April 21, 2008
One of the poorest countries in the world, Burundi is a small, densely populated central African nation bordering Lake Tanganyika, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democrati
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport, visa and evidence of immunization against yellow fever are required for entry. Travelers with an expired visa are not permitted to leave the country without acquiring an exit visa prior to departure. The latest information about visas may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Burundi, Suite 212, 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007, telephone (202) 342-2574, or from the Permanent Mission of Burundi to the United Nations in New York at telephone (212) 499-0001 thru 0006.
For information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction, please refer to related web pages at http://travel.state.gov. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
See the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Burundi.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their 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: Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits, poses a high risk for foreign visitors to Bujumbura and Burundi in general. Common crimes include mugging, purse-snatching, pick pocketing, burglary, automobile break-ins and carjacking. Many criminal incidents involve armed attackers. Armed criminals often ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. Criminals in Bujumbura often operate in pairs or in small groups involving six or more individuals. Due to insufficient resources, local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance in case of need.
U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets during the hours of darkness and using local, public transportation. Foreigners, whether in vehicles or at home, are always potential crime targets. Americans should exercise common sense judgment and take the same precautions as one would in any major city.
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 the local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, help 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 facilities in Burundi generally do not meet Western standards of care. Travelers should carry an ample supply of properly-labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them, as certain medications and prescription drugs are unavailable or in short supply. Sterility of equipment is questionable, and treatment is unreliable. Ambulance assistance is non-existent. Hospital care in Burundi should be considered in only the most serious cases and when no reasonable alternatives are available.
Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for travel to all parts of Burundi.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance companies prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policies apply overseas and/or cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: When in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Burundi is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
While travel on most roads is generally safe during the day, travelers must maintain constant vigilance. There have been regular reports of violent attacks on vehicles traveling the roads throughout the country outside of Bujumbura. U.S. Government personnel are required to travel upcountry via two-vehicle convoys and have their trips pre-approved by the Regional Security Officer. The Embassy recommends that Americans not travel on the national highways from dusk to dawn. Drivers without valid permits, and the ease with which a driver's license can be acquired without training, make Burundian drivers less careful, predictable, or mindful of driving rules than Western drivers may expect.
There are no traffic signals in Bujumbura, and virtually nothing of the kind elsewhere in the country. Roadways are not marked, and the lack of streetlights or shoulders makes driving in the countryside at night especially dangerous. Additionally, drivers may encounter cyclists, pedestrians, and livestock in the roadway, including in and around the capital. Mini-vans used as buses for 18 persons should be given a wide berth as they start and stop abruptly, often without pulling to the side of the road.
Large holes or damaged portions of roadway may be encountered anywhere in the country, including in Bujumbura; when driving in the countryside, it is recommended that travelers carry multiple spare tires. During the rainy season, many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Burundi’s supply of gasoline and diesel fuel are imported predominantly from Kenya and Tanzania, and are relatively expensive due to high transportation costs. Service stations are rare outside of the major cities.
Third-party insurance is required, and it will cover any damages (property, injury, or death). If you are found to have caused an accident, you automatically will be fined 10,000 Burundian francs (approximately $10 U.S.) and your driver's license will be confiscated until the police investigation is completed. Although the law provides for the arrest of drunk drivers, in practice, the police do not act on this law. In the city of Bujumbura, the number for police assistance is 22-22-37-77; there is no comparable number outside the capital. If you are involved in an accident causing death, it is advised that you leave the scene of the accident and proceed to the nearest police station.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Burundi, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burundi’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
There are no ATMs located in the country and most Burundian hotels and businesses do not accept credit cards. Many hotels in Bujumbura accept payment in U.S. dollars or Euros from non-Burundians. Travelers should be aware that Burundian banking practices prohibit acceptance of U. S. currency printed before the year 2003.
The Embassy recommends that visitors do not photograph airports, military installations, or other government buildings, and obtain permission from individuals before taking their photographs. 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 Burundian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled from the country, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burundi 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 intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Burundi are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel within Burundi and the Embassy’s current security policies, including areas that are off-limits to U.S. Government personnel for security reasons. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located on Avenue des Etats-Unis, telephone (257) 22-22-34-54, fax (257) 22-22-29-26. The Embassy's web site is http://burundi.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Burundi dated July 18, 2007, to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Nairobi, Aug 14, 2019 (AFP) - The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that Burundi had begun vaccinating frontline workers against Ebola at its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an outbreak of the virus has killed close to 1,900 people. The campaign to vaccinate at-risk staff against the deadly hemorrhagic fever started Tuesday at Gatumba, the main crossing point from Burundi to its much-larger neighbour, WHO said.
Burundi has received doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, an unlicensed product that has been shown to be effective against the Zairian strain of the virus raging in DR Congo. It would be administered to those at greatest risk such as health workers along the border, laboratory staff and burial teams, WHO said. "The vaccination of health and frontline staff is a significant step forward in preparing for the response to this disease," said Dr Kazadi Mulombo, WHO representative in Burundi.
The vaccine, developed by US pharmaceutical group Merck, proved "highly effective" in a trial conducted in Guinea in 2015 during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, he added. The vaccination campaign will be overseen by WHO and Burundi's health ministry. The Ebola outbreak in eastern DR Congo is the second-worst in history. A total of 1,892 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak began on August 1 2018. No cases of Ebola have been recorded so far in Burundi, a tiny nation of 11 million. But its border with DR Congo is 236 kilometres (147 miles) long and considered highly porous, and the whole region is on high alert.
In June, three people from one family died in Uganda from Ebola after returning from DR Congo via an unofficial crossing point. Burundi also shares a border with Rwanda and Tanzania. The Congo outbreak is the first where vaccines have been rolled out on a large-scale. The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine has already been administered to some 170,000 people, especially frontline workers, in DR Congo. This week, US researchers announced that two prototype drugs being tested among Ebola patients in eastern DR Congo boost chances of surviving the disease.
Nairobi, Aug 6, 2019 (AFP) - Malaria has killed more than 1,800 people in Burundi this year, the UN's humanitarian agency says, a death toll rivalling a deadly Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. In its latest situation report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 5.7 million cases of malaria had been recorded in Burundi in 2019 -- a figure roughly equal to half its entire population. Of those cases, a total of 1,801 died from the mosquito-born disease in Burundi between January 1 and July 21, OCHA said.
The tiny country of 11 million people in the African Great Lakes region has still not declared a national emergency, despite OCHA saying the outbreak crossed "epidemic proportions" in May. "The national malaria outbreak response plan, which is currently being validated, has highlighted a lack of human, logistical and financial resources for effective response," OCHA said in its latest weekly bulletin on humanitarian emergencies. "All stakeholders, including the national authorities and partners are called upon to provide the requisite resources to mount a robust response to this event before it escalates." A lack of preventative measures like mosquito nets, climatic changes and increased movements of people from mountain areas with low immunity to malaria were driving the crisis, OCHA said.
- 'Many crises' -
An OCHA official told AFP that "the decision to declare an epidemic is the sovereignty of the Burundian state". The country declared a malaria epidemic in March 2017, when the country had recorded 1.8 million cases and 700 deaths, but was resisting doing the same now. A senior government official, who declined to be named, said the government did not want to admit weakness with elections set for 2020. "We are less than a year away from the presidential election. (President Pierre) Nkurunziza, who is facing many crises, does not want to recognise what could be considered a failure of his health policy," the official told AFP. Burundi has been in crisis since 2015, when Nkurunziza ran for a third term and was re-elected in elections boycotted by most of the opposition.
At least 1,200 people were killed and more than 400,000 displaced in violence the UN says was mostly carried out by state security forces. Nkurunziza announced in 2018 that he would not stand again, confounding critics who accused him of working to extend his grip on power. UN investigators said in July that "drastic" steps were needed to boost democratic freedoms in Burundi if the government wanted the elections to be considered credible.
Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the region, abuts DR Congo, where the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history has killed more than 1,800 people amid fears the infectious fever could spread beyond its borders. But malaria is a much bigger killer on the continent. The World Health Organization recorded nearly 220 million cases of the parasitic illness in 2017, with an estimated 435,000 deaths. More than 90 percent of malaria cases and deaths were in Africa.
Nairobi, March 16, 2018 (AFP) - Nine workers at a construction site outside Burundi's capital Bujumbura were killed in a landslide on Friday, police said. Heavy seasonal rains caused the hillside next to the Gasenyi river, east of the city, to collapse burying the workers who were building a channel to redirect the river's floodwaters. Police said in a statement that nine bodies had so far been found, while rescue efforts continue.
May 28, 2008
Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected lower house of parliament.
The upper house, the Senate, is comprised of appointed hereditary ch
A Prime Minister is the head of the government.
Geographically, Lesotho is an extremely mountainous developing nation completely surrounded by the country of South Africa.
The capital, Maseru, is at 5,000 feet (1,500M) above sea level, and the mountains reach to 11,400 feet (3,500M). Facilities for tourism are limited.
A limited number of restaurants are available in Maseru.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Lesotho for additional information.
A passport is required, but no visa for U.S. citizens is needed for visits of 180 days or less.
Vaccination for yellow fever is a common requirement and travelers should carry their international vaccination cards with them.
For more information concerning entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Lesotho, 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 797-5533.
Visit the Embassy of Lesotho’s web site at http://www.lesothoemb-usa.gov.ls/ for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Lesotho held a general election in February 2007, which international and local observers considered peaceful and independent.
Opposition parties disputed the allocation of parliamentary seats following the election, leading to a protracted political impasse, massive rallies, and several work stoppages in 2007 which disrupted public transportation and some commercial activity.
Although the Southern African Development Community (SADC) undertook a mediation effort aimed at achieving dialogue and reconciliation, senior political and government figures were targeted in a spate of armed attacks in June 2007.
These attacks, including the kidnapping of Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) guards and the seizure of military weapons, resulted in a government-imposed daily curfew from June 15 to June 22, 2007, and reports of harassment at security checkpoints and roadblocks.
Efforts by the Maseru City Council to disperse unlicensed street vendors in the central business district led to confrontations between police and vendors.
U.S. citizens should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
U.S. citizens should remain vigilant about their surroundings at all times.
Lesotho has a high level of crime and foreigners are frequently targeted, robbed and sometimes killed.
American citizens reported an increased number of incidents in the first half of 2008, including armed and unarmed confrontations, carjackings, and home invasions.
However, there are no indications that U.S. citizens are being specifically targeted or that there is an increase in the overall crime rate.
The Lesotho Mounted Police Service reported the presence of a number of armed gangs.
Lesotho’s high unemployment rate, aggravated by the return of large numbers of unemployed miners from South Africa, and the ongoing effects of social upheaval due to high HIV/AIDS rates of infection, continue to contribute to an increasing number of reported crimes.
These types of crimes occur primarily in the capital city of Maseru, but can occur elsewhere in Lesotho.
Crime scenes have included popular restaurants, pedestrian overpasses, unlit or poorly lit roads, and other locations foreigners are known to frequent.
Victims have included foreign diplomats, volunteer workers, employees of non-governmental organizations, and nationals of Lesotho.
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid large groups and demonstrations, walking and driving at nighttime if possible, and walking in the capital city of Maseru even during daylight.
Personal crime is more likely to occur at night, but there have been numerous recent incidents in the middle of the day.
Traveling alone or at night is particularly dangerous.
The Lesotho Mounted Police Service handles policing duties.
Police resources are limited and response time varies widely.
U.S. citizens should report crime to the police and to the Embassy consular section.
There is a serious baggage pilferage problem at Johannesburg International Airport, also known as Oliver Tambo International Airport, in South Africa.
Persons traveling by air to Lesotho must travel via Johannesburg.
The pilferage problem particularly affects travelers changing airlines and those flying on smaller airlines.
Passengers flying on major international carriers may not be affected to the same degree.
Travelers are encouraged to secure their luggage, use an airport plastic wrapping service, and avoid placing currency, electronics, jewelry, cameras or other valuables in checked luggage.
Make an inventory of items in checked baggage to aid in claims processing if theft does occur.
The claims processing procedure can be time-consuming.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney, if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in Lesotho are limited.
Good medical service is available in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 90 miles west of Maseru.
There is no reliable ambulance service in Lesotho.
The Embassy maintains a list of physicians and other health care professionals in Lesotho who may see U.S. citizen patients.
The Embassy does not guarantee their services or provide recommendations.
Many medicines are unavailable at facilities in Lesotho; travelers should carry with them an adequate supply of needed medicines and/or prescription drugs, along with copies of prescriptions.
Lesotho has a very high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, currently estimated at over thirty percent of the adult population.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
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 Lesotho is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic moves on the left, with right-hand drive vehicles.
Never assume right-of-way, as aggressive and undisciplined local driving habits result in frequent collisions.
Lesotho has a high number of traffic-related deaths and injuries given its small size.
The previous king died in a road accident in 1996.
Driving after dark is dangerous due to the absence of street lighting, livestock on the roads, and the prevalence of crime, including incidents of carjacking.
American citizens may encounter roadblocks manned by unauthorized or off-duty police officers soliciting cash payments for alleged traffic violations.
Travel is best done by private car.
Rental cars are available, and cars rented in neighboring South Africa may be brought into Lesotho with written permission from the rental company.
Although bus and public taxi services exist, chronic overloading combined with inadequate vehicle maintenance and lack of driver training make them unsafe.
Some private taxi service exists in the capital, but roving mini-bus taxis should be avoided.
There is no passenger train service in the country.
Although the number of paved roads is gradually increasing, the majority of Lesotho’s 5,000 miles of roads are unpaved.
A few main rural highways are comparable to U.S. two-lane rural roads, but lane markings, signs, shoulders and guardrails are not to U.S. standards, and unfenced livestock pose a particular danger.
Lesotho's mountainous terrain makes driving on secondary roads hazardous.
Unpaved roads in the interior, often narrow, twisty and steep, are poorly maintained. For travel in the interior, especially in wet or snowy weather, a high ground clearance or four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended.
Four-wheel-drive is required for entering Lesotho through the Sani Pass on the eastern border.
The authority for road safety issues rests with the Lesotho Mounted Police Service.
There are no auto clubs or reliable ambulance services.
Drivers should contact the police in emergencies.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the web site of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.lesothoemb-usa.gov.ls/tourism.htm.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Lesotho, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lesotho’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
The only scheduled air service is between Maseru and Johannesburg on a South African Airways subsidiary. There is no scheduled service among towns within Lesotho.
Tap water is not reliably potable.
Visitors to the interior of Lesotho should bring clothing and equipment suitable for cold weather during the winter months (June - October).
In the mountains, weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly.
In winter snow often closes mountain passes and temperatures often drop below freezing during the night, even in the lowlands.
Please see our Customs Information.
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 Lesotho laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Lesotho 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.
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 Lesotho 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 Lesotho.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 254 Kingsway, Maseru West; the mailing address is PO Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho.
The telephone number is 266-22-312-666. The Embassy’s e-mail address is email@example.com and the URL is http://maseru.usembassy.gov/.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Lesotho dated December 19, 2007 to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Julie JAMMOT
Semonkong, Lesotho, Sept 9, 2016 (AFP) - Across the rough grasslands of Lesotho, jockeys wearing wool balaclavas and scruffy old helmets urge their horses towards the finishing post as hundreds of spectators cheer from a nearby hillside.
Horseracing in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho is not like at Ascot or Longchamp, but it is still highly competitive, involves lots of gambling and is a major social occasion. The course at Semonkong, in the centre of the landlocked nation, hosts races once a month in the winter, with the most prestigious days marking King Letsi III's birthday in July and independence day in October. Before each race, the horses are paraded in front of a crowd that expertly assesses breeding, formation and fitness of runners with such exotic names as "4x4", "Cain" and "Jerusalem". Then the gambling begins.
Most bets are head-to-head wagers over which of two selected horses will be faster, rather than the overall race winner. "It's an entertainment but it's also our culture, and it refreshes the mind," Mohale Mpapa, 45, a leading racehorse owner and farmer, told AFP. "It's important to me because I get money if my horse wins, and for the country it's very important because we teach kids how to ride horses. "If you take care of someone, if you respect him, you make them a good jockey. It's the same with a horse, you need to treat it well." The horses are either cross-breeds, thoroughbreds from neighbouring South Africa or local "Basotho" ponies, which are better suited to the terrain and climate, and are still used for everyday transport.
- The will to win -
Mpapa's current jockey is Modikeng Tladi, 16, who also works for him as a shepherd. Tladi -- wearing bright earrings -- rises at dawn and looks after racehorses and sheep that all live in one small, corrugated-iron shed. "I will be very excited if I win, and very proud, because I will have won a professional race in front of everyone," he said before a recent race meeting.
"In my first race, I was so scared, now I'm used to it. I feel comfortable and excited when I ride the horse, I want to win all the time." Tladi takes the patchwork blanket off a horse called "Kodi-a-Malla" and walks him over the hills to the racecourse -- a difficult job as the animal is twice his size and full of energy. When race time finally comes, tensions mount as Mpapa checks the small saddle and issues last-minute instructions to Tladi before helping him on board.
Without stalls, the horses line up chaotically and -- after several false starts -- set off at a furious pace when an official waves his white flag and just avoids being trampled. Tladi only manages fourth, but the team is happy enough. "During training my horse got injured, so I didn't train him very hard, and next time it will be better," said Mpapa, who owns 15 horses in total.
- Unique heritage -
The Lesotho races are growing as a cultural event, and have received government sponsorship to boost visitor numbers to a nation that boasts stunning landscapes and a unique heritage independent from surrounding South Africa.
The owners of the first four horses in each race win between $20 and $70, with more than $1,000 on offer during the day. "I have loved horses since I was very young, and they're part of my business," said Jonathan Hales, 46, who owns the nearby Semonkong Lodge that caters for tourists. "The future of the horses of Lesotho comes out of these races, where all the breeders and owners can analyse and look at them. "Tourism is also connected to the horses, so we promote them and care for them -- it's all about fun, not about winning and losing."
Jockeys such as Tladi may not agree. After riding in several races and making some small bets, he made about $60 during the day -- 10 days of normal pay. While the owners of victorious horses celebrate with joyful dancing, the jockeys barely manage a smile as they quickly ride over to collect their cash. For the spectators, many of them wearing traditional blankets, racing combines their passion for animals with a chance to test their luck and judgement. "The horse I bet on just lost, but I will keep gambling, I just love horses," said 50-year-old Motseki Pakela.
By Julie JAMMOT
Sephareng, Lesotho, Aug 13, 2016 (AFP) - For farmer Mohlakoane Molise, the view of the enormous Katse dam from his smallholding high in the mountains of Lesotho taunts him daily. His country is suffering through its worst drought in 35 years, but the vast and vital water reserves remain out of reach, destined instead for export to neighbouring South Africa. "I am very angry about that water, because it could benefit us, we could use it to water the crops when there is a drought. But that's not happening," the 65-year-old widower told AFP.
Kneeling in front of his round, thatch-roofed hut, he sorted through his maize, examining each grain, one-by-one. The operation didn't take long. His total annual harvest filled just two large sacks, in place of the usual dozen. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the 2016 harvest for Lesotho's primary crop maize is estimated at 25,000 tonnes, a dramatic drop from last year's 78,000-tonne haul.
Instead, the mountainous kingdom -- entirely landlocked by South Africa -- must import food from its larger neighbour. But it too has been hit by the drought after the El Nino weather phenomenon wreaked havoc on the region's rainfall patterns, and maize prices have sky-rocketed by 60 percent in the last year. According to the United Nations, 40 million people across southern Africa risk malnutrition by next year's harvest. "From September, we'll have nothing left and we'll struggle to buy maize from the shop," said Molise. Below, the immense dark blue of the dam stood out in stark contrast to the bare, brown mountains.
- 'It's like a desert' -
The valley here was flooded in the nineties to make way for Katse. The deal: hydroelectricity for impoverished Lesotho in exchange for a reliable water supply to the bustling cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. "There were fields around the river before the dam was built, and there were trees, but they are covered by water," said Molise. "Since the dam is here, it's difficult to get water. The crops are very poor, even the grazing land. It's like a desert." In Sephareng, the village tap has run dry for months. Residents must instead make their way up the mountain -- a good half-hour walk along a rocky trail -- to a communal pump. There, a feeble trickle of water fills their buckets, while their cows and donkeys drink from the small puddles left behind by a vanishing stream.
For its part, Africa's second-largest dam is fulfilling its mandate, despite the drought. "The level today is about 63.4 percent, which is quite low," said Tatuku Maseatile, Katse acting branch manager for the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA). "We are still able to meet our annual targets in terms of both generation and water transfer." From his office high up on the soaring dam wall, he had an unparalleled view of the waters below. "I do think people are benefiting from the dam," he said, ticking the projects off: a water supply system, construction jobs, two industrial fishing projects, schools. "And roads in the mountains, tarred roads brought by the project -- another direct spin-off -- and a clinic built and transferred to the government."
- Disastrous consequences -
Along those tarred roads, women trudged uphill for hours to reach the clinic for the WFP's monthly food distribution. "We give them four packs each," explained Mamakase Grace Sello, 21, a nutrition student interning with the WFP. "It's for lactating or pregnant mothers, and infants below the age of two. But we know that often the whole family eats some, including the fathers, even if they should not. The nutrients are for the babies." In a country where the overwhelming majority of families depend on their own crops for food and where nearly a quarter of the population is affected by AIDS, charities are predicting disastrous consequences by next year's harvest.
Earlier this year, the Lesotho government declared the drought a natural disaster. "I've never seen a drought like this," said shepherd Ntoaesele Mashongoane, 32. "This drought is really terrible, especially for the pregnant sheep. They don't have enough grass and there's no water." His flock moved down the steep mountainsides to the water's edge for a drink -- a small consolation -- and the deep blue of the dam reflected the skies above, not a raindrop in sight.
MASERU, Lesotho, Nov 01, 2012 (AFP) - The Lesotho government fears it may not raise enough cash to avert a pending food crisis caused by two successive crop failures, the head of the country's disaster management authority said Thursday. "We are far from reaching the amount required to bail the country out of the food crisis it's facing, we may not even get half of that money and we strongly appeal for more donors to assist us," said Mats'eliso Mojaki. The tiny mountainous country is trying to raise 1.8 billion maloti, or around $200 million it believes is needed to avert disaster caused by unfavourable weather. "We are in a dire situation and can only appeal to the international community to assist."
Mojaki indicated that the country has not developed alternative plans in case they fail to get the entire amount. "At the present moment we do not have a plan B, but are however devising a long term prevention and adaptation plan. UNICEF Deputy Representative Naqib Safi described the situation as "dire". "More than two thirds of the country's population is facing a serious food crisis and we need assistance." Around 725,000 people out of a population of 1.8 million are said to be at serious risk this year and next. The kingdom relies on subsistence agriculture for income.
GENEVA, Sept 28, 2012 (AFP) - More than 725,000 people face a food crisis in the tiny southern African nation of Lesotho after successive disastrous harvests cut production by 70 percent, the World Food Programme said Friday. "Lesotho is facing the devastating effects of two successive crop failures due to drought and late rainfall," WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.
More than one third of the country's nearly two million people were at risk because of the poor harvests, Byrs said, describing the crop deficit as a "catastrophe for this little country". Production of maize, the main staple food in Lesotho, has declined by 77 percent compared with last year, the food agency said.
Levels of other cereals such as sorghum and wheat were down by 80 percent and 52 percent respectively, meaning that the country will have less than 10 percent of its requirements for 2012/13, the WFP added in a statement. Among those facing the food crisis, 230,000 people were "particularly vulnerable" to hunger, the agency said, especially the very poor, orphans and those with HIV/AIDS, an illness that affects 25 percent of the population.
Announcing an appeal for $38 million (29.3 million euros) in association with other humanitarian partners, the WFP said it aimed to provide life-saving help to 118,000 "of the most deprived". It would also meet the needs "of all 725,000 food-insecure people" by boosting crop production and improving food security, health and nutrition. The development follows Lesotho's declaration of an emergency food crisis on August 9, Byrs said.
World Travel News Headlines
13:15:00 +0100 (MET)
By Ella IDE and Jastinder KHERA
Rome, Feb 25, 2020 (AFP) - Italy's new coronavirus spread south on Tuesday to Tuscany and Sicily, as the civil protection agency reported a surge in the number of infected people and Rome convened emergency talks. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has blamed poor management in a hospital in the country's north for the outbreak, which has caused seven deaths in Italy so far and infected the largest number of people in Europe. Tuscany reported its first two cases, including one in the tourist destination of Florence, while Sicily marked one: a tourist from the worst-hit Lombardy region, where 212 people have tested positive. The female tourist in Sicily, who had been staying in a hotel in Palermo, tested positive on the first swab but was awaiting the definitive result from Italy's institute of infectious diseases, civil protection agency chief Angelo Borrelli said.
Health ministers from neighbouring countries were to meet in Rome as the number of confirmed infections jumped to 283, with over 50 new cases reported since Monday. The EU's health commissioner and other international health officials were also expected in the Italian capital Tuesday. Hundreds of people were confined to their rooms at a Tenerife hotel after an Italian tourist was hospitalised with a suspected case of coronavirus, health officials in the Canary Islands said. While no neighbouring country has closed its borders with Italy, several governments have announced additional measures for travellers arriving from Italy, in particular from the two northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto. They range from medical screening to recommendations to self-isolate.
- 'Mission Impossible' -
Several upcoming matches in Italian Serie A and the Europa League will be played behind closed doors to combat the spread of the disease. Production of the latest "Mission: Impossible" film starring Tom Cruise in Venice has been stopped following the outbreak. The main centre of infection in Italy has been the town of Codogno, a town of some 15,000 people around 60 kilometres (35 miles) to the south of Milan. Codogno and several others in northern Italy have been put under isolation in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.
The 38-year-old man dubbed "Patient One" by Italian media was admitted to hospital last Wednesday in Codogno, and it is thought a large number of the cases in the worst-hit region of Lombardy can be traced back to him. His heavily pregnant wife, several doctors, staff and patients at the hospital are thought to have caught the virus from him. As well as the towns placed under quarantine, further wide-ranging measures have affected tens of millions of inhabitants in the north of Italy, with schools closed and cultural and sporting events cancelled. Elsewhere in the country officials have also been recommending precautionary measures. In Calabria in the south, bishops have asked their worshippers not to make the sign of peace during mass, media reported. All seven of those who have died so far in Italy were either elderly or had pre-existing medical conditions.
Madrid, Feb 25, 2020 (AFP) - Hundreds of people were confined to their rooms at a Tenerife hotel Tuesday after an Italian tourist was hospitalised with a suspected case of coronavirus, health officials in the Canary Islands said. "Hundreds of hotel clients are being monitored for health reasons and the degree of supervision will be assessed during the day, but so far, we're not talking about quarantine," health authority spokeswoman Veronica Martin told AFP, confirming that the Italian tourist "was staying at this hotel while on holiday in Tenerife".
By Laurent Thomet with Dario Thuburn in Geneva
Beijing, Feb 25, 2020 (AFP) - Fresh deaths and a surge in new coronavirus cases in Iran, Japan and South Korea on Tuesday fuelled fears of a pandemic, as the disease took root in some of the world's poorest -- and worst-equipped -- countries. The rapid spread abroad came as the World Health Organization announced that the epidemic had peaked at its epicentre in China, where it has killed more than 2,600 people and infected over 77,000 others.
But the situation has worsened elsewhere with nearly 2,700 other cases and more than 40 deaths globally, prompting restrictions on travellers from infected nations, the cancellation of football matches and national efforts to isolate suspected patients. South Korea, Italy and Iran have each logged sharp increases in infections and deaths, while several Middle Eastern countries also reported their first confirmed COVID-19 cases.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted the virus could still be contained, praising China's drastic quarantine measures in several cities for helping to prevent an even bigger spread. "For the moment we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large-scale deaths," Tedros told reporters in Geneva on Monday. He added, however, that countries should do everything they can to "prepare for a potential pandemic" -- a term is used to describe an illness that spreads across numerous communities. The White House plans to spend $2.5 billion to combat the epidemic, according to US media. There are 53 cases in the United States so far.
- Iran hotspot -
Iran has emerged as a major hotspot with the death toll rising to 15 on Tuesday as three more people succumbed to the disease. The country has been scrambling to contain the epidemic since last week when it announced its first two deaths in Qom, a centre for Islamic studies and pilgrims that attracts scholars from abroad.
Iran has confirmed 61 cases so far, making its mortality rate exponentially higher than anywhere else in the world and raising suspicion that many more people have contracted the disease there. A WHO team was due in Iran on Tuesday. Several neighbours have enacted measures to block arrivals from Iran but the virus has already spread to Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East. The WHO has warned that poorer countries with weak health care systems are the most at risk.
- Games off -
South Korean President Moon Jae-in warned that the outbreak was "very grave" as the country's death toll rose to 10 and the number of confirmed infections approached 1,000 -- the largest total outside China. Scores of events have been cancelled or postponed as the outbreak has spread in the world's 12th-largest economy, from K-pop concerts to the World Team Table Tennis championship. Parliament closed for cleaning Tuesday after confirmation a person with the coronavirus had attended a meeting last week. More than 80 percent of the infections have been in and around Daegu, South Korea's fourth-largest city.
Streets there have been largely deserted for days, apart from long queues at the few shops with masks for sale. Most of the country's infections are linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, an entity often accused of being a cult. The US Centers for Disease Control warned Americans against "all nonessential travel to South Korea". In Japan, a fourth former passenger of the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship died, according to local media. The man was in his 80s. Nearly 700 people from the quarantined ship have tested positive for the illness so far.
Infections have also spiked inside Japan, with at least 160 cases including one death. The government has expanded the number of hospitals that can receive suspected patients and asked people with moderate symptoms to stay home. Businesses were asked to "let people stay away from offices, to avoid rush hour commuting hours, and to encourage telecommuting," Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said. Italy -- which has reported seven deaths and over 200 cases -- has locked down 11 towns, while upcoming football matches in its Serie A and the Europa League will be played behind closed doors. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said that residents could face weeks of lockdown.
- China cases slow -
In China, 508 new cases were reported, with all but nine at the outbreak's epicentre in central Hubei province. The death toll nationwide reached 2,663 on Tuesday after 71 more people died, the lowest rise in almost three weeks. Reassured by the official numbers, the country is gingerly returning to business. Beijing is seeing more cars on the street, factories are resuming work, Apple is reopening several stores, and some regions are relaxing traffic restrictions. But schools remain closed, the capital has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for returning residents, and authorities are keeping some 56 million people in Hubei under lockdown.
Dubai, Feb 24, 2020 (AFP) - The new coronavirus hit four more Middle Eastern states on Monday, with Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman reporting new cases and the UAE calling on its citizens not to travel to Iran and Thailand. Oman also halted flights to and from Iran -- which is battling the deadliest outbreak outside China --with immediate effect. The move came shortly after two Omani women who had returned from Iran were diagnosed with the disease.
The three cases in Kuwait and the one in Bahrain were also in individuals who had returned from Iran, where the virus has claimed the lives of 12 people. Bahrain also shut three schools after a man who had transported children to the institutions tested positive after returning from Iran on February 21 via Dubai airport, the health ministry said.
In Kuwait, a 53-year-old Kuwaiti, a 61-year-old Saudi national and a 21-year-old stateless Arab who tested positive had all returned from Iran's holy city of Mashhad, the Kuwaiti health ministry said. In Iraq, the virus was confirmed in an Iranian national studying in the southern shrine city of Najaf, health officials said. All seven bourses in the oil-rich Gulf states were down on Monday as fears of a pandemic hit crude prices. The Saudi stock exchange led the slide, shedding 2.95 percent.
- Travel bans -
Iran's confirmed death toll rose to 12 on Monday, with the government vowing to be transparent and dismissing a lawmaker's claim the toll could be as high as 50. The outbreak has prompted travel bans from nearby countries.
Last week, Kuwait banned entry of all ships from the Islamic republic and suspended flights to and from the country. Kuwait also banned non-citizens coming from Iran from entering the Gulf state and operated chartered flights to bring back hundreds of Kuwaiti Shiite pilgrims from the Islamic republic.
Around a third of Kuwait's 1.4 million citizens are Shiite Muslims, who travel regularly to Iran to visit religious shrines. Kuwait also hosts roughly 50,000 Iranian workers. Over half of Bahrain's population of under one million are Shiites, who also travel frequently to Iran. The United Arab Emirates has already announced 13 cases of the novel coronavirus, all of them foreigners. The latest were a 70-year-old Iranian man, whose condition is unstable, and his 64-year-old wife.
On Monday, Abu Dhabi authorities called on all UAE citizens "to not travel to Iran and Thailand at present and up until further notice" as part of its efforts to monitor and contain the spread of the disease. UAE airlines have suspended most flights to China -- where the virus first emerged in December -- except to the capital Beijing, but have not yet taken any measures to restrict travel to and from Iran. Around half a million Iranians live and work in the UAE.
Two Gulf states -- Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- remain free of the virus, but all have suspended flights to China. Qatar Airways said on Monday that people arriving from Iran and South Korea would be asked to stay in home isolation or a quarantine facility for 14 days. China's death toll from COVID-19 rose to nearly 2,600 on Monday, while the virus has now spread to more than 30 countries.
Kolkata, Feb 24, 2020 (AFP) - Rangers have suspended safari rides in a popular nature reserve in eastern India after five one-horned female rhinoceroses died from a suspected infectious disease, officials said Monday. The animals were found dead over four days last week in Jaldapara National Park, nearly 700 kilometres (434 miles) north of West Bengal state's capital Kolkata.
India is home to two-thirds of the world's remaining one-horned rhinos, a vulnerable species on the IUCN red list "Blood smears from carcasses have been sent to a laboratory in Kolkata," the reserve's chief conservator Ujjal Ghosh told AFP. "All the five dead rhinos were adult females. We have put our staff on alert."
The park -- spread over 200 square kilometres (77 square miles) in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas -- is home to 204 rhinos according to the last official count in 2015. More than 70 captive elephants used for safaris and patrolling also live in the reserve. The safari rides are carried out on elephants. Activists said the animals may have died from anthrax, a communicable disease that attacks herbivores.
Humans can contract anthrax directly or indirectly from animals or animal products. "We suspect that the animals died from a communicable disease like anthrax. Jaldapara forest has the odd case of anthrax which killed animals earlier," wildlife activist Animesh Bose told AFP. Rangers were riding on elephants to reach the rhinos and vaccinate them using dart guns, the Hindustan Times reported. Drones would try to find out if other animals have died or fallen ill, the newspaper said.
Jakarta, Feb 25, 2020 (AFP) - Dozens of Jakarta neighbourhoods were flooded Tuesday after torrential rains pounded Indonesia's capital, less than two months after nearly 70 people were killed in some of the megacity's worst flooding in years. There were no immediate reports of casualties after the latest deluge, but parts of the city ground to a halt as whole neighbourhoods were swamped in muddy water, while power outages hit some districts. At least 81 neighbourhoods were inundated with a dozen toll roads closed and some commuter train lines shuttered, according to an announcement by Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency.
More torrential rains were expected later in the day. "So the flooding will likely spread," agency spokesperson Agus Wibowo said on Twitter. Floodwaters in some districts were as high as 127 centimetres (4 feet). The low-lying city is prone to flooding during the wet season which starts around November. Torrential rain in January triggered flooding and landslides that killed nearly 70 people in and around Jakarta while thousands more were forced to evacuate to shelters.
Monday 24 February 2020
Joint WHO and ECDC mission in Italy to support COVID-19 control and prevention efforts
24-02-2020 -- Italy has reported a rapid increase in cases of laboratory-confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) since 21 February 2020. An initial investigation by Italian authorities has found several clusters of cases in different regions of northern Italy, with evidence of local transmission of COVID-19.
A WHO-led team of experts from WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) arrived in Italy on Monday 24 February to support Italian authorities in understanding the situation. WHO experts are providing support in the areas of clinical management, infection prevention and control, surveillance and risk communication. At this stage the focus is on limiting further human-to-human transmission.
While limited local person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 in countries outside of China was expected, the rapid increase in reported cases in Italy over the past two days is of concern. However, it should also be noted that based on current data, in the majority of cases (4 out of every 5) people experience mild or no symptoms.
“COVID-19 is a new virus that we need to take very seriously. This mission to Italy is one of the ways in which WHO/Europe is supporting countries across the Region. We are working hard with our Member States to ensure that they are ready for COVID-19, preparing for the arrival of cases and possible localized spread. It is vital that we treat patients with dignity and compassion, put measures in place to prevent onward transmission, and protect health workers,” commented Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
Health authorities in Italy are implementing measures to prevent onward transmission, including closing of schools and bars and cancelling of sports events and other mass gatherings in the areas affected. This aligns with the containment strategy currently being implemented globally in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. “WHO stands by the Government of Italy in its efforts and commitment to mitigate this outbreak and manage the cases effectively. Now is the time for solidarity and cooperation, to work together to protect everyone’s health,” added Dr Kluge.
Countries across the European Region continue to prepare for and respond to cases of COVID-19. This includes establishing how to promptly detect sick people, testing samples from suspect cases, ensuring appropriate infection control and case management to minimize the risk of the virus spreading, and maintaining communication with the public.
WHO Media Team
By David Vujanovic
Tehran, Feb 24, 2020 (AFP) - Iran's government vowed Monday to be transparent after being accused of covering up the deadliest coronavirus outbreak outside China, dismissing claims the toll could be as high as 50.
The authorities in the Islamic republic have come under mounting public pressure since it took days for them to admit to "accidentally" shooting down a Ukrainian airliner last month, killing 176 people. The government said on Monday that Iran's coronavirus death toll had jumped by four to 12 -- by far the highest outside China -- as its neighbours closed their borders and imposed strict quarantine measures.
But Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, a lawmaker from the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, alleged the government was "lying" about the full extent of the outbreak. The ILNA news agency, which is close to reformists, said the lawmaker spoke of "50 deaths" in Qom alone. "The rest of the media have not published this figure, but we prefer not to censor what concerns the coronavirus because people's lives are in danger," ILNA editor Fatemeh Mahdiani told AFP.
Farahani was wearing a face mask during the closed session of parliament but left after speaking, as he felt unwell, state news agency IRNA reported, adding sanitary workers then cleaned his seat. Iran's government rejected his claim that the virus had killed 50 in Qom. "I categorically deny this information," Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said in a news conference aired live on state television. "This is not the time for political confrontations. The coronavirus is a national problem," he added.
- Transparency pledge -
The government pledged transparency over the outbreak. "We will announce any figures (we have) on the number of deaths throughout the country. We pledge to be transparent about the reporting of figures," its spokesman Ali Rabiei said. Iran has been scrambling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak since it announced the first two deaths in the holy city of Qom on Wednesday last week. Authorities have since ordered the closure of schools, universities and other educational centres across the country as a "preventive measure".
A spokesman for Iran's parliament, Assadollah Abbassi, announced the latest four deaths among more than 60 infections after Monday's closed-door gathering of lawmakers. Citing Health Minister Said Namaki, he said that "the cause of coronavirus infections in Iran are people who have entered the country illegally from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China". Iran has yet to give a breakdown of where the other deaths occurred. The worst-hit province for infections is Qom, with 34 cases, according to health ministry figures.
The others are in Tehran with 13 infections, Gilan with six, Markazi with four, Isfahan with two and one each for Hamedan and Mazandaran. But the health minister said that one person who died of coronavirus in Qom, south of Tehran, was a businessman who had made several trips to China. Namaki had unsuccessfully pleaded in January for Iran's government to order the suspension of all commercial flights between Iran and China. In his remarks to state television on Sunday, the minister said direct flights between Iran and China were now suspended, but the Qom businessman had travelled there "on a connecting flight".
- Border closures -
Since it emerged in December, the new coronavirus has killed more than 2,500 people in China. Iran now accounts for nearly half of the deaths elsewhere in the world, which currently stand at 30. Many of Iran's neighbours have reported cases of coronavirus in people who had travelled to the Islamic republic. Afghanistan on Monday reported its first case in a person who had travelled to Qom. Baghdad also reported its first case on Monday -- an elderly Iranian citizen living in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf.
Iraq has shut its border with the Islamic republic and imposed a travel ban. Similar preventive measures were imposed by Afghanistan, Armenia, Pakistan and Turkey. Qom is a centre for Islamic studies and pilgrims, attracting scholars from Iran and beyond. Kuwait and Bahrain also confirmed their first novel coronavirus cases, all of whom had come from Iran.