WORLD NEWS

Getting countries ...
Select countries and read reports below or

Argentina

Irish Diplomatic and Consular Information for Argentina
**********************************************************************
Address:
Embassy of Ireland
Suipacha 1380
2nd Floor
1011 Buenos Aires
Telephone:
+54-1
-4325-8588 / 4325-0849
Fax:
+54-11-4325-7572
Email:

Ambassador:
Her Excellency Paula Ní Shlattara
Secretary:

Jonathan Conlon
***************************************
Argentina - US Consular Information Sheet
October 02, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Last year, Argentina's charm, natural beauty and diversity attracted more than 400,000 American citizen visitors, and this year's total is expected to be even higher. Buenos Aires and other large cities have well-developed tourist facilities and services, including many four- and five-star hotels. The quality of tourist facilities in smaller towns outside the capital varies. The country suffered a major financial crisis in 2001-2002. While it has made a dramatic recovery, continued economic hardship has been linked to a rise in street crime. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Argentina for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter Argentina. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days for tourism and business. U.S. citizens who arrive in Argentina with expired or damaged passports may be refused entry and returned to the United States at their own expense. The U.S. Embassy cannot provide guarantees on behalf of travelers in such situations, and therefore encourages U.S. citizens to ensure their travel documents are valid and in good condition prior to departure from the United States. Different rules apply to U.S. citizens who also have Argentine nationality, depending on their dates of U.S. naturalization. For more information, check the Argentine Ministry of the Interior web site at www.mininterior.gov.ar/migraciones/. Most dual nationals are permitted 60-day visits. Dual nationals who stay beyond their permitted time are required to depart on an Argentine passport.
The application process for an Argentine passport is lengthy, and the U.S. Embassy is not able to provide assistance in obtaining Argentine passports or other local identity documents. Children under 21 years of age who reside in Argentina, regardless of nationality, are required to present a notarized document that certifies both parents' permission for the child's departure from Argentina when the child is traveling alone, with only one parent, or in someone else's custody (click on the "international child abduction" link below for more information). An airport tax is collected upon departure, payable in dollars or Argentine pesos.

American citizens wishing to enter Brazil are required to obtain a visa in advance from the Brazilian Embassy or consulate nearest to the traveler's place of residence. The U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires cannot assist travelers to obtain Brazilian visas. For more information, see the Country Specific Information for Brazil.
Visit the Embassy of Argentina’s web site at http://www.embassyofargentina.us/ for the most current visa information. Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Traffic accidents are the primary threat to life and limb in Argentina. Pedestrians and drivers should exercise caution. Drivers frequently ignore traffic laws and vehicles often travel at excessive speeds. The rate and toll of traffic accidents has been a topic of much media attention over the past year. The Institute of Road Safety and Education, a private Buenos Aires organization dedicated to transportation safety issues, reports that Argentina has the highest traffic mortality rate in South America per 100,000 inhabitants.

Care should be exercised when traveling in Brazil and Paraguay, near the Argentine border, where criminal entities are known to operate. These organizations are involved in the trafficking of illicit goods, and some individuals in the area have been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department for financially supporting terrorist organizations.
The U.S. government is supportive of coordinated efforts by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to combat illegal activity in that region. Americans crossing from Argentina into Paraguay or Brazil may wish to consult the most recent Country Specific Information for those countries.

Demonstrations are common in metropolitan Buenos Aires and occur in other major cities as well. Protesters on occasion block streets, highways, and major intersections, causing traffic jams and delaying travel. While demonstrations are usually nonviolent, hooligans in some of the groups sometimes seek confrontation with the police and vandalize private property. Groups occasionally protest in front of the U.S. Embassy and U.S.-affiliated businesses. U.S. citizens should take common-sense precautions and avoid gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to protest. Information about the location of possible demonstrations is available from a variety of sources, including the local media. Additional information and advice may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy at the telephone numbers or email address listed at the end of this document.

Domestic flight schedules can be unreliable. Occasional work stoppages, over-scheduling of flights and other technical problems can result in flight delays, cancellations, or missed connections. Consult local media for information about possible strikes or slow-downs before planning travel within Argentina.
Public transportation is generally reliable and safe. The preferred option for travel within Buenos Aires and other major cities is by radio taxi or "remise" (private car with driver). The best way to obtain safe taxis and remises is to call for one or go to an established stand, rather than hailing one on the street. Hotels, restaurants, and other businesses can order remises or radio taxis, or provide phone numbers for such services, upon request. Passengers on buses, trains, and the subway should be alert for pickpockets and should also be aware that these forms of transport are sometimes interrupted by strikes or work stoppages.

Argentina is a geographically diverse country with mountains, forests, expansive deserts, and glaciers, making it a popular destination for outdoor and adventure sports. Despite the best efforts of local authorities, assisting visitors lost or injured in such remote areas can be problematic. American citizens have been killed in recent years while mountain climbing, skiing, trekking, and hunting. Travelers visiting isolated and wilderness areas should learn about local hazards and weather conditions and always inform park or police authorities of their itineraries. Reports of missing or injured persons should be made immediately to the police so that a search can be mounted or assistance rendered.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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

CRIME: Most American citizens visit Argentina without incident. Nevertheless, street crime in the larger cities, especially greater Buenos Aires and Mendoza, is a problem for residents and visitors alike. As in any big city, visitors to Buenos Aires and popular tourist destinations should be alert to muggers, pickpockets, scam artists, and purse-snatchers on the street, in hotel lobbies, at bus and train stations, and in cruise ship ports. Criminals usually work in groups and travelers should assume they are armed. Criminals employ a variety of ruses to distract and victimize unsuspecting visitors.
A common scam is to spray mustard or a similar substance on the tourist from a distance. A pickpocket will then approach the tourist offering to help clean the stain, and while doing so, he or an accomplice robs the victim. Thieves regularly nab unattended purses, backpacks, laptops, and luggage, and criminals will often distract visitors for a few seconds to steal valuables. While most American victims are not physically injured when robbed, criminals typically do not hesitate to use force when they encounter resistance. Visitors are advised to immediately hand over all cash and valuables if confronted. Thieves will target visitors wearing expensive watches or jewelry.

Your passport is a valuable document and should be guarded. Passports and other valuables should be locked in a hotel safe, and a photocopy of your passport should be carried for identification purposes. The U.S. Embassy has observed a notable rise in reports of stolen passports in the past year. Some travelers have received counterfeit currency in Argentina. Unscrupulous vendors and taxi drivers sometimes pretend to help tourists review their pesos, then trade bad bills for good ones. Characteristics of good currency can be reviewed at the Argentine Central Bank web site at www.bcra.gov.ar.
Along with conventional muggings, so-called express kidnappings continue to occur. Victims are grabbed off the street based on their appearance and vulnerability. They are made to withdraw as much money as possible from ATM machines, and then their family or co-workers are contacted and told to deliver all the cash that they have on hand or can gather in a couple of hours. Once the ransom is paid, the victim is usually quickly released unharmed. There have been some foreign victims. Visitors are particularly advised not to let children and adolescents travel alone.
Travelers worldwide are advised to avoid packing valuables in their checked baggage. In Argentina, officials have publicly acknowledged the systematic theft of valuables and money from checked baggage at Buenos Aires airports. Authorities are working to resolve the problem and have made a number of arrests, but travelers should exercise continued care and caution. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds can be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. The Argentine Federal Police have established a special Tourist Police Unit to receive complaints and investigate crimes against tourists. The unit, located at Corrientes 436 in Buenos Aires, responds to calls around the clock at 4346-5748 or toll-free 0800-999-5000 from anywhere in the country. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in the city of Buenos Aires or in the surrounding Province of Buenos Aires is 911 for police assistance. In the city of Buenos Aires, dial 100 in case of fire and 107 for an ambulance. In the Province of Buenos Aires, fire and ambulance numbers vary by location. See our information for Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The public health system in Argentina provides emergency and non-emergency services free of charge to all, regardless of nationality or immigration status. However, the quality of non-emergency care in public hospitals is generally below U.S. standards. Medical care in private hospitals in Buenos Aires is generally good, but varies in quality outside the capital. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization in private facilities and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Private physicians, clinics, and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
HIV/AIDS restrictions. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Argentina.
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 Preventions hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policies apply overseas and will cover prior conditions and emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars. If not covered, visitors are encouraged to consider purchasing travel insurance. No Medicare benefits are available abroad. 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 Argentina is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Argentina is generally more dangerous than driving in the United States. By comparison, drivers in Argentina tend to be very aggressive, especially in the capital city of Buenos Aires, and frequently ignore traffic regulations. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in the capital and the province of Buenos Aires, but Argentine or international licenses are required to drive in the rest of the country. For further information, please contact the Argentine Automobile Club, Av. Libertador 1850, 1112 Capital Federal, telephone (011) (54)(11) 4802-6061, or contact the Embassy of Argentina as listed in the above section on Entry Requirements. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the websites of Argentina's national tourist office and national roadways office at www.turismo.gov.ar and www.vialidad.gov.ar.

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

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In addition to being subject to all Argentine laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Argentine citizens. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can also be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Argentina's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Argentina are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children and using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country are crimes prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children's Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Argentina are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site, so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Argentina. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it much easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida Colombia 4300 in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires (near the Plaza Italia stop on the "D" line subway). The main Embassy switchboard telephone is (54) (11) 5777-4533. Recorded consular information, including instructions on whom to contact in case of an American citizen emergency, is available at tel. (54) (11) 4514-1830. The Consular Section fax is (54) (11) 5777-4293. The Consular Section is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on American and Argentine holidays. Additional information on Embassy services is available on the Internet at http://argentina.usembassy.gov or by e-mail: BuenosAires-ACS@state.gov
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information December 28, 2007 to update Sections on Country Description, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registration/Embassy Locations.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 14 May 2020 00:34:07 +0200 (METDST)
By Maria Lorente

Buenos Aires, May 13, 2020 (AFP) - One of Buenos Aires' poorest and most densely populated neighborhoods has shown a spike in the number of COVID-19 infections, worrying authorities hoping to ease the Argentine capital's two-month lockdown later this month.   The number of infections in the infamous Villa 31 slum, a teeming central district synonymous with violence and poverty, soared from one case at the end of April to 511 by late Tuesday.

To make matters worse, large parts of the barrio were left without water for eight days as people tried to resist the pandemic. Many see it as a continuation of decades of government neglect and discrimination.   "We are screwed because our water has been cut off. I am a domestic worker and I lost my job," said one resident, 37-year-old Maria Chaile.   In Buenos Aires, only a fraction of the population -- mostly essential workers -- are out on the streets every day.   But in Villa 31, dozens of people like Chaile go about their business as though the pandemic were not happening.   The area's shops, small restaurants and hairdressers are open, in contrast to businesses in rest of the city.

- Social distancing impossible -
Several generations of the same family often live together in the barrio's tiny concrete-block houses, making social distancing impossible.   The shoddily built homes with tin roofs seem precariously piled on top of one another, and are accessed by outside spiral staircases.    Tangled electricity cables -- used to illegally tap current from nearby power lines -- hang precariously over the narrow streets.

Luis Fernando Guispert, a 28-year-old student, has lived in Villa 31 since his family moved here from Bolivia when he was two.   "The number of infections has exploded. The worrying thing is that it could be impossible to control, this being the kind of place it is, a slum with closed-in streets," he says.   Guispert said a large proportion of Villa 31's estimated 40,000 people simply ignored the government's mandatory quarantine orders issued on March 20, because they subsist from day to day. They have to work, or search for food.   Most people here work in the informal economy, which makes up more than 25 percent of Argentina's labor force.   "The order is to stay at home, but if you stay at home, you can't eat, so you either die from the coronavirus or you starve," said Guispert.

- Immigrants to a new world -
The country's economic crisis, with inflation of more than 50 percent and rising unemployment, has contributed to rising numbers of poor people, who now make up 35 percent of the total population of 44 million.   The sprawling shantytown shot up around Buenos Aires port in the late 1940s, a refuge for thousands of rural Argentines seeking work along with a flood of immigrants from Italy, said Valeria Snitcofsky, a professor of history at Buenos Aires University.

Aptly dubbed a "villa miseria" -- the Argentine term for a slum -- Villa 31 is located close to the city's main tourist areas and alongside the chic business district of Puerto Madero, where President Alberto Fernandez has his home.   "It has a level of density that resembles that of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro," says Fabio Quetglas, a planning specialist with Buenos Aires University.   Nearly two months after the start of compulsory isolation, the government remains concerned about sectors that threaten to derail its plan to contain the virus -- particularly prisons, nursing homes and vulnerable neighbourhoods like Villa 31.   Coronavirus testing has focused on these areas. In Villa 31, more than 50 percent of the tests so far have been positive.

Many of the people who live there have service and cleaning jobs in the city.   "The results are worrying," said Fernandez as he extended a lockdown in the Buenos Airs metropolitan area -- which has 80 percent of Argentina's cases --
to May 24.     Villa 31 has rapidly become the epicenter of Argentina's COVID-19 outbreak, a fact of which 32-year-old Bolivian seamstress Shirley Ruth Aduviri is keenly aware.   "You go out to buy something and you see the ambulances going and coming," she said.   "It's so contagious that you go shopping and think you're sure to get it."
Date: Thu, 7 May 2020 03:29:07 +0200 (METDST)

Buenos Aires, May 7, 2020 (AFP) - President Alberto Fernandez on Wednesday ruled out an immediate exit from Argentina's coronavirus lockdown, saying to do so would "lead to the death of thousands."   Opposition parties, economists and business leaders have stepped up demands for the government to relax strict quarantine measures to allow industries to reopen.

Exiting the quarantine "in the terms they are demanding, will lead to the death for thousands Argentines because we cannot control" the virus, said Fernandez in a radio interview.   A campaign on social media has called for protests on Thursday against the government's lockdown measures, as the country's already battered economy sinks deeper into recession.

"You cannot quarantine and make the economy work. Those who chose to prioritize the economy ended up gathering the dead in refrigerated trucks and burying them in mass graves," the leftist president told Radio con Vos.   He said the government's policy had succeeded in slowing down the rate of infections, and held out the possibility of gradually loosening the lockdown measures starting on Monday.

Argentina's economy, rocked by 50 percent inflation and rising numbers of poor and jobless, has stuttered through two years of recession.   The Fernandez administration is in talks with bondholders to restructure
Argentina's debt as the country's GDP is forecast to drop by 6.5 percent this year.

On March 20 the government decreed compulsory social isolation for 15 days and has been extending it every two weeks.    The measures were relaxed in some rural areas, but they remain firm in the greater Buenos Aires region, where a third of the country's 45 million people live.   By Wednesday, Argentina had registered 5,100 infections with 273 deaths.
Date: Tue 28 Jan 2020
Source: Food Safety News [abridged, edited]

Authorities in Argentina are investigating 2 suspected cases of foodborne botulism linked to a brand of pickled wild boar. The National Administration of Drugs, Foods and Medical Devices (ANMAT) reported those ill are associated with eating "Escabeche de jabali" 400 g [14 oz] of the "Fatto in casa" brand with a date of 1 Jul 2020, produced by Norma Coatti.

A 27 year old woman and a 30 year old man are affected, and both needed hospital treatment.

An inspection of the production plant by authorities in Cordoba found processing conditions do not guarantee that the product is safe for consumption. The site was stopped from producing and marketing such items for preventative reasons. The manufacturing firm was asked to recall all units of pickled "Fatto in casa" branded products nationally. These include chicken, pork, Viscacha (a type of rodent), and eggplant.  ANMAT advised consumers not to eat the affected recalled products.
===================
[Most cases of foodborne botulism are associated with homemade foods, not commercially prepared. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Argentina:
Date: Mon 13 Jan 2020
Source: Food Safety News [edited]

An emergency committee to control the sale of food has been created in a city in northwest Argentina after a spike in _Salmonella_ cases in early 2020. There have been 51 confirmed cases of salmonellosis in Salta so far in 2020. At least 5 people have been hospitalized but recovered after treatment.

The committee will be responsible for controlling food sold on public roads at street stalls and at commercial premises. It includes experts from the National University of Salta (UNSA) and Catholic University of Salta (Ucasal). Officials hope by increasing controls they can bring the rise in infections under control and minimize the risk to the public. The group, created by the Mayor of Salta Bettina Romero and Undersecretary of Health and Human Environment Monica Torfe, held a meeting with Juan Jose Esteban, manager of the Hospital Senor del Milagro, and teams from the department of epidemiology of the province on preventive measures to tackle the salmonellosis rise this past week.

Norma Sponton, head of the microbiology sector; Teresita Cruz, of the epidemiological surveillance program of the province; Paula Herrera, from the Ministry of Health, and Jose Herrera, from the hospital also participated. Experts from the 2 universities are involved in training the inspectors who will be in charge of carrying out the control tasks.

Food contaminated with _Salmonella_ bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Symptoms of salmonellosis infection can include diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for 4 to 7 days. In some cases, however, diarrhoea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.
===================
[The serotype of _S. enterica_ is not stated and it is not clear what the food reservoir for this ongoing outbreak is. A food diary of affected persons may be helpful.

The city of Salta is located in north-western Argentina in the province of the same name which can be found on a map at

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Argentina:
Date: Sun 22 Sep 2019
Source: La Voz [in Spanish trans. Mod.TY, edited]

Viruses transmitted by mosquitoes are emerging in the Americas. To historic dengue in recent years have been added Zika and chikungunya [viruses], 2 pathogens that before were restricted only to Africa. Madariaga has now been added to that list [of viruses new in the Americas].

Researchers from the Instituto de Medicina Regional of the Universidad Nacional del Nordeste (IMR-Unne) and from the Instituto de Virologia, and J. M. Vanella of the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (Inviv, UNC) detected its presence in mosquitoes captured in the Chaco. "Madariaga is a virus that causes disease in equine animals and is of low pathogenicity for humans, but in 2010 caused an outbreak in humans in Panama with 10 cases," said Marta Contigiani, who works in the UNC laboratory. It was also isolated in 2015 and 2016 from human samples in Haiti.

Ornella Stechina, of the IMR-Unne, was the person who detected presence of the virus in the mosquitoes. The work was done with the financial support of this institution with Mariana Stein, a researcher from CONICET [the national science agency] as the person in charge.

Contigiani explained that there have been no subsequent cases in horses since 1988. "In other provinces in the country, serological studies have detected [Madariaga] virus infections. There is a vaccine for equine animals, but its application is not obligatory," she said.

However, she warned that global climate change (including deforestation in the Amazon Basin) influences the geographic distribution and emergence of diseases, with appearance of new environments that are favorable for the development of vectors and that favor the development of the [transmission] cycle.

"To this we must add the genetic changes that are observed in these viruses," she stated.

For some time, experts have been issuing alerts about the emergence and reemergence of arboviruses, pathogens that are transmitted by insects.

"West Nile virus rapidly invaded North America, and now cases are being found in Central and South America. Also, Mayaro and eastern equine encephalitis viruses have increased their activity and have been found in new regions," said Raquel Gleiser, a researcher at the Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biologia Vegetal of the UNC (Imbiv) in an article published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Madariaga virus is a strain of eastern equine encephalitis virus, which was early on detected in Argentina. Contigiani did not discard the possibility that a variant that had greater capacity to replicate, the proliferation of competent vectors, and propitious environmental conditions could cause an outbreak in the region.

The evidence for warning about Madariaga virus is not at the same level as for chikungunya [virus], although they are in the same family (Togaviridae). "For now, the epidemiological behavior is different. Chikungunya virus has _Aedes aegypti_ as its vector, whereas the vector of Madariaga virus is within the _Culex_ genus," she said.

This study detected the virus in mosquitoes of the _Culex_ genus in wildland areas in Choco province. Thus, they identified this vector in Argentinian territory for the 1st time.

Although the mosquito species or species that had the virus could not be detected, the genus _Culex_ has more than 1000 species, many of which are of urban habits such as _Culex pipiens_ that we hear buzzing at night.

Madariaga virus can infect various mammals that could serve as hosts, such as rats and bats, as well as birds.

In Argentina, it was found for the 1st time in animals in the decade of the 1930s. The strain found in the Chaco belongs to the same lineage discovered in those years, which indicates that the virus is endemic in the region.

For now, the infections studied in humans has been for the most part mild and asymptomatic.

Adrian Diaz of the Cordoba Institute, Griselda Oria (IMR-Unne), and Carolina Torres of the Universidad de Buenos Aires participated as part of the work that was published a week ago in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [reference below].

The researchers suggest that more epidemiological studies be done to determine the vectors and potential hosts and do deeper studies about the genetic characteristics of the [virus] strains that circulate in the country in order to know whether this virus is endemic in the region or is reintroduced.

"Ideally, studies will be done [in the field] with sentinel animals to detect virus circulation as well. In other countries, they use sentinel chickens for these types of studies," Contigiani commented, and clarified that in case [virus] circulation was detected, animal health officials must take relevant measures.

"There is no human vaccine, so [human] health officials must indicate measures [needed] for prevention and control," she added.

The vector is the most common, _Culex_. However, there is no virus circulation in Cordoba.

_Culex_ is a genus of hematophagous mosquitoes in the Culiidae family, many species of which act as vectors of important diseases, such as West Nile, filariasis, virus encephalitis (Japanese, Venezuelan, equine, and St. Louis) and avian malaria, as well as Madariaga virus. There are more than 80 varieties [of what?].  [Byline: Lucas Viano]
=================
[The isolation of Madariaga virus from Culex mosquitoes in northern Argentina is interesting, but, as the authors point out, merits additional studies to determine whether it is a human or animal (especially equine) pathogen of importance for human or animal health in Argentina. Studies of the Culex species involved in transmission of the virus and determination of the animal hosts are essential to understand cycles of transmission.

Reference:
Ornela Sofia Stechina, Griselda Ines Oria, Carolina Torres, Luis Adrian Diaz, Marta Contigiani and Marina Stein. First Detection of Madariaga virus in Mosquitoes Collected in a Wild Environment of Northeastern Argentina. 2019. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 00(0), 2019, pp. 1-3 DOI: <https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.19-0475>.

Chaco province is in the far north of Argentina. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Chaco Province, Argentina: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/54342>]
More ...

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

More ...

Pitcairn Islands

No Profile is available at present

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 22:07:35 +0200 (METDST) WASHINGTON, April 13, 2007 (AFP) - A strong earthquake shook the bed of the southeast Pacific ocean west of Chile on Friday, the United States Geological survey reported. The quake, measuring 6.1 on the open-ended Moment Magnitude scale, struck the southern part of the East Pacific Rise, an expanse of sea floor lying between South America and the islands of the South Pacific, at 1824 GMT. The epicenter was 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) underwater at a point more than 1,960 miles (3,200 km) west of the Chilean coastal town of Osorno and 1,440 miles (2,320 km) east-southeast of the tiny British territory of Pitcairn Island. The Moment Magnitude scale measures the area of the fault that ruptured and the total energy released.
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2005 05:32:57 +0100 (MET) AUCKLAND, Jan 11 (AFP) - The British government is seeking social workers for the remote Pitcairn islands, a community riven by sex abuse where six men including the mayor were last year convicted of multiple under-age sex crimes. Safe Overseas Services has placed advertisements in New Zealand newspapers to find social workers for Pitcairn, Britain's last territory in the Pacific and one of the world's most isolated communities. The three-month posting, paid for by the British government, will see successful applicants work in a community of less than 50 people, the New Zealand Herald reported Tuesday. While the advert says applicants should have an understanding of the dynamics of sexual abuse for victims and offenders, it does not specifically refer to the traumas the Pitcairn community faced last year during the trials. In addition to the six found guilty of rapes and indecent assaults on the tiny island's young female community over nearly 40 years, six more Pitcairn men now living offshore also face sex abuse charges. Liz Beddoe, the head of applied social sciences at the University of Auckland Faculty of Education, said the positions offered the opportunity of a lifetime. "If you're in a position to do it, it would be worth it," she was quoted as saying. But she said the job would not be easy and would require compatible people who were able to cope with the isolation and perhaps people with complementary skills. "The reality is, in a community like that everybody will have been affected. It's a bit like the rebuilding effort after the tsunami in some of those remote communities ... While it is nowhere near as extreme as that, socially and emotionally it will have had that kind of impact on the community." The adverts make no mention of the arduous high seas voyage to reach Pitcairn, located halfway between New Zealand and South America, but hint at the isolation and living conditions there. "As this position involves living and working with one other colleague in a remote situation, applications from suitably qualified applicants with experience of working together are especially welcome." Enthusiasm, self-motivation and good health are also requirements, the advert in the New Zealand Herald says. Although Pitcairn is a British territory, lawyers for the convicted men expect to argue before the Privy Council in London that England does not have jurisdiction over the island which was settled in 1790 by Fletcher Christian and his mutineers on board HMS Bounty. The mutineers burnt the ship, and the lawyers have argued that meant they severed their ties with Britain. Another legal challenge is due to be heard in New Zealand next month with lawyers to argue that even if Britain does have jurisdiction over the island, it never declared a law against under-age sex there.
More ...

Maldives

General:
***************************************
The Republic of Maldives is a series of over 1190 islands which are situated southwest of Sri Lanka. Frequently Irish tourists will combine these two destinations in a single holiday and enjoy the
pleasures of both destinations. The islands of the Maldives are spread over one million square kilometers and there are 26 atoll formations. The facilities for tourism is well developed throughout the resort islands and
straying away from these more built up regions will require advance approval. The climate is tropical with fairly consistent rainfall and temperatures throughout the year. The more northern islands are most commonly affected by cyclones and the rainfall in the southern regions tends to be between November to March. Temperatures are usually fairly consistently above 20C.

MALDIVES TOURIST BOARD WEB PAGE
***************************************
The web site http://www.visitmaldives.com/intro.html gives a potential visitor an excellent insight into the Islands and the range of facilities which they have to offer.
Safety and Security:
***************************************
Crime rate on the Maldives is low although tourists should be aware that they should take care of personal belongings at all times. It is wise to use the hotel safe deposit boxes on the island resorts.
Health Facilities:
***************************************
The medical facilities within the Maldives is limited to the main resorts. There are two hospitals on the main island (Male) and the cost of treatment can be high. Having personal health insurance is a wise precaution.
Transport within the Islands:
***************************************
The main means of transport between the islands tends to be by boat or seaplane. Only very few of the islands have cars but this is not generally a problem for tourists. In the main capital of Male the traffic moves on the left side of the road and there are taxis if required. Water taxis called ‘Dhonis’ are available between the airport and the capital and also to some of the outlying islands. The Air Taxi service stops one hour before sunset.
Food & Water Facilities:
***************************************
The tourist resorts have a high level of hygiene and the risk of significant illness among those who follow sensible food and water hygiene is small. Avoiding all bivalve shellfish is usually a wise precaution and this includes oysters, mussels and clams. The water in the main resorts will be chlorinated but check this on arrival. If unsure it will always be wiser to use sealed bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth.
Malaria & Rabies Risk:
***************************************
There is no malaria or rabies transmission on the Maldives though avoidance of both mosquitoes and animals is always a wise precaution.
Water Sport Facilities:
***************************************
Those undertaking water sport activities and scuba diving should be aware that rescue facilities are not always easily available in all regions. There are decompression facilities available but these may be located at some distance from where the incident occurs. Make sure that you always choose to use one of the better maintained providers. If you are unhappy about their apparent level of expertise and care for their clients, change to a different provider but don’t take risks.
Sun Exposure:
***************************************
The level of direct sunlight throughout the islands is high and visitors should take special care with regard to the possibility of sun exposure and dehydration. Sea swimming should be in the company of others and take care to listen to local advice.
Local Laws & Customs:
***************************************
Throughout the Maldives their practice Islam and the overt public observance of any other religion is not permitted. In the past few years a number of non-Maldivian families have been expelled for religious activities. Tourists are permitted to carry personal religious texts (Bible etc) without difficulty. There are no cash dispensing machines and travellers cheques are used infrequently. The island resorts tend to be expensive and visitors should carry sufficient funds. Dress is usually informal but topless bathing is prohibited.
Vaccinations for the Maldives:
***************************************
Unless you are flying from tropical Africa there are no essential vaccines for entry or exit. However for your own personal health it is recommended that travellers are covered against the following diseases;
*
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
*
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those considering a longer or more rural trip over vaccines may be considered including Hepatitis B.
Summary:
***************************************
Most Irish travellers to the Maldives will enjoy a splendid relaxing holiday in this beautiful series of islands. Nevertheless, commonsense and care are essential with some predeparture planning to ensure that all your travel plans run smoothly.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sat, 7 Mar 2020 17:56:35 +0100 (MET)

Colombo, March 7, 2020 (AFP) - Two hotel employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus at a luxury resort in the Maldives, the government said Saturday marking the first cases reported in the upmarket holiday destination.   The country's health ministry said two unnamed foreign nationals working at the deluxe Kuredu Island Resort, about 150 kilometres (95 miles) north of the capital Male, tested positive for COVID-19.   Officials said the two men were checked after an Italian tourist who had holidayed at their resort tested positive upon his return home.   The resort was on lockdown Saturday as local authorities moved to check other staff and guests, officials said.

The Maldives had already suspended direct air links with China, the epicentre of the virus. Male has also stopped direct flights from Iran and Italy, two of the worst-hit countries apart from China.    The World Health Organisation has called the spread "deeply concerning" as a wave of countries, the Maldives among them, reported their first cases of the disease -- which has killed more than 3,500 people and infected more than 100,000 across 94 nations and territories.
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2020 17:59:57 +0100 (MET)

Malé, Maldives, Feb 10, 2020 (AFP) - The Maldives' speaker of parliament on Monday apologised to a British tourist after footage of her arrest by several policemen triggered a social media storm.   Tourism is a major earner for the Maldives, a tropical island paradise in the Indian Ocean popular with honeymooners and celebrities.   Police said the bikini-clad woman, who was walking on a main road, was "inappropriately" dressed and allegedly unruly and drunk when she was detained after refusing to comply with requests to cover up on Thursday.   The Maldives previously confined tourists to resort islets separate from the local Muslim population, but in recent years has allowed foreigners to stay on inhabited islands.

Tourists can wear swimwear such as bikinis in the resorts but are subject to local dress codes elsewhere.   Videos shared on social media showed three men trying to detain the traveller, while a fourth person tried to cover her with a towel.   The woman was heard shouting "you're sexually assaulting me" during the incident.   The speaker, Mohamed Nasheed, told parliament he was extending an apology to the woman over the incident, which saw her detained by police for two hours before they released her.

The tourist has since left the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, but Nasheed said he hoped tourism authorities would invite her to return to the luxury vacation spot.   Maldives Police Service Commissioner Mohamed Hameed said on Twitter after the footage was shared online that the incident "seems to be badly handled".   "I apologise to the tourist & the public for this. The challenge I have taken up is to professionalise the police service & we are working on that. This matter is being investigated."   A police statement on Friday called on tourists to respect "cultural sensitivities and local regulations".

The video of the incident also sparked anger among Maldivians. Some took to social media to criticise the tourist's behaviour after other videos showed her grabbing the sunglasses of a police officer.   Former foreign minister Dunya Maumoon criticised both the tourist and the police.   "She should have respected the religious and cultural norms of the country in terms of modest attire in a residential area," Maumoon said on Twitter.   "Condemn the man-handling by the Maldivian police. It could have been handled better and more professionally."
Date: Fri 10 Jan 2020
Source: The Edition [abridged, edited]

Health Protection Agency (HPA) on Thursday [9 Jan 2020] revealed that measles, a highly contagious disease, is suspected to have resurfaced in Maldives.

As per a tweet from the agency's official Twitter handle, tests are being conducted on an individual who is believed to have the disease. No further details were given by the HPA, including details of the individual.

Vaccination against measles commenced in the Maldives in 1983. The 1st recorded case of measles in the archipelago was in 2009.

Maldives was declared measles free by the World Health Organization (WHO) in June 2017. At that time, Maldives and Bhutan become the first 2 countries to achieve the target of eradicating measles before the year 2020 from the South Asia region.  [Byline: Nafaahath Ibrahim]
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 2019 15:46:13 +0200 (METDST)

Malé, Maldives, Sept 25, 2019 (AFP) - The Maldives is seeking more direct flights from China to attract up to a million tourists annually -- triple the current number -- by 2023, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.   Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid sought to boost air connectivity between the two countries during his visit to Beijing over the weekend.   "During my meeting with the Chinese foreign minister, we discussed he possibility of adding more direct flights from China to the Maldives," officials quoted Shahid as saying.   There are currently 26 direct flights a week between the Maldives and China.   Nearly 300,000 Chinese tourists are this year expected to visit the Maldives, known for pristine beaches and secluded coral islands scattered some 800 kilometres (500 miles) in the Indian ocean.   In the first seven months of this year, some 172,800 -- or 17.4 percent -- of tourists came from China.   Foreign ministry officials said they expected a record 1.6 million tourists to visit the archipelago this year, up from 1.4 million last year.
12th May 2019

Maldives
- National. 25 Apr 2019. 1700 cases of dengue reported thus far this year [2019]. <https://raajje.mv/en/news/53605>

- National. 8 May 2019. The number of dengue cases reported across the Maldives has increased more than 200 percent compared to the previous year [2018]. Some 1912 cases of dengue were reported by the end of last month [April 2019] with 506 cases reported in April 2019 alone. The figure represents a sharp uptick from the 539 cases reported during the same period in 2018. There were 441 cases during the 1st 4 months of 2017. <https://maldivesindependent.com/society/maldives-records-sharp-rise-in-dengue-cases-145175>
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 19 May 2020 16:23:23 +0200 (METDST)

Dublin, May 19, 2020 (AFP) - This year's Dublin marathon scheduled for October 25 was cancelled on Tuesday despite Ireland's move to lift coronavirus lockdown measures, indicating potential long-term disruption caused by the outbreak.   Ireland plans to have fully lifted restrictions well before October, in a staggered process that began on Monday.   But organisers indicated the race -- which had 22,500 entrants last year -- would still not go ahead because of safety fears.   "We made the difficult decision in the best interest of the health and well-being of all those involved in making our events such a success from runners, supporters, volunteers, sponsors, to suppliers," said race director Jim Aughney.   "We explored many alternatives for running the events safely but ultimately none were viable."    Ireland's five-stage "roadmap" to reopen the nation is due to be completed in August, when the current ban on mass gatherings of more than 5,000 people is set to expire.   The cancellation suggests coronavirus fallout may last longer than suggested by official plans and could hit similar events.

The London Marathon, which attracts tens of thousands of runners, has been postponed until October 4.    "We need to be aware that we will continue to be in the acute emergency phase of this crisis for some time with further waves an ever present danger," the health department Secretary-General Jim Breslin told a special parliamentary committee on the crisis.   "This is not a one, a two or even a three-day storm, after which we move to a recovery phase. The acute phase of this crisis will definitely be measured in months and most probably in years."   Ireland has suffered 1,547 deaths from COVID-19, according to the department of health.   On Monday the number of daily deaths had fallen from a peak of 77 to just four.   "We have suppressed the virus and limited its impact on public health," said chief medical officer Tony Holohan on Monday.   "We need to sustain this in the weeks and phases ahead."
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 18:54:14 +0200 (METDST)

Paris, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Air France said Monday it hoped to double the number of cities it serves, including over 40 European destinations, by the end of June as nations begin to lift coronavirus travel restrictions.   "Between now and the end of June and subject to travel restrictions being lifted, Air France plans to gradually resume its flights,"  the airline said.   Like other airlines, Air France grounded most of its planes as governments imposed stay-at-home orders and demand for travel evaporated. 

Air France said it was currently operating between three and five percent of its usual schedule and serving 43 destinations for essential passenger traffic as well as cargo.   The airline, which received a 7-billion-euro rescue package from the French government, listed more than 90 destinations it hopes to serve by the end of June.   That would be equivalent to 15 percent of its normal schedule, and use 75 of its fleet of 224 aircraft.
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 18:20:03 +0200 (METDST)

Abuja, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Nigeria's government on Monday extended a coronavirus lockdown on the northern region of Kano after it became a hotspot for new infections.    The head of the country's coronavirus taskforce, Boss Mustapha, said the lockdown on the economic hub -- which includes Nigeria's second biggest city -- would be prolonged for two weeks.    The authorities will also start to impose "precision" lockdowns in any other areas that report a "rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises", he said.    The outbreak in Kano has become a major cause of concern after medics and residents last month began reporting a spike in deaths.

Regional officials at first put the "unexplained" fatalities down to other ailments, but government investigators later said coronavirus was suspected in most cases.    Neighbouring states to Kano have also begun reporting suspicious surges in death tolls that authorities are scrambling to investigate.    Nigeria has confirmed 5,959 infections and 182 deaths from the novel coronavirus across the country.    Kano is the second hardest hit region with 825 confirmed cases and 36 fatalities.   The region has already been under lockdown for a month but enforcement has been lax and measures have been eased sporadically for people to buy food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Testing has been a key problem across Nigeria and only 35,345 samples have so far been screened in Africa's most populous nation of 200 million people.    Mustapha insisted there had been a slowdown in the transmission rate of the virus, "elongating the doubling time" from seven to 11 days.    But he announced that measures would remain in place limiting businesses and restricting crowds across the rest of the country despite earlier plans to gradually roll them back.     "Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority," he said.   The government has also imposed a night-time curfew and made mask wearing mandatory in all regions.     Mustapha complained that "non-compliance was rampant" with social distancing measures.     "The fight against COVID-19 is long-term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon," he said.
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 17:21:58 +0200 (METDST)

Stockholm, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Sweden, whose softer approach to the new coronavirus pandemic has garnered worldwide attention, recorded its deadliest month in almost three decades in April, according to statistics released on Monday.   Sweden has stopped short of introducing the restrictive lockdowns seen elsewhere in Europe, instead opting for an approach based on the "principle of responsibility".

The Scandinavian country has kept schools open for children under the age of 16, along with cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses, and urged people to respect social distancing guidelines.   A total of 10,458 deaths were recorded in the country of 10.3 million inhabitants in April, Statistics Sweden said.   "We have to go back to December 1993 to find more dead during a single month," Tomas Johansson, population statistician at Statistics Sweden, said in a statement.

In total, 97,008 deaths were recorded in Sweden during the whole of 1993, which in turn was the deadliest year since 1918, when the Spanish flu pandemic ravaged the country.   Johansson told AFP there was no official breakdown explaining the high death toll in December 1993 but said there was a flu epidemic at the time.   According to preliminary data, the number of deaths has been on the decline since the end of April, including in Stockholm -- the epicentre of the Swedish epidemic -- where the highest number of deaths were recorded in early April.

The Swedish approach to the novel coronavisrus has come under criticism both at home and abroad, particularly as the number of deaths has far exceeded those in neighbouring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures.   On Monday, Sweden reported a total of 30,377 confirmed cased of the new coronavirus and 3,698 deaths.
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 16:52:05 +0200 (METDST)

Helsinki, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Finland's national airline will restart routes between Europe and Asia in July once countries begin to lift coronavirus restrictions on travel, the company announced on Monday.   Beijing and Shanghai will be the first long-haul destinations to reopen, alongside Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok and three Japanese routes, Finnair said in a statement.

Flights to Delhi and New York will follow in August.    The move makes Finnair one of the first European carriers to restart intercontinental flights, after the Lufthansa Group announced on Friday it would resume 19 long-haul routes by early June.   "We expect aviation to recover gradually, starting in July," Finnair chief commercial officer Ole Orver said in a statement, adding that the company intends to bring its operations back to one-third of normal capacity.

Finnair cut 90 percent of its flights on April 1 and issued a profit warning as coronavirus restrictions brought international passenger travel almost to a standstill.     Facemasks will be mandatory on all Finnair flights "until at least the end of August," Finnair spokeswoman Paivyt Tallqvist told AFP.     "We have also taken a number of steps to avoid unnecessary movement on board," Tallqvist said, including having passengers disembark in smaller groups, and limiting capacity of shuttle bus transport between aircraft and the terminal to 50 percent.

Flights along the so-called "shorter northern route" between Helsinki and Asia, bypassing the Middle East, have been a key part of the Finnish carrier's growth strategy in recent years, with passenger numbers on its Asian routes doubling between 2010 and 2018.    On Monday, Finnair also announced it would restart 26 European routes in July, including to Brussels, Moscow, Prague and Paris.    Destinations including Rome, Madrid and Warsaw would be added in August, the firm said.     Finnair said it would open further routes on a monthly basis depending on demand and how travel restrictions change over the summer.
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 10:28:18 +0200 (METDST)

Dublin, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Ireland launched the first tentative step in its plan to lift coronavirus lockdown on Monday, with staff returning to outdoor workplaces as some shops resumed trade and sports facilities unlocked their doors.   The modest tweaks to the restrictions in place since 28 March start a staggered process set to stretch until August.

"I'm both pleased and nervous," health minister Simon Harris told state broadcaster RTE.    "I'm pleased that we've gotten to this point because of the incredible efforts of the Irish people in suppressing this virus."   "I'm nervous because the virus hasn't gone away, there still isn't a vaccine, there's still people in our country getting very sick, and there's still people dying every day."

Shops such as garden centres, hardware stores and farmers markets were permitted to open their doors whilst outdoor staff such as builders and gardeners returned to workplaces.   Football pitches, tennis courts and golf courses were also allowed to resume business whilst maintaining strict social distancing.

Meanwhile citizens were permitted to meet in small gatherings outside of people from different households.   But Harris urged caution as the republic took its first step in trying "to live successfully and safely alongside the virus".   "Just because somewhere is open doesn't mean we need to go," he said.   There have been 1,543 deaths from COVID-19 in Ireland according to the department for health.

Reported daily deaths peaked at 77 on 20 April, but by Sunday the figure had fallen to just 10.   As with other nations officials remain fearful a second wave of infections could inundate the healthcare system.   But Prime minister Leo Varadkar confirmed on Friday that Ireland would press ahead to the first of its five step plan to reopen the nation.   "This gives us reason to hope, but it is not a cause for celebration.  We have a long way to go yet," Varadkar said in a statement.

The fallout of the lockdown changes will be monitored for three weeks before the government decides whether to move to the next stage in the "roadmap" to reopening.   "Coronavirus is an inferno that is raging around the world", said Varadkar.   "In Ireland it is now a fire in retreat but it's not defeated -- we must extinguish every spark."
Date: Sun, 17 May 2020 22:46:20 +0200 (METDST)
By Román ORTEGA, Iván DUARTE y Germán CAMPOS

Puebla, Mexico, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Scores of Mexicans are dying from drinking adulterated liquor, a consequence of the shortage of mainstream alcoholic beverages during the coronavirus pandemic, authorities say.   The first of at least 121 deaths in recent weeks occurred at the end of April in the western state of Jalisco, almost exactly a month after the government declared a health emergency over the spread of COVID-19.   Much of Mexico has run out of beer after factories producing liquor and beer were shut down, along with other non-essential firms.

Beer stocks were practically depleted within a month, and in some areas the prices of what was left doubled, according to industry sources.    Many of the 53 deaths in central Puebla province have been linked to a wake where people drank moonshine containing methanol -- a wood alcohol that in non-lethal doses can cause blindness and liver damage.    Twenty-three people died in the hours following the gathering in the town of Chiconcuautla, according to authorities.   The town's mayor said the popular "refino" drink, made from sugarcane, had been adulterated.

German Hernandez said his father died after being poisoned by drink known locally as "tejon" -- a blend of brandy with tejocote fruit (a type of hawthorn), in the Puebla town of Cacaloxuchitl.   "They sell it in the stores, and you can buy it and take it out. My father began trembling and feeling weak. He told us he felt bad, and we took him to the hospital," Hernandez told AFP.   "This has never happened before."    Deaths have also been recorded in the central state of Morelos and Yucatan and Veracruz in the east.

- Mafia trade -
Gangs specializing in bootleg booze are trying to take advantage of the lack of alternative alcohol sources during the shutdown.    "They usually have very well-structured mafias, and some escape the surveillance of the authorities," Ricardo Cardenas of the Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks told AFP.   "We presume that, as a result of this shortage and demand being very high, some people are offering or trying to sell methanol instead of ethyl alcohol," said Denis de Santiago, head of Sanitary Risks in Jalisco.

Methanol is used in fuel, solvents and antifreeze.   The country's largest beer producers, Grupo Modelo -- which makes the popular Corona beer -- and Heineken, which makes Sol, halted production in early April.   Alcohol sales have been banned in some states, including Yucatan. In others, alcoholic beverages can only be purchased at certain times.   Some drinks companies have switched production to antibacterial gel that they are donating to the federal government and health workers.

- 'Who would have thought?' -
In Yucatan, where 38 people have died so far, victims unknowingly drank methanol in their usual "pajaretes" -- a common cocktail that includes milk, coffee, vanilla and brand-name sugarcane alcohol.   Humberto Macias, 36, said he saw three of his relatives die within days of each other after drinking a pajarete cocktail, made using a trusted brand of alcohol.   "We had always drunk it, including myself, many people. Who would have thought it was like this?" Macias said.

In the Yucatan peninsula town of Acanceh, seven people have died from alcohol poisoning.   "It's the first time I've heard of a case like this. I don't remember anything similar," the town's mayor Felipe Medina told AFP.   In Veracruz, Morelos and Yucatan, investigators are still trying to determine what drinks the victims consumed.
Date: Sun, 17 May 2020 19:55:15 +0200 (METDST)
By Gregory WALTON

Doha, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Qatar on Sunday began enforcing the world's toughest penalties of up to three years' in prison for failing to wear masks in public, in a country with one of the highest coronavirus infection rates.   More than 32,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country -- 1.2 percent of the 2.75 million population -- although just 15 people have died.   Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican have had higher per-capita infection rates, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.   Violators of Qatar's new rules will face up to hree years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000.

Drivers alone in their vehicles are exempt from the requirement, but police erected checkpoints across the capital Doha on Sunday evening to check compliance by motorists.   Most customers gathered outside money lenders on Banks Street wore masks, while others produced a face covering when asked.   "From today it's very strict," said Majeed, a taxi driver waiting for business in the busy pedestrian area, who wore a black mask.   Heloisa, an expat resident, saw the steep penalties as "a bit of a scare tactic".   Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.

Authorities in Chad have made it an offence to be unmasked in public, on pain of 15 days in prison. In Morocco, similar rules can see violators jailed for three months and fined up to 1,300 dirhams ($130).   Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan may have increased infections.   Abdullatif al-Khal, co-chair of Qatar's National Pandemic Preparedness Committee, said Thursday that there was "a huge risk in gatherings of families" for Ramadan meals.   "(They) led to a significant increase in the number of infections among Qataris," he said.   Neighbouring Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month to fight the coronavirus.

- Labourers at risk -
Mosques, along with schools, malls, and restaurants remain closed in Qatar to prevent the disease's spread.   But construction sites remain open as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, although foremen and government inspectors are attempting to enforce social distancing rules.    Officials have said workers at three stadiums have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus. Masks have been compulsory for construction workers since April 26.   A 12-strong team of masked labourers kept their distance from one another as they worked under baking sun on a road project in Doha's blue-collar Msheireb district on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of migrant workers were quarantined in Doha's gritty Industrial Area after a number of infections were confirmed there in mid-March, but authorities have begun to ease restrictions.   Khal said that most new cases were among migrant workers, although there has been a jump in infections among Qataris. He said the country had not yet reached the peak of its contagion.   Rights groups have warned that Gulf labourers' cramped living conditions, communal food preparation areas and shared bathrooms could undermine social distancing efforts and speed up the spread of the virus.
Date: Sun, 17 May 2020 13:43:50 +0200 (METDST)

Tehran, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Iran said Friday it had recorded nearly 7,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, warning of infection clusters in new regions after it partially eased lockdown measures.   Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the COVID-19 illness had claimed a further 51 lives over 24 hours into Sunday.   The ministry raised the overall death toll to 6,988 since Iran announced its first fatalities in the Shiite pilgrimage city of Qom in February.   Jahanpour warned that cases were rising "in the province of Lorestan, and to some extent in Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan".   "Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation," he added.

The southwestern province has become Iran's new coronavirus focal point, with the most critical "red" ranking on the country's colour-coded risk scale.   It is the only region so far where authorities have reimposed business lockdowns after a country-wide relaxation in April.   Iran stopped publishing provincial figures for the coronavirus last month, but the health ministry's latest report said there is a "rising trend or the beginning of a peak" in eight provinces, including Khuzestan.   The country on Friday reported its highest number of new infections in more than a month.   A virus taskforce official said Sunday that the increase was due to a surge in testing, not just of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.

Early in the outbreak "our focus was on severe cases that had to be hospitalised, but as we started to manage the disease we looked at those infected and not hospitalised," said Ali Akbar Haghdoost, head of the taskforce's epidemiology committee.   "It is possible that the reported number of infections have gone up, but this in no way means more have been infected with COVID-19," he told ISNA news agency.   According to Jahanpour, 1,806 new cases had been confirmed across Iran in the past day, bringing the total to 120,198.   Over 1,460 of the new cases were "outpatients, including those who had been in close contact with the infected," he said.

The ministry said 94,464 people hospitalised with the virus have recovered and been discharged.   Experts both at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran's official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher.   Iran also cancelled rallies held annually in solidarity with the Palestinians, set for Friday next week.    President Hassan Rouhani had said Saturday that the Qods (Jerusalem) Day parades would go ahead with some measures against the virus.    But organisers said Sunday the event could not be held "decently" and would be scrapped apart from a televised speech by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Date: Sun, 17 May 2020 13:31:10 +0200 (METDST)

Antananarivo, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Madagascar on Sunday reported the first death of a patient suffering from novel coronavirus nearly two months after it was first detected in the country, official statistics showed.   The Indian ocean island which has reported 304 cases has hit the headlines over a home-grown herbal concoction that President Andry Rajoelina claims can cure people infected with the virus.

Several African countries have ordered or expressed interest in the purported remedy, which is known as Covid-Organics.   The tonic drink is derived from artemisia -- a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment -- and other indigenous herbs.   But the World Health Organization has warned against "adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy".