Albania US Consular Information Sheet November 04, 2008
Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Eu
A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. U.S. citizens do not require a visa prior to entering Albania, but those traveling without a visa will be charged a fee for an entry stamp at the point of entry, which is valid for a stay of up to 90 days. This fee is currently 10 Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Travelers without a visa who intend to stay in Albania for more than 90 days should be aware that Albanian law allows a traveler without a visa to remain in Albania for 90 days only within a specific 180-day period. That 180-day period is defined from the first day of entry. For example, a traveler entering without a visa on January 1 may remain in Albania for 90 days total during the period of time between January 1 and June 28. Departing Albania during this time period does not "restart the clock." Travelers attempting to reenter Albania without a visa and within 180 days of a previous entry and after an aggregate stay of 90 days may be denied entry. For stays exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Visit the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/consular.html#visa for the most current visa information. Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian Embassy or Consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. 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
Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal activity continues to operate in all regions, and corruption is pervasive. US Government employees need permission to travel to the northern administrative districts of Shkoder, Malesi E Madhe and Tropoje (with the exception of the route along the national road to Montenegro and the city of Shkoder) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. Travel restrictions for U.S. Government employees have been lifted for overnight stays in the city of Shkoder. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Photographing anything that authorities regard as being of military or security interest may cause travelers problems. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
In the latest State Department assessment, Albania’s crime rating is “medium.” Crime against foreigners is rare in Albania, as targeting foreigners is often viewed as too risky. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, have occurred in the past, particularly in the early morning hours. Within the last years there have been fewer cases of carjacking compared with previous years. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime continues to be more common in northern and northwestern Albania than in the rest of the country. Street crime is fairly common in Albania, particularly at night. Criminals do not seem to deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but do seek targets of opportunity, and select those who appear to have anything of value. Vehicle theft is still one of the biggest problems in Albania. Pick-pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pick-pockets. INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 129, though coverage is inconsistent at best. See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION
Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications. Recent electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country, which can affect food storage capabilities of restaurants and shops. While some restaurants and food stores have generators to properly store food, travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Water in Albania is not potable. Visitors should plan to purchase bottled water or drinks while in country. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Albania. 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 (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
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 Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Major roads in Albania are often in very poor condition. Traveling by road throughout Albania is the most dangerous activity for locals and tourists. Vehicle accidents are the major cause of death, according to police statistics. Electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country that can happen any hour of the day or night. Such outages affect traffic signals and street lights, making driving increasingly treacherous at any time of day. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and icy conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at www.albaniantourism.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. See our information pertaining to dual nationality. Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in most cities. 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 Albania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania 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. Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION
Americans living or traveling in Albania 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 Albania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rruga Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 2247285; fax (355)(4) 2232222. The U.S. Embassy web site is http://tirana.usembassy.gov/ * * * This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 10, 2008, to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, May 7, 2020 (AFP) - Ever since the coronavirus reared its head in Albania in early March, infectious disease specialist Nevila Gjermeni has been on the frontline. That means she hasn't seen her children for two months -- a painful separation she hopes will soon be coming to an end as officials prepare to ease restrictions. "Each of us has a family," the 38-year-old, pausing to fight back tears, said of colleagues who are urging the public to stay vigilant about health precautions.
Albania was quick to lock down and has so far avoided the devastation seen in places like Italy, which lies just across the Adriatic sea. Some 30 people have died and fewer than 1,000 are known to be infected. But as the country now slowly eases its sweeping restrictions, exhausted doctors fear a fresh inundation of infections in their hospital wards. "We won the first battle but we are still at war," said Loreta Bici, a cardiologist working at a Tirana hospital that treats the most serious patients. Like elsewhere in the world, the physical and emotional toll has been punishing for medical staff working around the clock.
In the Tirana hospitals converted into coronavirus centres -- now known as Covid 1 and Covid 2 -- doctors and nurses in hazmat suits and other cumbersome protective gear have spent their waking hours trying to care for patients who are lonely and afraid. "You're all covered up, (the patient) can't see your eyes, he tries to recognise your voice, who you are, who is helping him," Najada Como, an infectious disease expert in charge of Covid 1, told AFP as her voice shook with emotion.
- First words, birthdays -
Many hospital staff have also been robbed of their emotional support systems. Since March, Gjermeni and her husband Arber, a resuscitation doctor in another department, have only been able to see their 15-month-old daughter Hana and 10-year-old son Bjorn over video chats. Their toddler "is at the age where she's exploring faces" and it's impossible to tell her that she shouldn't touch, said Gjermeni.
The doctor also fears infecting her frail parents, who are looking after the children. Important milestones have already been missed, such as Hana's first steps and attempt at words. The parents were also unable to be with their son on his birthday, Gjermeni said through tears. Other medical staff have feared for their own lives.
Adelina Dragoti, the 48-year-old head nurse at Covid 2, came down with the virus herself. But she was back to work after four weeks. "It is a true joy when we manage to save a life, when the patient wakes up, looks at you and says: 'I owe you my life,'" she told AFP of the rare bright moments inside the wards. "I cannot forget these words."
Tirana, April 20, 2020 (AFP) - Albania will allow some businesses to reopen Monday to ease to the economic pain of a coronavirus clampdown that has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs in the Balkan state. Firms in the agriculture, fishing, mineral, oil and textile sectors are among those permitted to reboot activity once they have received a certificate from the health ministry, according to a list published on the government's website.
Hotels that meet all required hygiene conditions will also be allowed to open their doors, though venues like bars, restaurants and beauty salons remain shuttered. Under the new relaxed rules, businesses must also respect a nightly 5:30 pm (1530GMT) curfew and "strictly" enforce social distancing measures for employees, who must wear protective gear, the government said. Albania was quick to shut down public and economic life after its first cases of the virus emerged on March 9.
Since then nearly all businesses except for food shops and pharmacies have gone dark while residents are only allowed outsided with authorisation. According to government figures, the tight lockdown appears to have staved off a major outbreak, with almost 600 known infections and 26 deaths from the virus in the country of 2.8 million. But the economic costs have piled up, as some 50,000 Albanians -- around four percent of the official workforce -- have lost their jobs, according to Ministry Economy. A series of relief efforts are also costing the government some 540 millions euros.
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, Nov 26, 2019 (AFP) - Six people died and some 150 were injured in Albania after the strongest earthquake in decades rocked the Balkan country early Tuesday, destroying buildings and burying victims in rubble.
The epicentre of the 6.4 magnitude quake was about 34 kilometres (about 20 miles) northwest of the capital Tirana, at a depth of 10 km, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre. "We have victims," Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Twitter. "We are working to do everything possible in the affected areas." The quake struck at 3:54 am local time (0254 GMT) and sent panicked residents running out onto the streets of Tirana, with people huddling in the open, an AFP correspondent said.
The worst damage appeared to be around the coastal town of Durres. The quake was the strongest to hit this region since 1926, Albanian seismologist Rrapo Ormeni told local television. Three bodies were pulled from the ruins of damaged buildings in the port town, where a three-story hotel collapsed and other buildings were damaged, according to the defence ministry. The bodies of a man and a woman were uncovered in rubble in the nearby town of Thumane, the ministry said.
A man in his fifties died after he jumped out of his building in panic in the town of Kurbin, the defence ministry said. Some 300 armed forces personnel have rushed to Durres and Thumane for rescue operations, where "there are people trapped under the ruins", defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qahajaj said.
In Thumane, around a dozen rescuers used an excavator to dig through a mountain of debris in search of possible victims. At least 150 people with injuries have sought first aid in Tirana and Durres, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterliu said.
- Trapped under rubble -
In Thumane, soldiers, rescuers and families were sifting through the rubble of a collapsed five-storey building as cries of people trapped under debris were heard, an AFP reporter said. Thoma Nika, a 58-year-old who lived in the building, said there were at least six people under rubble. Another man, Arben Allushi said with tears in his eyes, that his wife and niece missing after the building collapsed.
A man in Durres told local television that his daughter and niece were trapped in the rubble of a collapsed apartment building. "I talked with my daughter and niece on the phone. They said they are well and are waiting for the rescue. I could not talk to my wife. There are other families, but I could not talk to them," the man said.
The tremors were felt across the Balkan region, from Sarajevo to Bosnia and even in the Serbian city of Novi Sad almost 700 kilometres away, according to reports in local media and on social networks. It was followed by several aftershocks, including one of 5.3 magnitude, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre said. It was described by authorities as the strongest earthquake in the last 20-30 years. The Balkans is an area prone to seismic activity and earthquakes are frequent.
Tirana, Sept 21, 2019 (AFP) - Albania was rattled by its strongest earthquake in decades Saturday, officials said, sending people fleeing into the streets in several cities, damaging buildings and triggering power cuts in the capital. The epicentre of the shallow 5.6-magnitude quake, was near Durres, less than 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the capital Tirana, according to the US Geological Survey.
Albania's defence ministry said it was the "strongest earthquake in the country in the last 20 to 30 years". "There are no deaths," defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qajaj said. Some 80 people sought medical help in both Tirana and Durres, 21 of whom were hospitalised due to injuries caused by falling objects or parts of walls as well as for panic attacks, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterilu said. Qajaj told AFP that houses and buildings in Tirana had been damaged but were still standing and that the ministry was accessing damage in other towns and villages. Prime Minister Edi Rama cancelled his scheduled trip to the United States following the quake, which cut electricity and telephone lines in Tirana and a number of other towns and villages.
Many people remained outside their homes for several hours in the capital, fearful of aftershocks. "I fear to return because such a strong earthquake could be followed with others," Drita Lohja, a resident in her fifties, told AFP. Falling debris pulverised parked cars in parts of the city. AFP reporters and witnesses saw windows broken and deep fissures in the facades of buildings in Durres, as well as in the capital. Media reported that a large building in Tirana was seriously damaged and that residents were being evacuated. A University of Tirana building was also damaged, witnesses said.
According to local media reports, at least two people were lightly injured and a dozen houses collapsed in the village of Helmes, 10 kilometres from Tirana. Two other earthquakes followed the strong one that occurred at around 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) and was felt in neighbouring Montenegro and Italy, but also on the Greek island of Corfu according to some Twitter users.
Tirana, March 9, 2018 (AFP) - The military has been deployed in northern Albania to help hundreds of people trapped by floods following heavy rainfall, authorities said on Friday. More than 9,230 hectares (22,800 acres) of agricultural land is underwater in the Shkodra region, including villages where the only means of transport is by boat, the defence ministry said.
Army personnel are evacuating residents and securing food supplies in the affected areas, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital, Tirana. The torrential rain in recent days has caused landslides damaging dozens of homes and flooding roads, said the transport ministry. The rain has also forced the Albanian authorities to release excess water from a hydroelectric plant, which has added to the flooding in northern areas of the country. Weather forecasters say the rain is likely to ease from Saturday.
August 14, 2006
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: French Guiana is an overseas department of France. It is a sparsely populated tropical area located on the northern coast of South America. French is the pred
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Passports are required of U.S. citizens entering French Guiana. Visitors who arrive by land or on a commercial air carrier with a return ticket may enter for up to 90 days without a visa. See our Foreign Entry Requirements
Find more information about Entry and Exit Requirements
SAFETY AND SECURITY: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad
CRIME: Petty street crime occurs throughout the major cities. Individuals should make sure to keep valuables out of sight, especially if left unattended in an automobile.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care within French Guiana is limited, and hospital facilities are available only in major urban areas. Patients' rooms in hospitals are primarily open-air facilities; instead of glass panes, hospital windows are fitted with wooden slats.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at
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 French Guiana is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Primary roads in French Guiana are well paved and well maintained. Emergency call boxes are available at regular intervals on the main highways. Roads in rural areas are less developed. Roads leading to more remote regions in the interior are often improved dirt roads. French Guiana has a relatively moderate to high volume of traffic and police enforce traffic safety. Night driving can be dangerous, especially in the remote interior regions or on less-developed rural roads. Public transportation in the form of taxis and vans is relatively safe.
Please refer to our Road Safety
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of France as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of France's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In addition to being subject to all French laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on French citizens. For additional information, please see our Dual Nationality flyer
French customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from French Guiana of items such as firearms, medications, animals, etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of France in Washington or one of the many French consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters
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 French laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in French Guiana are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Suriname are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 2, 2005 to update all sections.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Source: France Guyane [in French, trans. ProMED Corr.SB, edited]
A 47-year-old man of Swiss nationality contracted yellow fever in French Guiana. He was diagnosed last weekend by the Institut Pasteur. The fact that he had been present in French Guiana for 4 months without having apparently left it makes it very likely that he contracted the virus in the department, and more precisely in the area of the County Bridge.
In a message addressed to certain health professionals, the Regional Health Agency (ARS) details the situation: "A new case of yellow fever was confirmed last weekend by the Pasteur Institute of Guyana, and after that diagnosed in France. After a visit to CHAR, the patient was transferred urgently to a liver resuscitation unit in Paris.
This is a 47-year-old man of Swiss nationality who had returned by land from Brazil but who had been in French Guiana for 4 months and who had not left the territory (of Guyana) since his arrival. Therefore, we can consider that this is a local infection. The patient was not vaccinated. According to information available at this stage, he was working on the marking of forest roads in the County Bridge area, and it can be assumed that he was infected in these areas, and investigations are underway to detect associated cases and to trace more closely the movements of the patient.
This new case confirms that yellow fever is present in Guyana. While awaiting more precise information, this also seems to indicate that the virus is present in the littoral zone and justifies the vaccination of the whole department's population.
[Sylvatic yellow fever (YF) is endemic in areas of 13 countries and territories of the South American region, including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and the island of Trinidad.
A 20 Mar 2018 PAHO/WHO Epidemiological Update on Yellow Fever stated that there were confirmed cases this year  in several South American countries including French Guiana (see Yellow fever - Americas (22): South America http://promedmail.org/post/20180321.5699760). Individuals traveling, working or residing in these areas should be vaccinated against YF.
Unfortunately, the Swiss worker was not. The patient's condition was not mentioned, other than that he was transferred urgently to a liver resuscitation unit in Paris, but was still alive. - ProMED Mod.TY]
[HealthMap/ProMED maps available at: Switzerland:
Region d'outre-mer de French Guiana, France:
By Marion BRISWALTER
Cayenne, March 26, 2017 (AFP) - French Guiana came to a standstill Sunday on the eve of a major strike which has elbowed its way into France's presidential campaign. Air France cancelled all flights to the South American territory for Sunday and Monday, when 37 labour unions were to launch a general strike demanding a "Marshall Plan" to improve public services and security. Barricades have been erected on roads since last week, and the US State Department has warned travellers to stay away, citing the risk of violence. The protests also led to the indefinite postponement of an Arianespace rocket launch at Europe's Guiana Space Centre in Kourou.
The French government has sent a delegation to negotiate with the strikers, asking them to lay out their demands. But 13 of the territory's 22 mayors have refused to meet the delegation, demanding along with the strikers that French ministers come in person. "This has gone on long enough! All we have is plundered, it's time to recognise the people of Guiana," a woman at the barricade blocking access to the airport at Cayenne, the capital, told AFP on Sunday. "I am listening to the Guianans," said Ericka Bareigts, the minister of overseas territories, though she has ruled out travelling to the territory for now. "We will be able to go to Guiana once the conditions are right and progress has been made," she said. The road barricades were temporarily lifted Sunday and some stores opened so that people could stock up on food and other supplies before the strike began.
- 'Failed policies' -
The "Collective to Get Guiana Moving" has called for better access to health services and electricity, economic development and job creation programmes, and renewed efforts to keep children from dropping out of school. The territory, with about 250,000 inhabitants, relies on huge injections of public funds. "The government must respond rapidly to these requests," Segolene Royal, the French environment minister, said after a recent visit to the territory. The visiting delegation has already had a scanner installed at the airport to help stop drug trafficking, and pledged to speed up the arrival of EU aide. But several of the candidates seeking the French presidency have pounced on the crisis just a month before the first round of voting. For Francois Fillon, the conservative candidate, "This situation is the consequence of the failed policies of Francois Hollande," the outgoing Socialist president.
Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front candidate, condemned what she called an "cruel minimum service" of recent governments in Paris toward the territory. In response, Bareigts, the overseas territories minister, and Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said Sunday after a meeting with Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve that "We will not tolerate any exploitation of this social crisis, neither to disrupt public order nor for campaign purposes." A similar revolt gripped French Guiana in 2008 over soaring fuel prices, shutting down schools and the airport. The strike ended after 11 days, when the government agreed to cut fuel prices.
Paris, March 21, 2016 (AFP) - Up to a third of flights were cancelled at French airports on Monday as air traffic controllers entered a second day of strikes. Low-cost airline Ryanair deplored what it said was the 41st strike by French air traffic controllers since 2009. Around 140 passengers spent the night in Paris's Orly airport where half of flights were cancelled on the first day of strikes on Sunday.
Authorities Monday asked airlines to cut a third of flights at Orly and Marseille airports, and 20 percent at Lyon, Nice and Beauvais near Paris. The striking union, which represents around a fifth of air traffic controllers, is campaigning against job cuts and the lack of investment in new technology. Air France said journeys out of Paris's other main airport, Charles De Gaulle, were not facing cancellations, but last-minute delays were possible. EasyJet said it had cancelled 90 flights and that more disruptions were possible.
Affected population: On Thu 20 Aug 2015, a 6-month-old dog was taken to the veterinarian since he was showing a decreased appetite without neurological signs and again the next day (Fri 21 Aug) following a deterioration of his general condition with convulsions, aggressiveness, visual loss and difficulties with movement. He was hospitalized and died on the night from Friday to Saturday. A rabies investigation was then launched and the Pasteur Institute confirmed the diagnosis on 31 Aug 2015.
[This immediate notification officially confirms the information communicated in the ProMED-mail report archive number 20150903.3620512.
The Director for Food, Agriculture and Forestry (Daaf) continues to investigate to discover the origin of the infection. He reminds people of the following guidelines:
[Cayenne is the capital of French Guiana (FG), an overseas region of France on the northeast coast of South America, bordering, on the west, Suriname and on the east and south, Brazil (the Amapa State). See maps at <http://geology.com/world/french-guiana-map.gif> and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/3486>.
October 02, 2008
Latvia is a stable democracy with a developing economy. Most tourist facilities found in a western European city are available in the capital city of Riga. However,
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Latvia is a party to the Schengen agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter Latvia for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our fact sheet. Travelers remaining in Latvia for more than 90 days, including 180 day periods that cross over two half-calendar years, must apply for temporary residence. All travelers must have a valid insurance policy, covering medical expenses while in Latvia. Repatriation costs, including funeral and disposition of remains costs also have to be covered by the policy. In addition, upon entering or exiting the country, travelers must declare cash in excess of 10,000 euros to Latvian customs. For more information, travelers may contact the Latvian Embassy, at 2306 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202)328-2840, fax (202) 328-2860. For further information, visit http://www.latvia-usa.org. Within Latvia, contact the Ministry of Interiors Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs at Ciekurkalna 1, linija 1,k,3,Riga, LV 1026. Tel. (371)67219645, (371)67219679, (371)80007657, fax (371)67219654, e-mail: email@example.com, web site http://www.ocma.gov.
Any traveler to Russia, even in transit, is advised to obtain a visa prior to entry into Latvia. The process of obtaining a visa at the Russian Embassy in Riga can be lengthy, and involve surrender of the passport for an undetermined period of time. Visit the Embassy of Latvia web site at http://www.latvia-usa.org for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Civil unrest is not a problem in Riga. Nonetheless, in the past, Riga has seen large, peaceful demonstrations related to internal political issues. While demonstrations have been peaceful, American citizens are nevertheless cautioned to avoid any large public demonstrations. There have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests. Incidents of anti-Americanism are rare. However, instances of racially motivated verbal harassment, and on occasion, physical assaults on non-Caucasian foreigners, have occurred in Riga. There have also been reports of non-Caucasian foreigners being subjected to extra scrutiny by security guards in shops and malls in Riga. Additionally, individuals displaying alternative lifestyles have experienced harassment.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s notice A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Crime in Riga is generally non-violent. The majority of non-violent crime tends toward acts of pickpocketing, identity theft, and personal scams. However, there have been instances of serious violent assaults and robberies. Street crime is a serious problem, particularly for tourists. In addition to pickpockets in all public areas, there are numerous scam artists targeting foreigners in the tourist pubs and restaurants. There have been a number of reports recently of foreign tourists being charged xorbitant prices for drinks in bars. Some have then been assaulted or forced to withdraw money from an ATM to pay the bill. You can avoid situations like this by ensuring that you check the price of drinks before ordering, pay for one round at a time and seek recommendations for bars from trustworthy sources. There have also been a few cases of tourists and residents being drugged in bars and restaurants and then taken outside or to their residences and robbed. In any public area, one should always be alert, particularly to being surrounded by two or more people at once. It is not uncommon for groups of pickpockets to attempt to overwhelm their victim. Gangs of professional pickpockets are specifically targeting foreigners, particularly those carrying backpacks. In addition, Riga has one of the highest rates of car theft in the world.
Internet crime is a growing concern in Latvia. Common fraudulent schemes involve both Internet auction sites and Internet job search sites. In the first scam, criminals offer valuable items for sale at low prices on Internet auctions and request that payments be sent by wire transfer to a bank in Latvia or through a fraudulent escrow site that they have created themselves. In this scheme, the money passes through a bank in Latvia and is quickly withdrawn by ATM or transferred to a bank in another country. It is very difficult in these cases to discover the identities of the account holders or recover the funds.
The second common scam involves identity theft through false job offers. In this scheme, a company claiming to be located in Latvia, but which has a non-existent address, offers the victim employment as a U.S. – based agent or freight forwarder. When the victim responds to the job offer, commonly posted on one of several popular Internet job sites, a Social Security Number and other identifying information needed for the identity theft is required under the guise of conducting a background check.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy or Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. For more information, see Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in Latvia is steadily improving, but remains limited in several important respects. There are a few private clinics with medical supplies and services, including disposable needles and basic modern diagnostics, which are nearly equal to Western Europe or U.S. standards. However, because of the lack of equipment and resources, most major invasive procedures or surgeries in Latvia are not recommended. Hospital services have shown good progress but are still not equal to Western standards. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Most, but not all, antibiotics and prescription medications are available but as they are generally produced in Europe or Latvia, they often have different names and instructions are usually not printed in English. Diphtheria, hepatitis and tick-borne encephalitis are present. According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis is a significant problem in Latvia, with 9% of all cases being multi-drug resistant. For further information, please consult the CDC’s Travel notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx. State ambulance service for emergencies is available by dialing 112 anywhere in Latvia. However, response time is poor in rural areas. Air ambulance service is available for medical evacuations. In general, private air ambulance services are very expensive and require advance payment before the patient is transported.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Latvia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Foreign visitors to Latvia planning to operate a motor vehicle are required to obtain an International Driving Permit. These may be obtained through the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance for a small fee. A U.S. state driver’s license is not sufficient. These requirements apply to those operating rental cars as well, whether or not the rental company chooses to enforce the requirement as a condition of rental. Individuals driving without an International Driving Permit may have their vehicle confiscated by the police. Americans resident in Latvia for more than six months are required to apply for a Latvian driver’s license. Upon receipt of a Latvian driver’s license, American citizens are required to surrender their US driver’s license to the Latvian authorities. The licenses are then returned to their respective states of issuance. For more information, visit the Latvian Road and Traffic Safety Department at http://www.csdd.lv
Latvia has one of the highest rates of automobile accidents and fatalities in Europe. While recent reports show a decrease in the number of traffic accident fatalities, there are still a number of hazards to watch out for. Drivers should be alert for pedestrians and slow moving vehicles in traffic. Additionally, violation of traffic rules is common, and it is not unusual to be overtaken by other automobiles traveling at high speeds, even in crowed urban areas. Drivers do not always yield to pedestrians, even at marked intersections. During winter, most major roads are cleared of snow. However, drivers should be alert for fog, snow, and ice while driving. Driving while intoxicated is a very serous offense and carries heavy penalties. Local authorities use roadblocks and Breathalyzer tests as enforcement tools. Drivers and pedestrians should be alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians wandering on the road. Drivers must use their headlights at all times. Speed limits are usually 50 km/hr in the city and 90 km/hr on the highways. Public transportation is generally considered safe, but travelers are encouraged to select well-marked taxis. Emergency services are fair but improving (See section on Medical Facilities above); response time may be especially slow in traffic or in rural settings. Dial 112 for ambulance service.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for information. Visit the website of Latvia’s national tourist office at http://latviatourism.lv/info.php and the national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.csdd.lv/
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Latvia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Latvia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
Banks and currency exchange counters may refuse to accept U.S. currency that is crumpled, torn, discolored or defaced (even small pen stokes, hand written numbers and letters are considered defacing). If such notes are accepted for exchange, an additional processing fee, based on the size of the transaction, may be charged. ATMs are widely available in Riga and in major towns. For security purposes, it is recommended that visitors use ATMs located inside major hotels or shopping malls, versus those located on the street, in high-volume tourist areas. Telephone connections with the United States are reliable. However, 1-800 numbers cannot be accessed from Latvia. Please check with your long distance carrier before departure to see if they offer service in Latvia. Local Internet cafés offer computer access, and fax machines are widely available.
Latvian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Latvia of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, drugs, etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Latvia in Washington or one of the Latvian consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements at http://www.latvia-usa.org.
Please see our information on Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Latvian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Latvia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living or traveling in Latvia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy of Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/ and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Latvia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 7 Raina Blvd. Riga, LV-1510, and may be reached by dialing +371-703-6200. The fax number for the Consular American Citizen Services section is+371-781-4088. You can find the ACS section online at http://riga.usembassy.gov/
* * * * * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated March 12, 2008 with updated information on Entry Requirements.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Riga, Nov 7, 2019 (AFP) - Thousands of doctors and nurses rallied Thursday in front of the Latvian parliament in Riga calling for better pay in what was the Baltic state's largest protest in over a decade. Police said more than 5,000 people, including patients, turned out for the protest, which featured coffins and signs with slogans such as "United for health", "I only want to work one job" and "Patients supporting doctors and nurses". The LVSADA medical labour union organised the rally to condemn lawmakers for planning to increase their own salaries next year while reneging on a promise to boost wages in the chronically underfunded medical profession. "We won't allow the healthcare system to be starved again," LVSADA chief Valdis Keris said at the rally, which state hospital employees attended by taking a day of unpaid leave.
Some doctors also participated in the protest by only performing emergency surgery and tending to emergency patients on Thursday while rescheduling everything else. "The average monthly wage for a doctor at a Latvian public hospital is only between 1,000-3,000 euros ($1,100-$3,300)," protester and doctor Roberts Furmanis said in a statement sent to media. "I work my daily shift at one hospital, at night I also work overtime driving around in an ambulance, plus sometimes I lecture at medical schools on my rare days off," he added. "I get less than 3,000 euros a month for those jobs combined. How am I supposed to support my family?" Last year, lawmakers voted to raise wages for almost all employees of the government-run healthcare system, but now say that they are unable to find the necessary funds in the 2020 state budget. "I express deep regret for last year's promise, which we cannot carry out," speaker of parliament Inara Murniece told the rally.
Those protesting, however, point out that the 2020 state budget exceeds 10 billion euros for the first time ever in the country of just 1.9 million people -- or 700 million more euros than this year. Medical workers are upset that while there is no room for better healthcare wages in the new budget, the country's lawmakers and ministers plan to increase their own salaries next year and have also earmarked taxpayer money for their respective political parties. Thursday's rally was Latvia's largest since some 10,000 people attended a January 2009 protest against government cuts, which grew violent and resulted in dozens of arrests.
Source: Food Safety News [edited]
Officials in Latvia are investigating 40 _Salmonella_ and Shiga toxin-producing _E. coli_ illnesses with mostly children affected. A total of 36 children and 4 employees of educational institutions are ill, according to the Latvian Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC). Salmonellosis has been laboratory confirmed in 9 children with symptoms of acute intestinal infection thought to have occurred from [9 to 11 Sep 2019]. Patients have been recorded at Levina and Tornisi kindergartens. Shiga toxin-producing also called enterotoxigenic _E. coli_ (EHEC) infections have been linked to schools identified as Levina, Saulite and Piladzitis in Sigulda, a town in the country.
At least 4 children aged 3 to 6 years old have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after EHEC infection from early September 2019 in Sigulda. HUS is a type of kidney failure associated with EHEC infection. It can occur in people of any age but is most common in children under 5 years old. The SPKC has surveyed parents of sick children, visited preschools to obtain information on absent children and staff and the cause, analysed food menus and possible risk factors. A total of 19 infections at 3 other pre-school facilities in Ikskile, Garkalne and Ogre are not thought to be related to those ill in Sigulda.
The Latvian Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) has been investigating catering units at the 3 sites linked to _E. coli_ infection where catering comes from one company. Initial suspicions pointed to contaminated watermelons. Inspections at the catering units did not reveal violations of hygiene requirements that could contribute to the spread of infection. The sites also underwent cleaning and disinfection. PVD suspended operations of a vegetable processing firm called "Jelgavas AugÄ¼i" due to violations of hygiene requirements, product traceability and inadequate storage temperature for pre-packed vegetables that were stored at 13 deg. C [approx. 55 deg. F] instead of the required 6 deg. C [approx. 42 deg. F].
The company, through Baltic Restaurants Latvia, supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to Sigulda educational institutions but a connection to the outbreak has not been established. Testing at the firm so far has not found _E. coli_. Other results are pending but the company will be allowed to resume operations if they are negative and when it corrects the deficiencies identified by authorities. Authorities have also found issues with transportation of food by the company "Point to Point" Ltd between educational institutions.
[These are two outbreaks of enteric pathogens that appear to be related to food supplied to schools. The EHEC outbreak has been possibly linked to watermelon. With 9 cases of EHEC and 4 of them developing HUS, it is possible that the strain is a hyperproducer of Shiga toxin but most likely related to use of antimicrobials early in the infection which increases the risk of HUS. - ProMED Mod.LL]
[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Latvia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/119>]
Riga, May 15, 2019 (AFP) - A second Albanian soldier has died of his injuries from a World War II landmine blast last week during a NATO exercise in Latvia, the Baltic state's defence minister said Wednesday. Klodian Tanushi, who held the rank of major, died following surgery at a Riga hospital over the weekend, days after the landmine explosion that also killed another soldier. "I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the soldiers' relatives and friends, to their fellow service members and to the people of Albania," Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks told AFP. "Latvia is very grateful to our ally Albania for contributing to NATO's expanded presence in Latvia."
In 2016, NATO deployed four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states to guard against possible Russian adventurism. The defence group's rotating battalion in Latvia is led by Canada and also includes soldiers from Albania, the Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Tanushi, a father-of-three, was the commanding officer of the Albanian contingent stationed at the NATO base in the central village of Adazi. Both world wars left Latvia littered with many unexploded sea and landmines as well as artillery shells, which continue to be found on a daily basis. Clearing areas of such explosives is a frequent focus of NATO military exercises in the region.
Riga, July 22, 2018 (AFP) - Fires raging for five days have destroyed more than 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of western Latvia, authorities said Sunday, with continuing extreme temperatures hampering firefighters' efforts. Satellite images showed the fires have wiped out 170 acres of forest, 257 hectares of scrubland and nearly 400 hectares of peatland.
A peat fire in the Courland region broke out last Tuesday and spread eastwards, with the smoke noticeable in the resort town of Jurmala, more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) away in the neighbouring Riga region. "Peatland fires burn downward, but when there's wind, which brings oxygen, the fires can erupt into flames," Latvian fire services spokesman Inta Palkavniece told reporters. "The main goal is to prevent the fires from spreading," he added. The fire services said on its website that firefighting efforts would be "long and troublesome". "The weather is unfavourable to firefighting and will remain so over the next days," it said.
The Courland region is sparsely populated, with few roads and many areas inaccessible because of its vast marshes. Residents of Stikli, a village that was evacuated because of the fire, began to return home after the wind changed "of their own accord", the mayor of its municipality Ventspils, Aivars Mucenieks, told reporters. Pupils of a school for disabled children in Stikli will not return until the situation is fully under control, he added.
Meteorologists warned that the high temperatures are persisting and no rain is expected for the next two weeks. Latvia has experienced severe drought over the last few months, prompting authorities to declare a natural catastrophe in the agricultural sector. The Baltic country has not yet asked for help from other European countries and has no proposals to do so for the time being. But other countries in Europe have been in the grip of an unusually long heatwave for recent weeks with little prospect of rain for the time being.
In Sweden, where temperatures are the highest for a century, farmers are even sending their animals to slaughter because there is no hay left to feed them. It has asked for help from other European countries, because of the lack of manpower and capacity to tackle such natural catastrophes. Poland has asked the EU for financial aid after more than 91,000 farms were affected by an unusual spring drought, according to the agriculture ministry. In Germany, which suffered a drought in May and June, agricultural producers warned the harvest this year will be down by between 20 and 50 percent.
March 10, 2009
The Republic of Palau is a constitutional democracy in free association with the United States.
Palau is an archipelago consisting of several hundred volcanic and
Palau’s developing economy depends on tourism, marine resources and a small agricultural sector.
Two kinds of public transportation are available, taxi and Airai bus service.
Palau International Airport is located on Babeldaob Island, near Koror Island.
Direct commercial air service to Palau exists from Manila, Taipei, and Guam.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Palau for additional information.
Citizens and nationals of the United States of America, with the exception of United States military personnel, must have a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry.
A visa is not required for U.S. citizens visiting Palau for one year or less, provided the visitor otherwise complies with applicable regulations, for example, on employment.
U.S. military personnel must present official orders or documents certifying status; U.S. military dependents ten years or older must have a U.S. Government-issued photo-identification card showing the name, date of birth, and status of the bearer. For more information about entry requirements to Palau, travelers may consult with the Embassy of Palau, 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 452-6814.
Visit the Embassy of Palau’s web site for the most current 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:
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
Although the crime rate in Palau is relatively low, foreign residents can be the target of petty and, rarely, violent crimes, as well as other random acts against individuals and property.
Therefore, visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables.
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.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Palau is: 911.
Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Palauan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Palau are severe, and convicted offenders can expect 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.
The official currency of Palau is the U.S. dollar.
Major credit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, are accepted in most locations catering to tourists. There are several ATMs in Koror, located at branches of U.S. banks.
Koror State, where most tourist facilities are located, enforces a curfew between 2:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. Friday to Sunday and on national holidays.
Firearms of any kind are strictly prohibited in Palau.
The penalty for possession of a firearm or ammunition is up to fifteen years imprisonment.
Palau customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Palau of certain other items.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Palau in Washington, D.C., for specific information regarding customs requirements.
General information regarding disaster preparedness is available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs' website, and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page.
Please see our Customs Information sheet.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Health facilities in Palau are adequate for routine medical care, but limited in availability and quality.
Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization or evacuation to the United States or elsewhere may cost thousands of dollars.
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 (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site.
Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Palau is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Palau accepts a driver's license issued by a U.S. state or military authority.
Many roads in Koror, where the vast majority of the population lives, are in fair condition, but lack sidewalks and have little or no shoulder.
Construction of the main road connecting the airport with downtown Koror has been completed.
In addition, the newly constructed roadway, known as the “Compact Road,” that loops around the large island of Babeldaob is in excellent condition.
Secondary roads connecting villages to the Compact Road vary in quality from good to rough.
The national speed limit is 25 miles per hour, but drivers routinely ignore this limit on the good-quality roads, and traffic often moves slower in congested areas.
Passing slow-moving vehicles is illegal, but drivers do this routinely, creating potentially dangerous situations.
Drunken drivers are a late-night hazard in Palau.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Palau, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Palau’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Palau’s air carrier operations.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
Americans living in or visiting Palau are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Koror or through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Palau.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located in Airai State, in an area known as Omsangel.
There is no street address.
The mailing address is: PO Box 6028, Koror, Palau 96940.
The telephone number is (680) 587-2920/2990.
The fax number is (680) 587-2911.
The Embassy does not issue passports; that function is performed by the Honolulu Passport Agency.
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated July 11, 2008, to update the section on Registration/Embassy Location.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Bernadette Carreon
Koror, Palau, March 31, 2020 (AFP) - A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific may seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic -- but residents on Palau say life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica.
A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometres from its nearest neighbours, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific, which has acted as a buffer against the virus. Along with strict travel restrictions, this seems to have kept infections at bay for a number of nations including Tonga, the Solomons Islands, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia. But remoteness is not certain to stop the relentless march of the new disease. The Northern Mariana Islands confirmed its first cases over the weekend, followed by a suspected death on Monday.
Klamiokl Tulop, a 28-year-old artist and single mum, is hopeful Palau can avoid the fate of Wuhan, New York or Madrid -- where better-resourced health services were overrun. But she describes a growing sense of dread, a fear that the virus is coming or could already be on the island undetected. "You can feel a rising tension and anxiety just shopping," she told AFP. "Stores are crowded even more during non-payday weeks." There have been several scares on Palau, including a potential case that saw one person placed into quarantine this week as authorities await test results.
- Antarctic seclusion -
Inside Australia's four remote Antarctic research bases, around 90 people have found themselves ensconced on the only virus-free continent as they watch their old home transform beyond recognition. There is no need for social distancing in the tundra. "They're probably the only Australians at the moment that can have a large dinner together or have the bar still open or the gym still open," Antarctic Division Operations manager Robb Clifton told AFP. The bases are now isolated until November, so the group is safe, but Clifton admits "the main thing that's on the mind of expeditioners is how their loved ones are going back home."
In some places, reporting no cases does not always mean there are no cases to report. North Korea has portrayed emergency measures as an unqualified success in keeping COVID-19 out, despite sustained epidemics in neighbouring China and South Korea. But state media also appears to have doctored images to give ordinary North Koreans face masks -- handing sceptics reason to believe the world's most secretive government may not be telling the whole truth.
- 'Waiting for the inevitable?' -
While Palau has no confirmed cases, it has still been gripped by the society-altering fears and economic paralysis that have affected the rest of the world. Supermarket aisles in the country's largest town Koror have seen panic buying and there are shortages of hand sanitisers, masks and alcohol. The islands depend heavily on goods being shipped or flown in, meaning supplies can quickly run low.
United Airlines used to fly six times a week from nearby Guam -- which has seen more than 50 cases -- but now there is just one flight a week. "Look at how bad we coped when shipments were late before this pandemic happened," Tulop said. "Everyone was practically in uproar." Residents have been practising social distancing. Doctors are waiting for test kits to arrive from Taiwan. The government is building five isolation rooms that will be able to hold up to 14 patients. It all feels like waiting for the inevitable. "I would like to be optimistic we won't get the virus," Tulop said. "But Palau would most definitely get it. We rely heavily on tourism and most of us even need to travel for work."
Rondy Ronny's job is to host big tourist events, but work has already dried up, and he admits to being "very anxious". "I have loans and bills and payments due," he said. "This will definitely put me back, I hope the government will do something about our economy too, to help it recover." Palau's biggest test may yet come with the first positive case. But even in the most remote corners of the world, the impact of this truly global pandemic is already being felt. Nowhere, it seems, is truly virus-free.
Koror, Palau, Aug 1, 2019 (AFP) - Palau has called on Australia to do more to tackle climate change, saying the Pacific's "big brother" has an obligation to act on an issue that threatens the existence of its small island neighbours. Australia has launched a diplomatic push it calls the Pacific "step-up" to boost its influence and counter growing Chinese influence in the region. But Palau President Tommy Remengesau said Canberra's lack of action on climate change risked damaging its standing among Pacific leaders. "I share the concern of the rest of the Pacific that Australia, as a big brother, can do more than what they're doing right now and should take the lead," he told reporters Wednesday. "We're asking Australia to take a more active and more partnership role as a big brother in this fight."
Some low-lying Pacific island nations are threatened by rising seas, while others are pummelled by cyclones that have become more regular and powerful due to climate change. Remengesau said Palau and other nations would make "an impassioned plea" for Australia to do more when the annual Pacific Islands Forum is held in Tuvalu later this month. "If Australia, which is in the midst of the Pacific, do not take the lead, then it's very hard to expect European countries or others to speak and act on our behalf," he said. Australia -- led by climate-sceptic Prime Minister Scott Morrison -- recently approved the giant Adani coal mine in Queensland state.
Critics also say the country will only meet its emissions target under the 2015 Paris climate deal by fudging data using "carryover credits" earned under the previous Kyoto deal to get it over the line. The 11-member Pacific Islands Development Forum this week urged developed countries not to use such credits and called for an immediate halt to the development of any new coal mines. "By 2100, the coral atoll nations of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tokelau and the Maldives and many (small island developing states) could be submerged," the group warned after a meeting in Fiji. Australia's conservative government has rejected the call to stop using carryover credits and defended its record on emissions reduction.
By Bernadette Carreon
Koror, Palau, Jan 27, 2019 (AFP) - Swimming with the famous golden jellyfish in Palau can be put back on the bucket list following a two-year ban, but bathers may be stung with a hefty price increase for the pleasure. The government ordered the famed Ongeim'l Tketau Jellyfish Lake closed to swimmers in 2016 because of dwindling numbers of the unique creature -- blamed on warming waters although with some suspicion sunscreen on bathers may also have contributed.
The conservation move proved costly for tour operators with the loss of Palau's most popular attraction contributing to a slump in tourism numbers. But authorities in Koror State, which owns the resource, say stocks are now recovering and tourists are again being welcomed at Jellyfish Lake. "The jellyfish are returning, tourists are visiting again," Dora Benhart, the outreach officer of Koror State's conservation department said. Swimming with the jellyfish on Mecherchar island, about a 45-minute boat ride from Koror, is "one of the most unique attractions" Palau has to offer, according to the Visitors Authority chairman Ngirai Tmetuchl. It is estimated to attract at least two-thirds of the annual visitors to the western Pacific archipelago which peaked at 160,000 in 2015. The numbers slumped to 108,000 last year which Tmeuchl said was caused by a combination of factors, including restrictions on Jellyfish Lake.
The rare species of golden jellyfish, believed to exist only in this marine lake, does have a sting but it is mild and often undetectable making swimming among them a popular experience. The jellyfish population, which once swelled to around 20 million, slumped in 2016 because of El Nino, a climate pattern linked to warming waters in the central and eastern areas of the equatorial Pacific. Palau President Tommy Remenegsau called for the lake to be closed, and while it was never officially shut down by Koror State, the dwindling jellyfish numbers saw a self-imposed ban by tour operators who stopped taking visitors to the island rather than charge them US$100 to see nothing.
- Numbers rising -
With the waters cooling over the past year the jellyfish have increased to numbers strong enough to invite tourists back but Sharon Patris, a research biologist at the Coral Reef Research Foundation said it would take some time to reach "normal numbers" of five to eight million. A proposal to increase the visiting fee to US$150 is now before the Koror State legislature. Authorities are also strictly enforcing rules about the use of sunscreen, saying it must be environmentally friendly and applied more than 30 minutes before entering the water. Although a link between sunscreen and falling jellyfish numbers has been suggested and dismissed, authorities said they wanted to ensure the purity of the water.
Clothes worn by bathers must be thoroughly rinsed before swimming to eliminate the risk of taking "invasive species" into the lake. Patris added there was a similar fall in jellyfish numbers in 1998 linked to an El Nino event and data showed "the jellyfish did not disappear because of the presence of sunscreen". There are more than 50 marine lakes in Palau, five of them containing jellyfish but only the one Jellyfish Lake is open to visitors. The Visitor Authority's Tmetuchl has called for a second lake containing the same golden species of jellyfish to be made available to the public. This is opposed by conservationists who say it would expose another lake to the same risks as the first.
Taipei, July 19, 2018 (AFP) - Taiwan has stepped in to help its ally Palau attract more tourists after an airline from the Micronesian nation said it was forced to shut under pressure from China. Taiwan's battle to protect its few remaining official allies has intensified as relations with Beijing deteriorate. Four former allies of Taiwan have switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing since 2016 as China offers economic incentives to jump ship. China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island views itself as a sovereign nation and is a self-ruling democracy.
Tensions have escalated under President Tsai Ing-wen since she came to power two years ago as she has refused to accept both sides are part of "one China". Palau has maintained ties with Taiwan but now one of its airlines, Palau Pacific Airways, says it has been forced to suspend operations because of a plunge in Chinese tourists. A letter from the airline's Taiwanese owner, Sea Passion Group, to Palau's national congress accused Beijing of branding Palau "an illegal tour destination", denting its business. The airline said it believed it had been targeted "most likely due to lack of diplomatic status". A Palau-based member of staff from the airline told AFP the shutdown would happen after August and would halt flights to and from Hong Kong and Macau, the only two routes it operates.
Taiwan's foreign ministry said Thursday that Taiwan's national airline, China Airlines, has added two more weekly flights to Palau between June and August "to assist in attracting more overseas visitors". "Helping our diplomatic allies with economic development is one of the important tasks in promoting bilateral cooperation," it said in a statement. In 2016, tourists from China made up 47 percent of all visitors to Palau, a Pacific island group with a population of 22,000. Taiwan tourists accounted for 10 percent of visitors. But in is letter to Palau's congress, Sea Passion Group said the number of air travellers using its flights fell 16 percent from January to June this year against the same period in 2017 and ticket prices dropped 45 percent to $300.
Taiwan's local media reported China had imposed a ban last November on tours to Palau and the Vatican -- also one of Taiwan's allies -- and that agencies could face a steep fine if they run trips to those destinations. The number of group tourists from China to Taiwan has also plunged in recent years as relations sour. In addition, Beijing has used it growing clout to force multinational firms to list Taiwan as a province of China, including Australian airline Qantas, clothing supplier Gap and hotel chain Marriott.
Koror, Palau, Dec 8, 2017 (AFP) - Visitors to the tiny Pacific nation of Palau are being made to sign a promise to respect the environment, in an innovative move that authorities hope will curb ecological damage caused by booming numbers of tourists.
Claimed to be a world first, the "Palau Pledge" is stamped onto visitors' passports and must be signed upon arrival in the country, which lies in the western Pacific about halfway between Australia and Japan. "I take this pledge as your guest, to protect and preserve your beautiful island home," it reads in part. "I vow to tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully."
With crystal clear waters, pristine reefs and abundant sea life, Palau is regarded as one of the world's best diving spots and was once a niche tourist destination. But visitor numbers have exploded in recent years, particularly from China, straining both infrastructure and the environment.
The symbolic pledge was written with the help of Palau's children and President Tommy Remengesau said it was about preserving the environment for future generations. "Conservation is at the heart of our culture," he said. "We rely on our environment to survive and if our beautiful country is lost to environmental degradation, we will be the last generation to enjoy both its beauty and life-sustaining biodiversity." Palau welcomed almost 150,000 tourists last year, up 70 percent on 2010 figures and the nation of 20,000 has struggled to cope.
Some of the new arrivals have caused outrage among locals by capturing turtles so they can take selfies with them, walking on fragile coral and leaving trash on beaches. "The Palau Pledge aims to encourage environmentally sound habits in visitors," the government said in a statement. "If action is not taken now, it will get to the point where it is too late to protect some of the most unique parts of the country."
World Travel News Headlines
Dublin, May 19, 2020 (AFP) - This year's Dublin marathon scheduled for October 25 was cancelled on Tuesday despite Ireland's move to lift coronavirus lockdown measures, indicating potential long-term disruption caused by the outbreak. Ireland plans to have fully lifted restrictions well before October, in a staggered process that began on Monday. But organisers indicated the race -- which had 22,500 entrants last year -- would still not go ahead because of safety fears. "We made the difficult decision in the best interest of the health and well-being of all those involved in making our events such a success from runners, supporters, volunteers, sponsors, to suppliers," said race director Jim Aughney. "We explored many alternatives for running the events safely but ultimately none were viable." Ireland's five-stage "roadmap" to reopen the nation is due to be completed in August, when the current ban on mass gatherings of more than 5,000 people is set to expire. The cancellation suggests coronavirus fallout may last longer than suggested by official plans and could hit similar events.
The London Marathon, which attracts tens of thousands of runners, has been postponed until October 4. "We need to be aware that we will continue to be in the acute emergency phase of this crisis for some time with further waves an ever present danger," the health department Secretary-General Jim Breslin told a special parliamentary committee on the crisis. "This is not a one, a two or even a three-day storm, after which we move to a recovery phase. The acute phase of this crisis will definitely be measured in months and most probably in years." Ireland has suffered 1,547 deaths from COVID-19, according to the department of health. On Monday the number of daily deaths had fallen from a peak of 77 to just four. "We have suppressed the virus and limited its impact on public health," said chief medical officer Tony Holohan on Monday. "We need to sustain this in the weeks and phases ahead."
Paris, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Air France said Monday it hoped to double the number of cities it serves, including over 40 European destinations, by the end of June as nations begin to lift coronavirus travel restrictions. "Between now and the end of June and subject to travel restrictions being lifted, Air France plans to gradually resume its flights," the airline said. Like other airlines, Air France grounded most of its planes as governments imposed stay-at-home orders and demand for travel evaporated.
Air France said it was currently operating between three and five percent of its usual schedule and serving 43 destinations for essential passenger traffic as well as cargo. The airline, which received a 7-billion-euro rescue package from the French government, listed more than 90 destinations it hopes to serve by the end of June. That would be equivalent to 15 percent of its normal schedule, and use 75 of its fleet of 224 aircraft.
Abuja, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Nigeria's government on Monday extended a coronavirus lockdown on the northern region of Kano after it became a hotspot for new infections. The head of the country's coronavirus taskforce, Boss Mustapha, said the lockdown on the economic hub -- which includes Nigeria's second biggest city -- would be prolonged for two weeks. The authorities will also start to impose "precision" lockdowns in any other areas that report a "rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises", he said. The outbreak in Kano has become a major cause of concern after medics and residents last month began reporting a spike in deaths.
Regional officials at first put the "unexplained" fatalities down to other ailments, but government investigators later said coronavirus was suspected in most cases. Neighbouring states to Kano have also begun reporting suspicious surges in death tolls that authorities are scrambling to investigate. Nigeria has confirmed 5,959 infections and 182 deaths from the novel coronavirus across the country. Kano is the second hardest hit region with 825 confirmed cases and 36 fatalities. The region has already been under lockdown for a month but enforcement has been lax and measures have been eased sporadically for people to buy food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Testing has been a key problem across Nigeria and only 35,345 samples have so far been screened in Africa's most populous nation of 200 million people. Mustapha insisted there had been a slowdown in the transmission rate of the virus, "elongating the doubling time" from seven to 11 days. But he announced that measures would remain in place limiting businesses and restricting crowds across the rest of the country despite earlier plans to gradually roll them back. "Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority," he said. The government has also imposed a night-time curfew and made mask wearing mandatory in all regions. Mustapha complained that "non-compliance was rampant" with social distancing measures. "The fight against COVID-19 is long-term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon," he said.
Stockholm, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Sweden, whose softer approach to the new coronavirus pandemic has garnered worldwide attention, recorded its deadliest month in almost three decades in April, according to statistics released on Monday. Sweden has stopped short of introducing the restrictive lockdowns seen elsewhere in Europe, instead opting for an approach based on the "principle of responsibility".
The Scandinavian country has kept schools open for children under the age of 16, along with cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses, and urged people to respect social distancing guidelines. A total of 10,458 deaths were recorded in the country of 10.3 million inhabitants in April, Statistics Sweden said. "We have to go back to December 1993 to find more dead during a single month," Tomas Johansson, population statistician at Statistics Sweden, said in a statement.
In total, 97,008 deaths were recorded in Sweden during the whole of 1993, which in turn was the deadliest year since 1918, when the Spanish flu pandemic ravaged the country. Johansson told AFP there was no official breakdown explaining the high death toll in December 1993 but said there was a flu epidemic at the time. According to preliminary data, the number of deaths has been on the decline since the end of April, including in Stockholm -- the epicentre of the Swedish epidemic -- where the highest number of deaths were recorded in early April.
The Swedish approach to the novel coronavisrus has come under criticism both at home and abroad, particularly as the number of deaths has far exceeded those in neighbouring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures. On Monday, Sweden reported a total of 30,377 confirmed cased of the new coronavirus and 3,698 deaths.
Helsinki, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Finland's national airline will restart routes between Europe and Asia in July once countries begin to lift coronavirus restrictions on travel, the company announced on Monday. Beijing and Shanghai will be the first long-haul destinations to reopen, alongside Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok and three Japanese routes, Finnair said in a statement.
Flights to Delhi and New York will follow in August. The move makes Finnair one of the first European carriers to restart intercontinental flights, after the Lufthansa Group announced on Friday it would resume 19 long-haul routes by early June. "We expect aviation to recover gradually, starting in July," Finnair chief commercial officer Ole Orver said in a statement, adding that the company intends to bring its operations back to one-third of normal capacity.
Finnair cut 90 percent of its flights on April 1 and issued a profit warning as coronavirus restrictions brought international passenger travel almost to a standstill. Facemasks will be mandatory on all Finnair flights "until at least the end of August," Finnair spokeswoman Paivyt Tallqvist told AFP. "We have also taken a number of steps to avoid unnecessary movement on board," Tallqvist said, including having passengers disembark in smaller groups, and limiting capacity of shuttle bus transport between aircraft and the terminal to 50 percent.
Flights along the so-called "shorter northern route" between Helsinki and Asia, bypassing the Middle East, have been a key part of the Finnish carrier's growth strategy in recent years, with passenger numbers on its Asian routes doubling between 2010 and 2018. On Monday, Finnair also announced it would restart 26 European routes in July, including to Brussels, Moscow, Prague and Paris. Destinations including Rome, Madrid and Warsaw would be added in August, the firm said. Finnair said it would open further routes on a monthly basis depending on demand and how travel restrictions change over the summer.
Dublin, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Ireland launched the first tentative step in its plan to lift coronavirus lockdown on Monday, with staff returning to outdoor workplaces as some shops resumed trade and sports facilities unlocked their doors. The modest tweaks to the restrictions in place since 28 March start a staggered process set to stretch until August.
"I'm both pleased and nervous," health minister Simon Harris told state broadcaster RTE. "I'm pleased that we've gotten to this point because of the incredible efforts of the Irish people in suppressing this virus." "I'm nervous because the virus hasn't gone away, there still isn't a vaccine, there's still people in our country getting very sick, and there's still people dying every day."
Shops such as garden centres, hardware stores and farmers markets were permitted to open their doors whilst outdoor staff such as builders and gardeners returned to workplaces. Football pitches, tennis courts and golf courses were also allowed to resume business whilst maintaining strict social distancing.
Meanwhile citizens were permitted to meet in small gatherings outside of people from different households. But Harris urged caution as the republic took its first step in trying "to live successfully and safely alongside the virus". "Just because somewhere is open doesn't mean we need to go," he said. There have been 1,543 deaths from COVID-19 in Ireland according to the department for health.
Reported daily deaths peaked at 77 on 20 April, but by Sunday the figure had fallen to just 10. As with other nations officials remain fearful a second wave of infections could inundate the healthcare system. But Prime minister Leo Varadkar confirmed on Friday that Ireland would press ahead to the first of its five step plan to reopen the nation. "This gives us reason to hope, but it is not a cause for celebration. We have a long way to go yet," Varadkar said in a statement.
The fallout of the lockdown changes will be monitored for three weeks before the government decides whether to move to the next stage in the "roadmap" to reopening. "Coronavirus is an inferno that is raging around the world", said Varadkar. "In Ireland it is now a fire in retreat but it's not defeated -- we must extinguish every spark."
By Román ORTEGA, Iván DUARTE y Germán CAMPOS
Puebla, Mexico, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Scores of Mexicans are dying from drinking adulterated liquor, a consequence of the shortage of mainstream alcoholic beverages during the coronavirus pandemic, authorities say. The first of at least 121 deaths in recent weeks occurred at the end of April in the western state of Jalisco, almost exactly a month after the government declared a health emergency over the spread of COVID-19. Much of Mexico has run out of beer after factories producing liquor and beer were shut down, along with other non-essential firms.
Beer stocks were practically depleted within a month, and in some areas the prices of what was left doubled, according to industry sources. Many of the 53 deaths in central Puebla province have been linked to a wake where people drank moonshine containing methanol -- a wood alcohol that in non-lethal doses can cause blindness and liver damage. Twenty-three people died in the hours following the gathering in the town of Chiconcuautla, according to authorities. The town's mayor said the popular "refino" drink, made from sugarcane, had been adulterated.
German Hernandez said his father died after being poisoned by drink known locally as "tejon" -- a blend of brandy with tejocote fruit (a type of hawthorn), in the Puebla town of Cacaloxuchitl. "They sell it in the stores, and you can buy it and take it out. My father began trembling and feeling weak. He told us he felt bad, and we took him to the hospital," Hernandez told AFP. "This has never happened before." Deaths have also been recorded in the central state of Morelos and Yucatan and Veracruz in the east.
- Mafia trade -
Gangs specializing in bootleg booze are trying to take advantage of the lack of alternative alcohol sources during the shutdown. "They usually have very well-structured mafias, and some escape the surveillance of the authorities," Ricardo Cardenas of the Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks told AFP. "We presume that, as a result of this shortage and demand being very high, some people are offering or trying to sell methanol instead of ethyl alcohol," said Denis de Santiago, head of Sanitary Risks in Jalisco.
Methanol is used in fuel, solvents and antifreeze. The country's largest beer producers, Grupo Modelo -- which makes the popular Corona beer -- and Heineken, which makes Sol, halted production in early April. Alcohol sales have been banned in some states, including Yucatan. In others, alcoholic beverages can only be purchased at certain times. Some drinks companies have switched production to antibacterial gel that they are donating to the federal government and health workers.
- 'Who would have thought?' -
In Yucatan, where 38 people have died so far, victims unknowingly drank methanol in their usual "pajaretes" -- a common cocktail that includes milk, coffee, vanilla and brand-name sugarcane alcohol. Humberto Macias, 36, said he saw three of his relatives die within days of each other after drinking a pajarete cocktail, made using a trusted brand of alcohol. "We had always drunk it, including myself, many people. Who would have thought it was like this?" Macias said.
In the Yucatan peninsula town of Acanceh, seven people have died from alcohol poisoning. "It's the first time I've heard of a case like this. I don't remember anything similar," the town's mayor Felipe Medina told AFP. In Veracruz, Morelos and Yucatan, investigators are still trying to determine what drinks the victims consumed.
By Gregory WALTON
Doha, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Qatar on Sunday began enforcing the world's toughest penalties of up to three years' in prison for failing to wear masks in public, in a country with one of the highest coronavirus infection rates. More than 32,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country -- 1.2 percent of the 2.75 million population -- although just 15 people have died. Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican have had higher per-capita infection rates, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Violators of Qatar's new rules will face up to hree years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000.
Drivers alone in their vehicles are exempt from the requirement, but police erected checkpoints across the capital Doha on Sunday evening to check compliance by motorists. Most customers gathered outside money lenders on Banks Street wore masks, while others produced a face covering when asked. "From today it's very strict," said Majeed, a taxi driver waiting for business in the busy pedestrian area, who wore a black mask. Heloisa, an expat resident, saw the steep penalties as "a bit of a scare tactic". Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.
Authorities in Chad have made it an offence to be unmasked in public, on pain of 15 days in prison. In Morocco, similar rules can see violators jailed for three months and fined up to 1,300 dirhams ($130). Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan may have increased infections. Abdullatif al-Khal, co-chair of Qatar's National Pandemic Preparedness Committee, said Thursday that there was "a huge risk in gatherings of families" for Ramadan meals. "(They) led to a significant increase in the number of infections among Qataris," he said. Neighbouring Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month to fight the coronavirus.
- Labourers at risk -
Mosques, along with schools, malls, and restaurants remain closed in Qatar to prevent the disease's spread. But construction sites remain open as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, although foremen and government inspectors are attempting to enforce social distancing rules. Officials have said workers at three stadiums have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus. Masks have been compulsory for construction workers since April 26. A 12-strong team of masked labourers kept their distance from one another as they worked under baking sun on a road project in Doha's blue-collar Msheireb district on Sunday.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers were quarantined in Doha's gritty Industrial Area after a number of infections were confirmed there in mid-March, but authorities have begun to ease restrictions. Khal said that most new cases were among migrant workers, although there has been a jump in infections among Qataris. He said the country had not yet reached the peak of its contagion. Rights groups have warned that Gulf labourers' cramped living conditions, communal food preparation areas and shared bathrooms could undermine social distancing efforts and speed up the spread of the virus.
Tehran, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Iran said Friday it had recorded nearly 7,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, warning of infection clusters in new regions after it partially eased lockdown measures. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the COVID-19 illness had claimed a further 51 lives over 24 hours into Sunday. The ministry raised the overall death toll to 6,988 since Iran announced its first fatalities in the Shiite pilgrimage city of Qom in February. Jahanpour warned that cases were rising "in the province of Lorestan, and to some extent in Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan". "Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation," he added.
The southwestern province has become Iran's new coronavirus focal point, with the most critical "red" ranking on the country's colour-coded risk scale. It is the only region so far where authorities have reimposed business lockdowns after a country-wide relaxation in April. Iran stopped publishing provincial figures for the coronavirus last month, but the health ministry's latest report said there is a "rising trend or the beginning of a peak" in eight provinces, including Khuzestan. The country on Friday reported its highest number of new infections in more than a month. A virus taskforce official said Sunday that the increase was due to a surge in testing, not just of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.
Early in the outbreak "our focus was on severe cases that had to be hospitalised, but as we started to manage the disease we looked at those infected and not hospitalised," said Ali Akbar Haghdoost, head of the taskforce's epidemiology committee. "It is possible that the reported number of infections have gone up, but this in no way means more have been infected with COVID-19," he told ISNA news agency. According to Jahanpour, 1,806 new cases had been confirmed across Iran in the past day, bringing the total to 120,198. Over 1,460 of the new cases were "outpatients, including those who had been in close contact with the infected," he said.
The ministry said 94,464 people hospitalised with the virus have recovered and been discharged. Experts both at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran's official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher. Iran also cancelled rallies held annually in solidarity with the Palestinians, set for Friday next week. President Hassan Rouhani had said Saturday that the Qods (Jerusalem) Day parades would go ahead with some measures against the virus. But organisers said Sunday the event could not be held "decently" and would be scrapped apart from a televised speech by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Antananarivo, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Madagascar on Sunday reported the first death of a patient suffering from novel coronavirus nearly two months after it was first detected in the country, official statistics showed. The Indian ocean island which has reported 304 cases has hit the headlines over a home-grown herbal concoction that President Andry Rajoelina claims can cure people infected with the virus.
Several African countries have ordered or expressed interest in the purported remedy, which is known as Covid-Organics. The tonic drink is derived from artemisia -- a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment -- and other indigenous herbs. But the World Health Organization has warned against "adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy".