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Antartica

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

Currency:
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Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Health Facilities:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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;
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Tetanus (childhood booster)
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Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
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Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Summary:
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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

Date: Thu, 17 May 2018 09:57:07 +0200

Buenos Aires, May 17, 2018 (AFP) - Tourism regulation in Antarctica has become an urgent matter due to environmental threats, officials from the 53 member countries of the Antarctic Treaty warned at their annual meeting, held this week in Buenos Aires.

In the absence of rules, travel agencies offer trips to the region on boats sometimes equipped with helicopters or submarines, according to Segolene Royal, French ambassador for the Arctic and Antarctic poles.   "This activity creates considerable disturbance ... we are witnessing a race toward large-scale tourism that is dangerous for ecosystems," she said at the assembly on Wednesday.

During the austral summer of 2016/2017, around 44,000 tourists set off for Antarctica, compared with just 9,000 in 1995/1996, according to French authorities.   However, the push for regulation is not about banning tourism, former environmental minister Royal said, but rather about ensuring it is managed in compliance with the treaty and its environmental protection protocol.

In Buenos Aires, the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting  -- whose mission is to regulate human activity on the continent -- also sought to encourage scientific cooperation between countries that have collectively set up around 100 research bases across the ice.   Also up for analysis is China's proposed fifth permanent scientific station in Antarctica, which would be located in the Ross Sea area south of New Zealand.
Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2017 13:01:49 +0200
By Marlowe HOOD

Paris, July 5, 2017 (AFP) - A chunk of ice bigger than the US state of Delaware is hanging by a thread from the West Antarctic ice shelf, satellite images revealed Wednesday.   When it finally calves from the Larsen C ice shelf, one of the biggest icebergs in recorded history will be set adrift -- some 6,600 square kilometres (2,550 square miles) in total, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

The iceberg's depth below sea level could be as much as 210 metres (almost 700 feet), or about 60 storeys, it said.   "The crack in the ice is now around 200 kilometres (125 miles) long, leaving just five kilometres between the end of the fissure and the ocean," the ESA said in a statement.   "Icebergs calve from Antarctica all the time, but because this one is particularly large its path across the ocean needs to be monitored as it could pose a hazard to maritime traffic."

Scientists tracking the berg's progression expect it to break of within months.    The Larsen C shelf will lose more than 10 percent of its total surface area.   The massive ice cube will float in water and by itself will not add to sea levels when it melts.   The real danger is from inland glaciers.   Ice shelves float on the sea, extending from the coast, and are fed by slow-flowing glaciers from the land.    They act as giant brakes, preventing glaciers from flowing directly into the ocean.   If the glaciers held in check by Larsen C spilt into the Antarctic Ocean, it would lift the global water mark by about 10 centimetres (four inches), researchers have said.

The calving of ice shelves occurs naturally, though global warming is believed to have accelerated the process.   Warming ocean water erodes the underbelly of the ice shelves, while rising air temperatures weaken them from above.   The nearby Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995, and Larsen B dramatically broke up seven years later.   The ESA is keeping an eye on Larsen C with its Copernicus and CryoSat Earth orbiters.

Man-made global warming has already lifted average global air temperatures by about one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial levels.    Antarctica is one of the world's fastest-warming regions.   The world's nations undertook in the Paris Agreement, inked in 2015, to cap average global warming at "well under" 2 C.
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2016 21:35:09 +0200
By Jean-Louis SANTINI

Washington, June 22, 2016 (AFP) - Two sick workers were evacuated from a remote US research station near the South Pole on Wednesday in a risky rescue mission carried out in the dead of Antarctica's winter, a US official said.   A Twin Otter turboprop plane flew in dark and cold conditions to pick up the workers from the Amundsen-Scott station, about 250 meters from the geographic South Pole, a spokesman for the US National Science Foundation (NSF), Peter West told AFP.

The plane's crew and a medical team had made the 10-hour journey to the South Pole in the middle of Antarctica's 24-hour winter on Tuesday night to reach the unidentified patients, who could not be treated on site.   The NSF -- the US research agency that operates the Amundsen-Scott Station -- organized the rescue mission last week given the condition of the first patient, which was not disclosed for privacy reasons.   "It was really an emergency," West said.   It later became apparent that the second worker also needed to be evacuated.

The sick workers -- employees of the US company Lockheed Martin who worked on base logistics -- were then taken to the Rothera base, a British research station some 2,200 kilometers (about 1,365 miles) away, the spokesman said.   The pair, who were not identified, were then to be transferred to a hospital in South America, West said, without giving further details.   The Amundsen-Scott base was home to 48 people -- 39 men and nine women -- who work on-site throughout the austral winter, which spans February through October.

- Rare rescue mission -
Near the world's southernmost point, workers spend this period withstanding nearly complete darkness and dramatically low temperatures -- on Tuesday, the thermometer dropped to -60 degrees Celsius (-76 degrees Fahrenheit).   It was only the third time that an emergency rescue operation has been launched in the middle of winter.   In 2001, the only doctor at the Amundsen-Scott station was suffering from a life-threatening pancreatic condition and required urgent evacuation. A second medical evacuation was carried out that year.

In 1999, the US station's doctor Jerri Nielsen, who was self-treating her own breast cancer, required medical evacuation but weather conditions were more favorable, as the mission took place in the spring.  The Twin Otter plane, operated by the Canadian company Kenn Borek Air, is specially designed to operate in extremely cold temperatures.

Research projects at the Amundsen-Scott station include monitoring long-term levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.     The station also operates two telescopes that observe "cosmic microwave background" radiation -- the faint light signature left by the Big Bang -- to study the origins of the universe, dark energy and dark matter.
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 09:04:56 +0200 (METDST)
by Martin PARRY

SYDNEY, June 18, 2014 (AFP) - Antarctic scientists warned Wednesday that a surge in tourists visiting the frozen continent and new roads and runways built to service research facilities were threatening its fragile environment.   Tourist numbers have exploded from less than 5,000 in 1990 to about 40,000 a year, according to industry figures, and most people go to the fragmented ice-free areas that make up less than one percent of Antarctica.   A growing number of research facilities are also being built, along with associated infrastructure such as fuel depots and runways, in the tiny ice-free zones.

It is these areas which contain most of the continent's wildlife and plants, yet they are among the planet's least-protected, said a study led by the Australian government-funded National Environmental Research Programme (NERP) and the Australian Antarctic Division.   "Many people think that Antarctica is well protected from threats to its biodiversity because it's isolated and no one lives there," said Justine Shaw from the NERP of the study published in the journal PLoS Biology.   "However, we show that there are threats to Antarctic biodiversity.   "Most of Antarctica is covered in ice, with less than one percent permanently ice-free," she added.   "Only 1.5 percent of this ice-free area belongs to Antarctic Specially Protected Areas under the Antarctic Treaty System, yet ice-free land is where the majority of biodiversity occurs."   Five of the distinct ice-free areas have no protection at all while all 55 of the continent's protected zones are close to sites of human activity.

- Fragile ecosystems -
Steven Chown of Monash University, another collaborator in the study, said the ice-free areas contain very simple ecosystems due to Antarctica's low species diversity.   This makes its native wildlife and plants extremely vulnerable to invasion by outside species, which can be introduced by human activity.   "Antarctica has been invaded by plants and animals, mostly grasses and insects, from other continents," he said.    "The very real current and future threats from invasions are typically located close to protected areas.    "Such threats to protected areas from invasive species have been demonstrated elsewhere in the world, and we find that Antarctica is, unfortunately, no exception."

The study said the current level of protection was "inadequate by any measure" with Shaw saying more was needed to guard against the threat posed by the booming tourism industry.   "(We need) to protect a diverse suite of native insects, plants and seabirds, many of which occur nowhere else in the world," she said.   "We also need to ensure that Antarctic protected areas are not going to be impacted by human activities, such as pollution, trampling or invasive species."   Antarctica is considered one of the last frontiers for adventurous travellers.   Most travel by sea, some paying in excess of US$20,000 for a luxury cabin in the peak period from November to March. There is also a healthy market for sightseeing flights.

Approximately 30 nations operate permanent research stations on the continent including the US, China, Russia, Australia, Britain, France and Argentina, and more are on the way.   China's state media said in December that the country was building its fourth base and a fifth was being planned.   Fellow study author Hugh Possingham, from NERP, said that without better protection "this unique and fragile ecosystem could be lost".   "Although we show that the risks to biodiversity from increasing human activity are high, they are even worse when considered together with climate change," he added.    "This combined effect provides even more incentive for a better system of area protection in Antarctica."
Date: Sun, 17 Nov 2013 12:27:56 +0100 (MET)

WASHINGTON, Nov 17, 2013 (AFP) - A powerful 7.8 magnitude undersea earthquake struck in the Scotia Sea, a remote region in the far south Atlantic near Antarctica, US earthquake monitors reported Sunday.   The quake struck at 0904 GMT in the ocean some 893 kilometers (550 miles) southwest of Grytviken, South Georgia, and 1,140 kilometres (710 miles) southeast of Ushuaia, Argentina, said the US Geological Survey, which monitors earthquakes worldwide.   The epicenter was at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), and was near that of a 6.8 magnitude undersea earthquake that the USGS registered in the Scotia Sea some 30 hours earlier.

The quake occurred at the boundary between the Antarctic tectonic plate and the Scotia Sea plate, said geophysicist Randy Baldwin at the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado.   "They're sliding past one another horizontally, it's not a subduction zone," Baldwin told AFP. "There will be aftershocks probably for weeks."   There were no tsunami warnings since there were no vertical movements in the seafloor as occur in a subduction quake, when one tectonic plate moves under another one, Baldwin said.   Yet despite the enormous energy unleashed the area is so remote that there is little or no impact to humans, he said.   "You couldn't pick a more remote area for an earthquake," he said.
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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea - US Consular Information sheet
October 17, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Papua New Guinea is a developing country in the Southwest Pacific. The capital is Port Moresby. Tourist facilities outside major towns are limited. Crim
is a serious concern throughout Papua New Guinea (please see the section on crime below). Read the Department of State Background Notes on Papua New Guinea for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Travelers must possess a valid passport, onward/return airline ticket, and proof of sufficient funds for the intended visit. Travelers may obtain business or tourist visas (valid for stays of up to 60 days, with extensions available for an additional 30 days) upon arrival at Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby. All persons boarding international flights originating from Papua New Guinea pay a departure fee, which should be included in airline fares. Travelers may obtain more information on entry and exit requirements from the Embassy of Papua New Guinea, 1615 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009, tel. 202-745-3680, fax 202-745-3679, e-mail kunduwash@aol.com, or via the Papua New Guinea Embassy web site at http://www.pngembassy.org/
Travelers who plan to transit or visit Australia must enter with an Australian visa or, if eligible, an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). The ETA replaces a visa and allows a stay of up to three months. It may be obtained for a small service fee at http://www.eta.immi.gov.au/. Airlines and many travel agents in the United States are also able to issue ETA’s. Travelers may obtain more information about Australian entry requirements from the Australian Embassy at 1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036, tel. 202-797-3000, or via the Australian Embassy's web site at http://www.austemb.org/.

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

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Civil Unrest/Political Tension: Tension between communal or clan groups, particularly in the Highlands region, occasionally leads to outbreaks of tribal fighting, often involving the use of firearms. Travelers should consult with their tour operator, the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, or with Papua New Guinean authorities before visiting the region.

Visitors intending to travel to the autonomous region of Bougainville Island should contact the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby for updated security information. Bougainville Island is not peaceful, law enforcement is weak, and tourist and transportation facilities are limited. We advise travelers to Bougainville, as in other parts of Papua New Guinea, to exercise a high degree of caution. Areas near the Panguna mine, located on the southern part of the Island of Bougainville, have been officially designated “no go zones” by the Autonomous Government of Bougainville; Americans should avoid those areas.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures that travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Papua New Guinea has a high crime rate. Numerous U.S. citizen residents and visitors have been victims of violent crime in recent years, and they have sometimes suffered severe injuries. Carjackings, armed robberies, and stoning of vehicles are problems in and around major cities such as Port Moresby, Lae, Mount Hagen, and Goroka, but can happen anywhere. Pickpockets and bag-snatchers frequent crowded public areas. Hiking or other travel in rural areas and visiting isolated public sites such as parks, golf courses, beaches, or cemeteries can be dangerous. Individuals traveling alone are at greater risk for robbery or gang rape than are those who are part of an organized tour or under escort. Visitors to Papua New Guinea should avoid using taxis or buses, known as Public Motor Vehicles (PMV's), and should instead rely on their sponsor or hotel to arrange for taxi service or a rental car.
Road travel outside of major towns can be hazardous because criminals set up roadblocks near bridges, curves in the road, or other features that restrict vehicle speed and mobility. Visitors should consult with the U.S. Embassy or with local law enforcement officials concerning security conditions before driving between towns. (See also Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below). Travel to isolated places in Papua New Guinea is possible primarily by small passenger aircraft; there are many small airstrips throughout the country. Security measures at these airports are rare. Organized tours booked through travel agencies remain the safest means to visit attractions in Papua New Guinea. The Embassy recommends that prospective visitors consult a Primer on Personal Security for Visitors to Papua New Guinea at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1757.html
Kokoda Track: Americans should exercise a high degree of caution when walking the Kokoda Track and traveling through the areas adjacent to each end of the track. Travelers should travel with guides from a reputable tour company. This is particularly important given occasional threats by villagers to close parts of the track because of local land and compensation disputes. Trekkers should ensure that their tour company provides a permit in return for fees paid for this purpose. The Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) has stationed rangers along the track and at airports to collect fees from trekkers who have not obtained a valid trekking permit. The KTA can be contacted on telephone (675) 325 6165 regarding payment of the applicable fee.
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 may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney, if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Papua New Guinea is: 000
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Papua New Guinea vary from hospitals in Port Moresby and the larger towns to aid posts (including some missionary stations) in remote areas. Medical facilities vary in quality, but those in the larger towns are usually adequate for routine problems and some emergencies. However, equipment failures and sudden shortages of common medications can mean that even routine treatments and procedures (such as X-rays) may become unavailable. A hyperbaric recompression chamber for diving emergencies is available in Port Moresby. Pharmacies in Papua New Guinea are found only in urban centers and at missionary clinics. They are small and may be inadequately stocked. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical services.
Medical conditions arising as a result of diving accidents will almost always require medical evacuation to Australia, where more sophisticated facilities are available. Medical evacuation companies could charge thousands of dollars to transport a victim to Australia or the U.S. A last-minute, one-way commercial ticket from Port Moresby to Brisbane or Cairns costs upwards of US$250 for economy class and upwards of US$550 for business class. The most commonly used facilities are in Brisbane and Cairns, both in the Australian State of Queensland. Travelers who anticipate the possible need for medical treatment in Australia should obtain entry permission for Australia in advance. Entry permission for Australia can be granted by the Australian Embassy in Port Moresby, but it is easier to obtain it prior to leaving the United States (see section above on Entry/Exit Requirements).
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Papua New Guinea. The Government of Papua New Guinea does not currently have any policy guidelines that prevent entry into the country by short- and long-term travelers and/or residents.

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 (CDC) 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/en
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if 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 Papua New Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic in Papua New Guinea moves on the left. Travel on highways outside of major towns can be hazardous. Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of serious injury in Papua New Guinea, especially when passengers are sitting in the open bed of a pickup truck. Drivers and passengers are advised to wear seatbelts. There is no countrywide road network. Roads are generally in poor repair, and flat tires occur routinely as a result of potholes and debris on the roadways. During the rainy season landslides can be a problem on some stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen. Criminal roadblocks have occurred during the day and more widely after dark on the Highlands Highway. Visitors should consult with local authorities or the U.S. Embassy before traveling on the Highlands Highway.
Crowds can react emotionally and violently after road accidents. Crowds form quickly after an accident and may attack those whom they hold responsible, stoning and/or burning their vehicles. Friends and relatives of an injured party may demand immediate compensation from the party they hold responsible for injuries, regardless of legal responsibility. Persons involved in accidents usually should proceed directly to the nearest police station rather than stop at the scene of the accident.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Papua New Guinea’s national tourism office and national authority responsible for road safety. For specific information concerning Papua New Guinea driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact Papua New Guinea’s Tourist Promotion Authority via the Internet at http://www.pngtourism.org.pg/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Papua New Guinea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Papua New Guinea’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Customs: Papua New Guinean and Australian customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Papua New Guinea and Australia of items such as firearms, certain prescription drugs, wooden artifacts, exotic animals, food, and sexually explicit material. Other products may be subject to quarantine. It is advisable to contact the Embassies of Papua New Guinea and Australia in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding each country’s customs requirements. (See the contact information in the section on Entry/Exit Requirements above.)
Natural Disasters: Papua New Guinea is prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and sudden tidal movements. There are numerous active volcanoes throughout Papua New Guinea. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
Documentation: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available.

Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Papua New Guinea‘s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Papua New Guinea 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. Homosexual activity is illegal in Papua New Guinea. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living or traveling in Papua New Guinea 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 Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy website is http://portmoresby.usembassy.gov. Americans without Internet access may register directly at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby and obtain updated information on travel and security within Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy is located on Douglas Street, adjacent to the Bank of Papua New Guinea, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. That address should be used for courier deliveries. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1492, Port Moresby, NCD 121, Papua New Guinea. The Embassy's telephone number is (675) 321-1455; after hour’s duty officer telephone number is (675-601-9689); fax (675) 321-1593. Americans may submit consular inquiries by e-mail to ConsularPortMoresby@state.gov
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Papua New Guinea dated July 18, 2008 to update the section on Safety and Security.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 7 May 2019 01:11:25 +0200

Port Moresby, May 6, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful but deep 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, officials said, cutting power and knocking items off shelves though there were no immediate reports of serious damage.

The quake struck at a depth of 127 kilometres (80 miles) about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the town of Bulolo at 2119 GMT Monday according to the US Geological Survey, and was felt in the capital Port Moresby about 250 kilometres away.   Officials said there were no immediate reports of major damage and the depth of the tremor meant there was no tsunami threat.   "We have no reports as yet" of serious damage, Inspector Leo Kaikas, Bulolo police station commander, told AFP. "We are still assessing the situation," he said.

Staff at Bulolo's Pine Lodge hotel said there was very minor damage from objects falling off tables, but nothing more serious.   Residents in Lae, more than 100 kilometres away, said the quake knocked things off shelves and worktops and cut electricity in some areas.   "I had just woken up," Christopher Lam, a designer who lives in the city, told AFP. "It lasted a little more than 30 seconds. We had household items knocked off their shelves and the power got cut.   "Things seem to have returned to normal. No structural damage here, though I'm not sure about other buildings in the city."   There are estimated to be around 110,000 people living within 50 kilometres of the epicentre, according to UN data.

The Moresby-based National Disaster Management office said while there were no early reports of damage, but news from the quake zone could take time to trickle in.  "We are awaiting assessments," a spokesman told AFP.   The country's rugged highlands region was hit by a 7.5-magnitude quake in February last year that buried homes and triggered landslides, killing at least 125 people.

The scale of that disaster did not become apparent for days due to PNG's poor communications and infrastructure.   There are regular earthquakes in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire -- a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.   Along the South Solomon trench, an area of the Pacific that includes PNG, there have been 13 quakes of magnitude 7.5 or more recorded since 1900, according to USGS data.
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2019 08:57:58 +0100

Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, Jan 14, 2019 (AFP) - Weeks of heavy rains and flooding have killed at least nine people in Papua New Guinea, with authorities warning more bad weather and devastation could be on the way.   Central Province Disaster Division Coordinator Tumai Ipo told AFP Monday they have received reports of at least nine deaths, with many more families left homeless or without access to safe drinking water.

Near the capital Port Moresby, there have been unconfirmed reports of children being washed away by floodwaters, while further down the coast, high winds generated by Cyclone Penny -- which hit northern Australia -- have destroyed homes.   Rising rivers have left many bridges unusable, stranding travellers.   The storms have lashed the country's southern coast since late December but have also caused problems in the north.   Three people are missing after setting out from the mainland to Manus Island on a dinghy around Christmastime. The National Maritime Safety Authority conducted an aerial search on January 5, but failed to locate them.

Authorities have warned airlines and shipping vessels to take precautionary measures.   Samuel Maiha, director of the National Weather Service, said the worst of the rain may have passed, but with Papua New Guinea now in the first months of the 2019 monsoon season, more could be on the way.   "Even after this system is gone, we will still have another four months yet to expect more weather changes, including possible tropical storms and increasing risk of landslides," he told AFP.
Date: Tue, 8 Jan 2019 08:02:28 +0100

Sydney, Jan 8, 2019 (AFP) - One of Papua New Guinea's most active volcanoes has erupted, authorities said Tuesday, pummelling villages on a remote island with volcanic rock before subsiding.   Manam island is a volcanic cone that towers out of the sea north of the Papua New Guinea mainland and has a history of eruptions, with major activity in November 2004 forcing the evacuation of some 9,000 people.

The volcano has erupted a number of times since then and spewed lava and ash last month.   A series of tremors around Manam triggered a warning system on Monday and the volcano began erupting shortly after, the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory said.   The eruption continued into early Tuesday, Ima Itikarai of the observatory told AFP.   An observatory report said there were "small ongoing eruptions" from the main crater early Tuesday.

Lava was channelled into a nearby valley and "intermittent bursts" of volcanic rock falling on villages, adding to a heightened risk of mudflows, it added.   The level of sesmic activity declined later in the day after jumping early Tuesday, the agency said.   But it warned that Manam was "still dynamic and volatile and therefore the potential for further eruptive activity in the future is still high".

Papua New Guinea has many volcanoes, particularly on its offshore islands, as the country lies at the junction of two tectonic plates.   Some islanders who were evacuated from Manam 15 years ago and resettled elsewhere on Papua New Guinea recently complained they were still struggling with their new lives, The National newspaper reported.
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2018 05:47:33 +0100
By Andrew BEATTY

Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, Dec 3, 2018 (AFP) - Decades after polio was eradicated from Papua New Guinea, the crippling and sometimes deadly disease has returned, leaving doctors scrambling to revive long-lapsed vaccination programmes.   Until earlier this year, the polio virus was endemic in only three countries in the world: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.   But a relatively rare strain is now spreading throughout rugged, jungle-cloaked Papua New Guinea, one of the world's poorest countries.   Since the first case was detected in April -- paralysing a six-year-old boy named Gafo near the northern coast -- polio has infected dozens more nationwide, prompting the government to declare a national emergency.

Papua New Guinea, which today has a population of around eight million people, thought it had eradicated the wild variant of the virus in 1996, and was certified polio-free in 2000.   But since then, experts say, lapsed vaccination programmes and poor sanitation have left an open invitation for the prehistoric disease to return.   "It's not a sudden surprise," said Monjur Hossain, a UNICEF expert living in Port Moresby.   "The government knew about it," he told AFP. "We all knew about it."

In a cruel twist, the virus afflicting Papua New Guineans today -- clinically known as VDPV1 -- started life as a vaccine.   The much-weakened version of the polio virus was first ingested as an oral vaccine, before spreading throughout the community via feces.   Because of low-levels of immunisation, the harmless attenuated virus continued to circulate person-to-person for a long period of time, allowing it to mutate into a more virulent strain.

Similar localised outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio have been previously detected in the Horn of Africa, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.   Still, healthcare workers are adamant that the benefits of vaccination programmes massively outweigh the risk of vaccine-derived polio.   World Health Organization experts estimate well over 10 million cases of polio have been averted worldwide since widespread vaccination began two decades ago, a 99 percent reduction.   But even with modern treatment, an estimated one in 100 cases of polio results in irreversible paralysis. A fraction of those who are paralysed die.

- 'Very expensive, very tough' -
Doctors in Papua New Guinea are trying to respond to the crisis by providing countrywide immunisation -- with at least three oral doses for each child.   Hundreds of thousands have already been vaccinated.   Despite government and international support, the country's lack of roads and unforgiving terrain -- particularly in the central highlands -- have made that task difficult.   Many villages can only be reached by air, or by day-long river trips.

Throw into the mix tribal violence, malnutrition, drought, multiple outbreaks of other diseases like measles and the aftermath of a massive February earthquake and things become more difficult still.   "It's really challenging in terms of access, in terms of logistics," said Hossain. "It's very expensive and very tough."   One answer has been to create mobile clinics that travel to villages far from populous areas like Mount Hagen -- which itself has very few paved roads.   At one such clinic near Mount Hagen's rough-and-tumble market, health worker Margaret Akima is virtually dragging mothers and their children into her barebones trailer.

In the first few days after setting up, she administered more than 100 doses of polio vaccine a day. By the final day of the two week stint, it is down to around 50.   From amid the throngs of bored men -- fighting, shouting and playing darts -- Akima picks out 37-year-old Maria Ponde.   She has travelled to Mount Hagen with her six-year-old daughter Warapnong to buy a spade head.   "I was not expecting her to get vaccinated," Ponde said as the dose was administered to her daughter.   Warapnong has already missed a few courses of the vaccine and only received this one by fluke, underscoring how scattershot the response still is.
Date: Wed 31 Oct 2018
Source: The National [edited]

Southern Highlands has reported the country's 19th polio case since June [2018] and 3 cases are pending confirmation. The provincial health authority's emergency operation centre in Mendi confirmed the case through the Health Department on [Fri 26 Oct 2018]. One child has died.

Disease surveillance officer with the emergency operation centre Ken Siki said the victim was a 1-year-old male from Yaria village in the Lower Mendi LLG of Imbonggu who had a paralysed leg. He said the child missed out on polio emergency vaccination when tests were conducted after he was admitted to for treatment and samples were sent to Port Moresby. "We did our best to make sure all the children were vaccinated in the 2 rounds but this total negligence by parents has resulting in the child being affected," Siki said.

"The reported case from Southern Highlands now brings the total to 19 the number of polio victims in the country while 3 more suspected cases are still pending confirmation." He said there needed to be more awareness done in the 3rd round of vaccination to make sure those who had missed out in the 1st and 2nd rounds were vaccinated. It is now the duty of parents and guardians to ensure their children are vaccinated.  [Byline: Peter Wari]
=======================
[Presumably this most recent confirmed case was associated with a cVDPV1 (circulating vaccine derived poliovirus type 1) and this will be reflected when the official report of this case is available. Unfortunately not all of the target population is reached during these vaccination campaigns, resulting in residual susceptible population.

A map showing the provinces of Papua New Guinea can be found at:

The HealthMap/ProMED map of Papua New Guinea:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/188>. - ProMED Mod.MPP]
More ...

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan - US Consular Information Sheet
May 07, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
While the country has undergone significant change since then, its progress towards democratic
nd economic reform has been halting and uneven.
Corruption is endemic at all levels of society.
Much of the country, particularly areas outside of Tashkent and the major tourist destinations of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, are remote and difficult to access.
Tourist facilities, when they exist at all, are typically below Western standards, and many goods and services remain difficult to find on a regular basis.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Uzbekistan for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport and visa are required.
Although official invitation letters are not required for American citizens applying for tourist visas, they are required for those planning to visit an individual who resides in Uzbekistan.
Tourist visas cannot be extended in Uzbekistan.
Visas are issued by Uzbek embassies and consulates abroad.
Visitors coming from countries where Uzbekistan does not have diplomatic or consular representation should obtain visas in a third country.
Visas are not available upon arrival at Uzbek airports.
The Embassy has received a number of reports from American citizens who have had problems obtaining Uzbek visas or who received Uzbek visas valid for a very limited period, usually for fewer than three months.
Americans seeking visas are encouraged to apply for their visas well in advance of their travel.

It is important to note that Uzbek visas indicate not only the validity of the visa, but also the period of time a person is allowed to stay in Uzbekistan on a given trip.
A visitor will have to leave the country after the number of days indicated as the duration of stay on the visa.
Therefore, it is important to indicate your intended period of stay when applying for your Uzbek visa.
American citizens who are affiliated with a non-governmental organization (NGO), which has been closed in Uzbekistan, may be prevented from entering the country, even with a valid visa.
All travelers, even those simply transiting Uzbekistan for fewer than 72 hours, must obtain an Uzbek visa before traveling to Uzbekistan.

The Uzbek Government maintains travel restrictions on large parts of the Surkhandarya province bordering Afghanistan, including the border city of Termez. The border crossing point at Hayraton between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, while open, is tightly controlled.
Foreign citizens intending to travel to this region must obtain a special permission card from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs or Uzbek embassies and consulates abroad.
Even with such permission, however, some American citizens transiting to Afghanistan via Termez have been briefly detained and/or fined for not registering in Uzbekistan.

Travel within Uzbekistan by rail or land sometimes requires brief exit into neighboring countries.
Travelers should have multiple-entry Uzbek visas and a proper visa for the neighboring country in order to avoid delays in travel.

Registration after entry:
All travelers present in Uzbekistan for more than three business days must register with the Office of Entry, Exit, and Citizenship, commonly known as “OVIR.”
Hotel guests are registered automatically, but all other travelers are responsible for registering themselves.
Registration fees vary depending on length of stay.
See http://uzbekistan.usembassy.gov/consular for more information.
Visitors without proper registration are subject to fines, imprisonment, and deportation.
The fines range from $500 to $4,000.
Uzbek law mandates that visitors carry a medical certificate attesting that they are not infected with HIV, but this requirement is sporadically enforced.
For more information, see the Department of State's Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Testing Requirements for Entry into Foreign Countries brochure.

Further visa information is available from the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan, 1746 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036; telephone: (202) 530-7291; fax: (202) 293-9633; website: http://www.uzbekistan.org ; or from the Consulate General of Uzbekistan in New York City, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 327A, New York, NY 10017; telephone:
(212) 754-7403; fax: (212) 838-9812; website: http://www.uzbekconsulny.org .

See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Uzbekistan and other countries.
Visit the Embassy of Uzbekistan web site at http://www.uzbekistan.org for the most current visa information.

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

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
A Travel Warning remains in effect for Uzbekistan.
The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens of the potential for terrorist attacks or civil disturbance in Uzbekistan, although there have been no violent incidents there since May 2005, and continues to urge Americans in Uzbekistan to exercise caution.
The U.S. Government continues to receive information that indicates terrorist groups may be planning attacks, possibly against U.S. interests, in Uzbekistan.
Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Al-Qaida, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement are active in the region.
Members of these groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and have attacked U.S. Government interests in the past, including the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, and may attempt to target U.S. Government or private American interests in Uzbekistan.
In the past, these groups have conducted kidnappings, assassinations, and suicide bombings.

Increased security at official U.S. facilities over the past year may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets.
These may include facilities where Americans and other foreigners congregate or visit, such as residential areas, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, outdoor recreation events, and resorts.
The U.S. Embassy in Tashkent continues to employ heightened security precautions.
U.S. citizens should report any unusual activity to local authorities and then inform the Embassy.

Uzbekistan experienced a wave of terrorist violence in 2004.
In July 2004 there were three suicide bombings in Tashkent, including one outside the U.S. Embassy.
The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The IJU also used suicide bombers in multiple attacks focused on police and Uzbek private and commercial facilities in Tashkent and Bukhara in late March and early April 2004.
In May 2005, armed militants stormed a prison in Andijon, released its prisoners, and then took control of the regional administration and other government buildings in Andijon Province.
Fighting broke out between government forces and the militants, and reports indicated that several hundred civilians died in the ensuing violence.
While there were no reports of U.S. citizens affected by these events, U.S. citizens and other foreigners in Uzbekistan frequently have experienced harassment from authorities and local residents since the 2005 violence.

Depending upon security conditions, travelers can expect restricted personal movement, including the closing of roads to traffic, and frequent document, vehicle, and personal identification checks should be anticipated.
The Uzbek Government has intermittently restricted travel to certain parts of the country in response to security concerns.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet website, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements , including the Travel Warning for Uzbekistan , Worldwide Caution Public Announcement , and the Public Announcement for Central Asia, can be found.

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

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

CRIME:
Uzbekistan’s rate of violent crime, including against foreigners, has increased in recent years.
In urban areas, travelers are urged to take the same precautions against crime that they would take in a large American city.
If you are traveling at night, please travel in groups, maintain a low profile, and do not display large amounts of cash.

Although using private cars as taxicabs is a common practice in Uzbekistan, Americans, especially women, should not consider this a safe practice.
Americans are encouraged to use clearly marked taxicabs, such as those at hotels.
Also, Americans should avoid riding in taxis alone.

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

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

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care in Uzbekistan is below Western standards, with severe shortages of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics.
Elderly travelers and those with pre-existing health problems may be at particular risk due to inadequate medical facilities.
Most resident Americans travel to North America or Western Europe for their medical needs.

Travelers are advised to drink only boiled water, peel all fruits and vegetables, and avoid undercooked meat.
Due to inadequate sanitation conditions, travelers should avoid eating unpasteurized dairy products and most food sold in the streets.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel .
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en .
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith .

MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Uzbekistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Uzbekistan has a developed but deteriorating traffic infrastructure.
Although main roads in central Tashkent are relatively well maintained, many secondary roads inside and outside Tashkent, and particularly those in the Tien Shan and Fan Mountains, are in poor condition and may be passable only by four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Driving at night can be quite dangerous because only the main roads in Tashkent and a few other major cities have streetlights; rural roads and highways generally are not lit.
Visitors are strongly urged to avoid driving at night outside Tashkent.
The gasoline supply can be sporadic; therefore, travelers should expect occasional difficulty finding gasoline, particularly outside of Tashkent.

Livestock, as well as farm equipment and carts drawn by animals that lack lights or reflectors, are found on both urban and rural roads at any hour.
Local drivers are not familiar with safe driving techniques.
Pedestrians in cities and rural areas cross streets unexpectedly and often without looking for oncoming traffic.
Uzbekistan has a large road police force, which frequently stops drivers for minor infractions or simple document checks.
There have been reports of harassment of foreign drivers by the road police, with reported minor police corruption in the form of solicitation of bribes.

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 Uzbekistan’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Uzbekistan’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa .

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Travelers to Uzbekistan are subject to frequent document inspections.
Therefore, U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to carry a certified copy of their U.S. passport and their Uzbek visa with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.
In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and certain bilateral agreements, local authorities must grant a United States Consular Officer access to any U.S. citizen who is arrested.
U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should ask to contact the U.S. Embassy immediately.

Uzbek customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import to or export from Uzbekistan of items such as armaments and ammunition, space technology, encryption devices, X-ray and isotope equipment, nuclear materials, poisons, drugs, precious and semi-precious metals, nullified securities, pieces of art, and antiques of historical value.
Contact the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Washington, D.C. or the Consulate of Uzbekistan in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Most transactions are conducted on a cash-only, local currency (soum) basis.
Credit cards are accepted only at the main hotels and a few shops and restaurants; travelers’ checks can be cashed into dollars at the National Bank of Uzbekistan.
The commission fee is two percent.
Importation of currency exceeding $10,000 (US) is subject to a one- percent duty.
Foreigners must complete a customs declaration upon entering Uzbekistan and may face fines upon departure if unable to produce certificates verifying legal conversion of foreign currency.
Old U.S. dollar bills (prior to 1990) and/or those in poor condition (with tears, writing or stamps) are not acceptable forms of currency in Uzbekistan.
Although payment in U.S. dollars is required for certain hotel charges, airline tickets, and visa fees, other dollar transactions, as well as black market currency exchanges, are prohibited.
Please see our Customs Information.

Uzbekistan is an earthquake-prone country.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/ .

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 Uzbek laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Uzbekistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Uzbekistan are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Uzbekistan.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at # 3, Moyqorghon Street, 5th Block, Yunusobod District, Tashkent -700093, Uzbekistan.
The main Embassy telephone number, which can also be reached after hours, is (998 71) 120-5450, fax:
(998 71) 120-6335; Consular fax: (998 71) 120-54-48; e-mail address: ConsularTashkent@state.gov; web site: http://uzbekistan.usembassy.gov.
*

*

*
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 13, 2006, to update the sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2019 09:29:10 +0100

Tashkent, Feb 1, 2019 (AFP) - Uzbekistan on Friday granted visa-free entry to citizens of 45 countries to boost tourism, which the government views as vital for economic growth.  The countries benefiting from a 30-day visa waiver that went into force on Friday include the majority of European countries including Britain as well as Australia, Canada, Argentina and Chile. The United States is a notable exception.

The impoverished ex-Soviet country has made tourism a priority to reduce its dependence on commodity exports.   The government is keen to show off the lavish Silk Road heritage of ancient cities such as Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand.    Earlier this year, Uzbekistan granted a 30-day visa waiver to Germany while France became the first European Union country to benefit from the measure last year.

Uzbekistan's tourism committee said last month that annual visitor numbers for 2018 were 5.3 million, double the figure for 2017.   President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has reversed a number of policies that hampered tourism under his late predecessor Islam Karimov.    Among the restrictions he scrapped was a ban on photography in the capital Tashkent's ornate metro that had led to police detentions of unsuspecting tourists.    Mirziyoyev's bid to boost tourism in the immediate aftermath of Karimov's death in 2016 suffered a false start.

In December that year, he issued an order easing or cancelling visa requirements for visitors from 27 developed countries but this was swiftly reversed before coming into force.   Observers attributed the reversal to resistance within the powerful security apparatus.      Uzbekistan already offers visa-free entry to visitors from Turkey, Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan, in addition to long-standing reciprocal visa-free entry for citizens of most former Soviet countries.
Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2019 13:59:14 +0100

Tashkent, Jan 4, 2019 (AFP) - Uzbekistan said Friday it will allow German citizens to visit for up to 30 days visa-free to boost tourism as the ex-Soviet country emerges from long-term isolation.   Germany will be the second European Union country after France to gain visa-free travel to Uzbekistan, which has opened up somewhat since the death of its long-reigning hardline leader Islam Karimov in 2016.    Germans will be able to enter the central Asian nation visa-free from January 15, the Uzbek tourism committee said Friday, three months after authorities granted French citizens the same 30-day visa waiver.

The impoverished country is highly dependent on commodity exports and has made developing tourism a priority.   In particular the government is keen to show off the lavish Silk Road heritage of cities such as Bukhara, Khiva and Samarkand.    According to the Uzbek tourism committee, 18,094 Germans visited Uzbekistan in 2018, almost five times as many as in 2016.   Reform-touting Uzbek president Shavkat Mirziyoyev is set to visit Germany this month after meeting US President Donald Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron last year.    These high-profile visits are seen as rewards for his steps towards greater openness following the death of  Karimov, under whom Mirziyoyev served as prime minister for 13 years.   The current president has reversed a number of policies that hampered the tourism sector in recent years.

Among the restrictions he scrapped was a ban on photography in the capital Tashkent's ornate metro that had led to police detentions of unsuspecting tourists.    Mirziyoyev's bid to boost tourism in the immediate aftermath of Karimov's death suffered a false start, however.    In December 2016, he issued an order easing or cancelling visa requirements for visitors from 27 developed countries but this was reversed a month later before actually coming into force.   The reversal was attributed to resistance within the powerful security apparatus.      Uzbekistan offers visa-free entry to citizens of Turkey, Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan, in addition to long-standing reciprocal visa-free entry for citizens of most former Soviet countries.
Date: Thu 27 Dec 2018
Source: Vanguard NGR News [edited]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has certified Uzbekistan as malaria-free, confirming the end of the country's half-century-long battle for malaria elimination within its borders. Uzbekistan has become the 2nd country in 2018 to be certified malaria-free -- Paraguay was certified in June -- marking another milestone on the road to ending the disease for good.

"Malaria No More commends the government of Uzbekistan for its resilience and determination to eliminate malaria once and for all. Uzbekistan's decade-long commitment demonstrates the government's recognition that malaria stood in the way of development, and that ridding the country of the disease was critical to improving [the country's] economic outlook and protecting the health of its people," said Martin Edlund, CEO of Malaria No More.

Uzbekistan 1st eliminated malaria in 1961 but struggled to maintain elimination as malaria cases continued to flow in from neighbouring countries. In 2000, recognising the barriers that having malaria within its borders had on the country's economy and overall health of its citizens, the government of Uzbekistan stepped up its investment and implemented a holistic multisectoral approach that went beyond health, with support from other ministries -- agriculture, education and transportation.

Highlighting the critical factors needed to get the job done, the WHO certification committee cited Uzbekistan's decision to maintain its support of the nation's primary health care system -- the backbone of the malaria response -- even during the economic crisis that gripped the country during the 1990s; its use of data to better target malaria interventions where they're need most; and its approach toward early detection, diagnosis and efficacious treatment of malaria patients -- free of charge and irrespective of nationality.

Another critical factor was support from non-governmental organizations and partners, particularly the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which played a vital role in Uzbekistan's achievement by providing financial support to ensure the national malaria program had the full amount of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying equipment, medicines and other tools needed to protect its citizens from malaria.  [Byline: Sola Ogundipe]
========================
[ProMED congratulates Uzbekistan with this important achievement. It is important to note that the achievement included mobilization beyond the health sector alone, applying a "holistic multisectoral approach that went beyond health," and the importance of the "primary health care system -- the backbone of the malaria response."

It is also noted that the malaria-free status would probably not have been achieved without the support of "non-governmental organizations and partners, particularly the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria." - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2018 12:05:35 +0200
By Christopher RICKLETON

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, April 29, 2018 (AFP) - Coiffed, cheerful and multilingual, identical twins Fatima and Zukhra Rakhmatova do not immediately resemble agents of ex-Soviet Uzbekistan's long-feared security apparatus.   But the photogenic 30-year-old pair are frontline members of a newly formed, user-friendly Tourist Police deployed in the famed Silk Road city of Samarkand and other hotspots as a visitor boom sweeps the Central Asian country.

The force, established in January, is viewed as part of a broader opening initiated by Uzbekistan's authoritarian government following a long period of self-enforced isolation.    More than 2.5 million tourists visited Uzbekistan last year, a 24 percent increase on the previous year, according to the UzDaily news site.   "In the past I worked as a teacher and then as a wedding stylist. I even won a national prize as a stylist," recalls Zukhra Rakhmatova, one half of a sister act proficient in English, Russian, Farsi, Turkish and Japanese.   "But our grandfather served in the force and our uncle too," Rakhmatova told AFP. "It was always our dream to serve."

- Change and continuity -
Samarkand -- a former power centre positioned at the epicentre of millennia-old trade routes linking China and Europe -- hosts symbols of authoritarian continuity as well as tentative reform.    A short walk from the ceramic and marble dazzle of the three madrasahs towering over the city's old square is the statue of Islam Karimov, who ruled the country from before independence in 1991 until his death in 2016.    Laid to rest in a grand mausoleum in Samarkand's historic centre, Karimov is criticised by rights groups as the architect of one of the world's most repressive and closed-off police states.

Far from being disavowed, his monument is now yet another photo opportunity for visitors and wedding parties in the city, where he was born in 1938 and remains widely revered.    "Everyone makes mistakes but Islam Karimov is a hero. He worked day and night to protect the Uzbek people," said a 22-year-old bridesmaid posing for pictures by the monument.    The young woman, who did not give her name but said she had travelled to Samarkand from the capital Tashkent, refused to say what "mistakes" she thought Karimov had made.

- Power struggle -
Whether out of political pragmatism or genuine deference to a man he served for 13 years as prime minister, Karimov's successor, 60-year-old Shavkat Mirziyoyev has also continued to honour his mentor in public.   In the aftermath of the former leader's death, new strongman Mirziyoyev likened him to a "father", even as he toned down some of the totalitarian excesses that defined Karimov's 27-year rule. 

Foreign tourism, which grew by around a quarter during Mirziyoyev's first year in office emerged as a key battleground in a power struggle that pitted the new reform-touting president against regime hardliners.   In February for instance, Mirziyoyev ordered the introduction of a 30-day visa-free regime for citizens of seven countries -- Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan -- and relaxation of registration rules for citizens of 39 others.

In cities like Samarkand, the changes were cheered by a population that endured long stretches of economic stagnation under Karimov.   "(We need to) open up of course!" said Malika Shakhimardonova, a chef at a mutton-grilling teahouse in the shadows of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, completed on the orders of medieval conqueror Tamerlane in the 15th century.   "Let the tourists arrive to us like brothers and sisters!" said Shakhimardonova, whose kitchen is expanding.

- 'Take photos and share them!' -
Many saw significance in the fact that Mirziyoyev's relaxation of visa restrictions came days after Rustam Inoyatov, 73, who led the notorious national security service for over two decades, was dismissed.   Inoyatov was widely reported to have blocked a previous effort by Mirziyoyev to revamp tourism and to have insisted on retaining long-standing security measures, including a blanket ban on photography in the capital's metro.    Such bans, which occasionally saw visitors detained by police, were "rudiments of the Soviet Union" now consigned to the past, said the country's new 44-year-old tourism chief Aziz Abdukhakimov.

"We want tourists to take as many photos as possible. Put them on Instagram! It is the best advert for the country," he told AFP.     The Rakhmatova sisters, who scoot around Samarkand on two-wheeled, motorised "Segways" and are trained to administer first aid, certainly seem far removed from the grimmer elements of a former communist police state.   But Fatima jokes their dual presence on the tourism beat might sometimes give visitors a different impression.    "Some tourists will see one of us close to one attraction then move on to another and find the other sister standing there," she explained.    "They smile but sometimes give us a strange look. Probably because we are identical they think the police are following them around," she laughed.
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2018 13:23:32 +0100

Tashkent, Feb 7, 2018 (AFP) - Uzbek authorities are to ease strict rules that bar visitors from taking photos or videos in parts of the country's picturesque capital, in a new bid to encourage tourism.   Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has made boosting the tourism sector a priority as his country seeks to emerge from a long period of economic stagnation under late ruler Islam Karimov, who died of a reported stroke in 2016.

But tourists have long been forbidden from capturing on camera the Uzbek capital Tashkent's elaborate metro stations and some government buildings.    Late on Tuesday state media published a presidential decree saying tourists would now be able to take photos of and film public places "without any sort of restrictions" as long as there is no specific legal act to prevent them from doing so.

It was not stated in the February 3 decree whether or not tourists would now be able to take photos of the metro stations.    Two travel agencies told AFP they had not yet received a list of spots that could not be photographed.   The decree also said tourists would be permitted to use drones to take photos and video, which was previously not allowed in the capital Tashkent.     Mirziyoyev, who served as prime minister for 13 years before taking over, has made moves to distance himself from Karimov's authoritarian excesses while also honouring his memory.

The new decree also allows for some foreign nationals to obtain a 72-hour transit visa on arrival in Tashkent airport, providing they can show proof of onward travel.    It was not immediately clear which passport holders this rule would apply to.     Uzbekistan is expected to grant citizens of Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan visa-free entry into the country starting from Saturday.

In December 2016, the government moved to lift visa restrictions for a longer list of countries but the order was unexpectedly deferred until 2021 weeks later.    Analysts attributed the nixing of the law to the intervention of the country's powerful national security chief, Rustam Inoyatov, whose dismissal after 23 years in power last month was widely seen as paving the way for further reforms.
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue 18 Jun 2019
Source: The Namibian [edited]

Oyster and black mussel production at Walvis Bay has been halted due to another outbreak of diarrheal shellfish poisoning (DSP), which can be harmful to humans. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources issued a notice yesterday [17 Jun 2019], warning people not to eat oysters or mussels from Walvis Bay. This comes 3 months after the last outbreak, which was cleared shortly thereafter.

According to the fisheries biologist, contamination is a seasonal occurrence -- mainly during summer from October to April. The recent outbreak could put a dent in the shellfish industry's economy as most exports are to Asia.

The worst affected area is at Walvis Bay's central production sector called "aquaculture production area 1", which is situated near Pelican Point. Once 2 negative results of tested samples are issued, the alert would be withdrawn, and harvesting, consumption and exports would be cleared again. The samples should be taken at 48-hour intervals, the statement from the ministry noted. Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

The statement indicated that DSP symptoms in humans who may have been poisoned might include, as the name suggests, diarrhea, although nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps are also common. These symptoms could manifest themselves after about half an hour of eating the infected shellfish, and could last a day. No deaths have been recorded from DSP to date, the statement indicated. People who show such symptoms should immediately consult a doctor or healthcare centre.  [Byline: Adam Hartman]
=======================
[It is not clear if the term outbreak refers to in the shellfish or in humans.  Diarrheal shellfish poisoning (DSP) (<http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20020>) is a gastrointestinal illness caused by the consumption of shellfish contaminated with algal toxins produced by marine dinoflagellates belonging to the genera _Dinophysis_ spp. (_D. fortii_, _D. mitra_, _D. rotundata_, _D. tripos_, _D. acuta_, _D. norvegica_, and _D. acuminata_) and _Prorocentrum_ spp. (_P. lima_, _P. maculosum_, _P. concavum_, and _P. hoffmannianum_).

The DSP toxins, including okadaic acid (OA) and its analogues dinophysistoxin-1 (DTX-1), dinophysistoxin-2 (DTX-2), and dinophysistoxin-3 (DTX-3), belong to the larger group of lipophilic toxins that also includes the azaspiracid, yessotoxin, and pectenotoxin group toxins.

The term diarrhectic (usually diarrhetic) shellfish poisoning (DSP) was used in this report, but this moderator prefers to use diarrheal shellfish poisoning to avoid any confusion between the almost homophones of diarrhetic and diuretic.

DSP is often mistaken for norovirus-like disease. It is treated with rehydration, and affected individuals usually recover in 1 to 2 days. DSP is most commonly found in shellfish in Europe and Japan but can appear anywhere and bears consideration with the appropriate epidemiology. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Wed 19 Jun 2019 [date accessed]
Source: WHO/EMRO Epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases [edited]

MERS situation update, May 2019
--------------------------
- At the end of May 2019, a total of 2442 laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), including 842 associated deaths (case fatality rate: 34.5%), were reported globally; the majority of these cases were reported from Saudi Arabia (2051 cases, including 765 related deaths with a case fatality rate of 37.3%). During the month of May [2019], a total of 14 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS were reported globally. All 14 cases were reported from Saudi Arabia with 4 associated deaths.

- This month [May 2019], Saudi Arabia has not reported any new cases related to the Al-Khafji city outbreak. The outbreak has presumed to have stopped due to the effective response measures taken by Saudi Arabia. This month [May 2019], one household cluster was reported from Al-Kharj city, including 2 symptomatic national females aged 22 and 44. One 23-year-old national female healthcare worker was also infected this month [May 2019] in Riyadh. All 4 cases that died this month [May 2019] were symptomatic males with one or more co-morbidities.

- The demographic and epidemiological characteristics of reported cases, when compared during the same corresponding period of 2013 to 2019, do not show any significant difference or change.

Summaries:
- Laboratory-confirmed cases reported since April 2012: 2442
- Deaths reported since April 2012 globally: 843
- Number of countries that have reported cases since April 2012: 27
- Number of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region that have reported cases since April 2012: 12
- 13 laboratory-confirmed cases reported linked to an outbreak in Saudi Arabia in April [2019]
- The age group 50-59 years continues to be at highest risk for acquiring infection of primary cases. The age group 30-39 years is most at risk for secondary cases. The number of deaths is higher in the age group 50-59 years for primary cases and 70-79 years for secondary cases.
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2019 06:40:09 +0200
By Sebastien BERGER

Pyongyang, June 18, 2019 (AFP) - On a grey stone column in Pyongyang, a mural shows Chinese and North Korean soldiers rushing into battle against US-led forces in the Korean War. Decades later, the monument is a regular stop for new waves of Chinese going to the North, this time as tourists.   Hundreds of soldiers and workers have been sprucing up the obelisk and its grounds in recent days ahead of a state visit to Pyongyang by Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.   An inscription on it lauds "the Chinese People's Volunteer Army, who fought with us on this land and smashed down the common enemy".   Their "immortal exploits" will "last forever", it proclaims, as will "the friendship forged in blood between the peoples of the People's Republic of China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea".   Nearly 70 years after Mao Zedong sent millions of soldiers to save Kim Il Sung's troops from defeat as General Douglas MacArthur's men marched up the peninsula, China remains the isolated, nuclear-armed North's key diplomatic backer and main provider of trade and aid.

Now the Friendship Tower, as the monument is known, attracts growing hordes of Chinese tourists -- and the renovations suggest it may also be on Xi's itinerary.   Ordinary Chinese pay travel companies around 2,500 yuan ($360) for a standard three-day trip, arriving overland by train in Pyongyang to tour the capital's highlights, from the Arch of Triumph to Kim Il Sung Square.   The following day they head south to the Demilitarized Zone that has divided the peninsula since the two sides fought each other to a stalemate in 1953, before returning home.   "I'm very interested in North Korea and wanted to come to see what North Korea looks like," said Yu Zhi, a retiree from Anhui province visiting Pyongyang, telling AFP that she had a "special feeling" for the country.   "China is very friendly with North Korea," added her fellow traveller, a woman surnamed Jin. "We have been friends for generations."

- Lips and teeth -
It was not always so. Mao -- whose eldest son Mao Anying was among those killed in what China still calls the "War to Resist US Aggression and Aid the DPRK" -- described the neighbours as "as close as lips and teeth".   Ties then waxed and waned during the Cold War, when founder Kim Il Sung was adept at playing his Soviet and Chinese allies off against each other, and his grandson, the current leader Kim Jong Un, did not visit Beijing to pay his respects for more than six years after inheriting power.   But as he embarked on a flurry of diplomacy last year he made sure that Chinese President Xi Jinping was the first foreign head of state he met, and he has since done so three more times -- more often than Kim has seen any other leader.    Now Xi is going to reciprocate.

At the same time Chinese tourism to the North has reached record highs, according to travel industry sources -- so much so that Pyongyang has imposed a limit on arrivals.   No official figures are available from authorities on either side, but Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, the market leader for Western visitors, said there had been "a huge increase in Chinese tourists".   At peak times 2,000 people a day had been arriving in Pyongyang, he said. "That's far too many because there is no infrastructure to accommodate that many tourists, so problems with train tickets, with plane tickets, hotel space."   As a result North Korean authorities had themselves set a 1,000-a-day cap, he added, although it was unclear whether this applied across the industry or solely to Chinese, who make up the vast majority of arrivals.   "There are issues with just hundreds of people showing up at the same time."

- 'Choices being made' -
China has a proven willingness to use tourism as a geopolitical negotiating weapon -- it banned group tours to South Korea after it deployed a US anti-missile system, THAAD.   With nuclear negotiations at a stalemate the North remains subject to multiple UN Security Council sanctions, and the US imposed a travel ban on its own citizens visiting following the death of student Otto Warmbier, who had been jailed after trying to steal a propaganda poster.   But tourism is not among the sectors targeted by the UN, potentially enabling Beijing to use it as an incentive for its sometimes wayward ally.

The Chinese travel phenomenon is market-driven, rather than prompted by state order -- as well as the market offered by China's huge population, the two countries' border enables cheap overland journeys.   But simply enabling it to take place, said John Delury of Yonsei University in Seoul, meant "We can infer some choices are being made" by Beijing.   "We know it's a lever they can turn on and off," he said.   Even with the diplomatic process at a standstill, he added, "The Chinese think you have to use this window of opportunity to move things forward. There has to be a path on both sides and so something like opening up tourism is a good way to enable that."   At the Monument to the Three Charters for Reunification on the edge of Pyongyang, where two giant stone women form an arch over a road, a secondary school teacher from Shanghai called Peng said: "We are both socialist countries. I feel there are more Chinese coming to visit."
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2019 06:14:38 +0200

Mae Sai, Thailand, June 18, 2019 (AFP) - Tourists snap selfies by a bronze statue of the diver who died trying to save the 'Wild Boars' football team from a flooded cave, while momentos from their rescue fly off the shelves -- scooped up by the 1.3 million people who have descended on a once serene mountainside in northern Thailand.   "It's amazing what happened here. I followed everything from Australia," tourist John McGowan told AFP after taking photos at the visitor centre around 100 metres from the Tham Luang cave entrance.   "I wanted to see it with my own eyes," the 60-year-old said, adding he was a little disappointed the cave is still off limits to visitors.

For a few dollars tourists can get framed photos at the site, pick up posters of the footballers and take home a souvenir t-shirt  -- some printed with the face of Saman Gunan the Thai diver who died in the bid to save the group.   There has been extraordinary global interest in the picturesque rural backwater of Mae Sai since 12 youngsters -- aged between 11 and 16 -- and their coach entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23, 2018.   They quickly became trapped by rising water levels and the daring, unprecedented mission to extract them through twisting flooded passageways captivated the world for 18 nail-biting days.   When they emerged -- after being heavily sedated and manoeuvered out by expert divers -- they did so into the centre of a global media frenzy.

The cave, which previously received around 5,000 visitors a year, has since been inundated by visitors both Thai and foreign.   "A miracle has happened here with these children," Singaporean tourist Cheong, giving one name, said but adding Tham Luang "must still have a spiritual side" despite the mass popularity.   - Tragedy and luck -   Mae Sai district, where the cave is located, was considered off the beaten track for foreign visitors.    But between October 2018 and April this year alone "1.3 million people visited," site manager Kawee Prasomphol told AFP.

The government now has big plans for the area around the storied cave, Kawee added, allocating a total of 50 million baht ($1.6 million) including a shopping complex, restaurants, hotels and several campsites outside the national park.   Vans disgorge streams of tourists who explore a visitor hub where the centrepiece is a mural entitled "The Heroes".   It depicts the young footballers, stars of the rescue, and junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha -- a reminder of the governmental fingerprints in aiding their cause.   At the heart of the mural is the beaming face of Saman Gunan, the Thai Navy SEAL diver who ran out off oxygen attempting to establish an air line to the children and their coach -- the only fatality across the near three-week rescue mission.

Laying white flowers at the foot of his bronze statue, Thai nurse Sumalee, who travelled four hours to the site, described him as "the hero of the whole country" in a sobering reminder of the risks involved in the rescue amid the blizzard of marketing opportunities now attached to the cave story.    Nearby lottery ticket vendors are capitalising on the perceived good fortune linked to the boys' survival and the folkloric appeal of a nearby shrine. The number of stalls has mushroomed from a few dozen to around 250.    Kraingkrai Kamsuwan, 60, who moved his stall to the site weeks after the rescue, sells 4,000 tickets a month ($2.5) but reckons more will visitors will arrive once the cave reopens.    He told AFP: "People want to gamble after wishing for luck from the shrine."
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 12:02:50 +0200

Patna, India, June 16, 2019 (AFP) - Severe heat has left dozens dead over a 24-hour period in India's Bihar state, as the country enters a third week of searing temperatures, officials said Sunday.   The deaths occurred in three districts of the poor northern state, where temperatures have hovered around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in recent days, senior health official Vijay Kumar told AFP.

Forty-nine people died in three districts of the Magadh region that has been hit by drought, he said.   "It was a sudden development on Saturday afternoon. People affected by heatstroke were rushed to different hospitals," Kumar added.   "Most of them died on Saturday night and some on Sunday morning during treatment."   Kumar said about 40 more people were being treated at a government-run hospital in Aurangabad.   "Patients affected by heat stroke are still being brought, the death toll is likely to increase if the heatwave continues."

Most of the victims were aged above 50 and were rushed to hospitals in semi-conscious state with symptoms of high fever, diarrhoea and vomiting.   Twenty-seven people died in Aurangabad district, 15 in Gaya and seven in Nawada district, officials said.    State Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced a compensation of 400,000 rupees ($5,700) for the family of each victim.   Harsh Vardhan, India's health minister, said people should not leave their homes until temperatures fall.    "Intense heat affects brain and leads to various health issues," he said.

Large parts of northern India have endured more than two weeks of sweltering heat. Temperatures have risen above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in the desert state of Rajasthan.   A heatwave in 2015 left more than 3,500 dead in India and Pakistan.   In 2017, researchers said South Asia, which is home to one fifth of the world's population, could see heat levels rise to unsurvivable levels by the end of the century if no action is taken on global warming.
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 01:30:52 +0200

Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake stuck near the uninhabited Kermadec islands northeast of New Zealand Sunday, the US Geological Survey said as authorities monitored for signs of a tsunami.   New Zealand's civil defence organisation said it was monitoring the situation and if a tsunami was generated it would take at least two hours to reach the country.   The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said "hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake are possible within 300 km of the epicentre along the coasts of the Kermadec islands."   The earthquake struck at 10:55am (2255 GMT Saturday) some 928 kilometres (575 miles) north-northeast of the New Zealand city of Tauranga in North Island at a depth of 34 km.
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 00:59:42 +0200

Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck Sunday centred 97 kilometres (60 miles) north-east of Ohonua, on the Pacific island of Tonga, the US Geological Survey reported.   The quake hit at 2156 GMT Saturday with an epicentre depth of 10 kilometres, the US global quake monitor said.   The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued no alerts, and there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.   The reported epicentre lies within the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of regular seismic activity.   In February 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Papua New Guinea killed 150 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 00:19:43 +0200

Geneva, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A woman has drowned in Lake Geneva when her sightseeing boat sank as a violent storm battered parts of Switzerland on Saturday, police said.   A man who was in the same boat was able to swim to another vessel from where he fired "two flares", Joanna Matta, police spokeswoman for the canton (region) of Geneva, told AFP.   The man told officers that the woman had been "passing through Geneva" and that the storm had taken them "by surprise", Matta said.   Three police boats and emergency services rushed to the scene. Police divers later retrieved the woman's body from the lake.

The victim, whose nationality remains unknown, was then taken to a hospital in Geneva where she was declared dead.   In a separate incident, the storm also damaged some of the 465 boats taking part in the 81st edition of the Bol d'Or, an annual regatta on Lake Geneva, the event's press service said.   Heavy rain and strong winds lashed the participants on Saturday afternoon, causing boats to capsize although nobody was injured.

However, the storm broke the mast of the ultra-fast "Real Team" catamaran, which had been in the lead and was forced to pull out of the race.   The bad weather struck western Switzerland on Saturday afternoon, bringing hail and winds reaching up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) per hour, according to the national forecaster MeteoSwiss.   In the neighbouring French region of Haute-Savoie the storm also caused damage and left a 51-year-old German tourist dead after a tree came down at a campsite.
Date: Sat, 15 Jun 2019 16:27:09 +0200

Windhoek, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - Drought-hit Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals -- including elephants and giraffes -- to limit loss of life and generate $1.1 million for conservation, the authorities confirmed Saturday.   "Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management," environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.

The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the southern African nation estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years.    "The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation," Muyunda said.

In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather.   Namibia's cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals.   They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus -- all from national parks.   The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.

The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants.   The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday.   Namibia, a country of 2.4 million people, has previously made calls for aid to assist in the drought emergency that has already affected over 500,000 people.   In April the government announced that it will spend about $39,400 (35,200 euros) on drought relief this year to buy food, provide water tankers and provide subsidies to farmers.
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2019 18:27:56 +0200
By Rosa SULLEIRO

Sao Paulo, June 14, 2019 (AFP) - A nationwide strike called by Brazil's trade unions disrupted public transport and triggered road blocks in parts of the country Friday, ahead of protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's pension reform.   Hours before the opening match of the Copa America in Sao Paulo, some metro lines in the country's biggest city were paralyzed as professors and students also prepared to take to the streets over the government's planned education spending cuts.    It will be the latest mass demonstration against Bolsonaro since he took office in January, but the timing could not be worse for the embattled president as Brazil prepares to play Bolivia in South America's showcase football tournament.

Bolsonaro was expected to attend the opener at Morumbi stadium where police sharpshooters will be deployed as part of increased security for the competition.    One of Brazil's main trade unions estimated 45 million workers had taken part in the strike.   Some 63 cities had been affected by the stoppage, with more than 80 cities recording demonstrations, G1 news site said.   The number of protesters is expected to balloon in the afternoon with demonstrations planned in Brazil's major cities.   Protesters have already blocked some roads in several cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where G1 said police had used tear gas to disperse demonstrators and clear the streets.   Brazilians were divided over the partial strike.   "This current government wants to destroy everything that we built decades ago so that's why I'm in favor (of the strike) and I am fighting against social inequality," Vania Santos, 49, told AFP in Rio.    In Sao Paulo, Flavio Moreira opposed the stoppage, however, saying it "hurts the commercial part" of the city.

- Pension savings cut -
Bolsonaro's proposed overhaul of Brazil's pension system -- which he has warned will bankrupt the country if his plan is not approved -- is seen as key to getting a series of economic reforms through Congress.    But the changes, including an increase in the retirement age and workers' contributions, have faced resistance from trade unions and in the lower house of Congress, where Bolsonaro's ultraconservative Social Liberal Party has only around 10 percent of the seats.    A pared-back draft of the reform presented to Congress on Thursday -- which reduces expected savings from 1.2 trillion reais ($300 billion) in 10 years to around 900 billion reais -- did little to appease union leaders, who vowed to go ahead with the shutdown.   Such savings are seen as vital to repairing Brazil's finances and economy, which were devastated by a 2015-2016 crisis.

Economy minister Paulo Guedes, who is spearheading the government's reform agenda, has threatened to resign if the bill is not passed or is watered down significantly.   It caps a tumultuous six months for Bolsonaro, who has seen his popularity nosedive as he struggles to push his signature reform through a hostile Congress and keep Latin America's biggest economy from sliding back into recession.   More than 13 million people are unemployed, the latest data shows, with a record number giving up looking for a job.     Fighting between military and far-right factions of Bolsonaro's government has fueled chaos in his administration where his sons and right-wing writer and polemicist Olavo de Carvalho wield enormous influence.   Bolsonaro sacked his third minister on Thursday -- retired general Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who had been the government secretary and seen as a moderate voice.   That came on the same day Bolsonaro broke his silence to defend Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who has been accused of wrongdoing while serving as a judge in the sprawling Car Wash anticorruption investigation.