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, 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.
Tirana, Dec 3, 2017 (AFP) - Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed in Albania to rescue stranded residents after heavy rainfall triggered major flooding, and caused the death of a utility worker, officials and the power company said Sunday. The victim, Sabri Vlinga, died while he was working on a electricity pole at Roskovec in the flooded south of the country, the power company said in statement. Two other people were injured in similar accidents. it added. Some 6,400 police and soldiers have been sent to help rescue people stranded by the floods, Prime MInister Edi Rama said Saturday, calling the situation "very critical".
Around 1,500 people in the affected areas have been rescued, while several thousand homes were without electricity as many utility poles have been swept away by mudslides, said Shemsi Prenci, head of civil protection. More than 7,874 hectares (19,450 acres) of farm land as well as 3,193 homes are under water and several roads in the south remained impassable.
Army forces have built a temporary bridge at Darezeze, about 70 kilometres (44 miles) from the capital Tirana, to come to the aid of 2,000 residents stranded by the floods, the defence ministry said. In neighbouring Macedonia, the heavy rains have also caused flooding as several rivers include the main Vardar river have burst their banks, the MIA news agency reported.
April 29, 2008
Prior to departing the United States, U.S. citizens planning to transit China on their visit to North Korea are encouraged to register on line with the U.S. Emba
U. S. citizens visiting North Korea should also register with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang (U.S. Protective Power).
Please see the Registration/Embassy Location section below.
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea or the DPRK) is a highly militaristic Communist state located on the Korean Peninsula between northeast China and the Republic of Korea (South Korea or ROK), with land borders with China, Russia and South Korea.
The DPRK is one of the world’s most isolated countries.
The continuing dispute over North Korea’s development of nuclear programs and nuclear weapons has resulted in tensions in the region and between the United States and the DPRK.
North Korea limits trade and transportation links with other countries and tightly restricts the circumstances under which foreigners may enter the country and interact with local citizens.
Telephone and fax communications are unavailable in many areas of the country and foreigners can expect their communications to be monitored by DPRK officials.
In the past few years, North Korea has experienced famine, flooding, fuel and electricity shortages, and outbreaks of disease.
Many countries, including the United States, have contributed to international relief efforts to assist the people of North Korea.
Foreign tourists are a means for North Korea to earn much needed foreign currency, but an underdeveloped service sector, inadequate infrastructure, and political tensions with surrounding countries have stymied any significant tourist flow.
North Korean efforts to expand tourism have focused primarily on group tours from China, as well as from South Korea primarily to the Mount Kumgang tourist area and the city of Kaesong.
The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK.
The Swedish Embassy located in Pyongyang acts as the United States’ interim consular protective power and provides basic consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea.
Please refer to Special Circumstances for additional information.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on North Korea for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: North Korean visas are required for entry.
The U.S. Government does not issue letters to private Americans seeking North Korean visas, even though in the past such letters have sometimes been requested by DPRK embassies.
Prospective travelers entering and departing North Korea through China must also obtain a two-entry visa for China, as a valid Chinese visa is essential for departing North Korea at the conclusion of a visit or in an emergency.
While the ROK government is attempting to open direct travel routes to the DPRK, routine travel from the ROK to the DPRK is currently prohibited.
Travel across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) is allowed only infrequently for official and government-authorized cultural and economic exchanges, or aid shipments, and for tours limited to Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong City.
There are no regularly operating direct commercial flights from South Korea to North Korea.
U.S. citizens who arrive in North Korea without a valid U.S. passport and North Korean visa may be detained, arrested, fined or denied entry.
Travelers to North Korea report that fees for local travel costs (taxi, tolls, permits and the cost for security personnel assigned to escort foreigner visitors) can be high and arbitrary.
Where to obtain a North Korean visa: There is no DPRK embassy in the United States.
U.S. citizens and residents planning travel to North Korea must obtain DPRK visas in third countries, for example in Beijing, China.
For information about entry requirements and restricted areas, contact the DPRK Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Address inquiries to:
The Permanent Representative of the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations
820 Second Avenue
New York, NY
Tel: (212) 972-3105
Fax: (212) 972-3154
Americans living abroad can contact the DPRK embassy, if any, in their country of residence.
U.S. citizens traveling to North Korea may obtain their visas at the DPRK Embassy in Beijing, China, which will issue visas only after receiving authorization from the DPRK Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang.
Prior to traveling to the region, travelers may wish to confirm that authorization to issue their visa has been received from Pyongyang.
Americans can call the North Korean Embassy in Beijing prior to their travel by telephone at (86-10) 6532-1186 or (86-10) 6532-1189 (fax: (86-10) 6532-6056).
Information on dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
Please see those sections below under Special Circumstances.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: DPRK government security personnel closely monitor the activities and conversations of foreigners in North Korea.
Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
Photographing roads, bridges, airports, rail stations, or anything other than designated public tourist sites can be perceived as espionage and may result in confiscation of cameras and film or even detention.
DPRK border officials routinely confiscate visitors’ cell phones upon arrival, returning the phone only upon departure.
Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside the DPRK, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and political activities, engaging in unauthorized travel, or interaction with the local population.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site
at where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on worldwide security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: The North Korean government does not release statistics on crime.
Violent crime is rare and street crime is uncommon in Pyongyang.
Petty thefts have been reported, especially at the airport in Pyongyang.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the Swedish Embassy.
If you are a victim of any crime while in North Korea, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the Swedish Embassy for assistance (address and phone number below).
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Persons with medical problems should not travel to North Korea.
For decades, medical facilities in the DPRK have suffered from a lack of resources and electricity, as well as inadequate and often outdated skills among the medical staff.
Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available.
Surgery should be avoided.
For accidents outside Pyongyang, transport back to the capital can be a lengthy trip without medical assistance.
Persons requiring regular medication are encouraged to bring sufficient stocks of drugs for personal use since most drugs are impossible to obtain locally.
Hospitals will expect immediate U.S. dollar cash payment for medical treatment.
Credit cards and checks have not been honored in the past, according to diplomatic personnel stationed in the DPRK.
Local DPRK hosts are often not aware of available evacuation options and might claim that no such options exist.
In case of serious medical problems, it is important to insist on immediate contact with the Swedish Embassy.
The Swedish Embassy can arrange a medical evacuation to Beijing within approximately 5-10 hours.
All necessary vaccinations should be received prior to traveling to North Korea.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
Travelers with special dietary requirements are advised to bring food with them to North Korea, as the restaurants available to foreigners may have limited menus that lack variety and nutritional adequacy.
Medical Vaccinations. In the case of a critical illness or accident, the Swedish Embassy will attempt to arrange flight clearances for air ambulances performing emergency medical evacuations.
Medical air evacuation costs vary, but average approximately $40,000 to $50,000 for medical, personnel, aircraft and clearance costs.
Clearances can usually be arranged within one day.
Medical evacuation by regularly scheduled airlines can be arranged, but is limited to the very few flights that operate from Pyongyang to Beijing, Dalian, Shenyang and Macau.
Chinese visas for injured foreigners and any escorts must be obtained prior to the evacuation from North Korea in order to transit China.
Even in the case of a medical emergency, transit visas may take several days to arrange.
Evacuation across the DMZ to South Korea is not allowed.
If an American citizen falls ill or is injured while traveling in the DPRK, accompanying travelers or family members should immediately contact the Swedish Embassy using the phone numbers listed below.
The Embassy of Sweden,
Telephone and fax numbers for the Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protective Power) are:
(850-2) 3817 485 (Reception)
(850-2) 3817 904, 907(First Secretary)
(850-2) 3817 908, 905 (Ambassador)
(850-2) 3817 663
Notification also should be made to the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit in Beijing, China, using the phone numbers listed below:
U.S. Embassy, Beijing
American Citizen Services
2 Xiushui Dong Jie
Beijing, China 100600
Telephone: (86-10) 6532-3431
Fax: (86-10) 6532-4153.
After hours, please call (86-10) 6532-3431 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
Americans who wish to contact U.S. consular officials in China can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Companies that may be able to arrange evacuation services include, but are not limited to those listed below.
Travelers may wish to contact these or other emergency medical assistance providers for information about their ability to provide medical evacuation insurance and/or assistance for travelers to North Korea.
SOS International (www.intsos.com)
Medex Assistance Corporation (www.medexassist.com)
(410) 453-6300 / 6301
108888-800-527-0218 (call from China)
Global Doctor (www.globaldoctor.com.au/default.php)
China telephone: (86-10) 83151914).
(86-24) 24330678 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad , available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning North Korea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or situation.
Foreigners not holding a valid DPRK driver’s license are not allowed to drive in North Korea.
Foreigners generally are not allowed to use public buses or the subway.
North Korea has a functioning rail transport system; however delays occur often, sometimes for days.
On occasion, service may cease altogether before a traveler reaches his/her final destination.
Bicycles are unavailable for rental or purchase.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and North Korea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed North Korea’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Interim Consular Protecting Power: The United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with the DPRK.
The U.S. Government therefore cannot provide normal consular protective services to U.S. citizens in North Korea.
On September 20, 1995, a consular protecting power arrangement was implemented, allowing the Swedish Embassy in the DPRK capital of Pyongyang to provide basic consular protective services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea who are ill, injured, arrested or who have died while there.
There is no United States diplomatic or consular presence in the DPRK.
Americans traveling in the DPRK may receive limited consular services from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
Please see section above on “Medical Insurance” for address and contact information for the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry photocopies of their passport data and photo pages with them at all times so that, if questioned by DPRK officials, evidence of their U.S. citizenship is readily available. The U.S.- DPRK Interim Consular Agreement provides that North Korea will notify the Swedish Embassy within four days of an arrest or detention of an American citizen and will allow consular visits within two days after a request is made by the Swedish Embassy.
However, consular access has not been readily granted in cases where American citizens have been reported as being detained or held against their will by DPRK officials.
Moreover, delegations with ethnic Korean individuals, or delegations representing Korean-affiliated organizations in the U.S., are handled by DPRK structures that are well beyond the reach of diplomatic missions in Pyongyang.
Hence, in case of a situation requiring consular assistance, the Embassy’s access is even more limited.
DPRK authorities may seize documents, literature, audio and videotapes, compact discs and letters deemed by North Korean officials to be pornographic, political or intended for religious proselytizing.
Persons seeking to enter North Korea with religious materials in a quantity deemed to be greater than that needed for personal use can be detained, fined and expelled.
It is advisable to contact the DPRK Mission to the United Nations or a DPRK embassy or a DPRK consulate in a third country for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our information on customs regulations.
The DPRK does not recognize dual nationality.
U.S. citizens of Korean heritage may be subject to military obligations and taxes on foreign source income.
For further information see our dual nationality flyer.
Additional questions on dual nationality may be directed to Overseas Citizens Services, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC
20520 or by telephone at 1-888-407-4747.
U.S. Government Economic Sanctions Against North Korea:
At this time, goods of North Korean origin may not be imported into the United States either directly or indirectly without prior notification to and approval of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Exports to North Korea may be subject to licensing requirements.
Check with the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
Most financial transactions between U.S. and North Korean citizens are authorized, provided they meet the criteria outlined in the June 19, 2000, and subsequent amendments to OFAC regulations.
All transactions ordinarily incident to travel to, from and within North Korea and to maintenance within North Korea are authorized, and U.S. travel service providers are allowed to organize group travel to North Korea.
Commercial U.S. ships and aircraft carrying U.S. goods are allowed to call at North Korean ports with prior clearance.
In May 2006, OFAC began prohibiting U.S. persons from “owning, leasing, operating or insuring any vessel flagged by North Korea.”
Full text of the regulation can be found in the Federal Register at http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/fr/2000/061900-a.txt.
The U.S. maintains various export controls and other sanctions on North Korea for counter- terrorism, nonproliferation and other reasons.
Exports of military and sensitive dual-use items are prohibited, as are most types of U.S. economic assistance.
The U.S. also abides by multilateral restrictions and sanctions with respect to North Korea, including those contained in recent United Nations Security Council Resolutions in response to the North Korean missile launches and nuclear test in July and October 2006.
For additional information, consult the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treasury.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States.
Local laws also may not afford the protections available to U.S. citizens under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking local laws can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders often face long jail sentences and heavy fines.
North Korean security personnel may view unescorted travel inside North Korea by Americans who do not have explicit official authorization as espionage, especially when the U.S. citizens are originally from South Korea or are thought to understand the Korean language.
Security personnel may also view any attempt to engage in unauthorized conversations with a North Korean citizen as espionage.
Foreigners are subject to fines or arrest for unauthorized currency transactions or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners.
It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country's current and former leaders, Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung, respectively.
Foreign journalists have been threatened when questioning the policies or public statements of the DPRK or the actions of the current leadership.
Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see additional information on Criminal Penalties.
For information see our Office of Children's Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: There is no U.S. embassy or consulate in North Korea.
U.S. citizens planning to visit North Korea are encouraged to register prior to departing the United States with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing if entering North Korea from China.
U.S. citizens planning to visit the Mount Kumgang tourism area or Kaesong from South Korea should register with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.
Registration can be done on line through the State Department's travel registration web site
or in person, by telephone or fax, at the U.S. Embassy.
The Embassy of Sweden (U.S. Protective Power).
Americans who have a medical or consular emergency and who wish to contact the Swedish Embassy are reminded first to communicate this need to their North Korean escorts or guides.
Do not attempt to travel to the Swedish Embassy unescorted.
The Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protective Power) is located at Munsu-Dong District, Pyongyang.
The telephone and fax numbers for the Swedish Embassy (U.S. Protective Power) are:
(850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
(850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (First Secretary)
(850-2) 3817 908, (850-2) 3817 905 (Ambassador)
(850-2) 3817 663
U.S. Embassy Beijing.
The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, is located at:
2 Xiushui Dong Jie, Beijing.
The Embassy is located near Ritan Park.
Telephone: (86-10) 6532-3431.
Fax: (86-10) 6532-4153.
The Embassy Beijing web site is http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/.
For after-hours emergencies please call (86-10)6532-3431 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
U.S. Embassy Seoul.
The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, is located at:
32 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu, Seoul.
The Embassy is located across the street from Sejong Cultural Center and next to the Ministry of Information and Communication/KT Building.
Telephone: (82-2) 397-4114.
Fax: (82-2) 2-397-4101.
The Embassy Seoul web site is http://seoul.usembassy.gov/.
For after-hours emergencies please call (82-2) 721-4114 and ask for the Embassy duty officer.
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 15, 2007, to update the sections on Country Description, Medical Insurance, Special Circumstances, and Registration/Embassy Location.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Seoul, Sept 8, 2019 (AFP) - North Korean state media said Sunday five people had been killed in a powerful typhoon that destroyed farmland and damaged hundreds of buildings. Typhoon Lingling, called Typhoon-13 in North Korea, hit the reclusive nuclear-armed state on Saturday afternoon, reported the official KCNA news service.
The impoverished and isolated country is vulnerable to natural disasters, especially floods, due in part to deforestation and poor infrastructure. "According to data available from the State Emergency Disaster Committee, five persons were dead and three persons injured. The injured persons are now under treatment at hospitals," KCNA said. More than 460 houses and at least a dozen public buildings were "completely or partly destroyed or inundated" by the typhoon, it said.
Crops were wiped out or damaged in 46,000 hectares (110,000 acres) of farmland -- roughly the area of the small European country of Andorra -- the report said, adding that recovery efforts were underway. It came after South Korea's disaster agency reported three deaths caused by the same typhoon, according to Yonhap news agency. On Saturday, KCNA reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had berated officials for their "easygoing" attitude to the approaching storm. According to that dispatch, Kim had convened an emergency meeting on Friday and said "dangerous circumstances" caused by the typhoon were "imminent", but that many in positions of authority were ill-prepared.
By Sebastien BERGER
Pyongyang, June 18, 2019 (AFP) - On a grey stone column in Pyongyang, a mural shows Chinese and North Korean soldiers rushing into battle against US-led forces in the Korean War. Decades later, the monument is a regular stop for new waves of Chinese going to the North, this time as tourists. Hundreds of soldiers and workers have been sprucing up the obelisk and its grounds in recent days ahead of a state visit to Pyongyang by Chinese President Xi Jinping this week. An inscription on it lauds "the Chinese People's Volunteer Army, who fought with us on this land and smashed down the common enemy". Their "immortal exploits" will "last forever", it proclaims, as will "the friendship forged in blood between the peoples of the People's Republic of China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea". Nearly 70 years after Mao Zedong sent millions of soldiers to save Kim Il Sung's troops from defeat as General Douglas MacArthur's men marched up the peninsula, China remains the isolated, nuclear-armed North's key diplomatic backer and main provider of trade and aid.
Now the Friendship Tower, as the monument is known, attracts growing hordes of Chinese tourists -- and the renovations suggest it may also be on Xi's itinerary. Ordinary Chinese pay travel companies around 2,500 yuan ($360) for a standard three-day trip, arriving overland by train in Pyongyang to tour the capital's highlights, from the Arch of Triumph to Kim Il Sung Square. The following day they head south to the Demilitarized Zone that has divided the peninsula since the two sides fought each other to a stalemate in 1953, before returning home. "I'm very interested in North Korea and wanted to come to see what North Korea looks like," said Yu Zhi, a retiree from Anhui province visiting Pyongyang, telling AFP that she had a "special feeling" for the country. "China is very friendly with North Korea," added her fellow traveller, a woman surnamed Jin. "We have been friends for generations."
- Lips and teeth -
It was not always so. Mao -- whose eldest son Mao Anying was among those killed in what China still calls the "War to Resist US Aggression and Aid the DPRK" -- described the neighbours as "as close as lips and teeth". Ties then waxed and waned during the Cold War, when founder Kim Il Sung was adept at playing his Soviet and Chinese allies off against each other, and his grandson, the current leader Kim Jong Un, did not visit Beijing to pay his respects for more than six years after inheriting power. But as he embarked on a flurry of diplomacy last year he made sure that Chinese President Xi Jinping was the first foreign head of state he met, and he has since done so three more times -- more often than Kim has seen any other leader. Now Xi is going to reciprocate.
At the same time Chinese tourism to the North has reached record highs, according to travel industry sources -- so much so that Pyongyang has imposed a limit on arrivals. No official figures are available from authorities on either side, but Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, the market leader for Western visitors, said there had been "a huge increase in Chinese tourists". At peak times 2,000 people a day had been arriving in Pyongyang, he said. "That's far too many because there is no infrastructure to accommodate that many tourists, so problems with train tickets, with plane tickets, hotel space." As a result North Korean authorities had themselves set a 1,000-a-day cap, he added, although it was unclear whether this applied across the industry or solely to Chinese, who make up the vast majority of arrivals. "There are issues with just hundreds of people showing up at the same time."
- 'Choices being made' -
China has a proven willingness to use tourism as a geopolitical negotiating weapon -- it banned group tours to South Korea after it deployed a US anti-missile system, THAAD. With nuclear negotiations at a stalemate the North remains subject to multiple UN Security Council sanctions, and the US imposed a travel ban on its own citizens visiting following the death of student Otto Warmbier, who had been jailed after trying to steal a propaganda poster. But tourism is not among the sectors targeted by the UN, potentially enabling Beijing to use it as an incentive for its sometimes wayward ally.
The Chinese travel phenomenon is market-driven, rather than prompted by state order -- as well as the market offered by China's huge population, the two countries' border enables cheap overland journeys. But simply enabling it to take place, said John Delury of Yonsei University in Seoul, meant "We can infer some choices are being made" by Beijing. "We know it's a lever they can turn on and off," he said. Even with the diplomatic process at a standstill, he added, "The Chinese think you have to use this window of opportunity to move things forward. There has to be a path on both sides and so something like opening up tourism is a good way to enable that." At the Monument to the Three Charters for Reunification on the edge of Pyongyang, where two giant stone women form an arch over a road, a secondary school teacher from Shanghai called Peng said: "We are both socialist countries. I feel there are more Chinese coming to visit."
Pyongyang, April 7, 2019 (AFP) - Twice as many foreigners as last year gathered in Pyongyang Sunday for the city's annual marathon, tour firms said, as reduced tensions see visitor numbers rise in isolated North Korea. The event -- part of the celebrations for the anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung's birth in 1912 -- is the highlight of the North's tourism calendar and offers the chance to run or jog through the streets of the tightly controlled city.
Around 950 Westerners entered the event, according to market leader Koryo Tours, compared to some 450 last year when numbers slumped. That brought participation almost back to the levels of 2017, before tensions soared as the North carried out a series of missile launches and leader Kim Jong Un traded threats and personal insults with US President Donald Trump. The same year, Washington also banned its citizens from visiting the North following the death of Otto Warmbier, a US student jailed for trying to steal a propaganda poster who died in a mysterious coma days after his release.
Several other countries subsequently raised their travel warnings, a combination of events that dealt a significant blow to the North's tourism industry. The US ban remains in place but more Western tourists signed up for the marathon this time, tour operators said, following a year of high-level diplomacy between Trump and Kim. "As political tensions have subsided, tourism demand has increased," said Elliott Davies, director at Uri Tours, another operator, adding: "You could plot a graph in this direct relationship."
- 'Marathon chasers' -
The vast majority of tourists to the North are Chinese and some 5,000 Westerners a year used to visit the North -- with about 20 percent of those from the US -- seeking unique adventures in one of the most closed countries in the world. The annual race also attracts so-called "Marathon Chasers" who tick off runs around the world, said Matt Kulesza, a senior tour guide at Young Pioneer Tours. Angel Arnaudov, a 34-year-old engineer from Macedonia, said Pyongyang came onto his "radar" after finishing more than 30 marathons in cities ranging from Tokyo, New York and Copenhagen. "I want to experience the life in North Korea myself and see if it is like they say on TV or different," he said, adding he would be posting videos on his YouTube channel.
For third-time participant Jasmine Barrett, the Pyongyang Marathon was an opportunity to interact with ordinary North Koreans who line the streets to cheer on the runners, offering high-fives and posing for selfies. "I keep coming back because I love to see the smiles on the children's faces," the Australian entrepreneur told AFP. "I'd definitely recommend it to others because it's a great way to see the city and the people who live there," she added. Tour operators advise visitors to take extra precautions about "what to do and what not to do" when travelling in the North. Simon Cockerell, Koryo Tours' general manager, said: "This is vital when visiting North Korea and anyone wanting to travel shouldn't go without a briefing."
Seoul, Jan 17, 2019 (AFP) - A giant beach resort in North Korea is nearing completion, a US monitor said Thursday, with satellite pictures showing rapid progress on the sprawling development, now equipped with a water slide and cinema. The seaside strip known as the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Area is squeezed between a new airport and the country's east coast, in an area that has previously been used for artillery drills and ballistic missile launches.
It is intended as a centrepiece of the isolated country's nascent tourism industry as Pyongyang seeks to develop its economy despite international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons programmes. North Korea receives an estimated 100,000 foreign tourists a year, the vast majority of them Chinese, according to industry sources, but Pyongyang issues no official figures itself. The site's construction has been closely overseen by leader Kim Jong Un and plans have been announced for a grand opening in October, when the country marks the 74th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
The respected 38 North website released satellite images taken as recently as December showing that most buildings previously under construction were "nearing external completion and several new or redesigned buildings were in advanced stages". Kim, who reportedly spent his childhood summers in the area, visited the site at least three times last year according to state media, sometimes berating officials in charge of the works and issuing detailed orders.
Kim "found that the whole street was not perfect in the artistic aspect", the official KCNA news agency reported after his October inspection. "He instructed officials to envisage the construction of more hotels and inns with over 30 floors," it added, along with more games arcades, movie theatres and an "all-event stadium", plus a "large water park and funfair". Satellite photos from December 28 indicated the resort was growing into a "vast beach complex", 38 North said.
- 'Great beaches' -
US President Donald Trump, a former real estate developer turned billionaire, applauded North Korea's tourism potential last year following his landmark summit with Kim in Singapore. After a four-minute screening of a bizarre Hollywood-style trailer -- apparently part of an overall pitch that the US could help the North advance technologically and economically -- Trump pointed to potential property projects in the cash-strapped nation. "As an example, they have great beaches," he told reporters. "You see that whenever they are exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, 'Boy, look at that view. Wouldn't that make a great condo?'"
Kim mentioned the Wonsan-Kalma project in his key New Year speech and 38 North said the push on the development showed "a desire to demonstrate that North Korea, despite the economic sanctions in place, has an economy that is moving forward and showing signs of prosperity. "It may also reflect an expectation that as the country improves its external political relations, tourism will follow," it added.
At present the US bans its own citizens from tourism in the North. Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans used to visit Mount Kumgang near the inter-Korean border every year, travelling to a Seoul-funded tourist resort that was the first major cooperation project between the neighbours. The trips came to an abrupt end in 2008 when a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist who strayed off the approved path and Seoul suspended travel.
World Travel News Headlines
Damascus, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - A bomb explosion wounded two people in Damascus Thursday, the state news agency reported, the latest of several such attacks in the Syrian capital. "An explosive device planted on a pickup truck went off in the Marjeh area" in central Damascus, SANA said, adding that two civilians were wounded by the blast.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the device was a "sticky bomb" planted on a military vehicle, although it was not immediately clear what the target was. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, nor for a similar explosion that wounded five people in another neighbourhood of Damascus on Tuesday. The Syrian capital was routinely targeted by major car bomb attacks in the course of the nine-year-old conflict but blasts have been less frequent since regime forces reclaimed full control of the Damascus region in 2018.
By Laurent Thomet, with Miwa Suzuki in Tokyo
Beijing, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - China on Thursday touted a big drop in new virus infections as proof its epidemic control efforts are working, but the toll grew abroad with deaths in Japan and South Korea. Fatalities in China hit 2,118 as 114 more people died, but health officials reported the lowest number of new cases in nearly a month, including in hardest-hit Hubei province.
More than 74,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus in China, and hundreds more in over 25 countries. The number of deaths outside mainland China climbed to 11. Japan's toll rose to three as a man and a woman in their 80s who had been aboard a quarantined cruise ship died, while fears there mounted about other passengers who disembarked the Diamond Princess after testing negative.
South Korea reported its first death, and the number of infections in the country nearly doubled Thursday to 104 -- including 15 at a hospital in Cheongdo county. The mayor of Daegu -- South Korea's fourth-largest, with 2.5 million people -- advised residents to stay indoors, while commanders at a major US military base in the area restricted access. Iran reported two deaths on Wednesday, the first in the Middle East. Deaths have previously been confirmed in France, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Chinese officials say their drastic containment efforts, including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in cities nationwide, have started to pay off. "Results show that our control efforts are working," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a special meeting on the virus with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos, citing the latest data. Wang said the situation was "significantly improving" in Hubei and Wuhan, but an official in a central government team dealing with the epidemic said it was still "very severe".
- 'Not turning point' -
Although more than 600 new infections were reported in Hubei's capital Wuhan, it was the lowest daily tally since late January and well down from the 1,749 new cases the day before. The national figure has now fallen for three straight days. Chinese authorities placed the city of 11 million under quarantine on January 23 and quickly locked down the rest of the province in the days that followed.
Wuhan authorities this week carried out a three-day, door-to-door check on residents, with the local Communist Party chief warning that officials would be "held accountable" if any infections were missed. Cities far from the epicentre have limited the number of people who can leave their homes for groceries, while rural villages have sealed off access to outsiders. Richard Brennan, a World Health Organization official, said in Cairo that China was making "tremendous progress" and "trends are very encouraging, but we are not at a turning point yet".
- 'Chaotic' cruise quarantine -
While China has boasted progress in its fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, Japan's government has been criticised for the quarantine measures it placed on the Diamond Princess. The huge vessel moored in Yokohama is easily the biggest coronavirus cluster outside the Chinese epicentre, with 634 cases confirmed among passengers and crew. Another 13 people on board the ship were diagnosed with the virus Thursday, Japan's health ministry said. Still, passengers were disembarking after negative tests and having completed a 14-day quarantine period -- packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports.
Questions were asked over the wisdom of allowing them to mingle in Japan's crowded cities. "Is it really safe to get off?" screamed a headline in the Nikkan Sports tabloid. The paper quoted one passenger who said he was tested on February 15, but only left four days later. "I thought I could be infected during the four days. I thought 'Is it really OK'?"
A specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University slammed as "completely chaotic" the quarantine procedures on board in rare criticism from a Japanese academic. "The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of infection control," said Kentaro Iwata in videos he has since deleted.
South Korea, meanwhile, announced 51 new cases, with more than 40 in a cluster centred on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, an entity often accused of being a cult. The infections apparently came from a 61-year-old woman who first developed a fever on February 10 and attended at least four services before being diagnosed. Local media said she had twice refused to be tested for the coronavirus on the grounds she had not recently travelled abroad. Authorities were investigating whether she might have visited the hospital where a long-term patient contracted the virus and later died.
Some 15 other patients have now been found to have the virus. Shincheonji claims its founder, Lee Man-hee, has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to heaven on the day of judgement. A man in his 60s tested positive for the coronavirus after dying Wednesday following symptoms of pneumonia, South Korean authorities said.
Lagos, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - An outbreak of Lassa in Nigeria has killed 103 people this year, health authorities said, as the first confirmed case was reported in the economic hub Lagos. "Cumulatively from week 1 to week 07, 2020, 103 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate of 17.6%," said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its latest statistics on the virus released on Wednesday. The overall number of confirmed cases rose by 115 last week to a total of 586 across the country.
Separately, health authorities in Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city with 20 million inhabitants, said an infected person was diagnosed there on February 17 and being treated in isolation in hospital. "Sixty-three people that may have been in contact with the patient and who may have been infected in the process have been identified and are being monitored," the state government wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Endemic to Nigeria, Lassa fever belongs to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, but is much less deadly. The disease is spread by contact with rat faeces or urine or the bodily fluids of an infected person. The majority of those infected do not show symptoms but the disease can go on to cause severe bleeding and organ failure in about 20 percent of cases.
An outbreak of Lassa fever killed some 170 people around Nigeria last year. The number of cases usually climbs around the start of the year linked to the dry season. While the overall number of confirmed cases and deaths is up this year on the same period in 2019, the mortality rate is lower. Twenty health workers across the country have been confirmed as contracting the disease so far in 2020. The virus takes its name from the town of Lassa in northern Nigeria, where it was first identified in 1969.
By Nicolas DELAUNAY
Les Mamelles, Seychelles, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - On a plain suburban street in Seychelles, far from the idyllic coastline and luxury resorts pampering honeymooners and paradise-seekers, heroin addicts queue anxiously for their daily dose of methadone. It is a scene few outsiders would associate with the tropical nirvana adrift in the Indian Ocean, and one rarely, if ever, glimpsed by tourists as they shuttle from the airport to five-star luxury on white-sand beaches.
But life for many Seychellois is far from picture perfect: the tiny archipelago nation is battling what officials say are the world's highest rates of heroin addiction. Nearly 5,000 people are hooked, government figures show, equivalent to nearly 0 percent of the national workforce -- a statistic that has startled the government into action.
In comparison, 0.4 percent of the global population consumed opioids in 2016, half of them in Asia, according to a United Nations report that puts Seychelles among the top consumers alongside producing countries such as Afghanistan. The Seychelles' heroin boom, which took off over the past decade, gripped young and old alike and cut across class lines. Among those queueing in the town of Les Mamelles for methadone -- a substitute narcotic used to wean users off heroin -- are parents with young children, an old man leaning on a cane and a taxi driver between shifts.
Graham Moustache, a 29-year-old father of two, described how the arrival of affordable and high-quality heroin in Seychelles swept up his entire family. "I have four brothers and two sisters, and we have all been heroin addicts at one point," he told AFP, tracing his fingers over the needle scars on his arms. "I've been to prison twice," he said, adding his mother had turned him in as "she didn't know what to do any more". "Sometimes, I didn't have enough to eat and I had to choose between eating and buying heroin. I chose heroin."
- Soaring addiction -
The rise of new trafficking routes through East Africa in the late 2000s, coupled with porous borders and relatively high purchasing power among Seychellois, flooded the paradisal islands with heroin. The average salary in the archipelago is $420 (390) -- high compared to other African nations. The World Bank considers the Seychelles the only high-income country on the continent, thanks to the growing tourism industry. But around 40 percent of the population still lives in poverty.
By 2011, around 1,200 people were addicted, prompting a punitive crackdown. "We did not make a difference between the victim and the trafficker," said Patrick Herminie, director of the state-run Agency for Drug Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation (APDAR). By 2017, addiction had risen four-fold, placing Seychelles among the world's most drug-dependent nations. The government, realising its war on drugs had failed, changed tack and declared a public health emergency. "The magnitude of the problem is simply because we reacted a bit late," Herminie said.
Money has poured into combating the scourge, with state funds for drug prevention and rehabilitation programmes soaring to 75 million Seychelles rupees ($5.5 million) in 2020 -- almost 10 times the 2016 budget. APDAR, a specialist drug agency created in 2017 to tackle the problem, employs four times as many staff as the body that preceded it. A state-run methadone programme has reached 2,500 people, with medical follow-ups helping to track their progress. But the free availability of methadone has also prompted drug dealers to lower their prices.
Mobile clinics drive around offering methadone to addicts and providing free health checks and advice. "I've been clean for more than a year. I found a job as a fisherman, and I can see my two kids," said Moustache proudly, as he queued at the white methadone van staffed with healthcare workers. Others have struggled to stay the course. "Methadone helps me a lot, but it's difficult not to take heroin at all," said Gisele Moumou, an emaciated 32-year-old addict, drawing ragged breaths and sweating as she waits for her small cup of methadone.
- Stopping the scourge -
Schoolchildren are being taught about the damage done by drugs through awareness campaigns and billboards in classrooms. But there is much work to be done, especially among children from families affected by drug use, says Noellie Gonthier from CARE, a local harm-reduction charity. "Sometimes, four- or five-year-olds at school mimic injecting heroin," she said. "Our challenge is to make them understand that what they consider normal -- because of their family context -- actually isn't at all." On Mahe, a small, mountainous island with lush vegetation, most of the population lives near the water. Life is quiet here, without traffic, and the streets are mostly clean.
Poverty is largely hidden, concentrated in a few neighbourhoods behind faded walls or in the hills. So why do so many Seychellois take drugs? The authorities admit they haven't quite figured it out, but say it appears that while poverty does not quite allow people to live well, it allows them enough money to buy drugs to forget their woes. "The root of the cause, we're still working on it," said Herminie. Early studies show that health and social problems associated with heroin use have declined since the government switched its response from punishment to prevention, officials say.
Crime has nearly halved and annual cases of new hepatitis C infections have fallen 60 percent. Youth unemployment, meanwhile, has shrunk from 6.5 percent to 2.1 percent in recent years. One recovering addict, a taxi driver who did not want to be named, offered a bleak assessment as he waited for his daily methadone in an empty car park in Les Mamelles. "We're a small island in the middle of the ocean. What else is there to do here?" he said.
By Michael O'HAGAN
Otuke, Uganda, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Under a warm morning sun scores of weary soldiers stare as millions of yellow locusts rise into the northern Ugandan sky, despite hours spent spraying vegetation with chemicals in an attempt to kill them. From the tops of shea trees, fields of pea plants and tall grass savanna, the insects rise in a hypnotic murmuration, disappearing quickly to wreak devastation elsewhere. The soldiers and agricultural officers will now have to hunt the elusive fast-moving swarms -- a sign of the challenge facing nine east African countries now battling huge swarms of hungry desert locusts.
They arrived in conflict-torn South Sudan this week, with concerns already high of a humanitarian crisis in a region where 12 million are going hungry, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "One swarm of 40 to 80 million can consume food" for over 35,000 people in a day, Priya Gujadhur, a senior FAO official in Uganda, told AFP.
In Atira -- a remote village of grass-thatched huts in northern Uganda -- some 160 soldiers wearing protective plastic overalls, masks and goggles sprayed trees and plants with pesticide from before dawn in a bid to kill the resting insects. But even after hours of work they were mostly able to reach only lower parts of the vegetation. Major General Kavuma sits in the shade of a Neem Tree alongside civilian officials as locusts sprayed with pesticide earlier that morning fall around them, convulsing as they die. An intense chemical smell hangs in the air.
- 'They surrounded me' -
Zakaria Sagal, a 73-year-old subsistence farmer was weeding his field in Lopei village some 120 kilometres (75 miles) away, preparing to plant maize and sorghum, when without warning a swarm of locusts descended around him. "From this side and this side and this side, they surrounded me," Sagal said, waving his arms in every direction. "We have not yet planted our crops but if they return at harvest time they will destroy everything. We are not at all prepared."
East Africa's regional expert group, the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), warned Tuesday that eggs laid across the migratory path will hatch in the next two months, and will continue breeding as the rainy season arrives in the region. This will coincide with the main cropping season and could cause "significant crop losses... and could potentially worsen the food security situation", ICPAC said in a statement.
- 'Panic mode' -
Since 2018 a long period of dry weather followed by a series of cyclones that dumped water on the region created "excessively ideal conditions" for locusts to breed, says Gujadhur. Nevertheless, governments in East Africa have been caught off guard and are currently in "panic mode" Gujadhur said. The locusts arrived in South Sudan this week after hitting Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda. Desert locusts take over on a dizzying scale.
One swarm in Kenya reached around 2,400 square kilometres (about 930 square miles) -- an area almost the size of Moscow -- meaning it could contain up to 200 billion locusts. "A swarm that size can consume food for 85 million people per day," said Gujadhur. Ugandan authorities are aware that subsequent waves of locusts may pose problems in the weeks to come, but in the meantime they are attempting to control the current generation.
Gujadhur is quick to praise the "quite strong and very quick" response from the Ugandan government but is concerned that while the army can provide valuable personnel, a military-led response may not be as effective as is necessary. "It needs to be the scientists and (agriculture officials) who take the lead about where the control operations need to be and how and when and what time," she said.
- 'They eat anything green' -
The soldiers have been working non-stop for two days, criss-crossing the plains on the few navigable roads, trying to keep up with the unpredictable swarms. Major General Kavuma recognises that the biggest threat is from the eggs which are yet to hatch but is confident the army will be able to control this enemy. "We have the chemicals to spray them, all we need is to map the places they have been landing and sleeping," he said. "In two weeks time we will come back and by that time they will have hatched and that will be the time to destroy them by praying."
Back in Lopei village, Elizabeth Namoe, 40, a shopkeeper in nearby Moroto had been visiting family when the swarm arrived. "When the locusts settle they eat anything green, the animals will die because they have nothing to feed on, then even the people (will suffer)," she said. "The children will be affected by hunger and famine since all life comes from all that is green. I fear so much."
Beijing, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - China's President Xi Jinping called Wednesday for greater protection of medical staff fighting the new coronavirus after the deaths of prominent doctors sparked national anger at the government's handling of the outbreak. At least seven medical workers have died from the virus, while 1,716 have been confirmed as infected, most at the epicentre of the epidemic in central Hubei province where hospitals have dealt with a huge influx of patients.
Staff have faced shortages of masks and protective bodysuits, with some even wearing makeshift suits and continuing to work despite showing respiratory symptoms, health workers have told AFP. Xi said China must "strengthen efforts to relieve the stress of medical workers, provide them with daily necessities, arrange time for their rest and give them encouragement", the official Xinhua news agency reported. Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Hubei's capital Wuhan, died Tuesday, more than a week after the death of whistleblowing ophthalmologist Li Wenliang in the same city prompted nationwide mourning and calls for political reforms.
- 'Majestic spirit' -
A paper published by China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention said an additional 1,300 health workers may have been infected but have yet to receive a diagnosis. Xi said China must ensure medical teams in Hubei and Wuhan "carry out work in a safe, orderly, coordinated, effective and swift manner", Xinhua reported. The deaths of frontline medical workers "reflected doctors' humane and majestic spirit", Xi said. The death toll from the virus jumped past 2,000 on Wednesday, while 74,185 cases of infection have been confirmed in mainland China.
Tehran, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Two people in Iran tested positive Wednesday for the deadly new coronavirus, the health ministry said, in the Islamic republic's first cases of the disease. Kianoush Jahanpour, a ministry spokesman, said the cases were detected in the holy city of Qom, south of the Iranian capital. "In the past two days, some suspect cases of the new coronavirus were observed in Qom city," he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
"Teams were dispatched after receiving the reports, and based on the existing protocols the suspect cases were isolated and tested," said Jahanpour. "Out of the samples sent, a laboratory tested two of them as positive for coronavirus just minutes ago and some of the other samples were type B influenza."
The health ministry spokesman said additional tests were being done on the two cases and final results would be announced "as soon as possible". The new coronavirus epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000. It has spread to at least two dozen countries. The United Arab Emirates was the first country in the Middle East to report cases of coronavirus last month.