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Albania

Albania US Consular Information Sheet November 04, 2008

 COUNTRY DESCRIPTION

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

ope, but economic conditions in the country are steadily improving. Tourist facilities are not highly developed in much of the country, and though Albania's economic integration into European Union markets is slowly underway, many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available. Hotel accommodations are limited outside of major cities. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Albania for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS

 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.

CRIME

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

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 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.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION

 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

Date: Sat, 21 Sep 2019 20:39:17 +0200 (METDST)

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.
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2018 16:28:50 +0100

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.
Date: Sun, 3 Dec 2017 12:29:40 +0100

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.
Date: Sat 5 Aug 2017
From: Edmond Puca <edmond_puca@yahoo.com> [edited]

Here in Albania, we have 2 imported cases of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), one imported from the north of Greece and another from Macedonia in a village near the border with Albania.

The patient from Macedonia is 25 years old. He presented in the emergency room on 31 Jul [2017]. Right now, he is in good condition and will survive. He presented with fever, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and lower back pain.

The other patient from Greece had been in our service for the previous 2 weeks and now is at home in good condition.

The disease is caused by Dobrava-Belgrade virus infection.
---------------------------------
Dr Edmond Puca
Infectologue
Department of Infectious Disease
UHC "Mother Teresa"
Tirana, Albania
===================
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Edmond Puca for sending in this report.  This and the previous report are the 1st reports of hantavirus infections in Macedonia that ProMED-mail has posted. There is also evidence of HFRS in Greece, although ProMED-mail has not posted reports previously. Sero-epidemiological investigations conducted in several Balkan countries revealed an overall seroprevalence of 4 per cent in Greece (<http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168170213004887#>). There doubtless have been Dobrava-Belgrade virus infections in Greece and the Balkans over the years, given that this virus is known to circulate widely in the Balkans.

The yellow-necked field mouse (_Apodemus flavicollis_) is the principle vertebrate host for Dobrava-Belgrade virus. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2017 04:30:32 +0100
By Briseida MEMA

Tirana, Feb 6, 2017 (AFP) - Emira Sela covers her face with her hand to hide a disfiguring abscess, the traumatic result of unregulated cosmetic treatments now rampant across Albania.   The 31-year-old began to worry when wrinkles appeared on her face. Sela's hairdresser told her that a simple injection, costing around 60 euros ($65), would banish the signs of ageing.   "She assured me that I would not risk anything. She even listed well-known names" of women who had undergone such treatment, said Sela.   "I did not think twice, I trusted her without asking questions," said the blonde woman with green eyes, her voice trembling.

Albanian hair and beauty salons lacking expertise and medical supervision are offering such cosmetic treatments, unregulated in a legal vacuum, much to the alarm of qualified doctors.   A single injection of a product whose content and dosage Sela knew nothing about was enough to ruin her life in late August.    Despite antibiotics she has permanent pain, fever and nausea, while the abscess on her right cheek forces her eye to half-close and her face is nearly paralysed.   "I am so disfigured that I tried to commit suicide," said Sela, who lost her job in a bank. Her only hope now is corrective surgery at an Italian hospital, scheduled for this month.

- Desiring Kardashian look -
"There are more and more impostors with syringes," said Panajot Papa, a plastic surgeon at a private clinic in Tirana.   "The problem is also the products... Forbidden in Europe, they enter illegally from Turkey or China."    Eriona Shehu, a dermatologist at Tirana's university hospital, said these unregulated synthetic products, such as injected liquid silicone and acrylamide, were being offered at temptingly low prices.

"Cosmetic interventions have become a lucrative industry. The patient is only a customer, exposed to a number of risks."   Shehu said the desire to look like voluptuous US reality television star Kim Kardashian was "destroying the lives of young Albanian girls looking for beauty".   Albanian doctors say the typical age of clients for such procedures is between 16 and 28.    In the country of about three million people, the demand for cosmetic interventions rose more than 50 percent in 2015, according to a study published by Albania's economic magazine Monitor.

Promotional offers can be seen everywhere, such as a beauty salon advertising 20 percent reductions for three people coming together for treatment during the holiday season.   Papa says he has treated a dozen young women aged between 20 and 27 who suffered complications after having their lips and cheekbones swollen with injected liquid silicone for 40 to 50 euros.    The product has been banned for cosmetic use in countries such as Italy and France for more than 15 years.   Papa said such botched interventions left these women prone to particularly bad swellings during their menstrual period, requiring further treatment -- and he warned they may suffer such symptoms for life.

- Closing legal gap -
Albanian doctors are worried about foreign practitioners who come from Italy, Turkey and Greece to work just for a weekend.   "They may not have a diploma, qualification or licence for these kind of interventions or for assuming the responsibility of a patient's medical follow-up," said Besim Boci, head of the otolaryngology department at Tirana's university hospital.   Due to legal loopholes, the judiciary cannot step in.    A spokesman at Tirana's tribunal, Alba Nikolla, admits that it is currently impossible to "open investigations and prosecute based only on complaints" against practitioners.

But authorities are set to tackle this with a draft law to control cosmetic products and beauty salons, which is due to be introduced in parliament in the next few months.   The law complies with the requirements of the European Union, which Albania aspires to join, and will enable authorities to shut down rogue establishments using synthetic products.    When health is adversely affected, practitioners could be imprisoned for three to 10 years.    Such regulations could go some way to easing the trauma of women like Elisa Lura, a 22-year-old economics student.   She underwent a laser treatment to restore her natural look after paying 50 euros to a neighbourhood salon for permanent eyebrow tattoos, which went wrong. But the laser made things much worse.   "Everything is spoiled!" she said of her face now covered with painful scars.
More ...

Seychelles

General:
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This group of islands are situated off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. The main Island is Mahe and it has a population of under 100,000. The other two islands with significant popula
ions are Praslin and La Digue. Generally, tourist facilities are well developed throughout these main islands. Elsewhere facilities are poor. The islands enjoy an oceanic tropical climate with only mild variations throughout the year. Rainfall fluctuations do occur with more rainfall occurring between October to April each year.
Safety and Security:
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The majority of tourists visiting the Seychelles will have a very peaceful time and the rate of crime throughout the country is small. However, like many other destinations this situation is changing and there are increasing numbers of reports of petty crime - even on the more popular beaches. Generally it is unwise to leave valuables unattended while you bathe and walking around the main streets in Victoria after dark is not recommended especially for women. All money exchanges must be transacted with official designated dealers and a receipt obtained. Otherwise strict penalties may be enforced.
Health Facilities:
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The level of healthcare in the main tourists resorts is perfectly adequate for most situations but outside these regions the level of care is significantly less. On isolated islands doctors are often unavailable and it may take many hours before you could move to a better equipped location. Always make sure your travel and health insurance is up to date before you leave home.
Food & Water Facilities:
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The level of food and water preparation in the main tourist resorts is excellent but when travelling to isolated regions the standards drop considerably. Consuming foods cooked in local homes will be a significant risk in many circumstances and usually best avoided. However, well cooked fresh fish and other well prepared local delicacies should not present any particular difficulty. As always it is wise to avoid all under cooked bivalve shellfish such as oysters, mussels and clams. Unprepared cold foods like lettuce are also better left untasted and fruit which has been previously peeled will be potentially contaminated. If you peel it yourself it should be fine. Check the tap water smells of chlorine and if not, do not use it for drinking or even brushing your teeth.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
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No malaria risk occurs throughout the Seychelles so prophylaxis will not be required. This is excellent news but you should be aware that mosquitoes can still be a problem and so careful avoidance techniques are required - particularly between dusk and dawn. Dengue Fever has been found on the Islands through there has been no epidemic of the disease for some years.
The risk of Rabies:
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The Seychelles are rabies free but obviously care should still be taken to avoid any contact with warm-blooded animals such as dogs, cats and monkeys. With the difficulties in patrolling the extensive coastline of the Seychelles it is always possible that the disease will be introduced at some stage in the future.
Swimming:
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Take care to listen to local advice before swimming in the sea. Strong currents and various marine life may lead to a severely spoiled holiday. Never swim after a heavy meal or significant intake of alcohol and always swim in the company of others.
Sun Exposure:
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The strength of the sun in the Seychelles throughout the year is significant and this can cause both sunburn and serious dehydration. After a long haul flight it may be tempting to fall asleep beside the hotel pool but this may cause dreadful sunburn and can easily ruin a holiday. Children need to be watched carefully as they are more liable to the effects of the sun, particularly on any fair skinned child. Wearing a light good fitting t-shirt and Increasing their salt intake may be very beneficial.
Road Safety:
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In the Seychelles they drive on the left side of the road but outside the main tourist resorts the roads tend to be very narrow with often shear drops. Barriers are rare and accidents can easily occur. The speed limits are between 25 to 50 mph and both drivers and front seat passengers are required to wear safety belts at all times. There is an ambulance service on the islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue which is summonsed by ringing 999.
Local Laws and Customs:
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There are strict regulations regarding import and export of firearms, spear-fishing equipment, fruit and vegetables. When paying for your hotel expenses a credit card must be used in most circumstances. If you have cash you must provide a receipt showing how it was obtained. A casino receipt would be adequate if you have been lucky enough!
Vaccinations for the Seychelles:
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Unless you are entering the islands from tropical Africa there are no essential vaccines for entry or exit. However for your own personal health it is recommended that travellers are covered against the following diseases;
*
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food and water borne disease)
*
Hepatitis A (food and water borne disease)
For those undertaking a longer more rural trip other vaccines may need to be considered including Hepatitis B.
Summary:
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Generally most tourists who maintain the usual commonsense rules stay perfectly healthy while in the Seychelles. Just remember the different climate conditions to your home situation and take care with food and water consumption. Further information is available from the Tropical Medical Bureau.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

18th Oct 2017
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/seychelles-plague-negative/en/ 

Samples from patients in Seychelles suspected to be ill with pneumonic plague tested negative at a World Health Organization (WHO) partner laboratory in Paris, France on Tuesday (17 October).
 
The ten samples were shipped by the Seychelles Ministry of Health and WHO to the collaborating centre for Yersinia at the Institut Pasteur to confirm the status of several suspected and one probable case – a 34-year-old Seychelles national who had returned from Madagascar with plague-like symptoms.

WHO is working with the Seychelles health authorities to reduce the risk of plague spreading from neighbouring Madagascar, which faces an unprecedented outbreak that has killed more than 70 people since August. No plague cases have been confirmed in the Seychelles.
Alongside support for laboratory testing, WHO has deployed experts and medical supplies to the 115-island country. The Organization is also providing guidance for the tracing and treatment of contacts of people who are suspected to have been infected.

“We are working with health authorities to reduce the risk of the spread of plague in the Seychelles by improving surveillance and preparedness,” said Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall, WHO Regional Emergencies Director for the Africa region.

WHO is advising the Government of Seychelles on the implementation of public health measures that are in line with the WHO International Health Regulations, such as enhanced surveillance, isolation and treatment of suspect cases, contact tracing and prophylactic treatment of potential contacts.

WHO currently assesses the risk of spread of plague in the Seychelles to be low.
Date: Fri 13 Oct 2017
Source: Medical Xpress [edited]

The Seychelles government ordered schools to close [Fri 13 Oct 2017], after the discovery of 2 suspected cases of plague thought to have been brought from Madagascar where the disease has killed scores. The health ministry has also put under surveillance 320 people who have come into contact with the 2 patients. A total of 12 people showing plague-like symptoms have been admitted to hospital and given antimicrobials.

Panic gripped parents on the Indian Ocean archipelago after some students developed fevers in recent days, leading to the school closures.

"We made this decision as a precautionary measure to reassure parents," said Merida Delcy, an adviser to the education ministry, noting that they would not reopen until [Wed 18 Oct 2017], at the earliest.

Preliminary tests on the 2 people, including a Seychellois who returned from Madagascar a week ago, showed they could have plague, the health ministry said.

"It has not yet been confirmed that the 2 people are sick due to plague, samples will be sent this weekend to the Institut Pasteur (in France)," said public health commissioner Jude Gedeon. The results are expected next week [week of Sun 15 Oct 2017].

The sick include a student at Anse Boileau Elementary School on the main island of Mahe where all students have since been given antimicrobials.

As fear of plague spreads, there has been a run on surgical masks which people hope will offer protection against the highly infectious disease. Plague outbreaks are common on Madagascar, 1800 kilometres (1120 miles) to the south, where the disease is endemic. But this year [2017] both bubonic plague, spread by infected rats via flea bites, and the pneumonic type, spread person-to-person, have hit urban areas, including the capital Antananarivo, leaving at least 54 dead.

A Seychellois basketball coach who was visiting Madagascar is among the victims. The Seychelles government has begun to quarantine people who have arrived from Madagascar in the last week [week of Sun 1 Oct 2017]. The latest Madagascar health ministry report this week says 500 cases and 54 deaths [now 561 and 57 - ProMED Mod.LL] have so far been recorded, with around half of each occurring in the capital.
=====================
[There is no confirmation about any cases acquired on Seychelles on the Ministry of Health facebook page <https://www.facebook.com/mohseychellesofficial/>. ProMED awaits confirmation of additional cases of _Y. pestis_ infection on Seychelles in addition to the imported case from Madagascar. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Wed 11 Oct 2017
Source: Seychelles Ministry of Health [summ., edited]

Dr Jude Gedeon met with the media on Wed 11 Oct 2017, to give an update on the pneumonic plague situation in Seychelles. Speaking to several media houses, he addressed the case of pneumonic plague that was confirmed yesterday, 10 Oct 2017. He also stressed on current and additional measures being taken by the Ministry of Health to prevent this from spreading.

New measures being implemented against pneumonic plague:
- everyone entering Seychelles from Madagascar will immediately be referred to the isolation centre in Perseverance [Perseverance Island is an artificial island in Seychelles, lying 2 km (1.3 mi) from the capital Victoria]. - ProMED Mod.LL]
- no foreigners coming to Seychelles from Madagascar will be granted entry. Only Seychelles citizens will be allowed to enter the country.
- a Travel Advisory has been issued, in collaboration with Seychelles Tourism Board requesting all transiting points (Mauritius, Kenya, and Reunion) to redirect all passengers who are not a citizen of Seychelles.
- cargo ships will continue to be monitored as before. If anyone presents with symptoms within less than 7 days of leaving Madagascar, the ship will remain in isolation at sea. If anyone on board is sick, they will receive treatment;
- cruise ships are advised to remain at sea for at least 7 days before entering the port after visiting Madagascar. If it is less than 7 days (incubation period) all passengers and crew will remain under surveillance for the recommended time before entering the country.
*******************************
Date: Wed 11 Oct 2017 12:59 SCT
Source: Seychelles News Agency [edited]

Visitors to Seychelles who have visited Madagascar or transited through that island nation in the last 7 days will be placed under observation by health officials upon arrival to Mahe.

The Minister of Health, Jean-Paul Adam, made the statement in the National Assembly on [Wed 11 Oct 2017] when answering an urgent question from the Leader of the Opposition, Wavel Ramkalawan. Adam was called to the National Assembly after the 1st case of pneumonic plague in Seychelles was confirmed on Tue 10 Oct 2017. The patient is a man who returned to Mahe, the main island, last [Fri 6 Oct 2017], on board the last Air Seychelles flight from Madagascar.

The health minister also confirmed that 258 people are currently under observation and receiving treatment after the case of pneumonic plague was detected. "The 258 includes 41 passengers and 7 crew from the flight, 12 close family members, and 18 staff and patients from the Anse Boileau health centre where the man went when he fell ill."

The man disobeyed instructions given upon his arrival to remain at home for a period of time and attended a party that same evening. The minister explained that the result of the tests conducted on the infected man was sent to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, which confirmed the pneumonic plague.

Adam said that "all the 170 people who were at the party including the 13 staff working at the venue are also under passive surveillance. We were already putting Seychellois and tourists under active observation at their homes or at hotels. But as from today [11 Oct 2017], all those arriving from Madagascar will be put in isolation for 6 days," the Minister said.

Adam added that the authority will be using the Seychelles Coast Guard military academy as the isolation centre located at Perseverance, a reclaimed island on the outskirts of Victoria.

The national airline -- Air Seychelles -- had suspended all flights to Madagascar, following guidance and requests of the Seychelles' Public Health Authority amid concerns over the outbreak of the plague in Madagascar. To date, there are 449 cases confirmed in Madagascar and 48 people have died [now 500 cases and 54 deaths - ProMED Mod.LL]. Air Seychelles is the only airline in the region to suspend all its flights to the island.

The health ministry has also liaised with the Seychelles Fishing Authority to get fishermen who may have travelled to Madagascar recently to report their trips and if necessary to seek advice from health professionals. "We are also in contacts with boats, and we want to urge those who may have travelled to Madagascar informally to stop this practice and to report to their nearest health centres." Adam said this is important for assessment and also "for us to decide if they need to be placed under surveillance for treatment. We are also liaising with travel agents to discourage people from visiting the island."

Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, is on high alert ever since it was confirmed that a Seychellois basketball coach, who died in a hospital in Madagascar in September 2017, had contracted the plague.
====================
[Seychelles seems to have responded in appropriate ways related to the single importation (so far) of a person who developed pneumonic plague after returning from Madagascar. It is not clear if this case had any relationship to the basketball tournament that had occurred on Madagascar. Since there is no comment in this report regarding institution of antimicrobial prophylaxis to any of the contacts. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps can be accessed at
Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2017 16:49:58 +0200

Mogadishu, Oct 14, 2017 (AFP) - More than 20 people were killed when a car bomb exploded on a busy street in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Saturday, a police official said.   "Initial reports from emergency departments indicate more than 20 bodies picked up off the street and many more are under the wreckage of buildings destroyed by the blast", said Ibrahim Mohamed, a senior police officer.   Government security official Mohamed Aden said that bombing took place in a busy part of the city.    "There was a huge blast caused by a truck loaded with explosives. It went off at the entrance of a hotel alongside the K5 intersection," he said.   There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Al-Qaeda aligned Shabaab carries out frequent suicide bombings in the capital and elsewhere as it fights to overthrow the internationally-backed government.
Date: Fri, 13 Oct 2017 16:03:29 +0200

Victoria, Seychelles, Oct 13, 2017 (AFP) - The Seychelles government ordered schools to close Friday, after the discovery of two suspected cases of plague thought to have been brought from Madagascar where the disease has killed scores.   The health ministry has also put under surveillance 320 people who have come into contact with the two patients.

A total of 12 people showing plague-like symptoms have been admitted to hospital and given antibiotics.   Panic gripped parents on the Indian Ocean archipelago after some students developed fevers in recent days, leading to the school closures.   "We made this decision as a precautionary measure to reassure parents," said Merida Delcy, an adviser to the education ministry, noting that they would not reopen until Wednesday at the earliest.
 
Preliminary tests on the two people, including a Seychellois who returned from Madagascar a week ago, showed they could have plague, the health ministry said.   "It has not yet been confirmed that the two people are sick due to plague, samples will be sent this weekend to the Institut Pasteur (in France)," said public health commissioner Jude Gedeon.   The results are expected next week.   The sick include a student at Anse Boileau Elementary School on the main island of Mahe where all students have since been given antibiotics.

As fear of plague spreads, there has been a run on surgical masks which people hope will offer protection against the highly infectious disease.   Plague outbreaks are common on Madagascar, 1,800 kilometres (1,120 miles) to the south, where the disease is endemic. But this year both bubonic plague, spread by infected rats via flea bites, and the pneumonic type, spread person-to-person, have hit urban areas, including the capital Antananarivo, leaving at least 54 dead.

A Seychellois basketball coach who was visiting Madagascar is among the victims. The Seychelles government has begun to quarantine people who have arrived from Madagascar in the last week.   The latest Madagascar health ministry report this week says 500 cases and 54 deaths have so far been recorded, with around half of each occurring in the capital.
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British Indian Ocean Territory

General:
**********************************
Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
the northern parts of the country. Temperatures of between 20C to 35C are fairly standard throughout the year. Generally the winter effects of the American continent only last for short periods.
Safety & Security:
**********************************
The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Road Safety:
**********************************
Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
**********************************
When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.

Currency:
**********************************
Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Health Facilities:
**********************************
Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
**********************************
The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
***********************************************
Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
************************************
The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
**********************************
This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
**********************************
There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
*
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Summary:
**********************************
Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

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Montserrat

Montserrat US Consular Information Sheet
June 04, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Montserrat is a British overseas territory and part of the British West Indies.
The island rises in a series of mountain slopes to a high point of over 3,000 feet
t the Soufriere Volcano in the exclusion zone.
Montserrat is a highly active volcanic island.
The Government of Montserrat has issued several recent proclamations and warnings urging residents and visitors to be vigilant and to be prepared to move at short notice.
For further information, see "Special Circumstances" in this Information Sheet.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Proof of citizenship and identity, in addition to an onward/return ticket and sufficient funds to cover the expected stay, are required for entry into Montserrat.
However, U.S. citizens are now required to present a valid passport to travel by air between the United States and the Caribbean.
As early as January 1, 2008, a valid passport will also be required for travelers by sea.There is a departure tax payable upon leaving Montserrat.

See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Montserrat and other countries.
For further information, travelers may contact the British Embassy, 19 Observatory Circle N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; telephone (202) 588-7800; or the nearest consulate of the United Kingdom in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Seattle, or San Francisco.
Visit the British Embassy's web site at http://www.britainusa.com/ for the most current visa information.

See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and international child abduction.
Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, 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 pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: The crime rate in Montserrat is low.
However, travelers should take normal, common sense precautions.
Travelers should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and displaying expensive jewelry.
Travelers should also use hotel safety deposit facilities to safeguard valuables and travel documents.

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: St. John’s Hospital, Montserrat’s main hospital, can handle most routine and surgical emergencies.
However, there is no hyperbaric chamber in Montserrat.
Doctors in private practice are also available.
Arrangements can be made quickly to transfer more serious problems off island by helicopter to Antigua or Guadeloupe.

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 http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

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 Montserrat is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

In Montserrat, vehicles are operated on the left-hand side of the road.
There is no organized government roadside assistance, but local residents are often willing to aid those with car trouble.
Roads are narrow, winding and steep.
For specific information concerning Montserrat driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Montserrat Tourist Board in Montserrat at tel. 1 (664) 491-2230 or 491-8730.
You may also email them at info@montserrattourism.ms.
The web address for the Tourist Board is http://www.visitmontserrat.com/.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

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

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Ongoing volcanic activity from the Soufriere Hills Volcano has led to the evacuation and relocation of residents from the southern half of the island’s so called ‘exclusion zone' since 1995.
Additional evacuations occurred as recently as early 2007, when volcanic activity increased.
Because the volcano is still active and dangerous, access to the southern part of the island and a surrounding maritime exclusion zone is restricted.
Persons entering restricted areas without authorization are subject to fine and/or imprisonment.

In early 2007, Montserrat government authorities warned residents and visitors of volcanic activity and an increase of pyroclastic flows in Tyres Ghaut, Gages Valley and behind Gages Mountain.
Authorities also evacuated people living in the potential impact areas in and near the Belham Valley - Isles Bay Hill, Old Towne (south of Loblolly Lane), Isles Bay Plantation, lower Happy Hill, Water Works junction and Water Works Estate - due to the volcano’s activity.

When in Montserrat, citizens are advised to monitor Radio Montserrat (Radio ZJB) for the latest official guidance.
In addition to the hazards posed by the Soufriere Hills Volcano as outlined above, Montserrat can be affected by hurricanes.
The hurricane season normally runs from June to the end of November, but there have been hurricanes in December in recent years.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

The official Montserrat Volcano Observatory website, http://mvo.ms/, is helpful for updates on volcanic activity.
Updates on volcano activity can also be found on the website of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency at http://www.cdera.org/.
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 offences.
Persons violating Montserrat's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Montserrat 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 website.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Montserrat are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Montserrat.
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 the Wildey Business Park, Wildey, St. Michael, telephone 1-246-436-4950, web site http://bridgetown.usembassy.gov.

Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except Barbados and U.S. holidays.
Assistance may also be provided by the U.S. Consular Agency in Antigua, located at Suite #2, Jasmine Court, Friars Hill Rd, St. John’s, Antigua.
Contact information is as follows: telephone 1-268-463-6531, cellular 1-268-726-6531, or e-mail ANUWndrGyal@aol.com.
The mailing address is P.O. Box W-1562, St. John’s, Antigua.
The Consular Agent is available by appointment only.
The office is closed for local and U.S. Holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated January 9, 2007, to update the Entry/Exit Requirements, Aviation Safety Oversight and Embassy Location sections.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sat, 13 Feb 2010 21:42:24 +0100 (MET)
by Colin James

ST JOHN'S, Feb 13, 2010 (AFP) - Resilient residents of the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat Saturday shrugged off clouds of ash spewing out of a volcano, and donned masks to go about their daily business.   "It is makes you sneeze a lot," Gregory Willock, the president of the Montserrat Cricket Association, told AFP in the nearby island of Antigua by telephone.

Life has continued as normal since the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted Thursday, throwing up a plume of smoke and volcanic ash 10 kilometers (six miles) into the air, he said.   "All I know is it can create problems for people who have sinus" problems, Willock added, saying many residents had taken to wearing masks while schools and government offices have been operating as normal.   Thursday's eruption came almost 15 years after the volcano, which had lain dormant throughout recorded history, first rumbled into life in July 1995.

The 1995 eruption threw up a huge plume of ash and molten lava into the sky, which in coming weeks rained down on the British overseas territory.   The island's capital city Plymouth was buried in ash and volcanic debris in a further massive eruption a month later and destroyed. Two-thirds of the island's population were forced to flee abroad.   This time islanders are praying for rain to clear away the blanket of dust, which has even stopped the cricket team practicing.   "We cannot practice because Salem Park is not accessible. We need rain to get rid of ash on the ground," Willcock said Saturday.

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said his only complaint so far had to do with his medical condition. He's asthmatic.   "It has not worried me but because of my complaint I'm being ultra-careful. I'm talking to you with a mask over my mouth," he told AFP.   "However, life goes on beautifully. It is just like normal life. We are a resilient people," he said.   Many flights around the Caribbean remained cancelled Saturday due to clouds of ash spewed up into the skies.   "The continued ash hanging in the atmosphere presents a risk to planes and to the security of passengers," the police in the nearby island of Guadeloupe said in a statement.

The airport in Guadeloupe, which lies just 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Montserrat, would remain closed until Sunday, it said.   "The dispersion of these ashes will depend on today's weather conditions," it added in a statement, after fire engines were deployed late Friday to try clear the airport's runways of a thick layer of ash.   Some 300 people were stranded on Guadeloupe waiting to leave, the director of the islands' tourism office Thierry Gargar told AFP. He added they were all being accommodated in hotels on the islands.

Flights to other Caribbean tourist hotspots including Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Maarten also remained disrupted.   The ash has also forced LIAT, the region's biggest airline, to temporarily suspend flights in and out of the V.C. Bird International airport in nearby Antigua, although flights resumed Saturday to Dominica.

Montserrat, settled by English and Irish colonizers in 1632, has been dubbed "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean" for its lush vegetation. It has been trying to rebuild its tourism industry since the 1995 eruption.   The buried capital Plymouth, which has been compared to a modern-day Pompeii, now lies in an exclusion zone, but can be visited with organized tours.
Date: Sat, 13 Feb 2010 03:16:13 +0100 (MET)

ST. JOHN'S, Feb 12, 2010 (AFP) - Ash from a volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of Montserrat hung in the air around Antigua and Barbuda Friday, causing difficult driving conditions and forcing flight suspensions.   Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano erupted Thursday, sending a plume of ash 10 kilometers (six miles) high into the sky, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory said.

The ash forced LIAT, the region's biggest airline, to temporarily suspend flights in and out of Antigua's V.C. Bird International airport.   The airline said in a statement late Friday it had resumed flights to and from Antigua, but added that the "continued presence of airborne ash clouds over Dominica and Guadeloupe has forced LIAT to suspend all remaining flights to both destinations."   Flights to other Caribbean islands including Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Maarten were also disrupted on Thursday.

Montserrat is about 35 kilometers south of Antigua and Barbuda, but residents on the southern side of Antigua said heavy ash had fallen on their homes and made driving conditions difficult at times.   Yvonne McMillan, a resident of the southern village of Jennings, told an Antiguan radio station that "it was pretty rough" on Friday morning.   "Visibility was extremely poor. Coming off a hill you don't see what's below. I had to switch (my lights) to low beam all the time because high beam confused me even more," she said.   Meteorological officials described the ash fall as "quite bad."   Senior forecaster Lorne Salmon said cooling meant the air had become heavier, sinking into valley and low-lying areas.   "When this happens a lot of the ash becomes more concentrated," she said.
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2010 16:08:48 +0100 (MET)

POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe, Feb 12, 2010 (AFP) - Ash from a volcano that has erupted on the Caribbean island of Montserrat has spread to neighbouring islands, forcing authorities to close schools in the French territory of Guadeloupe.

The Soufriere Hills volcano on Montserrat erupted on Thursday sending ash 10 kilometers (six miles) high into the sky, according to French weather experts, and forcing other islands to take precautions.   Montserrat is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Guadeloupe.   Point-a-Pitre airport on Guadeloupe was closed straight away and French state representative Jean Fabre ordered schools to close on Friday. He said there was a risk of eye irritation and breathing problems.

Buildings and cars were covered in a layer of grey ash on Friday while flights to Guadeloupe were still diverted to Martinique about 250 kilometers (160 miles) to the south.   The Soufriere volcano has been active since 1995 when a major eruption buried half of Montserrat's capital, Plymouth. Two thirds of the island's 12,000 people have since left.
January 10, 2007 This Public Announcement is being issued to alert American citizens of increasing volcanic activity on the island of Montserrat, and to provide new information from the Government of Montserrat regarding sections of the island that are prohibited to visitors. Travelers are strongly advised to thoroughly consider the risks of travel to Montserrat, and to take adequate precautions to ensure their safety if they do travel. This Public Announcement expires April 9, 2007. U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Montserrat should be aware that renewed volcanic activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano has led to evacuations from certain areas of the island. The Government of Montserrat has identified unsafe restricted areas, which include the south and eastern parts of Montserrat adjacent to the active volcano. Remaining or attempting to enter these zones is prohibited by the Government of Montserrat. All Americans currently living or traveling in Montserrat are advised to make arrangements to depart on short notice if requested to do so by the Government of Montserrat. U.S. citizens in affected regions should immediately head to safe ground and/or identify shelter, monitor local media reports, and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. Visitors should be familiar with their hotel evacuation plans. U.S. citizens should carry their travel documents (i.e. U.S. Passport, Birth Certificate, picture IDs, etc.) with them at all times or secure them in a safe location. Additionally, all American citizens in the area are reminded to stay in contact with friends and family in the United States to keep them apprised of their current whereabouts. Lastly, residents and travelers can obtain official guidance and information by monitoring Radio Montserrat (Radio ZJB) or by checking the status of the volcano's activity at the Global Volcanism Program's website located at http://www.volcano.si.edu/reports/usgs. Americans living or traveling in Montserrat are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados, through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov. 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. For additional information on Montserrat, please consult the Department of State's latest Consular Information Sheet for Montserrat at http://travel.state.gov. American citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on the situation in Montserrat by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States or Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from overseas. The duty officer at the U.S. Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados, can be reached at 246-823-2675.
5 February 2003 The vast majority of visits to Montserrat are trouble free. However, because of ongoing volcanic activity, entry into the southern part of the island and the southern coastal waters is prohibited. Life and commercial activity, including tourism continue as normal in the central and northern regions. There is no history of terrorism in the territory. Though the crime rate is very low you should take sensible precautions against petty crime, including tourism continue as normal in the central and northern regions. To view the article in full, visit the page below: http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029390590&a=KCountryAdvice&aid=1013618386244
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Ukraine

Ukraine - US Consular Information Sheet
March 28, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Ukraine is undergoing profound political and economic change as it moves from its Soviet past toward a market economy, multi-party democracy, and integration into
uro-Atlantic and other international institutions.
In recent years, the availability of goods and services has increased along with increased rates of growth in Ukraine's economy, and facilities for travelers have improved somewhat.
Nonetheless, the availability of travel and tourist services remains uneven throughout the country, and Ukraine still lacks the abundance of many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Ukraine for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Depending on the length and purpose of travel, U.S. citizens may or may not be required to get a Ukrainian visa prior to coming to Ukraine.
A passport valid for six months beyond the planned date of travel is required.
According to Ukrainian Presidential Decree #1008, dated June 30, 2005, U.S. citizens are exempt from the requirement to have a Ukrainian visa as long as the duration of their stay in Ukraine does not exceed 90 days and the purpose of their travel is tourism, private travel, or business. U.S. citizens whose planned stay in Ukraine exceeds 90 days, and so consequently bears the characteristics of a long-term stay, must have visas authorizing their entry into Ukraine. If the purpose of their visit is other than tourism, private travel, or business, an appropriate visa must be obtained. U.S. citizens may apply for all types of visas through Ukrainian Embassies and Consulates overseas. A list of required documents for the visa application will be determined based on the purpose and length of travel on a case-by-case basis. Contact details for Ukrainian Embassies and Consulates are available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine web site at http://www.mfa.gov.ua/mfa/en/305.htm.

Visas may be obtained from the Consular Office of the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, DC, or from Ukrainian Consulates General in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco.
For additional information about Ukrainian visas and related policy, please contact the Ukrainian Embassy or Consulate nearest you.

Embassy of Ukraine
3350 M Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20007
Tel: (202) 333-0606
Fax: (202) 333-0817
Web site: http://www.mfa.gov.ua/usa/en/
Consulate General of Ukraine in New York
240 East 49th Street
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212) 371-5690
Fax: (212) 371-5547
Web site: http://www.ukrconsul.org/
Consulate General of Ukraine in San Francisco
530 Bush Street, Suite 402
San Francisco, CA 94108
Tel: (415) 398-0240
Fax: (415) 398-5039
Web site: http://www.ukrainesf.com/
Consulate General of Ukraine in Chicago
10 East Huron St.
Chicago, IL 60611
Tel: (312) 642 4388
Fax: (312) 642 4385
Web site: http://www.ukrchicago.com/
The Government of Ukraine does not issue visas at the point of entry into Ukraine.
Travelers whose purpose of travel puts them in a category that requires a visa must obtain the correct Ukrainian visa prior to arrival; otherwise they will be turned back to the United States or will have to travel to another country to obtain a visa.

Please check your visa carefully upon receipt and pay careful attention to validity dates.
Each traveler is responsible for understanding the type of visa issued and the provisions of the visa.
Frequently, American citizens are refused entry to Ukraine because they thought they possessed a multiple entry visa, but in fact their visa was valid for only a single entry; Americans occasionally try to reenter Ukraine after using their single-entry visa, believing they have unlimited travel for six months.
In some cases, Americans attempt to enter Ukraine before their visa becomes valid.
This is a common mistake, since in Ukraine the date is written day-month-year, not month-day-year.
Thus, a visa issued on 01/05/07 is valid from May 1, 2007 and NOT from January 5, 2007.
Such travelers can be detained at the port of entry, refused admission and sent back to the country from which they traveled.
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv is unable to assist travelers in these situations.

All foreigners entering or staying in Ukraine must be registered with Ukrainian authorities. American Citizens traveling to or staying in Ukraine are reminded that recent changes to Ukrainian immigration law change the registration procedures for short-term stays. The registration for short-term visits of up to 90 days is completed at the border by the customs offices.
Such registration is valid for 90 days out of each period of 180 days; the calculation of the 90-day period begins from the date of first entry into Ukrainian territory.

The initial registration for both short- and long-term visits to Ukraine, with or without a visa, is accomplished at the border when entering Ukraine.
Future extensions for stays exceeding 90 days are completed through the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Office of Citizenship, Immigration and Registration (OVIR).
Most cities will have several OVIR offices.
Extensions are not automatic, however, and are valid only for continued presence in the country.
It is not possible to depart Ukraine and return on the extension, nor can an adjustment to visa status be made from within Ukraine. Applications for extension of registration should be submitted at least three days before the current registration expires.

Travelers who intend to visit Russia from Ukraine must also have a Russian visa.
The Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in Ukraine is located at Prospekt Kutuzova 8, tel.: (380-44) 284-6816, fax 284-7936, e-mail: general@rucons.kiev.ua, http://www.embrus.org.ua.

Visitors to Ukraine should also note that Ukrainian law requires them to obtain mandatory health insurance.
For more information see the section on Medical Insurance below.

Visit the Embassy of Ukraine’s web site at http://www.mfa.gov.ua/usa/en/1609.htm for the most current visa information.
Also, see the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ web site at http://www.mfa.gov.ua/usa/en or http://www.ukraineinfo.org/.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Regulations sheet and visit the Ukrainian State Customs Service web site at http://www.customs.gov.ua/dmsu/control/en/index.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Ukraine is largely free of significant civil unrest or any organized anti-American domestic political movements.
However, occasionally, mass demonstrations occur in larger cities, such as Kyiv, and are usually sponsored by individual political forces.
In 2008, there has been an upsurge in the number of pro-Russian anti-NATO protests.
These protests are likely to increase in size and frequency as Ukraine pursues closer ties to the alliance.
While the majority of these protests are small and peaceful, they can still result in violence and it is best to avoid such gatherings.

There also have been increasing incidents of racially-motivated violence; groups of “skinheads” and neo-Nazis target people of Asian, African, or other non-European descent, as well as religious minorities, in Kyiv and throughout Ukraine (see the section on Crime below).

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, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

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

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

CRIME:
Ukraine is undergoing a significant economic, political, and social transformation, and income disparities have grown sharply.
As a result, foreign visitors may be perceived as wealthy targets for criminals.
Americans often stand out in Ukraine, and are therefore more likely to be targeted than in Western European countries, where incomes are higher and Americans may blend in better.

Most street crime ranges from various scams, simple pocket picking, purse snatching, and theft of personal items from parked cars, to mugging, armed robbery, or the drugging of unsuspecting victims at nightspots and bars (where they are then robbed).
Cases of assaults in apartment building corridors, elevators, and stairwells, as well as armed break-ins and crimes involving small caliber firearms have also been reported.
Please see the Embassy’s web site for additional security information for Americans at http://kyiv.usembassy.gov/amcit_security_eng.html.

A commonly reported scam in Kyiv is”The Wallet Scam”, which involves a person dropping a wallet or a packet of money near a potential victim. After the victim picks up the wallet and attempts to return it to the individual who “dropped” it, the perpetrator then claims that the wallet is missing money which the victim stole.
The perpetrator either threatens to call the police if the victim does not pay, or asks the victim to show his or her wallet to the perpetrator to ensure that the victim did not take any money.
When the victim produces his or her wallet, the perpetrator grabs the money and flees.
Another variant involves a second person who claims to be a police officer – who is of course involved in the crime – who approaches the victim after the wallet has been picked-up.
This second person also asks to see the wallet, grabbing the money and fleeing or, through sleight-of-hand, stealing the victim’s money.

While most travelers do not encounter problems with crime in Ukraine, there has been an increase in the number of hate crimes directed at ethnic and religious minorities over the past few years. Many of these incidents are conducted by “skinheads” or neo-Nazis in Kyiv, but similar crimes have also been reported throughout the country. In Kyiv, these incidents have occurred without provocation in prominent downtown areas commonly frequented by tourists.
While the majority of people targeted have been of Asian, African, or other non-European descent, all travelers should exercise caution.
In addition to incidents of assault, racial minorities may be subject to various types of harassment, such as being stopped on the street by both civilians and law enforcement officials. Individuals belonging to religious minorities have also been harassed and assaulted in Kyiv and throughout Ukraine.

The police and government’s slow response to hate crimes is a continuing concern.
Although senior Government of Ukraine officials (including the President and Prime Minister) have publicly deplored these hate crimes and groups, Ukrainian street level law enforcement activities are unable to effectively deter hate crimes or adequately protect racial minorities.
The Embassy has received numerous reports from victims of violent hate crimes, as well as from bystanders, stating that uniformed police officers observed the assaults and did nothing to prevent the attacks, to assist the victims afterward, or to investigate and apprehend the attackers.
The Government of Ukraine took initial steps to address the problem in the final months of 2007 with the establishment of special law enforcement units to prevent and investigate hate crimes in Ukraine.
It remains to be seen if these units will be effective.

Credit card and ATM fraud is widespread.
Ukraine operates as a cash economy, and money scams are widespread.
Although credit card and ATM use among Ukrainians is increasingly common, it is nevertheless strongly recommended that visitors and permanent residents of Ukraine refrain from using credit cards or ATM cards except at major international establishments.

Burglaries of apartments and vehicles represent a significant threat to long-term residents.
Although few cars are actually stolen, primarily because of increased use of alarm systems and security wheel locks, vehicular break-ins and vehicular vandalism are common.

Ukraine lacks reliable tourist and travel services for foreign victims of crime.
Transferring funds from the United States, replacing stolen traveler’s checks or airline tickets, or canceling credit cards can be difficult and time consuming.
There are few safe low-cost lodgings, such as youth hostels.
Public facilities in Ukraine are generally not equipped to accommodate persons with physical disabilities.

Over the past several years, the Embassy has received a number of reports of harassment and intimidation directed against foreign businesspersons and interests.
While these reports have become much less frequent in recent years, they have not ended entirely.
Reported incidents range from physical threats (possibly motivated by rival commercial interests tied to organized crime), to local government entities engaging in such practices as arbitrary termination or amendment of business licenses, dilution of corporate stock to diminish U.S. investor interest, delays of payment or delivery of goods, and arbitrary “inspections” by tax, safety or other officials that appear designed to harm the business rather than a genuine attempt at good governance. American business entities are encouraged to read the Corruption, Money Laundering and Organized Crime section of the 2007 Crime Report for Ukraine at http://kyiv.usembassy.gov/amcit_crimereport_eng.html.
American businesses and other private sector organizations are also encouraged to read the most recent Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) Annual Crime and Safety Report for Ukraine at https://www.osac.gov/Regions/country.cfm?country=42.

Computer fraud is also becoming more common in Ukraine.
Internet scams appear to be on the rise.
The Embassy suggests refraining from wiring money unless the recipient is well-known and the purpose of business is clear.
American citizens have reported transferring money to Ukraine to pay for goods purchased from residents of Ukraine via online auction sites, but never receiving the goods in return.
The Embassy regularly receives complaints from Americans regarding scams involving marriage and dating services.
Numerous Americans have lost money to agencies and individuals that claimed they could arrange for student or fiancée visas to the U.S.
Additional information is available on our web site in a document titled “Marriage Brokers” at http://kyiv.usembassy.gov/amcit_marriage_eng.html and on the Department of State’s web site under Ukraine: Internet and Other Fraud Schemes.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.
In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you 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 provide a list of local attorneys who have informed the Embassy that they are willing to take foreign clients.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
In December 2005, Ukraine reported the first cases of H5N1 (“avian influenza,” "avian flu," "bird flu," "chicken flu") among birds in Crimea.
Further outbreaks followed in 2006.
On January 18, 2008, another outbreak of the H5N1 avian influenza virus was detected at a poultry farm in the Krasnogvardiyskyi Rayon in Crimea. There are no registered human cases of H5N1 in Ukraine.
For detailed information on H5N1, please review the Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.

The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of hospitals and clinics with some English-speaking staff.
Many facilities have only limited English speakers.
There are no hospitals in Ukraine that provide a level of medical care equal to that found in American hospitals, or which accept American health insurance plans for payment (see the section on Medical Insurance below).
Some facilities are adequate for basic services.
Basic medical supplies are available; however, travelers requiring prescription medicine should bring their own.
Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities.
When a patient is hospitalized, the patient, relative, or acquaintance must supply bandages, medication, and food.
The Embassy recommends that ill or infirm persons not travel to Ukraine.
The Embassy also recommends that travelers obtain private medical evacuation insurance prior to traveling to Ukraine.

Medical evacuation remains the best way to secure western medical care.
This option, however, is very expensive and could take at least several hours to arrange.
Travelers may wish to purchase medical evacuation insurance prior to travel, or have access to substantial lines of credit to cover the cost of medical evacuation.
The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy has information on various air ambulance companies that perform medical evacuations to Europe or to the U.S.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to other European countries can cost from $25,000 to $50,000, and to the U.S. as much as $70,000 or more.
More information can be found on the U.S. Embassy's web site in the document “Medical Services in Kyiv” at http://usembassy.kiev.ua/amcit_medical_serv_eng.html.

Please note that while the Embassy can help American travelers and their families make contact with a medical evacuation service, the U.S. Government cannot pay for medical evacuation.
Travelers should make sure they have medical evacuation insurance, which is available from many private companies, or have funds available for evacuation, should the need arise.

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, http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Ukraine.
For further information, please consult the CDC’s Travel Notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.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.

RADIATION AND NUCLEAR SAFETY:
In 1986, the Chornobyl incident resulted in the largest short-term, unintentional, accidental release of radioactive materials to the atmosphere ever recorded.
The highest areas of radioactive ground contamination occurred within thirty kilometers of the Chornobyl nuclear power station.
The city of Kyiv was not badly affected because of the wind direction, but it was not completely spared.
The last operating reactor at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant site closed officially on December 15, 2000. All identified stabilization measures on the existing sarcophagus are complete, and preparatory work to start construction of the new shelter is almost nearing completion. The contract for the new Chornobyl shelter was awarded in September 2007 and its construction is projected to be completed in 2012.

The Ukrainian government has an effective program of monitoring fresh foods and meats sold in local markets.
Street purchase of produce should be avoided.
Wild berries, mushrooms, and wild fowl and game should be avoided, as these have been found to retain higher than average levels of radiation.
Background levels of radiation are monitored regularly by the Embassy and, to date, have not exceeded the level found on the Eastern seaboard of the United States. If external radiation levels are high enough to require evacuation, the U.S. Embassy will notify the American community through the Embassy warden e-mail and text messaging system.

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.

The Ukrainian parliament passed a law in 1997 whereby all visitors to Ukraine are required to obtain mandatory health insurance. According to information from the Ukrainian authorities, the cost of this medical insurance depends on the anticipated length of a foreigner's stay in Ukraine.
The cost for the insurance is approximately 25 cents per day (more for short stays).
This required insurance can be purchased after arrival and covers only the costs of basic medical care inside Ukraine; it does not cover medical evacuation.
Failure to purchase mandatory health insurance often results in refusal of treatment at Ukrainian public hospitals and clinics.
Private clinics do not require Ukrainian public health insurance, but can be as expensive as similar clinics in the United States and may require payment in advance
More information can be found online in Ukrainian at http://www.pro100.com.ua, or by calling +38 (044) 206 2885 from abroad or 8-800-500-1080 from within Ukraine.

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 Ukraine is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Generally, roads in Ukraine outside major urban areas are in poor condition and are poorly lit.
Visitors should drive defensively at all times, since local drivers often disregard traffic rules.
Drivers are often poorly trained or drive without a valid driver's license.
Drivers can also be very aggressive, and they normally do not respect the rights of pedestrians, even at clearly marked pedestrian crossings.
Pedestrians should also be aware of cars driving or attempting to park on sidewalks.
Many cars do not meet the safety standards common in America.

Due to heavy traffic and congested roads, vehicle accidents are a common occurrence in larger Ukrainian cities, especially in Kyiv. In Ukraine, it is mandatory for motorists involved in vehicle accidents not to remove the vehicle from the site of the accident, unless it presents a clear safety concern. Local police must be notified and will report to the scene to conduct an investigation. Persons should be prepared to wait until the police arrive and complete their report. Due to traffic and slow response, it may take up to several hours for police to arrive. When police arrive, they will ascertain responsibility, take the drivers’ personal information, and file a report of the accident.

Cross-country travel at night and in winter can be particularly dangerous.
The Embassy strongly recommends that visitors and permanent residents of Ukraine refrain from driving their private vehicles after dark outside of major cities.
However, major roads are drivable during daylight hours.
Roadside services such as gas stations and repair facilities are becoming more common, particularly on the main national and regional overland highways and in large and mid-size cities.

Nonetheless, such services are far from American standards, and travelers should plan accordingly.
There have been isolated reports of carjackings of western-made or foreign-registered cars.
There has also been an increase in the number of documented reports of criminal acts (primarily theft) occurring on trains and other modes of public transport.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ukraine’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Ukraine’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Ukraine does not recognize dual nationality.
American citizens entering Ukraine with a Ukrainian passport will be treated as Ukrainian citizens by the local authorities.
This may include being required to perform mandatory military service.
Also, Ukrainians who have immigrated to the U.S. without obtaining the proper exit visa from Ukrainian authorities may be subject to civil or criminal penalties, and will be required to obtain an exit visa before returning to the U.S.
For additional information, see the Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov/index.html for our Dual Nationality flyer.

Ukraine is a cash economy.
Traveler’s checks and credit cards are gaining wider acceptance in larger cities.
Even in Kyiv, however, acceptance of credit cards is not nearly as widespread as in the U.S. or in Western European countries.
Expect credit card use to be limited to major hotels, upscale restaurants, international airlines, and the rapidly growing, but still select number of up-market stores.

Exchanging U.S. dollars into the national Ukrainian currency, hryvnya, is simple and unproblematic, as licensed exchange booths are widespread, and exchange rates are normally clearly advertised.
Currency exchange is only legal at such licensed exchange booths, banks, and currency exchange desks at hotels; anyone caught dealing on the black market can expect to be detained by the local militia.

There are many banks and licensed currency exchange booths located in major cities.
ATMs (a.k.a. bankomats) are becoming more common throughout Ukraine, particularly in Kyiv and in other larger cities.
In smaller cities and towns, ATMs are still virtually non-existent.
Most ATMs disperse cash only in the local currency, hryvnya. The difficulties of a currency shortage can be avoided by coming to Ukraine with a sufficient supply of hard currency to cover necessary obligations during travel.
Funds may be transferred by wire, advances may be drawn on credit cards, and traveler’s checks may be cashed at many locations.
Again, the Embassy emphasizes that the incidence of credit card and ATM bankcard fraud is high, and strongly recommends that visitors and permanent residents of Ukraine refrain from using local ATMs.

Customs regulations prohibit sending cash, traveler’s checks, personal checks, credit cards, passports, or other forms of identification through the international mail system, as well as via courier mail (FedEx, DHL, etc.).
Customs authorities regularly confiscate these items as contraband.
Ukrainian customs authorities may also enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Ukraine of items such as firearms, antiquities, currency, etc.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, or one of Ukraine's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
As in many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Ukrainian law requires that travelers declare all cash and jewelry, regardless of value, upon entering Ukraine.
Travelers should fill out a customs declaration and ask customs officials to stamp it.
According to Ukrainian law, foreign citizens may bring up to $15,000 in cash, or up to $30,000 in traveler’s checks, into Ukraine without a special license.
A traveler must declare the imported currency.
If customs officials determine that a traveler entering or exiting the country is carrying undeclared currency, they can and often do confiscate the undeclared funds.
When leaving the country, foreign travelers are only allowed to take out a maximum of $3,000 in cash, or as much cash as they declared upon their entry into Ukraine.
If a traveler wants to take out more than $3,000, the traveler must have a customs declaration proving that he or she in fact brought the corresponding sum of money into the country.

Travelers desiring to bring more than $15,000 into Ukraine must obtain a special license AFTER entering the country.
Details for obtaining this license are available on the Embassy's web site in the document “Ukrainian Customs: Procedures for Transporting Currencies, Monetary Instruments, or Precious Metals” at http://kyiv.usembassy.gov/amcit_travel_ukrcustoms_eng.html.
Ukraine has strict limitations for the export of antiques and other goods and artifacts deemed to be of particularly important historical or cultural value.
This includes any items produced before 1950.

Ukraine is a developing democratic nation undergoing significant political, economic, and governmental reform.
This includes reform of police and emergency services.
Visitors should be aware that although Ukrainian police and emergency services have made much progress, they still generally remain below Western European and U.S. standards in terms of training, responsiveness, and effectiveness.
American citizens have reported waiting sometimes hours for Ukrainian police and ambulance services to respond to calls for emergency assistance.
Although this may generally be atypical, it does nevertheless occur.

It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, or one of Ukraine's consulates in the United States, for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

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 Ukraine’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ukraine 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, 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 Ukraine 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 Ukraine.
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 Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is located at #6 Mykoly Pymonenka St., 01901 Kyiv, Ukraine. Telephone: (38-044) 490-4422, fax 486-3393. The American Citizen Services unit is located at the same address and can be reached at (38-044) 490-4445
The Embassy is located at #10 Yuriy Kotsyubynsky St. 01901 Kyiv, Ukraine. Tel.: (38-044) 490-4000.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information Sheet dated February 15, 2008 to update the sections on Safety and Security and Crime.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon 18 Nov 2019
Source: 112.UA [edited]

Eight school classes in Odesa [Odessa] have been closed for quarantine. More than 30% of school students in these classes are sick with Coxsackie virus, a highly contagious respiratory disease, said Olena Buynevych, the director of the city hall's department for science and education, as quoted by UNN news agency.

"More than 30% of students in these classes are sick wi h acute
respiratory diseases, which include cases of cases and Coxsackievirus," the official said. She urged the parents to keep the children away from schools in case they have any symptoms of acute respiratory diseases.

The symptoms are basically the same as flu; the key difference is the rash on the palms, in case of the Coxsackievirus.

Coxsackievirus is a member of a family of viruses called enteroviruses. Enteroviruses are made up of a single strand of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The enteroviruses are also referred to as picornaviruses ("pico" means "small," so, "small RNA viruses"). They are present all over the world and spread by fecal-oral route. About 90% of infections don't cause symptoms or present with a fever only. Infants and young kids are particularly susceptible to symptomatic coxsackie.
======================
[Coxsackievirus belongs to a family of nonenveloped, linear, positive-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses, Picornaviridae and the genus _Enterovirus_, which also includes poliovirus and echovirus. Enteroviruses are among the most common and important human pathogens, and ordinarily its members are transmitted by the fecal-oral route. Coxsackieviruses share many characteristics with poliovirus. With control of poliovirus infections in much of the world, more attention has been focused on understanding the nonpolio enteroviruses such as coxsackievirus.

Coxsackieviruses are divided into group A and group B viruses based on early observations of their pathogenicity in neonatal mice. In general, group A coxsackieviruses tend to infect the skin and mucous membranes, causing herpangina, acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis, and hand, foot, and mouth (HFM) disease. Both group A and group B coxsackieviruses can cause nonspecific febrile illnesses, rashes, upper respiratory tract disease, and aseptic meningitis.

Group B coxsackieviruses tend to infect the heart, pleura, pancreas, and liver, causing pleurodynia, myocarditis, pericarditis, and hepatitis (inflammation of the liver not related to the hepatotropic viruses). Coxsackie B infection of the heart can lead to pericardial effusion.

The development of insulin-dependent diabetes (IDDM) has recently been associated with recent enteroviral infection, particularly coxsackievirus B pancreatitis.

It is common for the coxsackievirus to cause a febrile upper respiratory tract infection with sore throat and/or a runny nose. Some patients have a cough resembling bronchitis. Less commonly, coxsackievirus may cause pneumonia. Some people with coxsackievirus have a rash. In many, this is a nonspecific generalized red rash or clusters of fine red spots. The rash may not appear until the infection has started to get better.

Coxsackievirus is spread from person to person. The virus is present in the secretions and bodily fluids of infected people. The virus may be spread by coming into contact with respiratory secretions from infected patients. If infected people rub their runny noses and then touch a surface, that surface can harbor the virus and become a source of infection. People who have infected eyes (conjunctivitis) can spread the virus by touching their eyes and touching other people or surfaces. Conjunctivitis may spread rapidly and appear within one day of exposure to the virus. Coxsackieviruses are also shed in stool, which may be a source of transmission among young children. The virus can be spread if unwashed hands get contaminated with fecal matter and then touch the face. This is particularly important for spread within  day-care centers or nurseries where diapers are handled. Diarrhoea is the most common sign of coxsackievirus intestinal infection.

Most infections are self-limiting, and no specific treatment is required or available. Some options include intravenous immune globulin (IVIG), which contains antibodies and may be somewhat effective.

HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Odesa oblast, Ukraine: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/51897>]
Date: Mon 28 Oct 2019, 12:41 PM
Source: 112 International [edited]

"A total of 15 students of the secondary school No. 7 in Chernihiv were hospitalized with suspicion of hepatitis A on [28 Oct 2019]," the press service of Ukraine's State Emergency Service reports. It is noted that at the moment a complex of epidemic prevention measures are being carried out.

Besides, a 2018 hepatitis outbreak was spotted in Mykolaiv -- 47 people were hospitalized with a confirmed diagnosis.
========================
[With this number of cases admitted with the suspicion of acute hepatitis A on the same day, it is likely that a point-source outbreak related to a food or water source occurred. The definitive test for the disease is the finding of IgM anti-HAV in the blood.

Chernihiv, also known as Chernigov, is a historic city in northern Ukraine, which serves as the administrative centre of the Chernihiv Oblast (province), as well as of the surrounding Chernihiv Raion (district) within the oblast. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Thu 24 Oct 2019 (accessed Mon 28 Oct 2019)
Source: Ministry of Health, Ukraine, press release [in Ukrainian, machine trans., edited]

In Ukraine, the 1st confirmed case of vaccine-associated paralytic polio has occurred in a 2 year old child from Volyn Oblast. The parents deliberately refused the vaccinations provided by medical standards. Recent cases of illness in Ukraine were recorded in 2015 and 2017.

Pathogenesis of the disease
---------------------------
Sources of the disease: a person who is ill or a carrier that carries the virus asymptomatically. Fecal-oral routes (dirty hands, water, contaminated food, excrement) and airborne droplets are considered as transmission routes.

Symptoms: In most cases, the disease first goes unnoticed, which worsens the patient's chances of recovery; then there are signs that are different in nature, depending on the form of the virus. You can learn more about the symptoms on the website of the Public Health Center at <https://old.phc.org.ua/pages/diseases/other_social_diseases/poliomyelitis>  [in Ukrainian]

The incubation period of the disease is 2-35 days, more often 7-14 days. The following types of disease are classified: with and without lesions of the central nervous system (CNS). It should be noted that even atypical poliomyelitis (without lesion of the CNS) is capable of seriously harming the patient. They all pose a significant threat to the unvaccinated person and cause irreversible processes that can lead to death.

Myths and refutations
---------------------
On World Polio Day [24 October], the Ministry of Health of Ukraine dispels myths that provoke refusal of immunization. Common among parents is talk about the dangers of vaccination and the side effects of vaccination. You can read more about refuting these stereotypes at <https://moz.gov.ua/article/health/9-mifiv-pro-vakcinaciju> [in Ukrainian].

Why are vaccines safe?
----------------------
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is using several vaccines to combat the disease. In Ukraine, there are 2 types -- the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and the oral polio vaccine (OPV). Both vaccines are purchased through the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and have a World Health Organization  ualification that guarantees quality and ongoing monitoring of manufacturers. For more information on vaccine production standards, go to: <https://moz.gov.ua/article/news/nichogo-krim-pravdi-5-faktiv-pro-vakcini>  [in Ukrainian]

The WHO website explains:
- OPV is one of the safest vaccines invented by humanity and used to immunize newborns;
- it is so safe that it can be used even when the baby is sick;
- OPV is used several times to achieve the maximum immunity of the vaccine, but the increase in the number of vaccinations does not increase the risk of side effects.

Where, when, and who should be vaccinated?
------------------------------------------
Polio vaccination is required from the birth of a baby. Vaccination must be carried out in a comprehensive manner, without missing any dose, to increase the body's resistance to the disease.
1st dose - at 2 months of baby's life;
2nd dose - at 4 months;
3rd dose - at 6 months;
4th dose - at 18 months;
5th dose - at 6 years;
6th dose - at 14 years.

Free polio vaccination is available from your family doctor or pediatrician at public health facilities, as well as from private contractors with the National Health Service of Ukraine. More information is available at <https://moz.gov.ua/article/immunization/chomu-v-aptekah-i-privatnih-klinikah-mozhe-ne-buti-vakcin-ta-de-zrobiti-scheplennja-bezoplatno> [in Ukrainian].

The only way to protect yourself and your children from the effects of this disease is vaccination, as there is no specific treatment. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine recommends that you consult the calendar of preventive vaccinations at <https://moz.gov.ua/article/immunization/kalendar-profilaktichnih-scheplen>  [in Ukrainian]
--------------------------------------
communicated by:
Viki Hansen-Landis, RN, MPH
Medical Information and Analysis team, International SOS
======================
[According to information from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Ukraine had 2 cases of cVDPV1 confirmed in 2015 (see <http://polioeradication.org/polio-today/polio-now/this-week/circulating-vaccine-derived-poliovirus/> for table of cVDPVs by type and year, and see Poliomyelitis update (05): Ukraine, vaccine-derived, WHO http://promedmail.org/post/20150901.3616558 and Poliomyelitis update (04): Ukraine, 2 cases, RFI http://promedmail.org/post/20150901.3616015 for details on these cases). No additional cases of cVDPV were reported by the Ukraine to WHO in 2017. If there is additional information on case(s) reported in 2017, ProMED-mail would greatly appreciate receiving it, as well as information on the serotype of cVDPV associated with this current case.

The addition of this case will bring the total number of cVDPV associated cases confirmed with date of onset in 2019 to 103, and the number of countries reporting cVDPV associated paralytic cases to 20.

Maps of Ukraine can be seen at
and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/123>.
Volyn oblast is located in the north west of Ukraine, sharing a border with Poland to the west and Belarus to the north. - ProMED Mod.MPP]
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2019 19:34:04 +0200 (METDST)

Kiev, Aug 22, 2019 (AFP) - Around 200 anti-vaccine protesters rallied in central Kiev Thursday after authorities threatened to ban unvaccinated children from schools in Ukraine, which has been hit by a deadly measles outbreak.   Ukraine has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe and has recorded more than 57,000 measles cases since the start of the year, including 18 deaths.

This is a record number of cases since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.    "I came here with my child to protect her right for education without vaccination, without injecting poison into her blood," said 29-year-old Iryna Lazutkina, who was at the protest with her young daughter.   "Vaccination is a ticking time bomb," she said, suggesting that it could lead to allergies, autoimmune diseases and even cancer -- claims which are not backed up by medical research.    Authorities blame distrust of vaccines among a section of the population, as well as an earlier shortage of medical supplies, for the current outbreak.   In mid-August, the government threatened to ban unvaccinated children from schools.    This year the health ministry organised mass vaccinations in schools in areas most affected by the crisis.

Acting health minister Ulyana Suprun last week warned of the likelihood of diphtheria and tetanus outbreaks because of low vaccination rates.   But the protesters, many of them young parents with children, insisted they had the right to refuse vaccinations.    "I am for free choice and against discrimination," said Alla Fedorchuk, a 25-year-old who travelled to the capital from the western city of Lutsk.    Her three-year-old son has not been vaccinated. Fedorchuk said a relative suffered side effects after vaccination.

Some protesters carried banners that read "Forced medical intervention is a crime."    Kateryna Bulavinova, a consultant with the UN children's agency UNICEF, said local doctors' lack of knowledge about vaccines was a reason why many missed out on them.   Bulavinova said that doctors and nurses must explain to patients in detail how the vaccine works and what kind of reactions are normal.    "When there is this understanding, the fear goes away," she said.   According to the UNICEF survey, Ukrainians were most likely to be put off vaccines because of fears of side effects or a distrust of the manufacturers.   There is growing concern over global public resistance to vaccinations.

Measles cases nearly tripled globally during the first seven months of the year compared to the same period in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this month.    Measles, which is highly contagious, can be entirely prevented through a two-dose vaccine, but the WHO has in recent months sounded the alarm over vaccination rates.    The airborne infection causing fever, coughing and rashes can be deadly in rare cases and had been officially eliminated in many countries with advanced healthcare systems.
Date: Wed 14 Aug 2019
Source: Unian [abridged, edited]

Director of the Department of Health of Kyiv Valentyna Hinzburh has said that an outbreak of measles in Kyiv has become the largest since the independence of Ukraine.

According to her, over 5000 people fell ill with measles in Kyiv in 6 months of 2019, of which almost 3000 were adults. This is 3 times the figure recorded in the same period of 2018. About 50% of patients required hospitalization due to the severe course of the disease. This year [2019], 2 adults died from measles, as they were not vaccinated and reported to the doctor too late.

Ukraine is among the countries that have reported the highest numbers of measles cases in 2019.

"Today, nothing but vaccines will protect Kyiv from outbreaks and epidemics of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases," Hinzburh said. She said the current situation in the capital and Ukraine as a whole was a result of reduced collective immunity. "Here are just a few figures that are staggering. In 2015, 5 people got measles in Kyiv, 3 in 2016, 87 in 2017, 3045 in 2018, and over 5000 for 6 months in 2019!" she said.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2019 22:38:09 +0100 (MET)

Bogota, Nov 21, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of Colombians took to the streets of the capital Bogota on Thursday amid a general strike to protest the policies of President Ivan Duque's right-wing government.   There were no reported outbreaks of major violence as trade unions, students, opposition parties and the South American country's indigenous organizations challenged the full gamut of Duque's economic, social and security policies.   "It is an accumulation of situations that we hope to see reviewed after today, including a great national dialogue of conciliation," Robert Gomez, president of the main workers' union, told AFP.   The protest comes amid social upheaval across South America, as a wave of unrest over the past two months has battered governments in Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador.   The popularity of Duque's right-wing government -- a key US ally -- has been on the wane since his election 18 months ago, as it deals with hosting 1.4 million refugees from neighboring Venezuela's economic meltdown as well as the complex fallout of a 2016 peace deal with FARC rebels and rampant drug trafficking.

- Troops deployed -
Troops were deployed in the capital and other cities to protect "strategic facilities," authorities said.   The Colombian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced concern over the deployment, saying states must limit the use of military forces "for the control of internal disturbances."   Authorities said the protests were largely peaceful, though riot police fired tear gas to break up groups of demonstrators in isolated clashes in Bogota and the western city of Cali. Blocked roads in some areas snarled transportation.

The general strike was widely followed in Bogota, and other big cities like Bucaramanga in the northeast and Medellin in the northwest.   Several separate marches converged on Bolivar Square, the historic center of the capital close to the presidency.   "We are marching because in Colombia we are tired of corruption, of impunity, that the government does nothing for the poor," Olga Canon, 55, told AFP.   Organizations that participated in the strike take issue with Duque's security policy as well as attempts to introduce a more flexible labor market, weaken public pension funds and raise the retirement age.   Students are demanding more funding for education, while indigenous communities insist on greater protection in remote areas where 134 activists have been killed since Duque came to power in August 2018.

- 'Afraid to march' -
"We are very afraid to march in the streets but we do it anyway because the state is spreading so much fear with its militarization and by closing the borders," political science student Valentina Gaitan, 21, told AFP.    Duque admitted some of the criticisms were legitimate in a televised speech on the eve of the strike, but said the campaign against his government was based on lies seeking to provoke violence.   "We recognize the value of peaceful protests, but also guarantee order," he said.   The borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela were closed until Friday to avoid any threat to "public order and security," authorities said.   Political analyst Jason Marczak said the outrage against the government, the target of several demonstrations in recent months, is part of a "considerable demonstration of discontent in the region."   "The unsatisfied claims and deep polarization are the basis for this massive event," said Marczak, of the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2019 09:12:36 +0100 (MET)

Bangkok, Nov 21, 2019 (AFP) - A shallow 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit north-western Laos near the Thai border early Thursday, the United States Geological Survey reported, alarming locals who felt buildings shake as far away as Bangkok.  The quake hit at 6:50am (2350 GMT Wednesday), roughly three hours after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake in the same region triggered an immediate suspension to Laos' largest-capacity power plant located near its epicentre.    Tremors could be felt more than 700 kilometres (435 miles) away in the Thai capital, where Pope Francis is currently on a four-day visit.    "The shaking... was the main shock from a quake in Laos at 6:50 am and was felt in northern and northeastern Thailand and Bangkok and suburbs," said Sophon Chaila, an official at the Thai Meteorological Department.

The department said the quake affected nine provinces in Thailand and there were four lesser aftershocks.    It also became a top trending topic on Twitter in Thailand, as locals shared videos of swaying overhead lights and rattling window blinds in office buildings.    Residents in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi also felt buildings sway.    "The ceiling lights were shaking quite strongly. I felt dizzy and scared," said Hanoi resident Tran Hoa Phuong, who felt the earthquake in her 27-storey apartment building.    After the first quake, the 1,878-megawatt Hongsa Power Plant -- Laos' largest-capacity thermal energy generator -- immediately suspended operations according to a statement from the Thai-owned company.

No "fundamental" damages or injuries have been found so far, "merely damages to the external texture of the buildings", it said, adding that Hongsa is expected to take 24 hours to complete its inspection.    Photos shared by Thai news showed portions of the power plant's walls had collapsed, and debris littered its premises.    Nearby Xayaburi dam project, one of Laos' largest hydropower dams, has seen "no impact" so far, and is continuing to generate electricity "as normal", said a statement from CK Power.   Information is slow to trickle out of the closed communist state, and there were similarly no official reports of injuries after the twin quakes hit early Thursday.

Impoverished Laos has ploughed ahead with ambitious dam-building projects that critics say lack transparency and stringent safety measures.   The cost was laid bare last year when a massive hydropower project collapsed in southern Laos, killing dozens and leaving thousands homeless.   Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday and has a busy agenda Thursday meeting officials and the Thai king before he leads a mass in the evening.    There was no word from his team on whether he felt the quake.    Powerful earthquakes occasionally strike hard in Southeast Asia.   In 2016 a 6.8-magnitude quake struck Myanmar, killing at least three people and damaging temples in the ancient temple town of Bagan.
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2019 14:25:40 +0100 (MET)

Ottawa, Nov 19, 2019 (AFP) - Train operators at Canadian National Railway went on strike on Tuesday after months of contract talks failed, effectively shutting down the largest rail network in Canada.   The union representing more than 3,000 CN workers had given a midnight (0500 GMT) deadline to reach a deal to replace an agreement that expired in July.   "Unfortunately, we were unable to reach a deal with CN," the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said in a statement.   "The company remains unwilling to address our member's health and safety issues. As a result, members at CN will be on strike... at 00:01 Eastern Time."

The workers had expressed concerns over long hours and fatigue leading to dangerous working conditions. Wages are not in dispute.   The labour dispute follows layoffs of 1,600 staff in North America announced by CN on Friday.    Employment Minister Patty Hajdu has encouraged both sides to continue the negotiations and reach an agreement.    "We are monitoring the situation closely," she said on Saturday after the Teamsters gave a 72-hour strike notice.
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2019 09:24:19 +0100 (MET)

Wellington, Nov 19, 2019 (AFP) - The death toll from a measles outbreak raging in the Pacific nation of Samoa has risen to 15, with most of the victims young children, UNICEF said Tuesday.   The UN children's agency said that suspected measles cases had topped 1,000 in the island nation, which has declared a state of emergency and launched a compulsory vaccination programme.   "The epidemic has claimed the lives of 14 children under-five years old and one adult," it said in a statement.   UNICEF said it was in the process of delivering more than 110,000 doses of measles vaccine to Samoa's population of about 200,000.   With the virus sweeping through the South Pacific, the agency said it had also sent vaccines to Tonga and Fiji.

Officials were also helping with preparations for potential outbreaks in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.   It said Samoa, which is by far the worst affected, had low measles vaccination rates of 28-40 percent.   In Tonga and Fiji, which have vaccination rates of 99 percent and 81 percent respectively, the outbreak is more contained and there have been no fatalities.   Children are the most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to brain damage and death.   Samoa has closed all schools and kindergartens, as well as banning children from public gatherings, in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.    After initially facing criticism for its slow response, the government had opened a national emergency operations centre to roll out mass vaccinations.
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2019 19:25:45 +0100 (MET)

Srinagar, India, Nov 18, 2019 (AFP) - An avalanche on Monday hit an Indian patrol in the world's highest militarised zone in the Himalayas, killing four soldiers and two porters, an army spokesman said.   The disaster was the latest on the Siachen Glacier at more than 5,000 metres (16,500 feet) that is claimed by India and rival Pakistan.

Hundreds of troops from both sides have died in avalanches and from the fierce climate in the region over the past three decades.   An Indian military spokesman told AFP that the avalanche engulfed eight people in the patrol at the northern end of the glacier in the Karakoram mountain range.   Rescue teams managed to dig the patrol members out of the snow, and they were taken by helicopter to hospital.   "Despite best efforts, six casualties which includes four soldiers and two civilian porters succumbed to extreme hypothermia," said the spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia.

Avalanches are common on the 700-square-kilometre (270-square-mile) glacier, where temperatures regularly fall to minus 60 degrees Celsius (-76 Fahrenheit).   In 2016, 10 Indian soldiers were buried and killed.   About 900 Indian soldiers alone have died on the glacier since 1984, when Indian forces took complete control of Siachen.   The glacier is located at the northern end of the Line of Control that divides Kashmir, which India and Pakistan have fought over since 1947.
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2019 16:10:29 +0100 (MET)

Vienna, Nov 18, 2019 (AFP) - A man died on Monday in a landslide that destroyed much of his home in southern Austria, which has been hit by heavy rainfall and snow affecting transport and electricity.   The retiree was behind his house in Carinthia state when part of the hill above it slid off, killing the 79-year-old, police said.   Earlier Monday, two women were rescued from the rubble of two houses after another landslide, this one in the spa town of Bad Gastein in Salzburg state.   Salzburg, Tyrol and Carinthia states have all seen heavy rain and snowfall since last week, leading to power cuts in thousands of homes.   Many roads and railway lines have also been cut, and several schools in these areas remained closed on Monday.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 13:19:27 +0100 (MET)

Karachi, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - Lightning strikes killed at least 18 people and injured several more during a deadly night in Pakistan's Thar desert, police said Friday, describing the deaths as "unprecedented".   Thunderstorms and a heavy downpour caused havoc in several villages, destroying dozens of homes, in an unusual rainfall event that a meteorologist says could be linked to climate change.

It was the lightning strikes in 18 different places which had the greatest impact.   "We have so far confirmation of 18 deaths in our district," Abdulah Ahmed, the police chief of the region -- which is located in southern Sindh province and stretches over 22,000 square kilometres (8,500 square miles)-- told AFP.   He said that officers in each village had verified that each death was caused by lightning strike.    In contrast, lightning kills an average of three people each year in the UK, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

The Thar desert, straddling the Indian border and one of Pakistan's poorest areas, is dependent on monsoon rains.   But such a heavy rainfall in November is "unusual", while "lightning of that intensity is unprecedented," said Dr Syed Sarfraz, a senior meteorological officer in Karachi.   He said the causes were still being investigated but suggested hot air over the desert had met with a cold air mass entering from Iran, fuelling the storms. Climate change could also be playing a role, he added.    Dozens of tents and blankets were dispatched from Karachi in a relief effort for the families who lost their homes in the rain.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 09:41:09 +0100 (MET)

Phnom Penh, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country's famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.   The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom's foreign tourists -- which topped six million in 2018 -- and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples.

But these rides "will end by the start of 2020", said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.   "Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore," he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were "already old".   So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometres (25 miles) away from the temples.   "They will live out their natural lives there," Kosal said.   The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added. 

Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.    The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.   In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.   The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 05:28:34 +0100 (MET)

Bangkok, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - A French tourist has died after falling from a waterfall while trying to take a selfie in Thailand, police said Friday.   The accident happened Thursday afternoon on the tropical island of Koh Samui, whose palm-fringed, white-sand beaches are a magnet for both backpackers and high-end tourists.   The 33-year-old man fell from Na Mueang 2 waterfall, the same spot where a Spanish tourist died in a fall in July, Lieutenant Phuvadol Viriyavarangkul of the island's tourist police told AFP.

"It took several hours to retrieve his body because the waterfall is slippery and steep," he said by phone, adding that the spot is roped off and there is a sign warning tourists of the danger.   "His friend said he was trying to take a selfie and then he slipped and fell."   Thailand is largely considered a safe destination for tourists and typically draws more than 35 million visitors each year.    But the industry took a hit in 2018 after a ferry carrying Chinese visitors in the country's south sank last year, killing 47 people.   The accident highlighted lax safety rules in the tourism sector and authorities have been scrambling to restore the country's image since.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 01:13:41 +0100 (MET)
By Sophie PONS

Dakhla, Western Sahara, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - In the heart of disputed Western Sahara, a former garrison town has become an unlikely tourist magnet after kitesurfers discovered the windswept desert coast was perfect for their sport.  In Dakhla, an Atlantic seaport town punctuated with military buildings in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, swarms of kitesurfers now sail in the lagoon daily.y    "Here there is nothing other than sun, wind and waves. We turned the adversity of the elements to our advantage: that's the very principle of kitesurfing," said Rachid Roussafi. 

After an international career in windsurfing and kitesurfing, Roussafi founded the first tourist camp at the lagoon at the start of the 2000s.    "At the time, a single flight a week landed in Dakhla," the 49-year-old Moroccan said.   Today, there are 25 a week, including direct flights to Europe.   "Dakhla has become a world destination for kitesurfing," said Mohamed Cherif, a regional politician.

Tourist numbers have jumped from 25,000 in 2010 to 100,000 today, he said, adding they hoped to reach 200,000 annual visitors.    The former Spanish garrison is booming today with the visitor influx adding to fishing and trade revenue.   Kitesurfing requires pricey gear -- including a board, harness and kite -- and the niche tourism spot attracts well-off visitors of all nationalities.    Peyo Camillade came from France "to extend the summer season", with a week's holiday costing about 1,500 euros ($1,660). 

Only the names of certain sites, like PK 25 (kilometre point 25), ruined forts in the dunes and the imposing and still in-use military buildings in Dakhla, remind tourists of the region's history of conflict.   In the 1970s, Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, and fought a war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front from 1975 to 1991, when a ceasefire deal was agreed.   A United Nations mission was deployed to monitor the truce and prepare a referendum on Western Sahara's independence from Morocco, but it never materialized.   Without waiting for the political compromise that the UN has been negotiating for decades, hotels have sprouted from the sand along the coast, and rows of streetlights on vacant lots announce future subdivisions.

- 'Good communication' -
"The secret to success is to develop kitesurfing with good communication focused on the organisation of non-political events," said Driss Senoussi, head of the Dakhla Attitude hotel group.    Accordingly, the exploits of kitesurfing champions like Brazilian Mikaili Sol and the Cape Verdian Airton Cozzolino were widely shared online during the World Kiteboarding Championships in Dakhla last month.   The competition seemed to hold little interest for Dakhla's inhabitants however.

Only a few young people with nothing to do and strolling families found themselves on the beach for the finals.   Just as rare are the foreign tourists who venture into the town of 100,000 residents to shop.   Like her friends, Alexandra Paterek prefers to stay at her hotel, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) from downtown.    "Here is the best place in the world for learning kitesurfing," said the 31-year-old Polish stewardess.    On her understanding of the broader regional context, she said: "It's an old Spanish colony and they have good seafood, for sure."

Like many tourists, she was under the impression that the area belonged to Morocco, as the destination tends to be marketed in the travel industry as "Dakhla, Morocco".   That angers the Polisario, which wants independence for the disputed region and tried last year in vain to sue businesses it said were "accomplices to the occupying military power."   The independence movement is now focused on challenging commercial deals between Morocco and the European Union that involve Western Sahara, according to the group's French lawyer Gilles Devers.   Moroccan authorities are looking actively for investors for their development projects on the west coast, the most ambitious being the Dakhla Atlantique megaport with a budget of about $1 billion to promote fishing.

- Environmental concerns -
On the lagoon, surrounded by white sand and with its holiday bungalows, "there is a struggle between developing aquaculture and tourism," said a senior regional representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity.    "One has less impact on the environment, but the other generates more revenue and jobs," said the representative, adding that "pressure from real-estate investors is very high."

With the influx of tourists, the protection of the environment has become a major concern.   "Everything is developing so quickly... we need to recycle plastic waste and resolve the issue of wastewater," said Rachid Roussafi.    Daniel Bellocq, a retired French doctor, worries for the future of this lagoon, that was "once so wild" that he has kitesurfed in for 20 years.   "There is green algae that wasn't there before, it's becoming a septic tank," he said.   Regional councillor Cherif, though, insists the bay is clean, saying: "All the hotels are equipped with wastewater management systems."   For him, the real threat is from plastic waste, whether it is dropped by tourists or brought by sea currents.