May 12, 2008
The five islands of Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius (or “Statia”) and St. Maarten (Dutch side) comprise the Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All Americans traveling by air outside the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. This requirement will be extended to sea travel (except closed loop cruises), including ferry service, by the summer of 2009. Until then, U.S. citizens traveling by sea must have government-issued photo identification and a document showing their U.S. citizenship (for example, a birth certificate or certificate of nationalization), or other document compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, such as a passport card for entry or re-entry to the U.S. Sea travelers should also check with their cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements.
Applications for the new U.S. Passport Card are now being accepted. Based on current projections, we expect to begin production of the passport card in June 2008 and be in full production in July 2008. The card may not be used to travel by air and is available only to U.S. citizens. Further information on the Passport Card is available at http://travel.state.gov/passport/ppt_card/ppt_card_3926.html and upcoming changes to U.S. passport policy can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html. We strongly encourage all American citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel. American citizens can visit travel.state.gov or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.
The U.S. Consulate recommends traveling in the Netherlands Antilles with a valid U.S. passport to avoid delays or misunderstandings. A lost or stolen passport is also easier to replace when outside the United States than other evidence of citizenship. Visitors to the Netherlands Antilles may be asked to show onward/return tickets or proof of sufficient funds for their stay. Length of stay is granted for two weeks and may be extended for 90 days by the head office of immigration. For further information, travelers may contact the Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or the Dutch Consulate in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Houston or Miami. Visit the web site for the Embassy of the Netherlands at http://www.netherlands-embassy.org/homepage.asp for the most current visa information.
We have 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:
Drug-related organized crime exists within the Netherlands Antilles but has not directly affected tourists in the past.
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, 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: In recent years, street crime has increased, especially in St. Maarten. Valuables, including passports, left unattended on beaches, in cars and hotel lobbies are easy targets for theft, and visitors should leave valuables and personal papers secured in their hotel. Burglary and break-ins are increasingly common at resorts, beach houses and hotels. Armed robbery occasionally occurs. The American boating community has reported a handful of incidents in the past, and visitors are urged to exercise reasonable caution in securing boats and belongings. Car theft, especially of rental vehicles for joy riding and stripping, can occur. Incidents of break-ins to rental cars to steal personal items have been reported by American tourists. Vehicle leases or rentals may not be fully covered by local insurance when a vehicle is stolen. Be sure you are sufficiently insured when renting vehicles and jet skis.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Please see our information for American Victims of Crime Overseas.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care is generally good in Curaçao and St. Maarten, but may be limited on the other three islands. Hospitals have three classes of services i.e.: First Class: one patient to a room, air conditioning etc.; Second Class: two to six patients to a room, no air conditioning; Third Class: 15 to 30 people in one hall. Patients are accommodated according to their level of insurance.
Bonaire: The San Francisco hospital is a medical center (35 beds) with decompression facilities. The hospital has an air ambulance service to Curaçao and Aruba.
Curaçao: St. Elizabeth hospital is a public hospital that may be compared to midrange facilities in the United States. St. Elizabeth's hospital has a decompression chamber and qualified staff to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness. Several private clinics provide good to excellent medical service.
St. Maarten: St. Maarten Medical Center (79 beds) is a relatively small hospital where general surgery is performed. Complex cases are sent to Curaçao.
Statia: Queen Beatrix Medical Center (20 beds) is a medical facility well equipped for first aid. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten.
Saba: Saba Clinic (14 beds) is a well-equipped first aid facility. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten. The Saba Marine Park has a decompression chamber and qualified staff to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Netherlands Antilles is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in the Netherlands Antilles is on the right hand side. Right turns on red are prohibited, and traffic conditions require somewhat defensive driving. Local laws require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts and motorcyclists to wear helmets. Children under 4 years of age should be in child safety seats; children under 12 should ride in the back seat.
Nonexistent or hidden and poorly maintained street signs are the major road hazard in the Netherlands Antilles. Therefore, drivers should proceed through intersections with caution. Roads in the Netherlands Antilles are extremely slippery during rainfall. Night driving is reasonably safe in the Netherlands Antilles as long as drivers are familiar with the route and road conditions. Most streets are poorly lit or not lit at all. In Curacao, drivers should be aware of herds of goats that may cross the street unexpectedly. In Bonaire, wild donkeys may also cross the road.
Taxis are the easiest, yet most expensive form of transportation on the islands. As there are no meters, passengers should verify the price before entering the taxi. Fares quoted in U.S. dollars may be significantly higher than those quoted in the local currency. Vans are inexpensive and run non-stop during daytime with no fixed schedule. Each van has a specific route displayed in the front of the windshield. Buses, which run on the hour, have limited routes. The road conditions on the main thoroughfares are good to fair.
See road safety information at the following sites; http://www.curacao.com, http://www.statiatourism.com, http://www.sabatourism.com, http://www.infobonaire.com, http://www.st-maarten.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 the Netherlands Antilles’ Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the Netherlands Antilles’ air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Dutch law in principle does not permit dual nationality. However, there are several exceptions. For example, American citizens who are married to Dutch citizens are exempt from the requirement to abandon their American nationality when they apply to become a Dutch citizen by naturalization. For detailed and specific information on this subject, contact the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington or one of the Dutch consulates in the U.S. In addition to being subject to all Dutch laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Dutch citizens.
Time-share buyers are cautioned about contracts that do not have a "non-disturbance or perpetuity protective clause" incorporated into the purchase agreement. Such a clause gives the time-share owner perpetuity of ownership should the facility be sold. Americans sometimes complain that the timeshare units are not adequately maintained, despite generally high annual maintenance fees. Because of the large number of complaints about misuse of maintenance fees, particularly in St. Maarten, prospective timeshare owners are advised to review the profit and loss statement for maintenance fees. Investors should note that a reputable accounting firm should audit profit and loss statements.
Potential investors should be aware that failed land development schemes involving time-share investments could result in financial losses. Interested investors may wish to seek professional advice regarding investments involving land development projects. Real estate investment problems that reach local courts are rarely settled in favor of foreign investors.
An unusually competitive fee to rent vehicles or equipment could indicate that the dealer is unlicensed or uninsured. The renter is often fully responsible for replacement costs and fees associated with any damages that occur during the rental period. Visitors may be required to pay these fees in full before leaving the Netherlands Antilles and may be subject to civil or criminal penalties if they cannot or will not make payment.
Netherlands Antilles customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Netherlands Antilles. For example, it is strictly prohibited to export pieces of coral and/or seashells. 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 offences. Persons violating the laws of the Netherlands Antilles, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Netherlands Antilles are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. The Netherlands Antilles has strict gun control laws; even a stray bullet in a suitcase can trigger a fine or time in jail. 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 web site.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
American citizens residing or traveling in the Netherlands Antilles are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Netherlands Antilles. 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. Consulate General is located at J.B. Gorsiraweg #1, Willemstad, Curaçao, telephone (599-9) 461-3066; fax (599-9) 461-6489; e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated May 7, 2007, to update the Entry/Exit, Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registry / Embassy Location sections.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Washington, May 16, 2019 (AFP) - The Church of Scientology said Thursday all the passengers from a cruise ship that was quarantined over a measles case had been cleared to leave. "All passengers and crew (100%) of the Freewinds have been fully cleared of any possible risk of being infected by the measles or infecting others," the organization said in a statement. "All passengers and crew are free to come and go as they wish," a spokesman added to AFP.
The infected individual was a member of the crew who, according to the Church, had fully recovered and was given a clean bill of health a week ago. She had been earlier confined on the ship. The ship, which is based in Willemstad on the island of Curacao in the Dutch West Indies, was quarantined after its arrival in Saint Lucia on April 30. It remained there for two days before returning to Willemstad on May 4 where local authorities ordered a fresh quarantine to give them time to confirm the passengers were either immunized or had no risk of contracting the virus.
By Sara MAGNIETTE
The Hague, May 4, 2019 (AFP) - The Dutch territory of Curacao said Saturday it would do what is needed to prevent measles spreading from a Scientology cruise ship, after a crew member came down with the disease. The Freewinds, which left the Caribbean island of St. Lucia on Friday, arrived back in its home port of Curacao at around 9:00 am (1300 GMT) Saturday, according to myshiptracking.com.
The Curacao government said in a statement that it would "take all necessary precautions to handle the case of measles on board of the Freewinds," including vaccinations. "An investigation will also be done to determine who will be allowed to leave the ship without (posing) a threat to the population of Curacao," it said. "It is imperative to make all efforts to prevent a spread of this disease internationally." Dutch broadcaster NOS reported that three health officials had boarded the boat to examine those on board. Only people able to prove that they have been vaccinated against measles or had already had the disease would be able to leave the boat, its correspondent there reported.
- Anti-vaccine movement -
The Church of Scientology says the 440-foot (134-meter) vessel is used for religious retreats and is normally based in Curacao. The vessel had arrived in St Lucia from Curacao on Tuesday, when it was placed under quarantine by health authorities there because of a measles patient, said to be a female crew member. According to NOS, the crew member concerned is a Danish national, who arrived in Curacao from Amsterdam on April 17. It was only when the boat was at sea, on route to St Lucia, that a doctor discovered she had measles, their correspondent said.
The resurgence of the once-eradicated, highly contagious disease is linked to the growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified as a major global health threat. The authorities in Curacao nevertheless urged local people not to panic, as the risk of the disease spreading in this case was fairly low. Several people did however visit the cruise ship between April 22 and April 28 before it set sail for St Lucia and the authorities asked them to make themselves known to health officials.
Officials said the Freewinds had travelled between Curacao, St Lucia and another Dutch-held island, Aruba, several times towards the end of April. There were about 300 people aboard the ship, according to Saint Lucia authorities, which placed the vessel in quarantine. They said they provided 100 doses of measles vaccine at no cost. The Scientology church, founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in 1953, did not respond to requests for comment. Its teachings do not directly oppose vaccination, but followers consider illness a sign of personal failing and generally avoid medical interventions.
Miami, Aug 26, 2015 (AFP) - Tropical storm Erika took aim at the Lesser Antilles Wednesday as storm warnings went up there and in Puerto Rico in anticipation of heavy rains, US forecasters said. With winds of 75 kilometres (45 miles) per hour, Erika was 540 kilometres (335 miles) east of Antigua at 1200 GMT, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported.
Advancing at a speed of 28 kilometres (17 miles) per hour, it was expected to sweep over the Lesser Antilles Wednesday night and then head toward Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Tropical storm warnings were up in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Saba, St Eustacia and St Maarten.
A US Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft that flew into the storm found it was slightly increasing in strength. "Some slow strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours," the hurricane centre said. According to the NHC's projections, Erika could become a hurricane by the end of the week, or early next, as it nears Florida. But "the intensity forecast remains very uncertain," it said.
Erika is arriving on the heels of Danny, the season's first hurricane which petered out before reaching the Caribbean. Experts said earlier this month that there was a 90 percent chance the 2015 hurricane season in the Atlantic would be less active than usual.
July 19, 2006
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bolivia is a constitutional democracy and one of the least-developed countries in South America. Tourist facilities are generally adequate, but vary greatly in qualit
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A U.S. passport valid for at least six months from the date of proposed entry into Bolivia is required to enter and depart Bolivia. U.S. citizen tourists do not need a visa for a stay of one month or less (that period can be extended up to 90 days upon application to the Bolivian immigration authorities). Visitors for other purposes must obtain a visa in advance. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Bolivia must obtain a replacement passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to a Bolivian government immigration office in order to obtain permission to depart. For more information on replacement passport procedures, please consult the U.S. Embassy's Web site at
Bolivian consulates are located in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at
ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS: In an effort to prevent international child abduction, the Bolivian Government has initiated procedures at entry/exit points. Minors (under 18) who are citizens or residents of Bolivia and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Bolivian Embassy or a Bolivian consulate within the United States. If documents are prepared in Bolivia, only notarization by a Bolivian notary is required. Using these documents, a t ravel permit may be obtained from the Juzgado del Menor. This requirement does not apply to children who enter the country with a U.S. passport as tourists, unless they hold dual U.S./Bolivian citizenship or have been in Bolivia for more than 90 consecutive days.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The countrywide emergency number for the police, including highway patrol, is 110. The corresponding number for the fire department is 119. The National Tourism Police has an office in La Paz, with plans to expand to Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, providing free assistance to tourists 24 hours a day. These services include English-speaking officials who may assist tourists in filing police reports of lost/stolen documents or other valuables. The La Paz office is located at Plaza del Stadium, Edificio Olympia, planta baja, Miraflores, telephone number 222-0516.
Protests, strikes, and other civic actions can occur at any time and disrupt transportation on a local and national level. This is particularly true before, during and after elections or other changes in government. While protest actions generally begin peacefully, they have the potential to become violent. The police have used tear gas to break up protests. In addition to rallies and street demonstrations, protesters sometimes block roads; they sometimes react with force when travelers attempt to pass through or go around roadblocks and occasionally have used the threat of explosives to press their point.
U.S. citizens should avoid roadblocks and demonstrations. Demonstrations protesting government or private company policies occur frequently, even in otherwise peaceful times. Roadblocks and demonstrations in June 2005 led to the closure of the El Alto airport in La Paz, resulting in cancellation and diversion of flights and other inconveniences to travelers. U.S. citizens planning travel to or from Bolivia should take into consideration the possibility of disruptions to air service in and out of La Paz and other airports. Americans should monitor Bolivian media reports for updates. The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas where roadblocks or public demonstrations are occurring or planned. Political rallies should similarly be avoided in light of press reports of violence at some rallies in various parts of Bolivia.
U.S. citizens who find themselves in a roadblock should not attempt to "run" a roadblock, as this may aggravate the situation and lead to physical harm. Taking alternative, safe routes, or returning to where the travel started may be the safest courses of action under these circumstances. U.S. citizens embarking on road trips should monitor news reports and may contact the American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz at (591)(2)(216-8297 or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba at (591)(4)425-6714 and/or Santa Cruz at (591) (3) 351-3477 for updates. Given that roadblocks may occur without warning and have stranded travelers for several days, travelers should take extra food and water. The U.S. Embassy also advises its employees to maintain at least one week's supply of drinking water and canned food in case roadblocks affect supplies, as occurred in June 2005. For more information on emergency preparedness, please consult the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) Web site at
Americans living or traveling in Bolivia are encouraged to register and update their contact information at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz and/or the U.S. consular agencies in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Registration may be done online and in advance of travel. Information on registering
In February and October 2003, approximately one hundred people died during violent demonstrations and protests in downtown La Paz and the nearby city of El Alto. These demonstrations also affected Cochabamba and other towns and villages in the Altiplano. While the protests and demonstrations subsided, many of the underlying social, political, and economic causes remain, and in March 2005, several intercity roads, including Bolivia's major east-west highway, were closed by blockades for several weeks.
Since 2000 the resort town of Sorata, located seventy miles north of La Paz, has been cut off by blockades on three occasions, ranging from one week to one month. Visitors contemplating travel to Sorata should contact the Consular Section in La Paz prior to travel.
In the Chapare region between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and the Yungas region northeast of La Paz violence and civil unrest, primarily associated with anti-narcotics activities, periodically create a risk for travelers to those regions.
Confrontations between area residents and government authorities over coca eradication have resulted in the use of tear gas and stronger force by government authorities to quell disturbances. Pro-coca groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private interests. U.S. citizen visitors to the Chapare or Yungas regions are encouraged to check with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy prior to travel. Violence has also erupted recently between squatters unlawfully invading private land and security forces attempting to remove them.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad
CRIME: The U.S. Department of State currently classifies Bolivia as a medium to high crime threat country. Street crime, such as pick pocketing and theft from parked vehicles, occurs with some frequency in Bolivia. Theft of cars and car parts, particularly late-model four-wheel-drive vehicles, is common. Hijacking of vehicles has occurred, and travelers should take appropriate precautions to avoid being victimized. In November 2003, an American citizen was murdered during an attempted carjacking in Santa Cruz.
Bolivian police state that there are currently eight organized criminal groups operating in the La Paz area. The techniques employed by these groups vary, but there are a few major patterns that can be identified.
There have been reports of "false police" -- persons using police uniforms, identification, and even buildings modified to resemble police stations -- intercepting and robbing foreign tourists. Under Bolivian law, police need a warrant from the "fiscal" or prosecutor to detain a suspect. Any searches or seizures must occur at a bona fide police station in the presence of the fiscal. The warrant requirement also applies to suspected drug trafficking cases, although such searches and seizures may occur without a fiscal present. If detained, U.S. citizens should request to see the warrant and demand immediate contact with the nearest U.S. Consular Office (in La Paz, Cochabamba or Santa Cruz).
According to press reports, criminals using the "false police" method focus on foreigners in areas frequented by tourists including bus terminals and tourist markets such as Sagarnaga Street in La Paz. The perpetrators will identify a potential victim and have an accomplice typically driving a white taxi offer taxi services to the potential victim. They focus on European/American tourists who are not wearing a traditional "trekker" backpack and are traveling without a large number of bags. A few blocks after the potential victim boards the taxi another accomplice, pretending to be a recently arrived tourist, boards the taxi with the potential victim. With all the accomplices then in place, the "false police" stop the taxi, "search" the passengers, and rob the victim. As part of this scam, the false police may take the victim to a "false police" station.
A similar variation also introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This introduction can take place on a bus, taxi, train, or just walking down the street. The "tourist" will befriend the victims and might seek assistance in some manner. After a period of time, the "police" intercept the victims and the "tourist." At this point, the "police" discover some sort of contraband (usually drugs) on the "tourist." The entire group is then taken to the "police station." At this point, the "police" seize the documents, credit cards, and ATM cards of the victims. The perpetrators obtain pin numbers, sometimes by threat of violence, and the scam is complete.
Another technique again introduces a "tourist" to the victims. This "tourist" can be any race or gender and will probably be able to speak the language of the victims. This meeting can happen anywhere and the goal of the "tourist" is to build the trust of the victims. Once a certain level of trust is obtained, the "tourist" suggests a particular mode of transportation to a location (usually a taxi). The "taxi" picks up the victims and the "tourist" and delivers the group to a safe house in the area. At this point the victims are informed that they are now kidnapped and are forced to give up their credit cards and ATM cards with pin numbers.
Bolivian police sources state that two Austrian citizens fell victim to this scam and had their bank accounts emptied through use of their ATM card. The perpetrators then suffocated the victims and buried them in clandestine graves, where police found their bodies on April 3, 2006. During that timeframe, a Spanish citizen also purportedly fell prey to this scam, and his body was found nearby.
In most instances, the victims are released, but the murder of the victims is still a possibility. The techniques and the perpetrators are convincing. Authentic uniforms, badges, and props help persuade the victims that the situation is real and valid. All tourists visiting Bolivia should exercise extreme caution. Visitors should be suspicious of all "coincidences" that can happen on a trip. If the tourist has doubts about a situation, the tourist should immediately remove him/herself from the scene.
Thefts of bags, wallets, and backpacks are a problem throughout Bolivia, but especially in the tourist areas of downtown La Paz and the Altiplano. Most thefts involve two or three people who spot a potential victim and wait until the bag or backpack is placed on the ground, often at a restaurant, bus terminal, Internet café, etc. In other cases, the thief places a disagreeable substance on the clothes or backpack of the intended victim, and then offers to assist the victim with the removal of the substance. While the person is distracted, the thief or an accomplice grabs the bag or backpack and flees. In such a situation, the visitor should decline assistance, secure the bag/backpack, and walk briskly from the area. To steal wallets and bags, thieves may spray water on the victim's neck, and while the person is distracted, an accomplice takes the wallet or bag. At times the thief poses as a policeman, and requests that the person accompany him to the police station, using a nearby taxi. The visitor should indicate a desire to contact the U.S. Embassy and not enter the taxi. Under no circumstances should you surrender ATM or credit cards, or release a PIN number. While most thefts do not involve violence, in some instances the victim has been physically harmed and forcibly searched for hidden valuables. Visitors should avoid being alone on the streets, especially at night and in isolated areas.
Five years ago female tourists reported being drugged and raped by a tourist guide in the city of Rurrenabaque in the Beni region. Visitors should be careful when choosing a tour operator and should not accept any type of medication or drugs from unreliable sources. The Embassy has received reports of sexual assaults against female hikers in the Yungas Valley, near the town of Coroico. Visitors to Coroico are advised to avoid hiking alone or in small groups.
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 may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in large cities is adequate for most purposes but of varying quality. Ambulance services are limited-to-non-existent. Medical facilities are generally not adequate to handle serious medical conditions. Pharmacies are located throughout Bolivia, and prescription and over the counter medications are widely available. Western Bolivia, dominated by the Andes and high plains (Altiplano), is largely insect-free. However, altitude sickness (see below) is a major problem. Eastern Bolivia is tropical, and visitors to that area are subject to related illnesses. In March 2005, several cases of yellow fever were reported in the Chapare region. News media periodically report outbreaks of rabies, particularly in the larger cities.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Most medical evacuation flights cannot land at the airport serving La Paz due to the altitude; instead flights may need to use the international airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas
HIGH-ALTITUDE HEALTH RISKS: Official U.S. Government travelers to La Paz are provided with the following information: The altitude of La Paz ranges from 10,600 feet to over 13,000 feet (3,400 to 4,000 meters) above sea level. Much of Western Bolivia is at the same altitude or higher, including Lake Titicaca, the Salar de Uyuni, and the cities of Oruro and Potosi. The altitude alone poses a serious risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death, if you have a medical condition that affects blood circulation or breathing.
Prior to departing the U.S. for high-altitude locations (over 10,000 feet above sea level), travelers should discuss the trip with their personal physician and request information on specific recommendations concerning medication and lifestyle tips at high altitudes. Coca-leaf tea is a popular beverage and folk remedy for altitude sickness in Bolivia. Possession of this tea, which is sold in bags in most Bolivian grocery stores, is illegal in the United States.
The State Department's Office of Medical Services does not allow official U.S. Government travelers to visit La Paz if they have any of the following:
Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait: 30 percent of persons with sickle cell trait are likely to have a crisis at elevations of more than 8,000 feet.
Heart disease: A man 45 years or older, or a woman 55 years or older, who has two of the following risk factors (hypertension, angina, diabetes, cigarette smoking, or elevated cholesterol) should have a stress EKG and a cardiological evaluation before the trip.
Lung disease: Anyone with asthma and on maximum dosage of medication for daily maintenance, or anyone who has been hospitalized for asthma within the last year should not come to La Paz and surrounding areas.
Given potential complications from altitude sickness, pregnant women should consult their doctor before travel to La Paz and other high-altitude areas of Bolivia.
All people, even healthy and fit persons, will feel symptoms of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) upon arrival at high altitude. Most people will have increased respiration and increased heart rate. Many people will have headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, minor gastric and intestinal upsets, and mood changes. Many travelers limit physical activity for the first 36 to 48 hours after arrival and avoid alcohol and smoking for at least one week after arrival.
For additional information, travelers should visit the World Health Organization's website at
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 Bolivia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. U.S. citizens planning on driving in Bolivia, despite the hazards described below, should obtain an international driver's license through their local automobile club before coming to Bolivia.
Road conditions in Bolivia are hazardous. Although La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba are connected by improved highways, the vast majority of roads in Bolivia are unpaved. Few highways have shoulders, fencing or barriers, and highway markings are minimal. Yielding for pedestrians in the cities is not the norm. For trips outside the major cities, especially in mountainous areas, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is highly recommended. Travel during the rainy season (November through March) is difficult, as most routes are potholed, and some roads and bridges are washed out. Added dangers are the absence of formal training for most drivers, poor maintenance and overloaded vehicles, lack of lights on some vehicles at night, and intoxicated or overly tired drivers, including commercial bus and truck drivers.
The majority of intercity travel in Bolivia is by bus, with varying levels of safety and service. In recent years there have been major bus crashes on the highway between La Paz and Oruro, and on the Yungas road. The old Yungas road is considered one of the most dangerous routes in the world. Taxis, vans, and buses dominate intracity transportation. From a crime perspective, public transportation is relatively safe and violent assaults are rare. However, petty theft of unattended backpacks and other personal items does occur. For reasons of safety, visitors are advised to use radio taxis whenever possible.
Drivers of vehicles involved in traffic accidents are expected to remain at the scene until the arrival of local police authorities. Any attempt to leave the scene is in violation of Bolivian law. The Embassy believes any attempt to flee the scene of an accident would place the driver and passengers at greater risk of harm than remaining at the scene until the arrival of local police. Please refer to our Road Safety page
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bolivia as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Bolivia's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In the run-up to the July 2006 Constituent Assembly elections, President Morales accused the United States military of infiltrating Bolivia with operatives disguised as "students and tourists." As an apparent result of these comments, some U.S. citizens have reported harassment by Bolivian officials and been subjected to unwanted media attention. In one case, a local Bolivian newspaper wrongly identified an American citizen as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. Americans planning on traveling to Bolivia should be aware of the political atmosphere and the possibility of unwanted attention from pro-governmental groups and other Bolivian officials.
For information on in-country visa procedures and requirements, please consult the Bolivian Immigration Service at
Please see our information on customs regulations
MARRIAGE: Please see our information on marriage in Bolivia
MOUNTAIN TREKKING AND CLIMBING SAFETY: U.S. citizens are advised to exercise extreme care when trekking or climbing in Bolivia. Since June 2002, four American citizens have died in falls while mountain climbing in Bolivia. Three of the deaths occurred on Illimani, a 6,402-meter peak located southeast of La Paz. Many popular trekking routes in the Bolivian Andes cross passes as high as 16,000 feet. Trekkers must have adequate clothing and equipment, not always available locally, and should be experienced mountain travelers. It is not prudent to trek alone. Solo trekking is the most significant factor contributing to injuries and robberies. The safest option is to join an organized group and/or use a reputable firm to provide an experienced guide and porter who can communicate in both Spanish and English. If you develop any of the following symptoms while climbing at altitude - severe headache, weakness, vomiting, shortness of breath at rest, cough, chest tightness, unsteadiness - descend to a lower altitude immediately. Trekkers and climbers are strongly encouraged to purchase adequate insurance to cover expenses in case of injury or death.
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 Bolivian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bolivia 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
It often takes years to reach a decision in Bolivian legal cases, whether involving property disputes, civil, or criminal matters. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court can order a defendant held in jail for the duration of the case. Prison conditions are primitive, and prisoners are expected to pay for food and lodging. For further information, please see the Annual Human Rights Report for Bolivia at
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 Bolivia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consular Agency through the State Department's travel registration website,
The U.S. Embassy is located at 2780 Avenida Arce in La Paz, between calles Cordero and Campos; telephone (591-2) 216-8297 during business hours 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., or (591-2) 216-8000 for after-hours emergencies; fax (591-2) 216-8808; Internet
There are two consular agencies in Bolivia, which provide limited services to American citizens, but are not authorized to issue passports. Anyone requesting service at one of the consular agencies should call ahead to verify that the service requested would be available on the day you expect to visit the agency.
Santa Cruz: The Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is located at 146 Avenida Roque Aguilera (Tercer Anillo); telephone (591-3) 351-3477, 351-3479, or 351-3480; fax (591-3) 351-3478. The U.S. Consular Agency in Santa Cruz is open to the public Mondays from 09:00 to 12:30 and from 2:00PM to 5:00PM and on Tuesday through Friday from 09:00 to 12:30, except U.S. and Bolivian holidays.
Cochabamba: The Consular Agency in Cochabamba is located at Avenida Oquendo 654, Torres Sofer, room 601; telephone (591-4) 411-6313; fax (591-4) 425 -6714. The U.S. Consular Agency in Cochabamba is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon, excluding U.S. and Bolivian holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 4, 2006 to update Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Marriage, Special Circumstances and web links.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Source: Cordoba Epidemiology Report and Los Tiempos news article [in Spanish, trans., edited]
Los Tiempos, Bolivia, 2 Dec 2019 Confirmation of the 1st case of the year (2019) of human rabies in Cochabamba After confirming the death of rabies of a 7-year-old girl in the southern area of Cochabamba, the Departmental Health Service (SEDES) and the Zoonosis Unit of the Mayor's Office intensified prevention actions to prevent the proliferation of the virus. This would be the 1st case confirmed so far this year .
The head of the Epidemiology Unit of SEDES, Arturo Fernando Quiaones Lapez, reported that in the last rabies vaccination campaign for dogs more 1000 doses were given. "We suspected rabies in the case of this minor. She tested positive by laboratory both in cerebrospinal fluid as well as in brain tissue," according to lab results obtained on 2 Dec 2019. The victim died on 26 Nov 2019 after being hospitalized in intensive care of the Children's Hospital for 2 days with signs of rabies," said Dr Manuel Ascencio Villarroel.
The patient's relatives reported the girl had contact with a puppy which died a month ago. The dog did not receive rabies vaccines and belonged to someone the family knows. QuiÃ±ones mentioned the family members of the girl and the owners of the animal are receiving preventive treatment. Meanwhile, the head of Zoonosis of the Mayor's Office, Javier Humberto Rodraguez Herrera, stated on 2 Dec 2019 a "massive focus blockade" will be held with the participation of 8 health centers to prevent the circulation of the virus in the area.
He commented that, to date, 11 cases of canine rabies have been recorded in the municipality. In more than 11 months of 2019, SEDES identified 25 positive cases of canine rabies, the majority in the metropolitan region. Quiaones asked the population to report the death of their pets with signs of rabies at health centers for follow-up to fight the disease. Meanwhile, from the City Hall, the owners of dogs were urged to have their dogs vaccinated. Javier Rodraguez added another risk factor is when animals are collected from the street and they are not vaccinated.
[The rabies virus attacks the nervous system in animals. When a rabid animal bites a human being, it can transfer the virus, contained in saliva, to that individual. "After inoculation, rabies virus may enter the peripheral nervous system directly and migrates to the brain or may replicate in muscle tissue, remaining sequestered at or near the entry site during incubation, prior to central nervous system invasion and replication. It then spreads centrifugally to numerous other organs. The case-fatality ratio approaches unity [100%], but exact pathogenic mechanisms are not fully understood. "Susceptibility to lethal infection is related to the animal species, viral variant, inoculum concentration, location and severity of exposure, and host immune status.
Both virus-neutralizing antibodies and cell-mediated immunity are important in host defense. "Early diagnosis is difficult. Rabies should be suspected in human cases of unexplained viral encephalitis with a history of animal bite. Unvaccinated persons are often negative for virus-neutralizing antibodies until late in the course of disease. Virus isolation from saliva, positive immunofluorescent skin biopsies or virus neutralizing antibody (from cerebrospinal fluid, or serum of a non-vaccinated patient), establish a diagnosis. "Five general stages of rabies are recognized in humans: incubation, prodrome, acute neurologic period, coma, and death (or, very rarely, recovery).
No specific anti-rabies agents are useful once clinical signs or symptoms develop. The incubation period in rabies, usually 30 to 90 days but ranging from as few as 5 days to longer than 2 years after initial exposure, is more variable than in any other acute infection. Incubation periods may be somewhat shorter in children and in individuals bitten close to the central nervous system (such as the head).
Clinical symptoms are first noted during the prodromal period, which usually lasts from 2 to 10 days. These symptoms are often nonspecific (general malaise, fever, and fatigue) or suggest involvement of the respiratory system (sore throat, cough, and dyspnoea), gastrointestinal system (anorexia, dysphagia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea), or central nervous systems (headache, vertigo, anxiety, apprehension, irritability, and nervousness).
More remarkable abnormalities (agitation, photophobia, priapism, increased libido, insomnia, nightmares, and depression) may also occur, suggesting encephalitis, psychiatric disturbances, or brain conditions. Pain or paraesthesia at the site of virus inoculation, combined with a history of recent animal bite, should suggest a consideration of rabies. "The acute neurologic period begins with objective signs of central nervous system dysfunction.
The disease may be classified as furious rabies if hyperactivity (that is, hydrophobia) predominates and as dumb rabies if paralysis dominates the clinical picture. Fever, paraesthesia, nuchal rigidity, muscle fasciculations, focal and generalized convulsions, hyperventilation, and hypersalivation may occur in both forms of the disease. "At the end of the acute neurologic phase, periods of rapid, irregular breathing may begin; paralysis and coma soon follow. Respiratory arrest may occur thereafter, unless the patient is receiving ventilatory assistance, which may prolong survival for days, weeks, or longer, with death due to other complications.
"Although life support measures can prolong the clinical course of rabies, rarely will they affect the outcome of disease. The possibility of recovery, however, must be recognized, and when resources permit, every effort should be made to support the patient. At least 7 cases of human "recovery" have been documented." (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8618/>)
A very sad situation which could have been prevented if the animal had been vaccinated. Responsible owners vaccinate their animals. Condolences to the family. - ProMED Mod.TG]
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Bolivia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/55162>]
By Tupad POINTU
La Paz, Oct 22, 2019 (AFP) - Bolivia braced for a general strike on Tuesday hours after violence broke out in several cities when the main opposition candidate rejected presidential election results that seemed set to hand a controversial victory to long-time incumbent Evo Morales. Opposition supporters reacted with fury, torching electoral offices in the southwestern cities of Sucre and Potosi, while rival supporters clashed in the capital La Paz. Incidents were reported in cities across the South American country. Carlos Mesa, who came a close second to Morales in Sunday's polls -- forcing a run-off, according to preliminary results -- denounced revised results released by election authorities as a "fraud." "We are not going to recognize those results that are part of a shameful, consumated fraud, that is putting Bolivian society in a situation of unnecessary tension," said Mesa.
International monitors from the Organization of American States voiced "deep concern" at sudden changes to the election count to show Morales closing in on an outright victory in the first round. Preliminary results released late Sunday showed neither Morales, 59, nor 66-year-old Mesa with a majority and "clearly indicated a second round," the OAS mission said. The partial results put Morales in the lead with 45 percent of the votes, with Mesa on 38 percent, meaning Morales would have to contest a run-off for the first time. But results released late Monday, after a long and unexplained delay, showed Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted. Mesa, a former president of the country between 2001-2005, accused Morales of colluding with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to tweak delayed results and avoid a run-off.
- Opposition call general strike -
The call for a general strike was issued by Fernando Camacho, head of an influential civil society organization in Bolivia's biggest city, Santa Cruz, where transport and businesses were expected to shut down from noon. "Tomorrow we start at 12:00 to block this country," Camacho told opposition demonstrators late Monday, before holding talks with leaders from other regions. Long lines formed at gas stations amid fears of shortages. Riot-police dispersed a crowd who tried to storm the electoral offices in the Andean city of Oruro, south of La Paz. Clashes were also reported in Tarija in the south, Cochabamba in the center and Cobija in the north.
- 'Subverting democracy' -
The United States' top diplomat for Latin America said the Electoral Tribunal was attempting "to subvert Bolivia's democracy by delaying the vote count and taking actions that undermine the credibility of Bolivia's elections." "We call on the TSE to immediately act to restore credibility in the vote counting process," the official, Michael Kozak, said on Twitter. The OAS observer mission in the country expressed "surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls," it said in a statement. It urged the election authority to "firmly defend the will of the Bolivian people" and called for calm on the streets. "It is extremely important that calm is maintained and any form of violence is avoided in this delicate situation."
- Longest serving president -
Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, is controversially seeking a fourth term. He obtained Constitutional Court permission in 2017 to run again for president even though the constitution allows only two consecutive terms. The former coca farmer and leftist union leader has led the poor but resource-rich Latin American country for the past 13 years, though his popularity has waned amid allegations of corruption and authoritarianism. He has led the country since taking office in 2006, when he became its first indigenous president.
A new mandate would keep him in power until 2025. As leader of his Movement for Socialism Party (MAS), Morales points to a decade of economic stability and considerable industrialization as his achievements, while insisting he has brought "dignity" to Bolivia's indigenous population, the largest in Latin America. He has come under severe criticism this year as wildfires in August and September ravaged Bolivia's forests and grasslands, with activists saying his policies encouraged the use of blazes to clear farmland.
- Laguna Negra virus (small vesper mouse, _Calomys laucha_ <http://www.faunaparaguay.com/calomyslaucha.html> and large vesper mouse, _C. callosus_
The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b
During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.
Safety & Security:
The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.
Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.
Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.
River Boat Travel:
Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.
Altitude Sickness in Tibet:
Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.
The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.
Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.
AIDS risk in China:
Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.
Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.
There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.
China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing. Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed. "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster". A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!" Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.
The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car. She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her. Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case. Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave". The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release. East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said. The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings. Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties. The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties. Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far. "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.
An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt. Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku. Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Climate: Malawi is in the southern hemisphere and experiences a fairly typical sub-tropical climate with a rainy season from around October to May each year.
Dress Code: Quite uniquely Malawi has always had quite a strong dress-code applied for travellers and many tourists have found it necessary to change into more modest garments on request from the authorities. It is probably wise not to be the one to act too differently and to at least start with this in mind when arriving into the country. This includes avoiding short dresses for women and long unkept hair for men.
Banking Facilities: There are some ATM's in the main cities but generally they may not accept an international bank card. Credit cards are not accepted outside the main urban areas.
Security and Safety: In many regions of the world the level of crime and personal risk rises after nightfall. Malawi is no different in this respect and so travelling throughout the country at night is not recommended. It is especially unwise to walk in main cities during the hours of darkness.
Medical Facilities: Generally medical facilities throughout Malawi are limited and anyone with a serious illness would be recommended to move to more adequate facilities in either Zambia, Zimbabwe or ideally to South Africa if at all possible. Travellers on any personal medication should ensure that they carry sufficient supplies for the duration of their time abroad.
East African Safari: Many travel through Malawi on their way between Nairobi in Kenya and Capetown in South Africa. The road infrastructure and other facilities along this route is frequently difficult and it is unwise to consider travelling alone. Being part of an organised respected safari group is a very much wiser option. Even then it is essential to 'assess' the professionalism of the specific group you are travelling with during the first few days before granting them total control of your safety. It is important to listen to the leaders advice on the safety of food & water and their opinion on the necessity for adequate malaria prophylaxis to see if they can be trusted. Generally the answer is that among the well known groups there are excellent and superbly professional guides so this is not often an issue.
Food & Water: Like any trip to the tropics, what you eat and drink will largely determine how well you remain. Eat hot recently cooked food and steer clear of any street vendors. Eat what you know your stomach likes as otherwise it will be quick enough to tell you - often in the most unpleasant ways! Water is essential for survival but, despite this, it is better to remain thirsty for a short while rather than drink anything potentially contaminated. A cup of tea is often safer (if taken from a clean cup) as the water will have been boiled. Even when brushing your teeth make sure you use boiled filtered water if safe bottled water is unavailable.
Lake Malawi: It is hot. Everyone else is swimming in the Lake and they say it is safe. The answer is no, as unfortunately this is without doubt not the case, no matter what you hear. Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) is a parasitic disease which abounds in Lake Malawi and can infect a person very easily - even from very minimal contact with the water. This can occur from paddling along the water edge or showering close to the lakeside where the same water is used. If you do partake make certain that you report to medical staff on your return home so this risk can be adequately checked through as appropriate.
Sun Exposure & Dehydration: Africa is a hot continent and regularly travellers become quite significantly dehydrated as their water intake may not be sufficiently high to cope with the loss through perspiration. Also, at this time, salt is removed from the body and this may lead to tiredness, headaches and muscular crampy pains etc. It is important to increase your fluid intake and (for most travellers quite safely) to increase the amount of salt you take with your meals. Avoid salt tablets as these are unnecessary and can be quite harmful.
Malaria: There is a considerable risk of contracting Malaria in this region throughout the year - even in the dry season. Adequate insect repellents, good mosquito nets for night time, covering your arms and legs and appropriate malaria tablets are all essential. Don't take any chance as you protect yourself again malaria. It is a killing disease and yet with care you can significantly help to protect yourself. The tablets do not however provide 100% cover.
Vaccines: There are no essential vaccines required for entry into Malawi - unless you are coming from a Yellow Fever country. However, it is always recommended that you ensure you are covered against a number of different diseases before your trip and this all needs to be talked through well before leaving home. The doctor at that time can also discuss some of the other extremely important health issues relating to Malawi to try to ensure that you remain safe and healthy.
Summary: Malawi is a beautiful country with a lot to offer for the wise traveller. However staying healthy and well is essential and taking unnecessary risks with your long term health is foolhardy.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
The local hospital said it did not have a number of sleeping sickness cases. One community resident recalled at least 5 deaths from the disease.
Lilongwe, Malawi, Oct 24, 2019 (AFP) - A pay strike by truckers in landlocked Malawi has crippled oil and power supplies, leading to prolonged blackouts and fuel shortages on Thursday. Over 1,000 truck drivers stopped work from Monday, preventing all lorries from entering and exiting the country's borders with Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Their leader Richard Jubeki said the drivers are demanding a giant wage increase to push monthly salaries from the current $40 (35 euros) to $450. "We have closed all the borders across the country for trucks to try and force our employers to increase our wages," Jubeki said. As of Thursday morning, government and trucking companies' representatives were still locked in negotiations. An outcome is expected soon as Malawi relies on road transport to move goods mainly from the ports of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Beira in Mozambique. By Wednesday, the effects of the strike were felt by the 18 million population, particularly in the capital city Lilongwe where motorists were stranded after fuel stations ran dry. "I spent the better part of today driving around the city looking for petrol but I have been unsuccessful. This is not on," Lilongwe resident Patrick Banda said.
The protest has also disrupted power generation as the Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (Escom) sources some of its power from diesel-powered generators. The company said its tankers carrying diesel from the National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) fuel depot to diesel generators were barred from passing through. "Massive load-shedding will result," it said in a statement. Most parts of the country experienced 8-hour long blackouts on Wednesday. The state-owned oil firm told AFP there were adequate local "strategic fuel reserves". But spokesman Telephorous Chigwenembe said the responsibility of ensuring that this fuel is available to on the market rests with the power regulatory body -- the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
Washington, Oct 18, 2019 (AFP) - The US moved to further hurt Cuba's vital tourism industry by tightening the ability of the country's airlines to lease aircraft. The US Department of Commerce said it was revoking existing licenses for US companies leasing aircraft to Cuban carriers, and will deny future applications for aircraft leases. The move could make it harder for Cuba to service its rapidly growing tourism sector, a key source of foreign revenue for the poor country.
Washington has stepped up pressure on Havana due to its support for the embattled regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. "This action by the Commerce Department sends another clear message to the Cuban regime -- that they must immediately cease their destructive behaviour at home and abroad," Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear how many aircraft the move would impact. Cuba's cash-poor carriers depend on aircraft rented from leasing companies or other airlines, which are often very old. In May 2018, 112 people died in the crash of a 39-year-old Boeing 737 leased by national carrier Cubana de Aviacion from a small Mexican firm, Global Air.
In June of this year, US President Donald Trump announced a US ban on cruise ship stopovers by Americans on the island, forcing Havana to cut its 2019 tourism target by 15 percent to 4.3 million visitors. Nearly 900,000 tourists visited the island on cruise ships last year, and almost 40 percent were American, according to official figures. The announcement Friday also expanded restrictions on imports from Cuba and on products with US content that can be sold to the country.
By Paul HANDLEY
Washington, June 5, 2019 (AFP) - The Trump administration clamped down on US tourist visits to Cuba Tuesday, aiming to cut the flow of dollars to a country that Washington accuses of helping prop up Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The Treasury Department banned group educational travel, cruise ship and private yacht visits by Americans, taking aim at the most common ways US tourists and Cuban-Americans visit the Caribbean island. The move could constitute a heavy hit on Cuba, which saw more than a quarter-million US visitors in the first four months of 2019, almost double the figure from a year earlier. "The United States holds the Cuban regime accountable for its repression of the Cuban people, its interference in Venezuela, and its direct role in the man-made crisis led by Nicolas Maduro," the State Department said in a news release. "Empowered by Cuba, he has created a humanitarian disaster that destabilizes the region."
White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said the aim was to end what the administration considers "veiled tourism" to Cuba. "We will continue to take actions to restrict the Cuban regime's access to US dollars," Bolton said on Twitter. The Cuban government condemned the move, which could cost the country's economy tens of millions of dollars a year in lost income. "They seek to stifle the economy and damage the standard of living of Cubans to wrest political concessions," said Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodriguez in a tweeted statement. "They'll fail again."
- Reverses Obama's historic opening -
American tourism in Cuba took off after then-president Barack Obama moved to ease the half-century trade embargo against the communist government in 2014 -- even though continuing restrictions kept visits nominally in the realm of cultural and artistic exchanges and business dealings. Cuba and the US restored ties in 2015 and Obama himself visited Havana in a historic presidential trip in March 2016, meeting with then-president Raul Castro. Weeks later, the ban was lifted on US commercial ship visits, opening the door for the Caribbean cruise ship industry to expand stops in Cuba.
But President Donald Trump came into office attacking the Obama opening, and within months began tightening relations, first by banning individual visits and limiting commercial interactions. The State Department tied the new ban directly to Havana's support for Maduro -- whose embattled regime faces a direct challenge from US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, the self-declared acting president of Venezuela. "Veiled tourism has served to line the pockets of the Cuban military, the very same people supporting Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and repressing the Cuban people on the island," the State Department said.
- 'Political grandstanding' -
Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, one of the US agencies which arranges visits to Cuba, accused the Trump administration of playing politics by trying to appease conservative anti-Havana Cuban immigrants in Florida, an important election swing state where they carry significant political weight. "This political grandstanding aimed at Florida in the run up to the 2020 elections is so unfortunate for the millions of Cubans that will feel the crunch from less US visitors," said Laverty. "This has nothing to do with empowering the Cuban people and has everything to do with empowering a handful of people in Florida that have never even been to Cuba." Travel industry officials said that people who are booked on tours now will be able to go, ensuring that advanced-booked cruise ships will likely be operating from Florida to Havana throughout this year. But Royal Caribbean Cruises said ships leaving Wednesday and Thursday of this week will skip previously scheduled stops in Cuba as the company examines the new US policy.
Norwegian Cruise Lines said they are seeking additional information on the new policy to see how it will affect future travel. Tessia Aral, the owner of ABC Charters in Miami, said it could have a huge impact on her business, which arranged trips to Cuba for about 10,000 people last year. She said it will hurt not only companies like hers but also those of the many entrepreneurs in Cuba who have built businesses to serve tourists. "The people making the rules have never been to Cuba. They don't know how things have changed" in recent years, she said. "What they are doing is counter-productive. I believe it's really going to hurt the private entrepreneurs in Cuba -- all the private restaurants, all the private homes" who serve tourists.
By Katell ABIVEN
Havana, March 10, 2019 (AFP) - In Havana, there's a shop selling a camera for more than $25,000 -- roughly 850 times the average monthly wage in Cuba. The eye-popping sum earned predictable scorn on social media, but it begins to make sense when seen through the lens of the island's fledgling bid to tap into the luxury tourism market.
The exclusive camera store and other boutiques featuring A-list brands like Versace and Armani are located in a shopping gallery on the ground floor of the swanky Gran Hotel Manzana. The mere existence of the shops certainly seems incongruous in a country that has been governed as a one-party communist state since 1959, and where the average wage is $30 a month. But the hotel isn't exactly looking for locals to buy in -- it attracts "a clientele of private airplanes... princes and celebrities," according to general manager Xavier Destribats.
The Gran Hotel Manzana, the first ever five-star establishment in Havana, opened in 2017 in a sumptuous historic building that was, at the beginning of the 20th century, the island's first shopping mall. The property run by Swiss group Kempinski is "the first genuine luxury hotel in Havana," said Destribats. "It's the first hotel with a 1,000-square-meter spa," he said. All the rooms are at least 40 square meters (430 square feet), with prices ranging from $370 for a basic room in low season to $5,000 for the presidential suite. "There was a certain type of clientele that didn't travel to Havana, or Cuba, because there wasn't the standard of luxury five-star hotel like in cities such as Paris or London," Destribats added.
- 'Feels like Miami' -
The hotel terrace offers stunning views over Havana's colorful historic neighbourhood, where many Cubans live in dilapidated buildings that have fallen into disrepair or have vegetation sprouting from them. "It really doesn't feel like Cuba, clearly not -- it feels like being in the United States, Miami or Puerto Rico," said Celia Liegeois, a 26-year-old tourist from Paris. Having traveled around the island nation for three weeks, she and a friend had decided to spend their last few days relaxing by the hotel's rooftop pool.
Nearby, Suki Lu, a recently arrived 28-year-old Chinese television presenter, is impressed at what she sees. "It's beautiful. Look at the sunset! It's truly addictive," she said. "I live in Dubai so when you talk about luxury hotels, the level there is really high, but I think I'll like this hotel," she said, while her friend used a drone to get an aerial view of the building. The largest single group of visitors to the Gran Hotel Manzana -- one-fifth of the total -- are tourists from the United States, although there are plenty of visitors from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The Kempinski group, which hopes to open two or three more hotels in Cuba, is of course not the only chain to show an interest in the ultra-luxury market. In September 2018, Spain's Iberostar opened its second five-star hotel, the Grand Packard. French hotel giant Accor is planning on opening its own luxury establishment on the Malecon, Havana's famous seaside boulevard, in September. It will include a chocolate shop on its ground floor and a restaurant and concert space on its roof. The employees' outfits will be designed by Spanish fashion designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada.
- US blacklist -
However, there is a slight catch: in every case, the hotels are owned by Gaviota, the Cuban army's branch dedicated to tourism. The foreign hotel groups are only allowed to run the establishments, all built by French group Bouygues, which has a long-standing local presence. Authorities don't publish the army's revenues, but this alliance between hoteliers and the military landed the luxury hotels on Washington's blacklist.
US tourists are technically banned from staying in the hotels -- but the restriction can be easily circumvented by either paying in cash or booking through travel agents. Beyond hotels, developers have more ideas to entice those with deep pockets. "There's a plan to build golf courses in partnership with real estate groups," said industry expert Jose Luis Perello. The opening of a luxury hotel means Cuba has turned a corner, he said. "Since it opened up to international tourism more than 20 years ago, Cuba has focused all its plans and strategies" on "sun and beach tourism" for the masses, Perello said. That category currently accounts for 73 percent of the 70,000 hotel rooms on offer in Cuba. And those who rent them usually don't spend much money.
The same goes for cruise ship tourists -- while the number of cruises docking in Cuba has exploded, passengers only spend an average of $15 a day on land. That isn't great news for Cuba, which welcomed 4.7 million tourists in 2018 -- it needs the cash. The government, which has been subjected to US sanctions since 1962, used to depend on aid from its oil-rich ally Venezuela. But with Venezuela in turmoil, Cuba is scrambling for other sources of hard currency and its economic growth has stagnated at around one percent -- not enough to cover the population's basic needs. Opening luxury hotels is "a new stage," but also "a necessity," Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz says.
Havana, Feb 4, 2019 (AFP) - The number of people killed in the powerful tornado that ripped through part of Havana last week has risen to six, authorities said Sunday. Public Health Minister Jose Angel Portal Miranda said in state media that "sadly, two people have died among the 13 who were in critical condition." The earlier death toll was four.
The storm which hit Havana area towns including Regla, Guanabacoa, San Miguel de Padron and 10 de octubre late January 27, has been confirmed as a F4 storm, with F5 the strongest. Its powerful winds overturned trees and homes and cars, and several areas a number of blocks wide were all but wiped off the map.
World Travel News Headlines
By Helen ROXBURGH
Beijing, Jan 22, 2020 (AFP) - A new SARS-like virus has killed 17 people in China, infected hundreds and reached as far as the United States, with fears mounting about its spread as hundreds of millions travel for Lunar New Year celebrations, which start Friday. Many countries have stepped up screening of passengers from Wuhan, the Chinese city identified as the epicentre, and the World Health Organization has called an emergency meeting. Here's what we know so far about the virus:
- It's entirely new -
The pathogen appears to be a never-before-seen strain of coronavirus -- a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003. Arnaud Fontanet, head of the department of epidemiology at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, told AFP the current virus strain was 80 percent genetically identical to SARS. China has already shared the genome sequencing of this novel coronavirus with the international scientific community. It has been named "2019-nCoV".
- It's being passed between humans -
The WHO said Monday it believed an animal source was the "primary source" of the outbreak, and Wuhan authorities identified a seafood market as the centre of the epidemic. But China has since confirmed that there was evidence the virus is now passing from person to person, without any contact with the now-closed market.
The virus has infected more than 400 people across the country, with most cases in Wuhan, according to officials. Li Bin of China's National Health Commission on Wednesday said 1,394 people were still under medical observation. Doctor Nathalie MacDermott of King's College London said it seems likely that the virus is spread through droplets in the air from sneezing or coughing. Doctors at the University of Hong Kong published an initial paper on Tuesday modelling the spread of the virus which estimated that there have been some 1,343 cases in Wuhan -- similar to a projection of 1,700 last week by scientists at Imperial College, London. Both are much higher than official figures.
- It is milder than SARS -
Compared with SARS, the symptoms appear to be less aggressive, and experts say the death toll is still relatively low. "It's difficult to compare this disease with SARS," said Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China's National Health Commission at a press conference this week. "It's mild. The condition of the lung is not like SARS." However, the milder nature of the virus can also cause alarm.
The outbreak comes as China prepares for the Lunar New Year Holiday, with hundreds of millions travelling across the country to see family. Professor Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva, told AFP that the fact that the virus seems milder in the majority of people is "paradoxically more worrying" as it allows people to travel further before their symptoms are detected. "Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high," said Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust.
- International public health emergency? -
The WHO will hold a meeting on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak constitutes a "public health emergency of international concern" and if so, what should be done to manage it. Cases have so far been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Macau and the United States.
The WHO has only used the rare label a handful of times, including during the H1N1 -- or swine flu -- pandemic of 2009 and the Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016. The Chinese government announced Tuesday it was classifying the outbreak in the same category as the SARS outbreak, meaning compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the disease and the potential to implement quarantine measures on travel. But if the WHO decides to take this step, it would put the Wuhan virus in the same category as a handful of very serious epidemics.
- Global precautions -
As the number of confirmed deaths and infections has risen, so has concern worldwide about the disease spreading to other countries. In Thailand, authorities have introduced mandatory thermal scans of passengers arriving at airports in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi from high-risk areas in China.
In Hong Kong, where hundreds died during the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003, authorities have said they are on high alert, carrying out scans at the city's airport -- one of the world's busiest -- and at other international land and sea crossing points.
The United States also ordered the screening of passengers arriving on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan, including at airports in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Taiwan has issued travel advisories, and went to its second-highest alert level for those travelling to or from Wuhan. Vietnam has also ordered more border checks on its border with China.
By Beiyi SEOW
Beijing, Jan 22, 2020 (AFP) - The death toll from a new SARS-like virus that has infected hundreds in China rose to 17 on Wednesday, as authorities urged people to steer clear of the city at the centre of the outbreak. The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. With hundreds of millions of people travelling across China this week for the Lunar New Year holiday, the National Health Commission announced measures to contain the disease -- including sterilisation and ventilation at airports and bus stations, as well as inside planes and trains.
In Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic, large public events were cancelled and international football matches were moved to a new location. Visitors were urged to stay away, while residents were advised to not to leave the central city, which is home to 11 million people. "If it's not necessary we suggest that people don't come to Wuhan," Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang told state broadcaster CCTV. The illness is mainly transmitted via the respiratory tract and there "is the possibility of viral mutation and further spread of the disease", health commission vice minister Li Bin told a news conference in Beijing. More than 500 cases have now been reported, with the majority in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province.
The virus has now infected at least 444 people in Hubei province alone, said provincial officials at a press conference, adding that the death toll had risen from nine to 17. Major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing have also reported cases, as well as provinces in northeastern, central, and southern China. The World Health Organization started an emergency meeting Wednesday to decide whether or not to declare a rare global public health emergency over the disease, which has now been detected in the United States, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Macau.
The Chinese government has classified the outbreak in the same category as the SARS epidemic, meaning compulsory isolation for those diagnosed with the illness and the potential to implement quarantine measures. But they still have not been able to confirm the exact source of the virus. "We will step up research efforts to identify the source and transmission of the disease," Li said, adding that "the cases are mostly linked to Wuhan". Countries have intensified efforts to stop the spread of the pathogen -- known by its technical name 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Passengers are facing screening measures at five US airports and a host of transport hubs across Asia. Britain and Italy on Wednesday also announced enhanced monitoring of passengers from Wuhan.
- Virus source -
A prominent expert from China's National Health Commission confirmed this week that the virus can be passed between people. However, animals are suspected to be the primary source of the outbreak. A Wuhan market is believed to be the epicentre of the outbreak.
A price list circulating online in China for a business there lists a menagerie of animals or animal-based products including live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies and rats. It also offered civets, the animal linked to SARS. "We already know that the disease originated from a market which conducted illegal transaction of wild animals," said Gao Fu, director of the Chinese centre for disease control and prevention. He said it was clear "this virus is adapting and mutating". Hong Kong and British scientists have estimated that between 1,300 and 1,700 people in Wuhan may have been infected.
- Containment -
Health authorities are urging people to wash their hands regularly, avoid crowded places, get plenty of fresh air and wear a mask if they have a cough. Anyone with a cough or fever was urged to go to hospital. In Wuhan, city authorities made it mandatory to wear a mask in public places on Wednesday, according to state-run People's Daily.
In response to skyrocketing demand for masks -- which were starting to sell out at pharmacies and on some popular websites -- China's industry and information technology ministry said it would "spare no effort in increasing supply", state media reported. "These days, I wear masks even in places that are not too crowded, although I wouldn't have done so in the past," said Wang Suping, 50, who works at a Beijing arts school. At the capital's main international airport, the majority of people were wearing masks.
Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific said it had agreed to allow staff to wear surgical masks on mainland China flights, and that passengers from Wuhan would be offered masks and antiseptic wipes. In Wuhan, police were conducting vehicle spot checks for live poultry or wild animals leaving and entering the city, state media said. Officials also screened people on roads, the airport and the train station for fever. The local government has cancelled major public activities and banned tour groups from heading out of the city. Women's Olympics football qualifiers scheduled for February 3-9 in Wuhan have been moved to the eastern city of Nanjing.
Montreal, Jan 22, 2020 (AFP) - A Canadian guide died and five French tourists were missing after at least one snowmobile plunged through ice in northern Quebec, police said Tuesday. The group were riding close to where a river exits the Saint-Jean lake, and were outside the approved area for snowmobiles, police spokesman Hugues Beaulieu told AFP. Nine people, including the guide, were on the trip on Tuesday evening when the ice broke underneath them. Police said they were alerted by two of the tourists who had rescued a third tourist from the freezing water.
The 42-year-old guide was pulled out by emergency response teams and taken to hospital, but he died overnight, Beaulieu said, adding "five French tourists are still missing." The police and army were searching the area on Wednesday, assisted by divers. "This sector was not part of a marked trail, they were off-piste," said the spokesman.
Hong Kong, Jan 22, 2020 (AFP) - Macau on Wednesday reported its first confirmed case of the new SARS-like coronavirus as authorities announced all staff in the city's bustling casinos had been ordered to wear face masks. The former Portuguese colony is a huge draw for mainland tourists as the only place in China that allows gambling.
With the Lunar New Year approaching this weekend, a huge influx of mainland tourists is expected in the city. Asian countries have ramped up measures to block the spread of the new virus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has so far killed at least nine people.
On Wednesday, Macau announced its first confirmed case -- a 52-year-old businesswoman from Wuhan who arrived in the city by high-speed rail on Sunday, via the neighbouring city of Zhuhai. "A series of tests found that she was positive for the coronavirus and had symptoms of pneumonia," Lei Chin-lon, the head of Macau's health bureau, told reporters. The woman had been staying at the New Orient Landmark Hotel with two friends who were being monitored since her admission to hospital on Tuesday.
Ao Ieong Iu, Macau's Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, said staff in all casinos would be required to wear masks while anyone arriving at entry ports along the city's border with the mainland would need to fill out health declaration forms. "We have not banned tourism groups from Wuhan but we are not encouraging them," Ao Ieong said. "We will stay in close contact with tourism agencies and require them to notify us of all groups going to and coming from Wuhan," she added.
By Issam Ahmed with Helen Roxburgh
Washington/Beijing, Jan 21, 2020 (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday announced its first case of a new virus that has claimed six lives in China and sickened hundreds, joining countries around the world in ramping up measures to block its spread. The man, a US resident in his 30s who lives near Seattle, is in good condition, according to federal and state officials, and approached authorities himself after reading about the SARS-like virus in news reports. He is "currently hospitalized out of an abundance of precaution, and for short term monitoring, not because there was severe illness," said Chris Spitters, a Washington state health official. "This is an evolving situation and again, we do expect additional patients in the United States and globally," added Nancy Messonier, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but stressed that the overall risk to Americans remained low.
The man entered the country on January 15 after traveling to Wuhan, two days before the US began deploying health officials at major airports to screen passengers arriving from that central Chinese city which is at the heart of the outbreak. The efforts are to be extended now to a total of five US airports. It came as countries ramped up measures to block the spread of the virus -- known by its technical name 2019 Novel Coronavirus or 2019-nCoV -- as the number of cases surpassed 300, raising concerns in the middle of a major Chinese holiday travel rush.
Fears of a bigger outbreak rose after a prominent expert from China's National Health Commission confirmed late Monday that the virus can be passed between people. That conclusion is shared by the CDC, which said "person-to-person spread is occurring, although it's unclear how easily the virus spreads between people," even as the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a more cautious approach, saying it is still investigating. The UN agency will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to determine whether to declare a rare global public health emergency over the disease, which has also been detected in Thailand, Japan and South Korea and Taiwan.
- Holiday rush -
Authorities previously said there was no obvious evidence of person-to-person transmission and animals were suspected to be the source, as a seafood market where live animals were sold in Wuhan was identified as the center of the outbreak. Hundreds of millions of people are criss-crossing China this week in packed buses, trains and planes to celebrate the Lunar New Year with relatives.
More than 80 new cases have been confirmed, bringing the total number of people hit by the virus in China to 315, with the vast majority in Hubei, the province where Wuhan lies, according to officials. But cases have also been confirmed around the country, including Beijing and Shanghai. The first case on the self-ruled island of Taiwan was also confirmed Tuesday, with a woman taken to hospital on arrival at the airport from Wuhan. Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang told state broadcaster CCTV Tuesday that the death toll had risen from four to six. The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its genetic similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
- Fever checks -
At four airports in Thailand, authorities introduced mandatory thermal scans of passengers arriving from high-risk areas of China. In Hong Kong, authorities said they were on "extreme high alert," with passengers from Wuhan required to fill out health declarations and face possible jail time if they do not declare symptoms. Enhanced screening measures have also been set up at airports in Australia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Singapore and Russia, Malaysia and Vietnam. A man showing symptoms of the disease who had travelled to Wuhan has been put in isolation in Australia as health officials await test results, authorities said Tuesday. In China, the government announced it was classifying the outbreak in the same category as SARS, meaning compulsory isolation for those diagnosed ith the disease and the potential to implement quarantine measures on travel.
In Wuhan, authorities banned tour groups and police were conducting spot checks for animals in vehicles leaving and entering the city, state media said. It added that city health authorities had scheduled 800 beds to be made available in three hospitals and 1,200 more would soon be ready, and passengers were being screened for fever at the airport, railway stations and bus terminals. Doctors at the University of Hong Kong released a study on Tuesday estimating that there have been 1,343 cases of the new virus in Wuhan. The WHO has only called a global public health emergency a handful of times, including during the H1N1 -- or swine flu -- pandemic of 2009 and the Ebola epidemic that devastated parts of West Africa from 2014 to 2016.
Lima, Jan 21, 2020 (AFP) - Peru is installing security cameras at its world renowned Machu Picchu site after it was damaged earlier this month by foreign tourists, authorities said Tuesday. "We are going to strengthen security at Machu Picchu by installing high-tech cameras," Jose Bastante, head of the archaeological park, told AFP. Bastante said 18 cameras will be located at three strategic points of the citadel as well as access points from surrounding mountains. "This will allow us to better control visitors and avoid any action or infraction to the regulations, also any type of risk," he said, adding that drones were also being used for security.
Five tourists accused of damaging the iconic site were deported to Bolivia last week and barred from returning to the country for 15 years. A sixth, from Argentina, was fined $360 and must pay $1,500 to the culture ministry for repairs after he admitted to damaging the Temple of the Sun at the ancient Inca sanctuary.
The Argentine, 28-year-old Nahuel Gomez, also received a suspended sentenced of three years and four months, but can leave the country once the fines are paid. Gomez admitted to causing a stone slab to fall from a temple wall. It was chipped when it fell, causing a crack in the floor. "The damaged caused is significant. The integrity of Machu Picchu has been broken," Bastante said. Members of the group were also suspected of defecating inside the 600-year-old temple.
The Machu Picchu complex -- which includes three distinct areas for agriculture, housing and religious ceremonies -- is the most iconic site from the Inca empire, which ruled over a large swath of western South America for 100 years before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Machu Picchu, which means "old mountain" in the Quechua language indigenous to the area, is at the top of a lush mountain and was built during the reign of the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438-1471).
Johannesburg, Jan 21, 2020 (AFP) - Beleaguered national airline South African Airways (SAA) announced on Tuesday it was cancelling 10 domestic and one international flight in an effort to streamline services and save cash. The cash-strapped airline was last month placed under a state-approved business rescue plan to avoid total collapse following a costly week-long strike by thousands of its workers. SAA said in was dropping 10 domestic flights between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, while canning its direct route between Johannesburg and Munich.
Passengers on cancelled domestic flights will be accommodated on its budget sister airline, Mango, while international travellers would be re-routed via its flights between Johannesburg and Frankfurt, and London Heathrow. "These decisions are in line with SAA's usual policy of reviewing flights and consolidating services with low demand," it said in a statement. "Furthermore, during the current process of business rescue, these cancellations represent a responsible strategy to conserve cash and optimise the airline's position ahead of any further capital investment."
The company said there might be further flight schedule changes over the coming days. Aviation analyst Phuthego Mojapele said a spate of cancellations by clients were exacerbating problems for SAA. "At the moment SAA's perception out there ... it's not really looking good because there is negative news that is being perpetuated on the wires every single day," Mojapele told local television station, eNCA. "However, SAA's records in terms of safety, in terms of the service has always been excellent," he added.
The debt-ridden carrier, which has failed to make a profit since 2011 and survives on government bailouts, has been awaiting a two-billion rand ($138 million) payout from the Treasury to fund a rescue plan announced in December. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni last week told journalists that the government was still trying to "find a solution to finance the airline". Local media have reported that SAA is selling nine older aircraft to make way for new planes, part of a separate plan to rid itself of its most costly aircraft. SAA, Africa's second largest airline after Ethiopian Airlines, employs more than 5,000 workers. It has a fleet of more than 50 aircraft flying to more than more 35 domestic and international destinations.
Taipei, Jan 21, 2020 (AFP) - Taiwan on Tuesday reported its first confirmed case of the new SARS-like coronavirus as the government warned the public against travelling to Chinese city where it emerged. The patient is a Taiwanese woman in her fifties, living in Wuhan, who returned to the island on Monday with symptoms including fever, coughing and a sore throat. Asian countries have ramped up measures to block the spread of the new virus as the death toll in China rose to six and the number of cases jumped to almost 300 since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The Taiwan patient reported her symptoms to quarantine officials on arrival at Taoyuan airport and was immediately taken to a hospital for treatment, said the island's Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The woman told officials that she had not visited any local markets or had contact with birds or wild animals while in Wuhan. Authorities are monitoring some 46 passengers and crew from the same flight, the agency said.
The CDC raised its alert on Wuhan to the highest level, urging the public against travelling to the city unless necessary. "We ask the public not to panic as the individual was taken to hospital directly from the airport and did not step into the community," it said in a statement, adding that it reported the case to the World Health Organization and China authorities. The coronavirus has spread to Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Kathmandu, Jan 21, 2020 (AFP) - Eight Indian tourists, including four children, have died after they were found unconscious in their room at a hill resort in Nepal on Tuesday, police said. The eight -- two couples and their children -- had slept in one room at a hotel in Daman, a popular tourist destination in Makwanpur district about 55 kilometres (34 miles) from Kathmandu. "They were found unconscious this morning and airlifted to Kathmandu but died during treatment," police spokesman Shailesh Thapa Chettri told AFP.
The families, from the south-eastern state of Kerala, used a gas heater in their room to keep warm, a district official told AFP. "We suspect they died of suffocation, but autopsy reports will confirm the cause," Chettri added. India is Nepal's biggest source of tourists, making up some 16 percent of visitors to the Himalayan nation.
Kathmandu, Jan 19, 2020 (AFP) - Avalanches, heavy snow and poor visibility hampered the search Sunday for four South Koreans and three Nepalis caught in an avalanche in the popular Annapurna region of the Himalayas, officials said Relatives of the missing Koreans have arrived in Kathmandu alongside several officials sent by Seoul to help with the emergency rescue efforts, Ang Dorjee Sherpa of the Korean Alpine Federation told AFP.
The missing group was near the Annapurna base camp around 3,230 metres (10,600 feet) above sea level when the avalanche struck after heavy snowfall on Friday. "Our team reached the area but could not proceed with their search because of more avalanches. We are exploring ways to move the operation forward," said Mira Acharya from Nepal's tourism department.
Rescuers were working with Korean officials to deploy drones in the search on Monday, said Dilip Gurung of the tourism management committee in Chhomrong, which lies on the trekking route. "It is difficult for people to go. We will try to fly drones to help find something," Gurung said. Helicopters were sent out on Saturday to rescue about 200 people stranded around Annapurna and other nearby mountains after the incident.
Guesthouses and the trekking route were blanketed in a thick layer of snow. "The snow was very deep and it took us more than double the time to dig through and walk," said Jeevan Dahal, a guide who was rescued by helicopter. "We saw the avalanche-hit area from the helicopter. Everything was white." Tek Gurung, a guesthouse owner aiding the search operation, said more than two metres of snow (6.6 feet) had fallen on the trekking trails and it was "extremely difficult" to search the snow-covered area on foot.
Six of the missing were part of the same expedition, while one Nepali porter was escorting a different group. The four foreigners -- two men and two women -- were part of an 11-member team of South Korean nationals. Others have safely descended. Education officials in Seoul said they were part of a team of volunteer teachers working with children in Nepal.
Two more South Koreans were due to arrive in Nepal on Sunday to help with the search, the country's foreign ministry said. Sherpa said it had snowed heavily around Annapurna in recent days, making the trek risky. "The weather and snow got worse and, feeling it was becoming dangerous and difficult, they decided to turn. As they were heading back the avalanche hit," Sherpa told AFP on Saturday.
Annapurna is an avalanche-prone and technically difficult mountain range with a higher death rate than Everest, the world's highest peak. Thousands of trekkers visit the route every year for its stunning views of the Himalayas. A snowstorm killed about 40 people on the circuit in 2014, in one of the biggest trekking tragedies to hit Nepal.