh that with the usual no-frills style of camping "you haven't got a shower or all the facilities" so glamping is a welcome step-up.   "You get the outdoors and all of that, and nature, and you can barbeque -- but you can also have a shower and get clean!   "It's not five-star hoteling, but five-star camping."
Date: 30 Jan 2019
From: Taiichiro Kobayashi <tkobayashi@cick.jp> [edited]

Two women who returned to Japan from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were diagnosed with dengue fever (DF). They could be the 1st reported cases of DF infected in the UAE. They live in Japan and travelled together to the UAE from 29 Dec 2018 to 4 Jan 2019. During their stay in the UAE, they mostly stayed in Dubai and were bitten by mosquitoes several times.

They came to Tokyo Metropolitan Cancer and Infectious Diseases Center Komagome Hospital on 16 Jan 2019. A 32-year-old woman and a 29-year-old woman complained of high fever for 6 and 4 days, respectively. One revealed an erythematous rash on her trunk, face and extremities, and their tourniquet test results were positive. Their blood examinations revealed leukocytopenia, thrombocytopenia and mild liver dysfunction.

Although the UAE is not known as an endemic country of DF, we suspected the women of having DF because of their history, physical examination and laboratory test results. We performed a rapid diagnostic test of DF (SD BIOLINE Dengue DUO), and their results of non-structural protein 1 (NS1) antigen were positive. Furthermore, dengue virus serotype 3 (DENV-3) genotype III genome was detected from both of their sera with real-time RT-PCR and following viral genome sequence analysis at the Laboratory of Arboviruses, National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), Japan.

These 2 cases may be a signal of the emergence of DF in the UAE, where urbanization progresses and many travellers and immigrants from DF-endemic countries are being accepted.
===============================
Taiichiro Kobayashi
Department of Infectious Diseases
Tokyo Metropolitan Cancer and Infectious Diseases Center Komagome
Hospital
Tokyo, Japan
<tkobayashi@cick.jp>

Yuya Atsuta, Masaru Tanaka, Kazuaki Fukushima, Keishiro Yajima and Akifumi Imamura
Department of Infectious Diseases
Tokyo Metropolitan Cancer and Infectious Diseases Center Komagome Hospital Tokyo, Japan

Takahiro Maeki, Shigeru Tajima, Satoshi Taniguchi, Masayuki Saijo and Chang-Kweng Lim
Department of Virology I, National Institute of Infectious Diseases Tokyo, Japan

[ProMED thanks the colleagues from Japan for sharing this important update on imported dengue fever cases, which were serotyped as DENV-3, from the UAE into Japan.

The worldwide distribution of dengue is expanding, in part due to globalized traffic and trade. _Aedes albopictus_ is a competent vector for dengue viruses (DENV) and is now established in numerous regions of the world. Travellers with viraemia arriving in any country from dengue-affected areas of the world can become proponents of local outbreaks. The above report also highlights the importance of considering dengue in differential diagnosis of fever with suggestive blood picture even in cases presenting in nonendemic areas. - ProMED Mod.UBA]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
United Arab Emirates: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/132]
Date: Wed 5 Sep 2018
Source: BBC [edited]

A total of 19 people have been taken ill after an Emirates airline plane landed in New York, officials say. The plane was quarantined at JFK airport as those on board were checked by health officials. As many as 10 were taken to hospital but others refused treatment.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that initially about 100 people including some crew had complained of illness. Flight 203 from Dubai landed at 09:10 (13.10 GMT) with 521 passengers.

Emergency vehicles were seen on the runway as it landed. Soon afterwards, Emirates airline tweeted that the sick passengers were being attended to and those who were unaffected would be allowed to leave the plane.

The CDC said in a statement that is was "aware of an Emirates flight from Dubai that arrived this morning at JFK".

"Approximately 100 passengers, including some crew on the flight, complained of illness including cough and some with fever.

"CDC public health officers are working with... officials to evaluate passengers including taking temperatures and making arrangements for transport to local hospitals those that need care."

Later Eric Phillips, spokesman for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, confirmed that all the passengers were off the plane and the sick people had been taken to hospital.

He said that some of the passengers had originally come from the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, which was currently experiencing a flu outbreak, and that the passengers' symptoms were "pointing to the flu".
Date: Mon 28 May 2018
Source: EMPRES-I (Global Animal Disease Information System) [edited]

According to an EMPRESS report issued today [Mon 28 May 2018], there was a human case of MERS-CoV infection confirmed by PCR testing in Gayathi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This report was based on an OIE report.

No further information was provided.
=====================
[The most recent confirmed human MERS-CoV infection in the UAE was reported in December 2017 and involved an Omani camel herder who was identified as an asymptomatic infection. This was detected as part of border screening of camels on entry to the UAE following the detection of positive MERS-CoV infection in the camels (see MERS-CoV (01): Malaysia (ex KSA), Saudi Arabia, UAE (ex Oman) http://promedmail.org/post/20180102.5532148).

I was unable to find more information on the case mentioned in the EMPRES report above, from either the HAAD (Health Authority of Abu Dhabi) website, or the OIE or EMPRES websites. Questions that come to mind include: demographics (age, sex); clinical picture (was this based on clinical illness in the human or was this part of screening after identification of MERS-CoV infected camels entering the UAE (where screening is typically done); possible high risk exposures (either contact with camels, contact with other known cases, contact with the health sector before onset of illness, or history of travel to other geographic areas where MERS-CoV circulation is known).

More information from knowledgeable sources would be greatly appreciated.

The HealthMap/ProMED map of the UAE can be found at:
Date: Thu 21 Sep 2017
Source: Eurosurveillance Edition 2017, 22(38) [edited]

ref: Dabrera G, Brandsema P, Lofdahl M, et al. Increase in legionnaires' disease cases associated with travel to Dubai among travellers from the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands, October 2016 to end August 2017. Euro Surveill. 2017; 22(38): pii=30618.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Abstract
--------
Between 1 Oct 2016 and 31 Aug 2017, 51 legionnaires' disease (LD) cases from the United Kingdom (UK), Sweden, and the Netherlands were identified with associated travel to Dubai. Cases did not all stay in the same accommodation, indicating that no single accommodation could be the source for all these infections. While local investigations continue into other potential sources, clinicians should remain alert to the possibility of LD among travellers returning from Dubai with respiratory illness.

Introduction
------------
In December 2016, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported an increase in legionnaires' disease (LD) cases associated with travel to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) [1] based on cases reported to ELDSNet (European legionnaires' disease surveillance network), an ECDC-operated surveillance system among European Union (EU) countries, Iceland, and Norway [2] for laboratory-confirmed, travel-associated LD (TALD) cases who stayed in commercial accommodation site(s) (such as hotels) during the 2-10-day incubation period.

As this increase in Dubai-associated TALD cases continues, we describe cases reported with symptom onset between 1 Oct 2016 and 31 Aug 2017 among residents from the UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands (the 3 countries that were initially reporting the largest numbers of cases). We describe the ongoing situation as at 18 Sep 2017 to provide further insight into the observed increase and create awareness among physicians and travellers returning with compatible symptoms to consider legionella as a differential diagnosis [1].

[The full Eurosurveillance article can be accessed at the source URL above. - ProMED Mod.ML]
====================
[Dubai is one of the 7 emirates and the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubai>). Dubai has become a popular tourist destination. It is said to be the 4th most visited city in world, with over 15 million visitors in 2016, after London, Paris, and Bangkok (<https://www.khaleejtimes.com/listicles/dubai-worlds-fourth-most-popular-destination-in-2016>).

Overnight visitors in Dubai spent almost USD 11 billion in 2014

Dubai can be located on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at

In 2009, ProMED-mail first reported legionnaires' disease in 3 travellers to Dubai, one of whom from the UK died (Legionellosis, fatal, hotel - United Arab Emirates: (Dubai) http://promedmail.org/post/20090205.0509). In December 2016, ProMED-mail reported an increase in the number of cases of legionnaires' disease in 2016, compared with previous years, in European travelers returning from Dubai, with 26 cases having their onset of illness since 1 Oct 2016 (Legionellosis - EU: EU travellers, ex United Arab Emirates (Dubai) susp http://promedmail.org/post/20161230.4733569). In June 2017, ProMED-mail reported that an additional 34 cases among European travelers to Dubai, with the most recent case becoming ill in May 2017, suggesting an ongoing exposure risk (Legionellosis - Europe (03): ex United Arab Emirates (Dubai) http://promedmail.org/post/20170602.5079438).

According to the Eurosurveillance report above on 51 legionnaires' disease cases with symptom onset between 1 Oct 2016 and 31 Aug 2017, from the UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands associated with travel to Dubai, of 43 cases staying in commercial accommodation only 15 stayed in sites where there were 2 or more cases, whereas 27 stayed in sites where there were no other cases. In addition, 3 of the 51 cases were associated with a foreign-travel related cluster in other countries.

Of the 51 cases of legionnaires' disease, 50 were infected by organisms speciated as _Legionella pneumophila_. However, the serogroup was known for only 16 cases: 13 of the 16 were serogroup 1, 2 were serogroup 13 and 1 was serogroup 2-14. Sequence-based typing (ST) was available for only 9 cases: 6 cases were ST616, and 3 cases were ST1327. ST616 was only observed in cases associated with travel to Dubai and ST1327 was associated with travel to Dubai for all but one case. Furthermore, 11 cases spent their entire incubation period in Dubai. These findings supported the assertion that at least some of these infections occurred within Dubai. However, the cases for whom sequence-based typing was available were all linked to different accommodations sites.

No increase in pneumonia notifications occurred locally in Dubai between October and December 2016, which suggested an environmental _Legionella_ source in Dubai that might have been frequented more often by foreign travelers than by local residents. Another explanation was that the local Dubai population is predominantly young, with only 8.7 percent in the 50 years or older age group in 2016, and therefore potentially at lower risk for legionnaires' disease than foreign travelers. Also, the investigators noted that the increase in cases of legionnaires' disease among European travelers to Dubai could not be fully explained by an increase in the number of European travelers to Dubai, but so far no environmental sources have been identified in Dubai. - ProMED Mod.ML]
More ...

North Korea

Democratic People's Republic of Korea US Consular Information Sheet
April 29, 2008
Prior to departing the United States, U.S. citizens planning to transit China on their visit to North Korea are encouraged to register on line with the U.S. Emba
sy in Beijing; U. S. citizens transiting South Korea to take the Mount Kumgang or Kaesong City tours should register with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
U. S. citizens visiting North Korea should also register with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang (U.S. Protective Power).
Please see the Registration/Embassy Location section below.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea or the DPRK) is a highly militaristic Communist state located on the Korean Peninsula between northeast China and the Republic of Korea (South Korea or ROK), with land borders with China, Russia and South Korea.
The DPRK is one of the world’s most isolated countries.
The continuing dispute over North Korea’s development of nuclear programs and nuclear weapons has resulted in tensions in the region and between the United States and the DPRK.
North Korea limits trade and transportation links with other countries and tightly restricts the circumstances under which foreigners may enter the country and interact with local citizens.
Telephone and fax communications are unavailable in many areas of the country and foreigners can expect their communications to be monitored by DPRK officials.
In the past few years, North Korea has experienced famine, flooding, fuel and electricity shortages, and outbreaks of disease.
Many countries, including the United States, have contributed to international relief efforts to assist the people of North Korea.

Foreign tourists are a means for North Korea to earn much needed foreign currency, but an underdeveloped service sector, inadequate infrastructure, and political tensions with surrounding countries have stymied any significant tourist flow.
North Korean efforts to expand tourism have focused primarily on group tours from China, as well as from South Korea primarily to the Mount Kumgang tourist area and the city of Kaesong.

The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK.
The Swedish Embassy located in Pyongyang acts as the United States’ interim consular protective power and provides basic consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea.
Please refer to Special Circumstances for additional information.

Read the Department of State Background Notes on North Korea for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: North Korean visas are required for entry.
The U.S. Government does not issue letters to private Americans seeking North Korean visas, even though in the past such letters have sometimes been requested by DPRK embassies.
Prospective travelers entering and departing North Korea through China must also obtain a two-entry visa for China, as a valid Chinese visa is essential for departing North Korea at the conclusion of a visit or in an emergency.
While the ROK government is attempting to open direct travel routes to the DPRK, routine travel from the ROK to the DPRK is currently prohibited.
Travel across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is allowed only infrequently for official and government-authorized cultural and economic exchanges, or aid shipments, and for tours limited to Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong City.
There are no regularly operating direct commercial flights from South Korea to North Korea.
U.S. citizens who arrive in North Korea without a valid U.S. passport and North Korean visa may be detained, arrested, fined or denied entry.
Travelers to North Korea report that fees for local travel costs (taxi, tolls, permits and the cost for security personnel assigned to escort foreigner visitors) can be high and arbitrary.

Where to obtain a North Korean visa: There is no DPRK embassy in the United States.
U.S. citizens and residents planning travel to North Korea must obtain DPRK visas in third countries, for example in Beijing, China.
For information about entry requirements and restricted areas, contact the DPRK Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Address inquiries to:

The Permanent Representative of the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue
New York, NY
10017
Tel: (212) 972-3105
Fax: (212) 972-3154

Americans living abroad can contact the DPRK embassy, if any, in their country of residence.
U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea may obtain their visas at the DPRK Embassy in Beijing, China, which will issue visas only after receiving authorization from the DPRK Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang.
Prior to traveling to the region, travelers may wish to confirm that authorization to issue their visa has been received from Pyongyang.
Americans can call the North Korean Embassy in Beijing prior to their travel by telephone at (86-10) 6532-1186 or (86-10) 6532-1189 (fax: (86-10) 6532-6056).

Information on dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
Please see those sections below under Special Circumstances.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: DPRK government security personnel closely monitor the activities and conversations of foreigners in North Korea.
Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
Photographing roads, bridges, airports, rail stations, or anything other than designated public tourist sites can be perceived as espionage and may result in confiscation of cameras and film or even detention.
DPRK border officials routinely confiscate visitors’ cell phones upon arrival, returning the phone only upon departure.
Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside the DPRK, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and political activities, engaging in unauthorized travel, or interaction with the local population.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site
at where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on worldwide security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States 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: The North Korean government does not release statistics on crime.
Violent crime is rare and street crime is uncommon in Pyongyang.
Petty thefts have been reported, especially at the airport in Pyongyang.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the Swedish Embassy.
If you are a victim of any crime while in North Korea, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the Swedish Embassy for assistance (address and phone number below).

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Persons with medical problems should not travel to North Korea.
For decades, medical facilities in the DPRK have suffered from a lack of resources and electricity, as well as inadequate and often outdated skills among the medical staff.
Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available.
Surgery should be avoided.
For accidents outside Pyongyang, transport back to the capital can be a lengthy trip without medical assistance.
Persons requiring regular medication are encouraged to bring sufficient stocks of drugs for personal use since most drugs are impossible to obtain locally.
Hospitals will expect immediate U.S. dollar cash payment for medical treatment.
Credit cards and checks have not been honored in the past, according to diplomatic personnel stationed in the DPRK.
Local DPRK hosts are often not aware of available evacuation options and might claim that no such options exist.
In case of serious medical problems, it is important to insist on immediate contact with the Swedish Embassy.
The Swedish Embassy can arrange a medical evacuation to Beijing within approximately 5-10 hours.

Vaccinations.
All necessary vaccinations should be received prior to traveling to North Korea.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC web site 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.
Travelers with special dietary requirements are advised to bring food with them to North Korea, as the restaurants available to foreigners may have limited menus that lack variety and nutritional adequacy.

Medical Vaccinations. In the case of a critical illness or accident, the Swedish Embassy will attempt to arrange flight clearances for air ambulances performing emergency medical evacuations.
Medical air evacuation costs vary, but average approximately $40,000 to $50,000 for medical, personnel, aircraft and clearance costs.
Clearances can usually be arranged within one day.
Medical evacuation by regularly scheduled airlines can be arranged, but is limited to the very few flights that operate from Pyongyang to Beijing, Dalian, Shenyang and Macau.
Chinese visas for injured foreigners and any escorts must be obtained prior to the evacuation from North Korea in order to transit China.
Even in the case of a medical emergency, transit visas may take several days to arrange.
Evacuation across the DMZ to South Korea is not allowed.

If an American citizen falls ill or is injured while traveling in the DPRK, accompanying travelers or family members should immediately contact the Swedish Embassy using the phone numbers listed below.

The Embassy of Sweden,
Munsu-Dong District,
Pyongyang, DPRK

Telephone and fax numbers for the Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protective Power) are:
Tel:
(850-2) 3817 485 (Reception)


(850-2) 3817 904, 907(First Secretary)


(850-2) 3817 908, 905 (Ambassador)
Fax:
(850-2) 3817 663
Email:
ambassaden.pyongyang@foreign.ministry.se
Notification also should be made to the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit in Beijing, China, using the phone numbers listed below:

U.S. Embassy, Beijing
American Citizen Services
2 Xiushui Dong Jie
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone: (86-10) 6532-3431
Fax: (86-10) 6532-4153.

After hours, please call (86-10) 6532-3431 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
Americans who wish to contact U.S. consular officials in China can e-mail amcitbeijing@state.gov
Companies that may be able to arrange evacuation services include, but are not limited to those listed below.
Travelers may wish to contact these or other emergency medical assistance providers for information about their ability to provide medical evacuation insurance and/or assistance for travelers to North Korea.

SOS International (www.intsos.com)
U.S. telephone:
(1-800) 468-5232
China telephone:
(86-10) 6462-9111/9118

Medex Assistance Corporation (www.medexassist.com)
U.S. telephone:
(410) 453-6300 / 6301
Toll free:
108888-800-527-0218 (call from China)
China telephone:
(86-10) 6595-8510)

Global Doctor (www.globaldoctor.com.au/default.php)
China telephone: (86-10) 83151914).









(86-24) 24330678 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad , available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

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 if it will cover emergency expenses such as 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 North Korea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or situation.

Foreigners not holding a valid DPRK driver’s license are not allowed to drive in North Korea.
Foreigners generally are not allowed to use public buses or the subway.
North Korea has a functioning rail transport system; however delays occur often, sometimes for days.
On occasion, service may cease altogether before a traveler reaches his/her final destination.
Bicycles are unavailable for rental or purchase.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and North Korea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed North Korea’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Interim Consular Protecting Power: The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK.
The U.S. Government therefore cannot provide normal consular protective services to U.S. citizens in North Korea.
On September 20, 1995, a consular protecting power arrangement was implemented, allowing the Swedish Embassy in the DPRK capital of Pyongyang to provide basic consular protective services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested or who have died while there.

Consular Access:
There is no United States diplomatic or consular presence in the DPRK.
Americans traveling in the DPRK may receive limited consular services from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
Please see section above on “Medical Insurance” for address and contact information for the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry photocopies of their passport data and photo pages with them at all times so that, if questioned by DPRK officials, evidence of their U.S. citizenship is readily available. The U.S.- DPRK Interim Consular Agreement provides that North Korea will notify the Swedish Embassy within four days of an arrest or detention of an American citizen and will allow consular visits within two days after a request is made by the Swedish Embassy.
However, consular access has not been readily granted in cases where American citizens have been reported as being detained or held against their will by DPRK officials.
Moreover, delegations with ethnic Korean individuals, or delegations representing Korean-affiliated organizations in the U.S., are handled by DPRK structures that are well beyond the reach of diplomatic missions in Pyongyang.
Hence, in case of a situation requiring consular assistance, the Embassy’s access is even more limited.

Customs Regulations:
DPRK authorities may seize documents, literature, audio and videotapes, compact discs and letters deemed by North Korean officials to be pornographic, political or intended for religious proselytizing.
Persons seeking to enter North Korea with religious materials in a quantity deemed to be greater than that needed for personal use can be detained, fined and expelled.
It is advisable to contact the DPRK Mission to the United Nations or a DPRK embassy or a DPRK consulate in a third country for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our information on customs regulations.

Dual Nationality:
The DPRK does not recognize dual nationality.
U.S. citizens of Korean heritage may be subject to military obligations and taxes on foreign source income.
For further information see our dual nationality flyer.
Additional questions on dual nationality may be directed to Overseas Citizens Services, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC
20520 or by telephone at 1-888-407-4747.

U.S. Government Economic Sanctions Against North Korea:
At this time, goods of North Korean origin may not be imported into the United States either directly or indirectly without prior notification to and approval of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Exports to North Korea may be subject to licensing requirements.
Check with the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
Most financial transactions between U.S. and North Korean citizens are authorized, provided they meet the criteria outlined in the June 19, 2000, and subsequent amendments to OFAC regulations.
All transactions ordinarily incident to travel to, from and within North Korea and to maintenance within North Korea are authorized, and U.S. travel service providers are allowed to organize group travel to North Korea.
Commercial U.S. ships and aircraft carrying U.S. goods are allowed to call at North Korean ports with prior clearance.
In May 2006, OFAC began prohibiting U.S. persons from “owning, leasing, operating or insuring any vessel flagged by North Korea.”
Full text of the regulation can be found in the Federal Register at http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/fr/2000/061900-a.txt.

The U.S. maintains various export controls and other sanctions on North Korea for counter- terrorism, nonproliferation and other reasons.
Exports of military and sensitive dual-use items are prohibited, as are most types of U.S. economic assistance.
The U.S. also abides by multilateral restrictions and sanctions with respect to North Korea, including those contained in recent United Nations Security Council Resolutions in response to the North Korean missile launches and nuclear test in July and October 2006.

For additional information, consult the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treasury.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/.

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.
Local laws also may not afford the protections available to U.S. citizens under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking local laws can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders often face long jail sentences and heavy fines.
North Korean security personnel may view unescorted travel inside North Korea by Americans who do not have explicit official authorization as espionage, especially when the U.S. citizens are originally from South Korea or are thought to understand the Korean language.
Security personnel may also view any attempt to engage in unauthorized conversations with a North Korean citizen as espionage.
Foreigners are subject to fines or arrest for unauthorized currency transactions or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners.
It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country's current and former leaders, Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung, respectively.
Foreign journalists have been threatened when questioning the policies or public statements of the DPRK or the actions of the current leadership.

Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see additional information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children's Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: There is no U.S. embassy or consulate in North Korea.

U.S. citizens planning to visit North Korea are encouraged to register prior to departing the United States with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing if entering North Korea from China.
U.S. citizens planning to visit the Mount Kumgang tourism area or Kaesong from South Korea should register with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
Registration can be done on line through the State Department's travel registration web site
or in person, by telephone or fax, at the U.S. Embassy.

The Embassy of Sweden (U.S. Protective Power).
Americans who have a medical or consular emergency and who wish to contact the Swedish Embassy are reminded first to communicate this need to their North Korean escorts or guides.
Do not attempt to travel to the Swedish Embassy unescorted.
The Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protective Power) is located at Munsu-Dong District, Pyongyang.
The telephone and fax numbers for the Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protective Power) are:

Tel:
(850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
Tel:
(850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (First Secretary)
Tel:
(850-2) 3817 908, (850-2) 3817 905 (Ambassador)
Fax:
(850-2) 3817 663

U.S. Embassy Beijing.
The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, is located at:
2 Xiushui Dong Jie, Beijing.
The Embassy is located near Ritan Park.
Telephone: (86-10) 6532-3431.
Fax: (86-10) 6532-4153.
Email: amcitbeijing@state.gov.
The Embassy Beijing web site is http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/.

For after-hours emergencies please call (86-10)6532-3431 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
U.S. Embassy Seoul.
The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, is located at:
32 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu, Seoul.
The Embassy is located across the street from Sejong Cultural Center and next to the Ministry of Information and Communication/KT Building.

Telephone: (82-2) 397-4114.
Fax: (82-2) 2-397-4101.
E-mail: seoul_acs@state.gov.
The Embassy Seoul web site is http://seoul.usembassy.gov/.

For after-hours emergencies please call (82-2) 721-4114 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
*
*
*
*
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 15, 2007, to update the sections on Country Description, Medical Insurance, Special Circumstances, and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sun, 7 Apr 2019 11:11:12 +0200

Pyongyang, April 7, 2019 (AFP) - Twice as many foreigners as last year gathered in Pyongyang Sunday for the city's annual marathon, tour firms said, as reduced tensions see visitor numbers rise in isolated North Korea.    The event -- part of the celebrations for the anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung's birth in 1912 -- is the highlight of the North's tourism calendar and offers the chance to run or jog through the streets of the tightly controlled city.

Around 950 Westerners entered the event, according to market leader Koryo Tours, compared to some 450 last year when numbers slumped.   That brought participation almost back to the levels of 2017, before tensions soared as the North carried out a series of missile launches and leader Kim Jong Un traded threats and personal insults with US President Donald Trump.   The same year, Washington also banned its citizens from visiting the North following the death of Otto Warmbier, a US student jailed for trying to steal a propaganda poster who died in a mysterious coma days after his release.

Several other countries subsequently raised their travel warnings, a combination of events that dealt a significant blow to the North's tourism industry.   The US ban remains in place but more Western tourists signed up for the marathon this time, tour operators said, following a year of high-level diplomacy between Trump and Kim.   "As political tensions have subsided, tourism demand has increased," said Elliott Davies, director at Uri Tours, another operator, adding: "You could plot a graph in this direct relationship."

- 'Marathon chasers' -
The vast majority of tourists to the North are Chinese and some 5,000 Westerners a year used to visit the North -- with about 20 percent of those from the US -- seeking unique adventures in one of the most closed countries in the world.   The annual race also attracts so-called "Marathon Chasers" who tick off runs around the world, said Matt Kulesza, a senior tour guide at Young Pioneer Tours.   Angel Arnaudov, a 34-year-old engineer from Macedonia, said Pyongyang came onto his "radar" after finishing more than 30 marathons in cities ranging from Tokyo, New York and Copenhagen.   "I want to experience the life in North Korea myself and see if it is like they say on TV or different," he said, adding he would be posting videos on his YouTube channel.

For third-time participant Jasmine Barrett, the Pyongyang Marathon was an opportunity to interact with ordinary North Koreans who line the streets to cheer on the runners, offering high-fives and posing for selfies.   "I keep coming back because I love to see the smiles on the children's faces," the Australian entrepreneur told AFP.   "I'd definitely recommend it to others because it's a great way to see the city and the people who live there," she added.   Tour operators advise visitors to take extra precautions about "what to do and what not to do" when travelling in the North.   Simon Cockerell, Koryo Tours' general manager, said: "This is vital when visiting North Korea and anyone wanting to travel shouldn't go without a briefing."
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2019 07:33:49 +0100

Seoul, Jan 17, 2019 (AFP) - A giant beach resort in North Korea is nearing completion, a US monitor said Thursday, with satellite pictures showing rapid progress on the sprawling development, now equipped with a water slide and cinema.   The seaside strip known as the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area is squeezed between a new airport and the country's east coast, in an area that has previously been used for artillery drills and ballistic missile launches.

It is intended as a centrepiece of the isolated country's nascent tourism industry as Pyongyang seeks to develop its economy despite international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons programmes.   North Korea receives an estimated 100,000 foreign tourists a year, the vast majority of them Chinese, according to industry sources, but Pyongyang issues no official figures itself.   The site's construction has been closely overseen by leader Kim Jong Un and plans have been announced for a grand opening in October, when the country marks the 74th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

The respected 38 North website released satellite images taken as recently as December showing that most buildings previously under construction were "nearing external completion and several new or redesigned buildings were in advanced stages".   Kim, who reportedly spent his childhood summers in the area, visited the site at least three times last year according to state media, sometimes berating officials in charge of the works and issuing detailed orders.

Kim "found that the whole street was not perfect in the artistic aspect", the official KCNA news agency reported after his October inspection.   "He instructed officials to envisage the construction of more hotels and inns with over 30 floors," it added, along with more games arcades, movie theatres and an "all-event stadium", plus a "large water park and funfair".   Satellite photos from December 28 indicated the resort was growing into a "vast beach complex", 38 North said.

- 'Great beaches' -
US President Donald Trump, a former real estate developer turned billionaire, applauded North Korea's tourism potential last year following his landmark summit with Kim in Singapore.   After a four-minute screening of a bizarre Hollywood-style trailer -- apparently part of an overall pitch that the US could help the North advance technologically and economically -- Trump pointed to potential property projects in the cash-strapped nation.   "As an example, they have great beaches," he told reporters.    "You see that whenever they are exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, 'Boy, look at that view. Wouldn't that make a great condo?'"

Kim mentioned the Wonsan-Kalma project in his key New Year speech and 38 North said the push on the development showed "a desire to demonstrate that North Korea, despite the economic sanctions in place, has an economy that is moving forward and showing signs of prosperity.   "It may also reflect an expectation that as the country improves its external political relations, tourism will follow," it added.

At present the US bans its own citizens from tourism in the North.   Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans used to visit Mount Kumgang near the inter-Korean border every year, travelling to a Seoul-funded tourist resort that was the first major cooperation project between the neighbours.   The trips came to an abrupt end in 2008 when a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist who strayed off the approved path and Seoul suspended travel.
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2018 14:08:01 +0200

Pyongyang, Sept 6, 2018 (AFP) - Severe flooding in North Korea has killed at least 76 people with another 75 missing, many of them children, the Red Cross said Thursday.   Thousands of people have been left homeless after heavy rains triggered floods and landslides, toppling more than 800 buildings including houses, clinics and schools in North and South Hwanghae provinces, leaving Red Cross volunteers scrambling to find survivors.   "Thousands have lost their homes and are in urgent need of health services, shelter, food, safe drinking water and sanitation," said John Fleming of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) North Korea country office.   "With the cold season around the corner, we are also concerned this disaster will increase the risk of health problems and food insecurity for some communities."

Impoverished North Korea is vulnerable to natural disasters. More than 130 people died after floods struck North Hamgyong province in 2016, bringing down buildings and leaving hundreds of thousands in urgent need of food and shelter.   The country's territory is largely composed of mountains and hills that have long been stripped bare for fuel or turned into terraced rice fields, allowing rainwater to flow downhill unchecked.   A series of floods and droughts was partially responsible for a famine that killed hundreds of thousands between 1994-98, with economic mismanagement and the loss of Soviet support exacerbating the situation.
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2018 07:21:10 +0200

Seoul, Aug 21, 2018 (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has denounced his own country's health services, state media reported Tuesday, criticising officials for being "very idle and irresponsible".   Impoverished and isolated North Korea, which is subject to multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its pursuit of nuclear weapons, suffers from chronic food shortages and inadequate health services according to international aid agencies. 

Hospitals lack medicines, equipment, and trained staff.   While Pyongyang regularly proclaims its desire to provide its people with a better life, Kim roundly condemned its health system on a visit to a medical devices factory.   Some sectors "have made remarkable leaps forward in recent years" Kim said according to the official Korean Central News Agency, "but the public health sector has never done so and become more and more passive".   "There is no unit keeping its environment well in the public health sector, to say nothing of equipment modernisation," he added at the Myohyangsan Medical Appliances Factory.

Such "field guidance" visits by the leader are the mainstay of the North's state media output, and a key part of the authorities' domestic messaging, sometimes lauding the quality of projects and sometimes criticising officials.   The ruling Workers' Party had stressed the need to improve health services, but "officials are very idle and irresponsible in doing so", Kim said according to KCNA.

In the Korean-language version, he berated them for "hibernating for a long time", adding: "Animals only hibernate once a year but the health sector has been holed up and hibernating for years and shouting empty slogans."   Since his summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, Kim has stressed a focus on economic development, visiting industrial sites and factories across the nation.

In this year's "needs and priorities" assessment of North Korea, the UN Development Programme described its healthcare services as "inadequate", with a "lack of essential medical equipment, pharmaceutical remedies, appropriate referral systems, therapeutic equipment and assistive devices, as well as limited professional capacity".   "Furthermore, health infrastructure is poor with many [facilities] having inconsistent water, electricity and heating," it added.

North Korea has called for an end to sanctions against it, while the US has urged the international community to maintain a tough approach until its complete denuclearisation.   Following several ballistic missile launches and by far the North's most powerful nuclear test last year, Kim declared the development of its atomic capabilities complete and said economic development was the new priority.
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2018 07:41:24 +0200

Seoul, Aug 14, 2018 (AFP) - North Korea has stopped processing tourist visas for foreigners ahead of a high profile anniversary next month, according to a China-based tour operator.   The measure follows reports that Pyongyang had suspended visits by Chinese tour groups as it prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the country is officially known.

Koryo Tours, a popular agency among Western tourists seeking to visit the North, said on its website it had been "informed on 13 August by our partners in Pyongyang that they had been instructed from above that all tourist visa applications currently underway are to be frozen".   It was not given a reason for the freeze, the company said, but was told it would apply until the anniversary on September 9.   "This suggests to us that... a higher power in the country is simply pressing pause on tourism until it is clear to them who is coming in such delegations and how many people," it added.   Pyongyang has previously lavishly celebrated the date with military parades or mass games involving thousands of people performing acrobatic choreography in unison, and is expected this time to hold its first mass games for five years.

Speculation has also mounted that the nuclear-armed North could be preparing to mount a parade -- at which it normally shows off some of the weapons that have earned it multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions.   Chinese President Xi Jinping is speculated to be on the guest list, as officials in the North told South Korean journalists that he was invited to the event.   In his New Year speech in January, leader Kim Jong Un said North Korean people would "greet the 70th founding anniversary of their Republic as a great, auspicious event".

The occasion comes during a rare diplomatic detente on the Korean peninsula which has seen the South's president Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un meet twice, with a third summit planned for September.   The rapprochement also led to a landmark summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, where the two leaders signed a vague agreement on denuclearisation.   Although Trump touted his summit with Kim as a historic breakthrough, the North has since criticised Washington for its "gangster-like" demands of complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament.   The US has urged the international community to maintain tough sanctions on the isolated regime.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 21 May 2019 12:37:30 +0200

Khartoum, May 21, 2019 (AFP) - Sudanese protest leaders called on their supporters Tuesday to prepare for a general strike after talks with the country's military rulers stalled on who will lead an agreed three-year transition.   Protest leaders had reached agreement with the ruling military council on the other main aspects of the transition.   But early on Tuesday, the generals who overthrew veteran president Omar al-Bashir last month baulked at protesters' demands for a civilian head and a civilian majority for an agreed new sovereign council to lead the transition.

"In order to achieve a full victory, we are calling for a huge participation in a general political strike," said the Sudanese Professionals Association, which took the lead in organising the four months of nationwide protests that led to Bashir's ouster.   "The strike is our revolutionary duty and the participation in the sit-in ... is a crucial guarantee to achieve the goals of the revolution."

Protest leader Madani Abbas Madani told AFP the preparations for a "general political strike and civil disobedience" were already under way.   "Whenever we will decide on applying these plans, we will make an announcement," said Madani, a prominent leader of protest umbrella group the Alliance for Freedom and Change.   The two sides launched what had been billed as a final round of talks on the transition late on Sunday.

The military council has faced pressure from Western government and the African Union to agree to a civilian-led transition -- the central demand of the thousands of demonstrators who have spent weeks camped outside army headquarters in Khartoum.   When talks broke up early on Tuesday, neither side said when they would resume.

Protest leader Siddiq Yousef told reporters they had been suspended.   "The main point of dispute that remains is concerning the share of representatives of the military and the civilians in the council and who will be the head of the new body," the two sides said in a joint statement.   The military council has been pushing for its chairman General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to head the new sovereign council but protest leaders want a civilian.
Date: Tue, 21 May 2019 05:22:30 +0200
By John WESSELS with Samir TOUNSI in Kinshasa

Butembo, DR Congo, May 21, 2019 (AFP) - People in Ebola-hit eastern DR Congo are struggling to come to terms with high-security burials that are part of a hard-pressed strategy to roll back the disease.   Anyone who dies of the highly infectious haemorrhagic fever has to be buried in carefully-controlled conditions designed to minimise the risk of infection from body fluids.   But that means ceremonies are carried out in sanitised conditions, with relatives and friends kept at a distance -- for many, a traumatic break with traditions that demand the body of a loved-one be seen or touched.   "We're astonished she's being buried like this," said Denise Kahambu as she watched the specially-prepared burial in Butembo of her 50-year-old cousin, Marie-Rose.   "They said she died of Ebola," she said sceptically.   First declared last August, the epidemic has now claimed nearly 1,200 lives -- 200 of them in May alone.    The outbreak is the second deadliest on record, after an epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa in 2014-16.

The burial in Butembo followed strict precautions. A pick-up truck delivered the coffin to the burial site, where a grave had been prepared, as the family stood by at a distance.   Gloved Red Cross workers handled the burial, which took place in silence and without a religious ceremony.   A family member or loved one was allowed only to place a cross on the tomb, once they too had donned protective gloves.   Half a dozen police officers escorted the convoy and remained on guard throughout.    On Friday, two burial teams from the treatment centres were attacked by stone-throwing crowds at Butembo and Bunia, a little further north in Ituri province, according to the health ministry. One burial worker was injured.

- Culture shock -
"The custom is that the body of the deceased first returns to the home. And once people have mourned, they have the chance to touch the body for the last time," said Seros Muyisa Kamathe, a guide and interpreter in Beni and Butembo.   "Before going to the cemetery, you open the coffin so people can take one last look at the deceased."

And normally it would be the family and neighbours who would take responsibility for digging the grave -- and deciding where if should be.   Ebola experts say denial and resistance were familiar obstacles in the 2014-16 epidemic in the West African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.   The World Health Organization (WHO) has a 12-step protocol for dealing with burials so that handling of the remains is kept to a minimum, but it also emphasises the importance of respect and mourning.   "The burial process is very sensitive for the family and the community and can be the source of trouble or even open conflict," it acknowledges.    No burial should begin until family agreement has been obtained, and workers should engage with the community "for prayers to dissipate tensions
and provide respectful time," it says.

- Armed escorts -
The burial process is part of the notoriously time-consuming and labour-intensive task of combatting Ebola.   And in this troubled region, the challenge has been further complicated by bloody deadly attacks on Ebola treatment centres by local militias.   Suspicion, political infighting in the capital Kinshasa and militia violence provide a fertile breeding ground for the virus.   Sometimes local people cover the graves overnight as a sign of their opposition, the ministry said.   In Butembo, health workers need an armed escort when they go looking for cases of Ebola in some neighbourhoods, an AFP photographer noted during one outing Saturday evening.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the opening of the organisation's annual assembly on Monday, described the outbreak as "one of the most complex health emergencies any of us have ever faced."   "Unless we unite to end this outbreak we run the risk it will become more widespread and more expansive and more aggressive," he said.   "We are not just fighting a virus," Tedros insisted. "We're fighting insecurity. We're fighting violence. We're fighting misinformation... and we're fighting the politicisation of an outbreak."   On the plus side, health officials are keen to emphasise some important gains. More than 118,000 have been vaccinated against the virus, and no cases have been recorded in neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.
Date: Mon, 20 May 2019 15:09:54 +0200

Milan, May 20, 2019 (AFP) - Alitalia has scrapped around half its flights scheduled for Tuesday after a call to strike by Italian pilots, cabin crew and ground staff.   The industrial action by employees of Alitalia, Blue Air and Blue Panorama was confirmed Monday over the future of the sector and specifically that of the troubled national carrier.   Alitalia has cancelled around half its flights on Tuesday, as well as some late Monday and early Wednesday. The company said it hoped to get 60 percent of passengers to their destination.

Unions lamented "on the one hand, a rising number of passengers and flights, and on the other a proliferation of bankruptcies", a statement said.   They are worried about Alitalia's future and want their jobs protected.   The Italian government earlier this month extended to June 15 a deadline for the state railway to submit a concrete takeover offer, following a request from Alitalia's administrators for more time.   Italy's state railway Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) floated a bid to buy Alitalia at the end of October, but it does not want to hold more than 30 percent in the airline.   The railway has been discussing a potential partnership with Atlanta-based Delta airlines, which is interested in a 15-percent stake.
Date: Sun, 19 May 2019 21:55:33 +0200

Giza, Egypt, May 19, 2019 (AFP) - A bomb blast hit a tourist bus near Egypt's famed Giza pyramids on Sunday, wounding some of them, including South Africans, in the latest blow to the country's tourism industry.   The roadside bomb went off as the bus was being driven in Giza, also causing injuries to Egyptians in a nearby car, medical and security sources said.   Security and medical sources in Egypt said 17 people were injured, without giving a breakdown of their nationalities. No deaths were reported.   South Africa said in a statement that the "bus explosion" injured three of its 28 citizens who were part of the tourist group.   They would remain in hospital while the rest would return home on Monday, said the statement from the department of international relations.   "A device exploded and smashed the windows of a bus carrying 25 people from South Africa and a private car carrying four Egyptians," the security source said.

Video footage captured by AFP showed the bus and car with broken windows on the side of the road.   According to the security source, the wounded were being treated for scratches caused by the broken glass.   Sunday's incident comes after three Vietnamese holidaymakers and their Egyptian guide were killed when a roadside bomb hit their bus as it travelled near the Giza pyramids outside Cairo in December.   It also comes just little more than a month before the African Cup of Nations hosted by Egypt is to kick off.   Egypt has been battling an insurgency that surged especially in the turbulent North Sinai region following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was replaced by former army general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.   In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide operation against militants, focusing mainly on the North Sinai region.

- Tourism recovery -
Some 650 militants and around 45 soldiers have been killed since the start of the offensive, according to separate statements by the armed forces.   Since first being elected in 2014, Sisi has presented himself as a bulwark against terrorism, promising stability and increased security.   Recently, the country's vital tourism industry has started to slowly rebound after suffering strong blows due to deadly attacks targeting tourists following the turmoil of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.   Figures by the official statistics agency showed that tourist arrivals reached 8.3 million in 2017, compared with 5.3 million the previous year.    Authorities have gone at great lengths to lure tourists back, touting a series of archaeological finds and a new museum next to the pyramids, as well as enhanced security at airports and around ancient sites.    But that figure was still far short of the record influx of 2010 when more than 14 million visitors flocked to see the country's sites.
Date: Sun, 19 May 2019 05:17:37 +0200

Tegucigalpa, May 19, 2019 (AFP) - Four Canadians and an American pilot died Saturday when their small plane plunged into the sea off the Honduran island of Roatan where they were vacationing, firefighters said.   The plane crashed near the town of Dixon Cove, a few minutes after taking off from the island's airport, rescuers said.   The dead were identified as Bradley Post, Bailey Sony, Tomy Dubler and pilot Patrick Forseth.

The other Canadian pilot, Anthony Dubler, briefly survived the crash but died at the Roatan hospital of his injuries.   The causes of the crash and the registration information for the aircraft were not immediately available.   It occurred as the tourists were headed toward the city of Trujillo, about 77 kilometres (48 miles) from Roatan.
Date: Fri, 17 May 2019 16:32:13 +0200

London, May 17, 2019 (AFP) - London warned British-Iranian dual nationals against all travel to Iran on Friday due to Tehran's "continued arbitrary detention and mistreatment" of such citizens.   The move comes as Britain continues to try to secure the release from jail of dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.   Tehran has also recently sentenced an Iranian British Council employee, Aras Amiri, to 10 years in prison on charges of spying.   In a statement, the Foreign Office said British-Iranian dual nationals faced an "unacceptably higher risk of arbitrary detention and mistreatment" than nationals of other countries.   "The security forces may be suspicious of people with British connections, including those with links to institutions based in the UK, or which receive public funds from, or have perceived links to, the British government," the statement said.   British-Iranian mother Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested by Iranian authorities in 2016 as she was leaving Tehran.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was put on trial and is now serving a five-year jail sentence for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government.   "Dual nationals face an intolerable risk of mistreatment if they visit Iran," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.   "Despite the UK providing repeated opportunities to resolve this issue, the Iranian regime's conduct has worsened.   "Having exhausted all other options, I must now advise all British-Iranian dual nationals against travelling to Iran.   "The dangers they face include arbitrary detention and lack of access to basic legal rights, as we have seen in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been separated from her family since 2016."   The Iranian government does not recognise dual nationality, meaning the Foreign Office's ability to provide consular support is limited.   Hunt added: "Regrettably, I must also offer a message of caution to Iranian nationals resident in the UK -- but who return to visit family and friends -- especially where the Iranian government may perceive them to have personal links to UK institutions or the British government."
Date: Fri, 17 May 2019 11:42:01 +0200

Nairobi, May 17, 2019 (AFP) - Flooding in Tanzania has killed five people and forced about 2,500 to flee their homes after a week of torrential rain in the country's south, an official said Friday.   Schools have closed in Kyela, a district on the border of Lake Malawi, and families fled to shelters after losing everything in the rising waters.   "The damage from these floods is enormous," Salome Magambo, the district's administrative secretary, told AFP.   "Since the beginning of the week we have reported five people killed and 2,570 homeless, some of whom are staying with friends or in schools and churches."

Food and medical services have been extended to those stranded, she added.   Farming land in the district known for its rice production has also been inundated, destroying crops and raising fears of food shortages in coming months.   In April 2018 at least 14 people were killed in torrential rains and flooding in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's economic capital.
Date: Thu, 16 May 2019 23:41:35 +0200

Washington, May 16, 2019 (AFP) - The Church of Scientology said Thursday all the passengers from a cruise ship that was quarantined over a measles case had been cleared to leave.    "All passengers and crew (100%) of the Freewinds have been fully cleared of any possible risk of being infected by the measles or infecting others," the organization said in a statement.   "All passengers and crew are free to come and go as they wish," a spokesman added to AFP.

The infected individual was a member of the crew who, according to the Church, had fully recovered and was given a clean bill of health a week ago. She had been earlier confined on the ship.   The ship, which is based in Willemstad on the island of Curacao in the Dutch West Indies, was quarantined after its arrival in Saint Lucia on April 30.   It remained there for two days before returning to Willemstad on May 4 where local authorities ordered a fresh quarantine to give them time to confirm the passengers were either immunized or had no risk of contracting the virus.
Date: Thu, 16 May 2019 18:37:39 +0200

Bamako, May 16, 2019 (AFP) - Heavy floods claimed 15 lives Thursday in the Malian capital Bamako along with serious property damage, authorities said.   A statement said the flooding claimed a "provisional toll" of 15 dead and two injured.   "Teams are in place to rescue the distressed people," the government said, calling on residents to be "prudent" in the face of the disaster.   Flooding is common in Mali, located in the semi-desert Sahel region.
Date: Thu, 16 May 2019 04:40:13 +0200
By Ashraf KHAN

Rato Dero, Pakistan, May 16, 2019 (AFP) - Parents nervously watch as their children wait to be tested for HIV in a village in southern Pakistan, where hundreds of people have been allegedly infected by a doctor using a contaminated syringe.   Dispatched to keep order, police scan the anxious crowd as families hustle into one of five different screening rooms set up in the last month in the village of Wasayo, on the outskirts of Larkana in Sindh province.

Health officials say more than 400 people, many of them children, have tested HIV positive in recent weeks as experts warn of a surge in infection rates across Pakistan, due to the use of unsanitary equipment and rampant malpractice -- often at the hands of quack doctors.   Anger and fear continue to swell in the desperately poor village hit hard by the epidemic, which authorities say could be linked to either gross negligence or malicious intent by a local paediatrician.   "They are coming by the dozens," says a doctor at the makeshift clinic, beset by a lack of equipment and personnel to treat the surging number of patients.

Mukhtar Pervez waits anxiously to have her daughter tested, worrying a recent fever may be linked to the outbreak. For others, their worst fears have already become a reality.   Nisar Ahmed arrived at the clinic in a furious search for medicine after his one-year-old daughter tested positive three days earlier.   "I curse [the doctor] who has caused all these children to be infected," he says angrily.   Nearby Imam Zadi accompanies five of her children to be examined after her grandson tested positive.   "The entire family is so upset," she tells AFP.   Others worry their children's futures have been irreparably harmed after contracting HIV, especially in a country whose masses of rural poor have little understanding of the disease or access to treatment.   "Who is she going to play with? And when she's grown up, who would want to marry her?" asks a tearful mother from a nearby village, who asked not to named, of her four-year-old daughter who just tested positive.  

- 'Helpless'-
Pakistan was long considered a low prevalence country for HIV, but the disease is expanding at an alarming rate, particularly among intravenous drug users and sex workers.    With about 20,000 new HIV infections reported in 2017 alone, Pakistan currently has the second fastest growing HIV rates across Asia, according to the UN.   Pakistan's surging population also suffers the additional burden of having insufficient access to quality healthcare following decades of under-investment by the state, leaving impoverished, rural communities especially vulnerable to unqualified medical practitioners.    "According to some government reports, around 600,000 quack doctors are operating across the country and around 270,000 are practicing in the province of Sindh," said UNAIDS in a statement.

Provincial health officials have also noted that patients are at particular risk of contracting diseases or viruses at these clinics, where injections are often pushed as a primary treatment option.   "For the sake of saving money, these quacks will inject multiple patients with a single syringe. This could be the main cause of the spread of HIV cases," said Sikandar Memon, provincial programme manager of the Sindh Aids Control Programme.

The large number of unqualified doctors along with the "reuse of syringes, unsafe blood transfusions, and other unsafe medical practices" have all led to the spike in HIV cases in recent years, explains Bushra Jamil, an expert on infectious diseases at the Aga Khan University in Karachi.   "Rampant medical malpractices without any effective checks and balances are causing repeated outbreaks in Pakistan," said Jamil.   Authorities investigating the outbreak in Sindh say the accused doctor has also tested positive for HIV.

From a ramshackle jail cell in the nearby city of Ratodero, he denied the charges and accusations he knowingly injected his patients with the virus, while complaining of being incarcerated with common criminals.   But for the parents of the newly diagnosed, the ongoing investigation means little if they are unable to secure access to better information and the necessary drugs that can help stave off the deadly AIDS virus.   "We are helpless. I have other children and I am afraid they might catch the disease," says another mother whose daughter recently tested positive for HIV.   "[Please] send some medicine for our children so that they can be cured. If not, all of our children will die, right?"