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Austria

Austria - US Consular Information Sheet
July 29, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Austria is a highly developed, stable democracy with a modern economy.
Tourism is an important pillar of the Austrian economy and facilities are widely availab
e.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Austria for additional information, or see the information at the Austrian National Tourist Office web site, http://www.austria.info.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A valid passport is required. U.S. citizens can stay without a visa for tourist/business for up to 90 days in each six-month period. That 90-day period begins when you enter any of the Schengen countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
Note:
Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passports upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function.
If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry.
Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passports may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.
There are no vaccination requirements for international travelers.
Visit the Embassy of Austria web site at http://www.austria.org/ for the most current visa information. There are four Austrian Consulates General in the United States. As each one serves clients from a particular region, please contact the appropriate office for assistance. If you reside outside the U.S. please contact the responsible Austrian Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence.
A list of Austrian Embassies/Consulates is available at http://www.bmeia.gv.at/aussenministerium/buergerservice/oesterreichische-vertretungen.html.
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:
Austria remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Austria’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity. Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.

Austrian intelligence experts have registered increased radicalization of immigrant Muslim individuals and of small conspiratorial groups, as well as intensified use of the Internet as a propaganda and communications platform. Despite some terrorism-related incidents in 2007 directed against individual Austrian nationals or the Government of Austria, authorities overall believe the likelihood of terrorist attacks in Austria remains relatively low; the State Department rates Austria as a “Medium” threat for transnational terrorism.

Every year, a number of avalanche deaths occur in Austria's alpine regions. Many occur when skiers/snowboarders stray from the designated ski slopes. Leaving the designated slopes to ski off-piste may pose serious risks and may delay rescue attempts in case of emergency. Skiers/snowboarders should monitor weather and terrain conditions, and use the available avalanche rescue equipment. Avalanche beepers (transceivers) are the most common rescue devices and, when properly used, provide the fastest way of locating an avalanche victim, usually enabling authorities to begin rescue operations within minutes.

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

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Austria has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, and violent crime is rare. However, crimes involving theft of personal property have increased in recent years.
As such, most crimes involving Americans are crimes of opportunity involving theft of personal belongings. Travelers are also targets of pickpockets who operate where tourists tend to gather. Some of the spots where such crimes are most frequently reported include Vienna’s two largest train stations, the plaza around St. Stephan’s Cathedral and the nearby pedestrian shopping areas (in Vienna’s First District).

There has been an increase in thefts and pick-pocketing on public transportation lines, especially on those lines coming into and out from the city center. U.S. citizens are advised to secure personal belongings and always take precautions while on public transportation and in public places such as cafes and tourist areas. Many citizens have had to disrupt travel plans while awaiting replacements for lost and stolen passports since emergency passports are generally only authorized in rare circumstances such as critical medical emergencies.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Information on the Austrian crime victim compensation program can be found on the U.S. Embassy web site at http://vienna.usembassy.gov/en/embassy/cons/compens.htm.
The local equivalent to the 911 emergency line in Austria is 133.See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
There are an adequate number of hospitals available in Austria. Local hospitals will not settle their accounts directly with American insurance companies. The patient is obliged to pay the bill to the local hospital and later claim a refund from his/her insurance carrier in the United States. MEDICARE payments are not available outside the United States.

The Austrian Medicine Import Act generally prohibits the import of prescription drugs into Austria, with two exceptions:
A) Travelers residing outside the European Union are allowed to carry with them (as part of their personal luggage) drugs and medicines, but only the quantity that an individual having a health problem might normally carry; and,
B) Travelers while staying in Austria may receive drugs and medicines for their personal use by mail. The quantity is limited to the length of their stay in Austria and must never exceed three packages.
Generally, it is recommended that travelers have either a prescription or written statement from their personal physician that the medicines are being used under a doctor's direction and are necessary for their physical wellbeing while traveling.
Public health conditions in Austria are excellent. The level of community sanitation in Vienna meets or exceeds that of most large American cities. Disease incidence and type are similar to that seen in the major cities of Western Europe and the United States. At the present time, air pollution is not a major health problem in Vienna.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Austria.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at: http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at: http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

Any person, regardless of citizenship, who wants to take up residence in Austria, must be covered by some health insurance plan that covers full medical treatment in Austria. American citizens interested in joining the health insurance plan under the Austrian system should apply to the Health Insurance Agency (Gebietskrankenkasse) in the province (Bundesland) where they reside.
Further information may be obtained from the appropriate “Gebietskrankenkasse” http://www.sozialversicherung.at/portal/index.html?ctrl:cmd=render&ctrl:window=esvportal.channel_content.cmsWindow&p_menuid=955&p_tabid=6&p_pubid=687.
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 Austria is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Road conditions in Austria are generally excellent. During the winter, however, roads in alpine areas may become dangerous due to snowfall, ice, or avalanches. Some mountain roads may be closed for extended periods and tire chains are often required. Drivers should exercise caution during the heavily traveled vacation periods (December-February, Easter, July-August). Extra caution is recommended when driving through autobahn construction zones, particularly on the A-1 East/West Autobahn. Reduced lanes and two-way traffic in these zones have resulted in several deadly accidents in recent years. Traffic information and road conditions are broadcast on the English language channel fm4, located between 91 and 105 FM depending on the locale.

A U.S. driver’s license alone is not sufficient to drive in Austria. The U.S. driver’s license must be accompanied by an international driver’s permit (obtainable in the U.S. from American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance) or by an official translation of the U.S. driver’s license, which can be obtained at one of the Austrian automobile clubs (OEAMTC or ARBOE). This arrangement is only acceptable for the first six months of driving in Austria, after which all drivers must obtain an Austrian license.

Austria requires all vehicles using the autobahn to display an “Autobahn Vignette” highway tax sticker on the inside of the vehicle’s windshield. The sticker may be purchased at border crossings, gas stations in Austria, and small “Tabak” shops located in Austrian towns. Fines for failing to display a valid autobahn vignette on the windshield of your car are usually around $120.

Austrian autobahns have a maximum speed limit of 130 km/hr, although drivers often drive much faster and pass aggressively. The use of hand-held cell phones while driving is prohibited. Turning right on red is also prohibited throughout Austria. The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Austria is .05 percent and penalties for driving under the influence tend to be stricter than in many U.S. states.

Tourists driving rented vehicles should pay close attention to the provisions of their rental contract. Many contracts prohibit drivers from taking rented vehicles into eastern European countries. Drivers attempting to enter countries listed as “prohibited” on the car rental contract may be arrested, fined, and/or charged with attempted auto theft. Austrian police are authorized to hold the rented vehicle for the car rental company.
Emergency roadside help and information may be reached by dialing 123 or 120 for vehicle assistance and towing services (Austrian automobile clubs), 122 for the fire department, 133 for police, and 144 for ambulance.
The European emergency line is 112.
Austrian Federal Railroads (Österreichische Bundesbahnen) offer excellent railroad service to all major towns of the country and also direct connections with all major cities in Europe. Trains are well maintained and fares are reasonable. There is also an extensive network of bus lines operated by the Austrian Postal Service (Österreichische Post). All major cities also offer excellent public transportation services.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web-site of Austria’s national tourist office (Österreich Werbung) at http://www.austria.info and the national authority responsible for road safety (Kuratorium für Verkehrssicherheit) at http://www.kfv.at/.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Austria’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Austria’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at: http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Travelers using U.S. issued debit cards in Austrian Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) may encounter problems. If the request for cash is rejected, travelers should check their accounts immediately to see whether the money was in fact debited from their account. If this is the case, they should notify their banking institution immediately. Prompt action may result in a refund of the debited amount. Receipts should always be requested and kept for verification with your home bank.
Please see our Customs Information.

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

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Austria are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Austria.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is located at Parkring 12a, tel. +43- 1-31339-7535, fax: +43-1-5125835, web site: http://vienna.usembassy.gov/en/index.html
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This replaces the Country Specific Information sheet for Austria dated January 23, 2008, without substantive changes.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed, 10 Apr 2019 16:33:41 +0200

Vienna, April 10, 2019 (AFP) - The Austrian city of Klagenfurt indefinitely suspended its bus services Wednesday after a case of measles was detected in one of the drivers.   "All bus traffic is suspended until further notice in order to prevent infection," the city's KMG public transport operator announced.

The company runs all public transport in the southern city of 100,000 inhabitants, which is also the state capital of Carinthia.   It took the unusual measure after it was revealed that one driver had been diagnosed with measles on 3 April.   Since then two further suspected cases have been reported.   KMG said it was working to establish "the vaccination status of all drivers" before authorising bus services to restart and was embarking on a deep clean of its vehicles.

The resurgence of measles, a once-eradicated and highly-contagious disease, is linked to a growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations -- which the World Health Organization has identified as a major global health threat.   On Tuesday, New York mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of the city, ordering all residents of certain districts in Brooklyn to be vaccinated to fight a measles outbreak concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
Date: Sun, 3 Mar 2019 04:10:56 +0100
By Sophie MAKRIS

Vienna, March 3, 2019 (AFP) - It looks like a scene from the halcyon days of the railways: travellers finding their sleeper berth, turning on the reading light and stowing their cases under the bed.    But it's still a common nightly ritual at Vienna's main station, where overnight train routes have endured in the age of low-cost flights -- and are even expanding.   From early evening onwards, the departures board at Vienna's "Hauptbahnhof" station becomes a roll call of destinations to whet the appetite of any globetrotter: Venice, Rome, Zurich, Berlin, Warsaw...   It's an unusual sight in a continent where budget airlines and faster trains have become the norm and led to the closure of many slower overnight routes.

But Austria's state railway company OeBB is looking to expand its network.   It already runs 26 such routes, either on its own or in partnerships with other operators.   In late 2016, OeBB bought the night train operation of its German counterpart Deutsche Bahn, which was looking to offload a department it judged insufficiently lucrative.   Around 60 percent of DB's overnight routes were preserved, including a revamped Vienna-Berlin service which started a few months ago.   Pointing to the "moderate growth" in passenger numbers -- more than 1.4 million used the services in 2018 -- OeBB has ordered 13 new trains equipped with state-of-the-art sleeper carriages.

- Eco-friendly -
It's no surprise then that Austria has become the poster child for rail enthusiasts, who say it provides an example of how overnight train travel can provide an alternative to air travel and even help in the fight against climate change.    "With regard to the target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, night trains which run on renewable energy are an attractive alternative," according to Thomas Sauter-Servaes, transport expert at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

But as with all those who have researched the sector, he admits that cross-border overnight rail travel can represent a logistical and financial challenge.   The profits per passenger take a hit from the extra space that sleeper compartments require, on top of the higher labour costs for those who have to work on the trains overnight and money spent on laundry.   And that's before you take into account the hefty fees sometimes charged by other network owners for use of the rails, the technical difficulty of decoupling and then re-attaching carriages, and navigating the myriad of different rules a train has to adhere to over a long journey.

Sauter-Servaes points out that international air transport has a big commercial advantage in being exempt from VAT and fuel taxes.   Among those preparing to board at Vienna station to spend a night on the rails on a recent evening, some told AFP they had chosen a night train with the environment in mind.   "It's a small gesture, and it won't stop me taking the plane for my holiday in Madagascar this autumn, but it's better than nothing," said Austrian traveller Yvonne Kemper.   David, a 42-year-old from Germany, said he was using the Hamburg service because he needed to get to Goettingen in Germany for a business trip -- a medium-sized town which, typically, is served by night trains but has no airport.

- An Austrian tradition -
OeBB spokesman Bernhard Rieder explained that Austria's attachment to night trains is down to "a tradition stemming from Austria's mountainous terrain, which limited the development of high-speed lines".   He added that "the night train sector is distinct in that it can't function without strong cross-border cooperation."   "Night trains are and will continue to be a niche market, but that doesn't mean a niche market can't be profitable."   But Poul Kattler, from the pan-European "Back on Track" group which campaigns for more cross-border night trains, says the sector should be more ambitious.   "If national railway companies were more aggressive in the market and the EU built a truly common rail policy, we could offer a real transport alternative and a very popular European project," he says.
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2019 15:26:31 +0100

Vienna, Jan 15, 2019 (AFP) - Around 60 guests were evacuated from an Austrian hotel and holiday apartment house early Tuesday after the buildings were engulfed by an avalanche, rescue services said.   "It was lucky the avalanche didn't occur four hours earlier when all of the guests were in the dining room," said Heribert Eisl, of the mountain rescue team in Ramsau am Dachstein, a village in the central Styria region where the accident happened at 1:00 am (0000 GMT).

The dining room was filled with snow up to one metre (three feet) below the ceiling, he told a news conference.   The avalanche shattered the hotel's windows and overturned vehicles in the car park, but no-one was injured, Eisl said.   "We hadn't expected the avalanche to wreak such damage," he continued.

A number of areas in the Austrian Alps have been on high avalanche alert for the past 10 days as a result of heavy snowfall across the west and centre of the country since early January.    In some regions, more than three metres of snow has fallen.   The army has been called in to help clear roads and roofs and evacuate residents in the wake of the bad weather, which has also affected southern Germany and parts of Switzerland.
Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2019 20:17:54 +0100

Vienne, Jan 7, 2019 (AFP) - Three skiers and two snowshoe hikers have died as heavy snow and avalanches hit Austria, isolating several areas of the mountainous country, authorities said Monday.

Two German skiers lost their lives in avalanches in the western region of Vorarlberg on Sunday, and a Slovenian died in the region of Salzburg, rescue services said.   The bodies of two missing snowshoe hikers were discovered Monday as snow caused chaos in parts of the country, blocking roads and shuttering schools.   Two other hikers are still missing in the country's northeast.   Up to 1.5 metres (five feet) of snow has fallen in central and north Austria since the middle of last week, with up to three metres accumulating in the mountains around Salzburg, Austria's meteorological service said.

Some 2,000 people, including tourists, were left stranded in villages in the Soelktal valley in the southeast.    Army helicopters used in avalanche control were grounded due to the bad weather.    In the Hochkar mountain range in Lower Austria, ski resorts were closed until further notice, with inhabitants and tourists requested to vacate the area.    More snow is expected this week, with up to 80 centimetres forecast from Tuesday.
Date: Tue 16 Oct 2018
Source: Food Safety News [edited]

Austria has become part of a multi-country hepatitis A outbreak with 31 confirmed cases linked to frozen strawberries imported from Poland.  The outbreak of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is connected to the one recently declared over in Sweden which affected 20 people in 6 counties. Of these cases, 17 were confirmed and 3 were probable. Dates of symptom onset ranged from 30 May 2018 to 10 Jul 2018. Ages ranged from 9 to 92 years and 13 out of 20 were women.

In July and August 2018, Austria recorded 9 hepatitis A cases with the source unknown. Researchers reported in the Eurosurveillance journal that by sharing the sequence information identified in Sweden internationally, 14 cases in Austria were found linked to strawberries from the same producer.

Genotyping of the hepatitis A outbreak strain in Sweden showed of 17 of the 20 cases confirmed an identical genotype IB strain. Environmental investigations and interviews with kitchen personnel found strawberries had not been heated adequately before serving. Following the outbreak, the juice bar chain where at least 10 cases had fallen ill stopped using frozen strawberries in smoothies and changed to pasteurized frozen pellets of the fruit.

The incriminated batch of frozen strawberries was withdrawn in June 2018 but it had best before date 6 Apr 2020. In total, 1664 packages with 5 kg [11 lbs] strawberries each were removed from the Swedish market.

Almost 2 months after the initial outbreak alert in Sweden, Austria reported a case of HAV infection with a strain indistinguishable from the Swedish outbreak strain. It can take up to 6 weeks after exposure for symptoms to develop. In late August 2018, the Austrian reference laboratory for viral hepatitis reported 5 cases sharing the Swedish outbreak genotype IB strain to the Ministry of Health (MOH). The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) was told to investigate the outbreak.

As of early October 2018, 36 cases of laboratory-confirmed acute hepatitis A had been reported to public health authorities in Austria since June 2018. Of those, 14 met the definition of a confirmed case and 4 were classified as non-outbreak infections based on sequence-typing data. For confirmed cases, disease onset ranged from 8 Jun to 20 Sep 2018, age range was between 5 and 70 years, with 8 males and 6 females affected. 12 patients ate strawberry ice cream during the incubation period and 9 remembered the restaurants where they ate it. For the remaining 18 cases, sequence-typing data was not yet available and patient interviews regarding food exposure during their incubation periods is ongoing, according to the researchers.

Since mid-May 2018, only one wholesaler in Austria purchased frozen strawberries from the producer in Poland, but further distribution included two wholesalers in Slovakia and one ice cream producer in Italy.

The Austrian importer of frozen strawberries from the Polish producer is expecting a supply of 22 tons at the end of 2018 and has requested evidence for a HAV-negative test result of samples. It has also asked for a guarantee from purchasers that frozen strawberries are heated before consumption.

There are several challenges with HAV outbreaks related to berries, according to the researchers. "First, the trace back can be difficult as berries are typically harvested by one producer, then packed by another food business operator whereby batches may then be mixed or split. Another point to consider during HAV outbreak investigations is the long incubation period of hepatitis A up to 6 weeks. After such a long time, it can be difficult to recall food consumption and collect food leftovers. Furthermore, the time from the onset of symptoms to a primary diagnosis and the sequence information can take several weeks," they said.

"In the current outbreak, leftovers from the suspected frozen strawberries in Sweden were sent to Livsmedelsverket and the presence of HAV could be confirmed by real-time PCR and Sanger sequencing, providing evidence for the source of infection. While being invaluable in tracing the source of infections, the molecular detection of viruses in food is challenging." Researchers also said boiling recommendations could be considered for frozen strawberries in Sweden. Such advice is already in place for frozen, imported raspberries because of the risk of norovirus.  [Byline: Joe Whitworth]
==========================
[Frozen berries have been implicated in hepatitis A transmission in the past. The exact mechanism of contamination of the berries is generally not clearly established, but hepatitis A is essentially only a human pathogen transmitted by the fecal-oral route. Transmission can be through food or water contamination or, as has been occurring in a number of large and some still ongoing outbreaks in the USA, through poor sanitation involving marginalized populations such as the homeless, with spill over into other groups. - ProMED Mod.LL]

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India

General Information
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India is bounded by the Himalayas in the north and extends 2000 miles southwards into the Indian Ocean, between the Bay of Bengal on the East and the Arabian Sea on the West. The cou

try has three main geographic regions: the Himalaya Mountains on the Nepal-Tibet border; the Gangetic Plain lying below the Himalayas; the Deccan Plateau south of the Gangetic Plain. The climate throughout India is determined, to a large extent, by the massive Himalayan mountainous barrier in the northeastern part of the country. Many Irish travellers to India spend a significant period of time within the country but even those on short holidays or business trips need to take care to maintain their general health.

Climate
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Most of the country is tropical or sub-tropical and subject to seasonal monsoon winds. This is especially true in the southwestern regions. * New Delhi There are three distinct seasons in New Delhi. Between mid-April to mid-July there is the hot dry season with dust storms. From mid-July to September there is a rainy season and a cooler season from October to March. * Bombay Bombay has a tropical climate and has an annual average temperature of about 270C. The hot humid season occurs in April and May. A monsoon occurs from June to September with about 70" of rainfall. A cool season extends from November to February when the temperatures can drop somewhat. * Calcutta Humidity remains high throughout most of the year. This is especially true between May to October when humidity levels of 90% are common. Most of the rainfall occurs during the monsoon season between June to October. * Madras The climate remains tropical throughout the year. December and January are relatively cool months and the heat increases rapidly from March to June. Premonsoon rains bring relief in July and the temperatures decrease slowly until the cooler season returns in November.

Safety & Security:
*******************************************
For most Irish travellers this will not be a major concern. However, the experience of travelling through any of the major cities is something many tourists will not forget. Taking care on Indian roads is a constantly essential activity. Parts of the country are unstable and recent earthquakes have led to disruptions to the transport infrastructure. As in many other countries travelling alone or late at night is unwise. In Kashmir tourists have been targeted and it is sensible to check you itinerary carefully before you travel throughout the country. In the northeastern part of the country (Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya) there have been sporadic incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including the bombing of buses and trains reported.

General Health Issues
*******************************************
It is essential that travellers recognise that there is a higher risk to their health while travelling in India. These risks are mainly associated with malaria and food and water borne diseases but conditions like accidents, rabies, tuberculosis and cholera are also present in many regions.

Food Borne Disease
*******************************************
A vegetarian diet is common throughout the country. Frequently the care taken with food preparation will be below standards usually seen in Western Europe. Work surfaces may be contaminated and food handlers may themselves infect the food before it is served. Cold foods should be avoided, where possible, and travellers should only consume hot food which has been freshly prepared. Stir fries may not reach sufficient cooking temperatures and need to be treated with great care. Shell fish and lettuce should always be avoided as they are one of the main ways food borne diseases are transmitted.

Water Borne Disease
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Tap water should NOT be used for drinking or brushing teeth unless the smell of chlorine is obvious. Don’t use water from a jug in the hotel bedroom for anything except general washing. Sealed mineral water bought from your hotel should be used for all consumption and for brushing teeth.

Malaria
*******************************************
Malaria is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. This may occur throughout India, including all the major cities. The highest risk time is during the monsoon season (May to October approximately) but there is risk throughout the year. Travellers should take care against mosquito bites and maintain their prophylactic tablets during their time in India and also for a further four weeks after leaving the country.

Rabies
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This viral disease is transmitted by any infected warm-blooded animal. Dogs, cats, monkeys etc are frequently involved. Travellers should avoid all contact with animals and any bite (lick or scratch) should be treated by immediately washing out the area, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention. India reports many thousand deaths each year from this dreadful disease.

Vaccinations
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Most short term travellers should consider vaccination cover against Poliomyelitis, Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis A. Malaria tablets will also be required. For longer trips please contact the Tropical Bureau at the numbers below.

Other Health Information
*******************************************
A full range of information on healthy travelling overseas can be obtained from the educational department of the Tropical Medical Bureau.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

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: Wed 12 Jun 2019
Source: Odisha TV [edited]

In a month since cyclone Fani battered Puri, cholera cases have spiked in the district. As many as 56 people have been admitted to the cholera ward of the Puri district headquarters hospital in the past 24 hours. With symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting, patients from Puri Sadar, Satybadi, Brahmagiri, Kanasa, Delang and Nimapara areas have been admitted to the hospital.

While the Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO), Amarendra Nath Mohanty cited that contaminated food and water as the reason behind spurt in number of patients suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting, patients and their attendants blamed callousness on the part of the district administration as it failed to create awareness and take measures to prevent the disease outbreak.

"Since morning I have been suffering from loose motions and vomiting. How would we know that the piped water supplied to home is contaminated? Though some hospital staff visited our locality and provided chlorine tablets, it did not make much difference," said a patient.

Refuting the claims of an outbreak, the Puri CDMO said due to seasonal changes, people are falling ill. "Rise in temperature accompanied by lack of electricity could be the reason behind such illness. This apart, an imbalance in environment, stress among people and seasonal changes cause the disease. However, no outbreak or cluster of cases have been reported," the Puri CDMO added.

In past one week, more than 300 patients have been admitted to the hospital complaining of diarrhoea and vomiting.
Date: Tue 11 Jun 2019 20:43 IST
Source: The Hindu [edited]

At least 28 children have died in the last one month in Muzaffarpur district of north Bihar, allegedly due to AES, which is locally known as Chamki bukhar (brain fever).

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has expressed concern over the rising deaths of children in Muzaffarpur. He said, "A team of doctors and medical experts have been sent to Muzaffarpur to monitor the situation and also speed up the awareness drive about complexities and preventive measures about AES."

"Till last night [10 Jun 2019], 28 children have lost their lives... we've started 2 separate intensive care units (ICU) along with other makeshift wards in the government hospital", Muzaffarpur civil surgeon Dr Shailendera Prasad Singh told The Hindu over phone.

Earlier on [Mon 10 Jun 2019], Principal Secretary of the Health Department Sanajy Kumar said the deaths were caused by hypoglycaemia (deficiency of glucose or sugar in the blood stream), and not by the fever. He, however, added that "48 suspected AES cases have been recorded so far in the district."

On [Tue 11 Jun 2019] Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwani Kumar Choubey said in Patna that "since state government officials were engaged in election-related works in the recent past months they could not make the awareness drive as it should have been... we're careful and taking all measures to tackle the situation of death of children in Muzaffarpur."

Meanwhile, unofficial records said that 130 cases of suspected AES had come in at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) and private Kejriwal hospital in Muzaffarpur in the last 9 days. "Totally, 81 children with suspected AES are admitted in these 2 hospitals and over 3 dozen have already died... these days the ICUs, pediatrics ICU and other makeshift separate wards of SKMCH and Kejriwal hospital are crammed with children having symptoms of suspected AES...if not contained soon, the death toll may go up to 50 in the coming days", said a doctor of the SKMCH on the condition of anonymity.

Every year during summer time, especially in the season of luscious fruit litchi, AES outbreak gets reported and takes the lives of children in the district, which is India's largest litchi cultivation region. In 2014, when altogether 90 children died in the district due to suspected AES, a research carried by the Lancet Global Health established the connection between litchi consumption and encephalitis deaths.

Mr Nitish Kumar had said, "It generally hits those children who go to sleep empty stomach at night and eat litchis fallen on the ground. Earlier, 3 different teams of doctors had reached 3 different conclusions about the reason of children's deaths in summer season in Muzaffarpur... last year [2018], very few deaths were reported because an extensive awareness drive was launched."

Former Union Health Minister Dr Harshvardhan had visited the SKMCH and made several announcements, including the setting up of a virology lab at the hospital to study the nature of diseases, but nothing happened thereafter.

According to doctors, high temperatures during summer, along with humidity more than the normal, is considered to be an ideal situation for the outbreak of AES, which has symptoms of high fever, vomiting, nausea and unconsciousness. Since 2010, 398 children have died in Muzaffarpur due to suspected AES.  [Byline: Amarnath Tewary]
======================
[The aetiology of the cases is not confirmed, but the majority are reported as hypoglycemic and lychee fruit consumption is implicated. As noted previously, frequently some cases of AES are attributed to Japanese encephalitis but many are of undefined etiology. The determination of the etiology or etiologies of AES has been confusing and elusive. Various etiological agents have been proposed in recent years as responsible for AES cases. AES has continued to be attributed to a variety of etiologies, including Reye syndrome-like disease, possible enterovirus infection from polluted water, heatstroke, lychee fruit consumption, and scrub typhus (_Orientia tsutsugamushi_). A recent publication states that dengue virus is one of the 3 most common agents identified in acute encephalitis syndrome (AES), but existing surveillance for AES does not include routine testing for dengue.

It has been proposed previously that consumption of lychees is responsible for some encephalitis cases. Encephalopathy and hypoglycemia have been associated with consumption of lychee fruit containing phytotoxins, specifically alpha-(methylenecyclopropyl)glycine (see ProMED-mail archive no. http://promedmail.org/post/20150201.3132842). However, Dr Jacob John has asserted that many of these are hypoglycemic Reye syndrome cases. He noted that in the pre-monsoon period, particularly in May and June, outbreaks of Reye-like acute hypoglycemic encephalopathy occur in the north western region of Bihar state and that is also popularly, but unfortunately, called AES. Many doctors, the media, and the public consider these encephalopathy cases as encephalitis because of the term AES. This has been now clarified and in June 2014 children were treated by 10 per cent dextrose infusion and many lives were saved. Other etiologies have been proposed by clinicians. A published article in a pediatric journal proposed that some cases are due to heat stroke.

Ref: Shrivastava A, Kumar A, Thomas JD, et al: Association of acute toxic encephalopathy with litchi consumption in an outbreak in Muzaffarpur, India, 2014: a case-control study. Lancet Glob Health. 2017; 5(4): e458-e466. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30035-9; <https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30035-9/fulltext>. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of India:
31st May 2019

Heatwaves across India have exacted heavy casualties this year, including dozens of deaths by sunstroke and other heat-related causes. The deaths have been mainly reported from states like Maharashtra (particularly Vidarbha), Andhra Pradesh (mainly Rayalseema) and Telangana, due to the temperature extremes in these regions. What's worrying is, a study suggests that the heatwave conditions are likely to increase from next year and continue till 2064 because of El Niño Modoki and depletion in soil moisture. Here's how the heatwave is taking a toll in the above states.

Maharashtra

Parts of Maharashtra have been reeling under high temperatures accompanied by severe heatwave condition during this summer. According to a report in The Times Of India, a 50-year old man in Beed succumbed to death because of heatstroke recently, taking the overall number to 8. Reports show a total of 456 cases of heat-related illnesses in Maharashtra this summer. Last year, the number of cases reported was 568. However, the death toll this year is more than last year's figure of 2 victims.

Regions like Nagpur and Akola show the most number of deaths and illnesses in the Vidarbha region. About 163 cases of heat-related illness were reported in Nagpur and 76 ailments were reported in Latur region. Recently, Chandrapur in Maharashtra (which lies 150km south of Nagpur) registered a day temperature of 48°C, the highest recorded in India this summer.

Andhra Pradesh

Parts of Andhra Pradesh have been experiencing temperatures of 45°C and more since the last few days. These conditions have persisted in the state after the heavy rains caused by Cyclone Fani.

Two women going on a two-wheeler and covered themselves with scarfs to protect themselves from the heat wave, in Vijayawada
(Mahesh G, TOI, BCCL, Vijayawada.)

Three people have died in Andhra Pradesh due to heat-related causes this year. Also, 433 people have been diagnosed with heatstroke. Earlier this month, electrical transformers had blown up in many parts of Krishna and Guntur districts, disrupting power supply for more than five hours and intensifying the effects of heatwave conditions and the severe temperatures.

In 2015, Andhra Pradesh experienced the most number of heat deaths in the country: 1,369 people died that year from heat-related illnesses.

Telangana

Seventeen people have succumbed in Telangana over the last 22 days. However, the number of unconfirmed deaths is expected to be higher. The region saw 541 heat-related deaths in 2015, and 27 in 2018. The farmers and those who work in the sun are usually the ones to be affected the most by high temperatures and heatwave conditions.

As heat blankets the country, make sure you stay protected. Follow official guidelines and do not step out in the Sun, especially in the afternoon hours, unless absolutely necessary.

(With inputs from The Times Of India.)

Date: Sat 8 Jun 2019
Source: Business Standard [edited]

As many as 14 children have died due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in the district, while over a dozen are admitted in hospitals with high fever and other symptoms of the infection.

Sunil Shahi, Superintendent of Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), told ANI, "We have received 38 patients so far; most of them have a deficiency of glucose in their blood. Of these, 2 have also tested JE [Japanese encephalitis] positive; the overall casualty till now is 14."

Dr Gopal Sahni, head of Critical Care Unit, said, "When heat and humidity rise, the body's sweat cannot evaporate. The humidity level is over 50 per cent in the last few days. We have about 15 such children admitted in the hospital currently, and 89 such cases come regularly."

Encephalitis is a viral infection, which causes mild flu-like symptoms such as a fever or a headache.
=======================
[Again, this year (2019), cases of AES and JE are appearing in north-western India. Of the 14 AES cases, 2 tested positive for JE. The aetiology of the remaining cases is not stated, but the majority are reported as hypoglycaemic. As noted previously, frequently, in reports of JE cases in India, acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) of undefined aetiology is often mentioned with JE cases that are a minority of those hospitalized.

The determination of the aetiology or aetiologies of AES has been confusing and elusive. Various etiological agents have been proposed in recent years as responsible for AES cases. AES has continued to be attributed to a variety of aetiologies, including Reye syndrome-like disease, possible enterovirus infection from polluted water, heatstroke, lychee fruit consumption, and scrub typhus (_Orientia tsutsugamushi_). Recently, scrub typhus has been implicated in many AES cases. A recent publication (reference below) states that dengue virus is one of the 3 most common agents identified in acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). Unfortunately, existing surveillance for AES does not include routine testing for dengue. Dengue accounts for 5% of AES cases in India, especially in the absence of laboratory evidence for other pathogens tested. Dengue should be added to the list of possible AES etiological agents.

Reference:
Vasanthapuram Ravi, Shafeeq Keeran Shahul Hameed, Anita Desai, Reeta Subramaniam Mani, Vijayalakshmi Reddy, et al.: Dengue virus is an under-recognised causative agent of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES): Results from a 4-year AES surveillance study of Japanese encephalitis in selected states of India. International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2019. doi: <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2019.01.008>.

Maps of India:

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
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]
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[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.
More ...

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]
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[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
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- 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.