Greece offers a great variety of attractions for the international traveller. A beautiful climate linked with great beaches, a vibrant nightlife and historical monuments to rival any other location throughout the world. All of this located
Situated in southern Europe the country enjoys mild winters but very hot summers. There may be occasional cool breezes (meltemia) but these can serve only to fool the traveller into thinking that they are unlikely to burn. Rain is very uncommon during the height of summer (July and August) and all travellers should be advised to use very adequate sun-block lotion at all times.
Slip, Slop, Slap
Following the Australian mantra of Slip, Slop and Slap makes perfect sense. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat when out and about during the day and this should help protect against the intense suns rays. Nevertheless, despite all their best intentions, travellers get burnt. This is particularly a problem in the first few days after their arrival when they do not realise the intensity of the suns rays and how easily they can be exposed. Falling asleep beside the hotel's swimming pool or on the beach is a very common problem and must be avoided against. The tips of the ears, shoulders (especially along the bra-strap line, ankles and behind the knees are commonly exposed and forgotten areas.
After Sun care
To treat significant sunburn it is important to increase fluid intake but also to take extra salt on your food (unless medically contraindicated for some specific condition like high blood pressure etc). Soothing water soluble lotions (especially ones containing a mild anaesthetic and/or steroid cream) are probably best but certainly avoid any of the ones which paste the skin with a thick layer - which is almost impossible to remove without causing serious pain! The more severe sunburn cases may need medical care and even hospitalisation which really ruins a holiday.
Food & Water
As a European destination Greece has a good level of food and water hygiene. Unfortunately this can vary - especially as you move away from the main tourist destinations and also as the summer temperatures rise and food goes 'off' more quickly. Eating hot food, avoiding cold foods (side-salads, lettuce etc) and never eating undercooked bivalve shellfish (mussels, oysters, clams etc) makes perfect sense. Eating food or taking fruit juice drinks from street vendors is a risk just not worth taking.
There may be both mosquitoes and sandflys about so having good repellents (DEET based ones) is worthwhile. The biggest problem will be early in the morning and towards the end of the daylight hours. However sitting in the shade while having lunch may be nice and cool but it is also often a place where these insects tend to hover looking for their next meal. Just don't allow that meal to be the blood in your unguarded ankle!
Seeing the Monuments
As mentioned previously Greece is covered with ancient monuments and these attract many thousands of tourists each year. The ruins are often not the most hospitable places for sun-sensitive tourists so taking care against the suns rays is essential - especially while standing carefully listening to the tour guide explain some complicated piece of history while the back of your legs get roasted! The other issue, for those trekking through the ruins, is the distinct possibility of a nasty twisted ankle.
Laser Night shows
Many of the ancient sites have beautiful night shows which depict something of the past splendour and are definitely worth seeing. However it is wise to wear good shoes as stumbling across loose stones is a particular problem at night and also bring a small torch, if possible, to guide your way. Getting separated from your travelling companions, or not being able to find your return bus, can lead to some understandable panic so listen carefully to any instructions and look out for some land marks before you get too far away into the night time crowd.
Some tourists may forget that rabies is a problem in many countries throughout the world and, even though Greece is regarded as rabies-free', there is always a problem if someone should get bitten. The possibility that this animal could have been recently smuggled into the country cannot be out ruled and so many would advise full post exposure treatment should this contact occur. Children may be at particular risk due to their inquisitive nature.
Sunburn and swimming go hand in hand but drowning can also occur all too frequently within this region. Strong currents, swimming after meals (or alcohol) and the ever popular romantic midnight swim are all serious risk factors. Also children running around the deep end of the pool may lose their footing and topple in without warning. Unfortunately a very small child sinks instantly with very little sign of the emergency to those close by. Parents need to keep aware of this risk at all times.
The summer working holiday
Many of our students head towards Greece for 2 to 3 months during the summer to work. The attractions are obvious but commonsense and sensible life-style choices are needed throughout their stay to lessen the risk of illness or them returning home with an infection they had not bargained for. Unfortunately many return home with life-long illnesses which have been contracted from a single unprotected sexual contact.
Vaccinations for Greece
As a general rule the usual travel vaccines are not recommended for most short-term travellers to this region. However for the student planning to spend a more prolonged period it would be sensible to consider cover against both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B and also to check that their Tetanus cover is up-to-date.
This is still one of the most popular destinations for northern European travellers and, in the vast majority of cases, they will have a fantastic time with only good memories. Unfortunately some less prepared folks will end up with serious sunburn and other illnesses or diseases which perhaps are frequently associated with their own lack of care and protection rather than anything specific to this beautiful country.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Athens, March 22, 2020 (AFP) - Greece will impose a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, limiting people to their homes except for essential outings, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Sunday. "I have given orders that all appropriate action be taken to enforce the ban on all unnecessary movement across the country," Mitsotakis said in a televised address to the nation. The restrictions will come into force from 6:00 am local time (0400 GMT) on Monday, and will require citizens to carry proof of identity to leave their homes.
Outings are only permitted for people "going to work, the doctor, or to visit someone who needs help, or those who are buying food or medication", the prime minister said. Citizens are also permitted to leave the house to walk their pets or exercise outdoors alone or with one other person.
There are 15 recorded deaths and 624 infections from the coronavirus in Greece, which has a population of 11 million. Since reporting its first death from the virus on March 12, the country has gradually rolled out measures to limit gatherings and non-essential travel along with closing schools, shops and entertainment venues.
Athens, March 21, 2020 (AFP) - A strong 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck early Saturday in northwest Greece, damaging property in the city of Parga, authorities said. The quake struck at 0049 GMT (0249 local time), with the epicentre 11 kilometres (around six miles) from Parga in Kanalaki district, and 316 kilometres northwest of Athens, the Athens geodynamic observatory said. "No casualties have been reported at the moment," Parga mayor Nikolas Zacharias told AFP by telephone.
"Some old abandoned houses in Kanalaki collapsed and some houses suffered significant damage in this district of 2,500 inhabitants," Zaharias said, adding the temblor was strong throughout the area. Landslides partially damaged the region's roads, he added. Greece lies on major fault lines and is regularly hit by earthquakes, but they rarely cause casualties. In 2017, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake killed two people on the island of Kos in the Aegean sea, causing significant damage. In 1999, a 5.9-magnitude quake left 143 people dead in Athens and the region northwest of the capital.
Athens, Feb 26, 2020 (AFP) - Greece has announced a broad shutdown of public areas and travel restrictions, to be activated in case of a coronavirus outbreak. The measures, formalised in a decree late on Tuesday, include temporary travel bans to and from countries with a large number of infections.
The decree also permits the requisitioning of beds in hotels and private clinics. It also foresees the temporary closure of "indoor public gathering areas" such as schools, places of worship, cinemas, theatres, sports halls and businesses. "We are ready to do whatever is necessary to protect public health," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters. The country has so far registered no confirmed cases of the virus. Greece's health ministry has earmarked 13 hospitals nationwide equipped to handle virus cases.
A health ministry spokesman earlier this week noted that owing to the virus' long gestation period, health checks at ports and airports had minor chances of success. On Monday, the Greek Olympic Committee said it had discussed alternative plans for the Olympic Flame lighting ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Games in case of a virus outbreak.
The flame for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is scheduled to be lit on March 12 in ancient Olympia and, following a torch relay on Greek soil, will be handed to the Tokyo organisers at a ceremony on March 19 at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.
Athens, Feb 18, 2020 (AFP) - Greece was hit with a 24-hour strike Tuesday over a pension reform encouraging people to stay longer in the workforce. The labour action paralysed public transport in Athens, intercity trains and ferry ship services. Civil servants are also walking off the job and journalists will stage a three-hour work stoppage against the pension reform. "This bill is practically the continuation of (austerity) laws introduced in 2010-2019," civil servants' union ADEDY said.
Unions will hold street protests in Athens, Thessaloniki and other major cities later in the day. The new conservative government says the reform, to be voted by Friday, will make the troubled Greek pension system viable to 2070. The labour ministry says the overhaul -- the third major revamp in a decade -- will contain pension increases and reduce penalties for pensioners still working.
Successive governments have attempted to reform the pension system, whose previously generous handouts are seen as one of the causes of the decade-long Greek debt crisis. Chronic overspending and the inaccurate reporting of the budget deficit spooked creditors in 2010, and required three successive bailouts by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to avert a Greek bankruptcy. In return for billions of euros in rescue funds, Greece had to adopt unpopular austerity reforms and pension cuts.
Information for Bali
Bali is one of the main tourist destinations for many Irish travellers to Indonesia. The island is well developed for the tourist industry and genera
Safety & Security
Throughout Indonesia there are many regions where it is unsafe to travel. The Parliament in Indonesia may impeach the President in the near future. Civil disturbance with student demonstrations in the capital Jakarta, earthquakes in the island of Sumatra, unrest regarding the independence of Timor and profound warring fractions on the island of Borneo has the potential to spill over into Bali. Nevertheless during the past years Bali has remained stable and there have been few reports of serious disturbances that have affected tourists or business travellers. Lombok is an island close to Bali often visited by tourists. It is regarded as more unstable and recently (Dec 2000) four explosions during fighting between two villages (Bongor & Parampuan). The main tourist region around Senggigi has remained quiet.
The laws against illegal drugs are severe and travellers should ensure that they carry sufficient well-marked medication that they may require for their time in Indonesia. Travellers are required to show identification at any time and so carrying photocopies of your passport is a wise precaution. Keep all valuable documents in a safe place and do not flaunt personal wealth while travelling around the island.
The nightlife in Bali is one of the main attractions for many tourists but sensible precautions are required. Travelling alone is unwise. Take care to ensure that your drink could not be spiked at any stage and do not walk at night, use an authorised taxi where possible. The level of HIV infection among the bar workers is high and close personal contact is very unwise.
The level of available health facilities varies greatly through Bali and other parts of Indonesia. In general most of the main hotels will have English speaking doctors but care would be required if your illness requires hospitalisation.
Food and Water
It is wise to maintain a high level of care with regard to your food and water while in Indonesia. This includes even those in high quality hotels but also particularly for those eating from street vendors. Bivalve shellfish (e.g. oysters, mussels, clams etc) should be avoided at all times due to inadequate cooking. Bottled water should be purchased from your hotel or good quality shops to ensure that it is pure.
Mosquitoes and Insect Bites
Malaria transmission occurs throughout Indonesia all year but the risk in Bali is so low that prophylaxis is not generally recommended for most tourists. Nevertheless for those visiting Lombok (overnight visits) the risk exists and prophylaxis should be considered. Other mosquito borne diseases also occur throughout Indonesia and care must be taken to avoid insect bites. In Jakarta and other main cities there is a particular problem with a viral disease called Dengue Fever. The mosquito, which transmits this disease, typically bites during the day and in main urban centres.
The strength of the sun in Bali is considerable higher than that experienced in Ireland at any time of the year. Sufficient head covering should be worm when exposed and travellers should ensure that their fluid intake is sufficient. Salt depletion also needs to be replaced in times of significant perspiration.
If swimming in pools, make sure that sufficient chlorination has been used. Take care with small children when close to the deep end of the pool. If sea swimming make sure that there are always others around and that you heed any local advice and warning signs. Never swim soon after alcohol or for an hour after mealtime.
The extent of jet lag, which you will experience, depends on the duration of your flight and the amount of rest you were able to get before arrival. Try to rest for the first 24 hours to allow your body to acclimatise and make sure you do not fall asleep beside the swimming pool during this initial period.
Vaccinations for Bali
There are no essential vaccines or entry to Bali from Western Europe. However for your personal protection travellers are recommended to consider vaccination cover against;
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food & water disease)
Hepatitis A (food & water disease)
Other travellers planning a more rural or extensive trip may need to consider other vaccine cover against diseases like Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Rabies.
The majority of those visiting Bali will enjoy the many tourist attractions on the island. However commonsense and care is required to ensure that you do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk. The staff of the Tropical Medical Bureau can be contacted at either of the numbers below if you require further information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Jakarta, March 31, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesian leader Joko Widodo declared a state of emergency Tuesday as coronavirus deaths in the world's fourth most populous country jumped again, but he resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown. Widodo's administration has been heavily criticised for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including the capital Jakarta, a vast megalopolis home to about 30 million people where most of the country's virus deaths have been reported.
Indonesia's leader offered few details of the state of emergency beyond calling for stricter social distancing, but announced $1.5 billion in beefed-up social assistance and subsidies for low-income workers. Tens of millions eke out a living on poorly-paid jobs in Southeast Asia's biggest economy. "To overcome the impact of COVID-19, we've chosen the option of large-scale social distancing," Widodo told reporters. "We must learn from the experience in other countries, but we cannot copy them because every country has its own characteristics," he added.
On Tuesday, authorities said 136 people had died after contracting the virus, with 1,528 confirmed cases of infection. But the latter figure is widely thought to be well below the real number in the archipelago of more than 260 million. The Indonesian Doctors' Association has warned that the coronavirus crisis is far worse than has been officially reported and that the government's response is "in tatters".
Jakarta's governor has said nearly 300 suspected or confirmed victims of the virus have been wrapped in plastic and quickly buried in the city since the start of March. The capital's top politician has been pushing for a total lockdown of the city. Also Tuesday, Indonesia's corrections agency said it is set to offer early release to about 30,000 inmates to help stem the spread of the virus in over-crowded prisons. The number amounts to more than 10 percent of Indonesia's 272,000 inmate population.
Jakarta, March 27, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia's coronavirus crisis is far worse than being officially reported and the government's response is "in tatters", the country's doctors association warned Friday as the death toll climbed to 87. The world's fourth-most populous country only reported its first confirmed infection this month but by Thursday, that had ballooned to over 1,000.
Indonesia's 87 confirmed coronavirus deaths are the highest toll in Southeast Asia, with public health and diplomatic officials warning that its weak health system is being rapidly overwhelmed. "The government's plans are in tatters and they appear to be avoiding a lockdown," said Indonesian Doctors' Association spokesman Halik Malik. "Our health system is not as strong as other countries."
A London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine study warned this week that cases in Indonesia -- with a population of more than 260 million people -- could be vastly underreported. The government's virus task force has estimated as many as 700,000 people were at risk of infection nationwide. But the rate of testing has been low compared with many other countries -- only 2,300 tests were conducted before the government stopped announcing nationwide figures.
Authorities have come under heavy criticism for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including the capital Jakarta, a vast city home to about 30 million where most of the deaths have been reported. "The COVID-19 situation in Indonesia is very serious and getting worse quickly," the Canadian embassy in Jakarta said Thursday, saying it was urgently advising citizens to leave. "The health care system in Indonesia will soon be overwhelmed. The ultimate number of fatalities will be very high." Indonesia had fewer than four doctors for every 10,000 people, according to World Health Organization data from 2017.
In comparison, neighbouring Malaysia had about 15 doctors and Australia had 35 per 10,000 people. Images shared on social media have shown Indonesian doctors threatening to go on strike if resources aren't beefed up, with concerns about a lack of ventilators, protective gear and other equipment needed to handle coronavirus cases. At least seven doctors have died of the virus, according to the official figures.
In a tweet that went viral, the brother-in-law of one of those doctors slammed the Indonesian government's handling of the crisis. "You were infected as you actively served people. Many health workers have been infected and left. The limited amount of protective equipment is hard to forgive," wrote Pandu Riono, a University of Indonesia public health expert. The government has pledged to boost testing to upwards of one million checks as extra equipment and test kits are flown in from China. It has also turned an athletes village built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency treatment centre to help ease the pressure on hospitals.
Jakarta, March 27, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia's most active volcano Mount Merapi erupted Friday, shooting a column of ash some 5,000 metres (16,000 feet) into the air in its second major eruption this month. Ash and sand covered areas several kilometres (miles) away from the peak of the rumbling crater near Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta. But authorities did not raise Merapi's alert level. "There has been no reports of damage from the eruption. We urge people to stay calm and not panic," national disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said. Merapi erupted earlier this month, shooting a massive ash cloud some 6,000 metres in the air. That eruption coated Yogyakarta and neighbouring city Solo with grey dust and forced an airport closure.
Mount Merapi's last major eruption in 2010 killed more than 300 people and forced the evacuation of 280,000 residents. That was Merapi's most powerful eruption since 1930, which killed around 1,300 people, while another explosion in 1994 took about 60 lives. The Southeast Asian nation -- an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and islets -- has nearly 130 active volcanoes. It sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity
Solo, Indonesia, March 3, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia's most active volcano Mount Merapi erupted Tuesday, shooting a massive ash cloud some 6,000 metres (20,000 feet) in the air which coated nearby communities with grey dust and forced an airport closure. Ash mixed with sand rained down on towns as far as 10 kilometres (six miles) from the belching crater near Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta. "There was a thundering noise for at least five minutes and I could see the ash clouds from my house," Jarmaji, a resident of Boyolali regency, told AFP.
Authorities did not raise the rumbling volcano's alert status, but they temporarily shuttered the international airport in Solo city -- also known as Surakarta -- some 40 kilometres away after the early morning eruption. Indonesia's volcano agency warned residents to stay out of a three-kilometre no-go zone around Mount Merapi, citing possible danger from flowing lava and pyroclastic flows -- a fast-moving mixture of hot gas and volcanic material.
Mount Merapi's last major eruption in 2010 killed more than 300 people and forced the evacuation of some 280,000 residents. That was Merapi's most powerful eruption since 1930, which killed around 1,300 people, while another explosion in 1994 took about 60 lives. The Southeast Asian nation -- an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and islets -- has nearly 130 active volcanoes. It sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.
By Peter BRIEGER, Agnes ANYA
Denpasar, Indonesia, March 2, 2020 (AFP) - Bali's Galungan festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil, but a new enemy was threatening that cosmic balance this year -- coronavirus. Temples across the Island of the Gods were filled with faithful who hoped incense-and-flower offerings would get Hindu-majority Bali back on its feet after a drastic slump in Chinese visitors hammered the key tourism sector. "We're praying for good things in this universe and that the virus is gone soon so Bali's tourism can bounce back," priest Made Langgeng Buwana told AFP during the recent February Galungan celebration in the capital Denpasar.
Concerns over the rapidly-spreading outbreak prompted Indonesia to shut down all flights to and from China last month, dealing a body blow to scores of Bali businesses including restaurants, hotels, travel agents, wedding planners and Mandarin-speaking interpreters. Around a million Chinese tourists visit the holiday island each year -- the second-largest group of foreign arrivals after Australians -- and inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy. Thousands travelled there from the mainland for last month's Lunar New Year holiday just as the virus outbreak was beginning to snowball, prompting the lockdown of China's Hubei province where the infection was first detected.
- Ghost town? -
In Bali, some China-focused businesses have closed and others say they're on the brink of bankruptcy. Management at one upscale hotel was so desperate to cut costs they told employees to wear street clothes on the job to reduce uniform cleaning expenses, according to staff.
Bali's tourism industry has suffered -- and recovered -- before, including when volcano Mount Agung erupted in 2018. "There was a drop then but not something like this," said Robin, 29, an Indonesian interpreter who used to guide wealthy Chinese around the island. Jakarta has announced more than $700 million in stimulus to bolster
The island's tourism agency head Putu Astawa -- barely two months into his new job -- acknowledged that losing 100,000 Chinese visitors a month has stung. But the number of visitors from Australia, Japan, North America and Europe is stable, despite unfounded reports that Bali is a ghost town, he insisted. "I don't worry about the virus," Astawa said in an interview. "I worry about social media hoaxes hurting the image of our tourism sector. I'm tired of fighting it."
- 'Fatally impacted' -
The ghost-town image isn't fake news at Dream Island Bali Beach Club, however. Chinese tourists used to roll in for wedding photos, massages in thatched huts, beachside camel rides and a $17 'Dream Dinner' package with a fire-dance show. The now-empty operation also ferried mainly Chinese visitors on boats to company-run restaurants nearby.
Those eateries are now closed, the ferries are beached and Dream Island is headed for bankruptcy with half the staff on leave, said manager Wayan Tirta. "Now we're trying to get local students to come here because there aren't any tourists," he said, plunging his hand downward to show the drop in business. "We've been fatally impacted by the outbreak and are just trying to stay afloat." At Dream Island's deserted Mermaid Bay restaurant, Arik and two other staff played with their smartphones as a pair of unemployed camels lay in the sand nearby. "We don't have anything to do. Hopefully we'll get some more guests," she said.
In Denpasar, OYO 1992 China Town Hotel -- draped in bilingual signage and a huge lobby painting of a woman with a Chinese-style fan -- is also feeling the pinch. The hotel once employed scores of massage therapists who relied on mainland tourists, but that crucial moneymaker has dried up. "Before coronavirus we were planning to add more massage beds," said manager Vincent Fonda in the hotel's empty Chinese food restaurant. "At the end of the day, we're probably going to close down."
June 02, 2008
Nigeria is a developing country in western Africa that has experienced periods of political instability. It has the largest population on the continent, estimated at
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. The visa must be obtained in advance from a Nigerian Embassy or Consulate. Visas cannot be obtained on arrival at the airport. Promises of entry into Nigeria without a visa are credible indicators of fraudulent commercial schemes in which the perpetrators seek to exploit the foreign traveler's illegal presence in Nigeria through threats of extortion or bodily harm. U.S. citizens cannot legally depart Nigeria unless they can prove, by presenting their entry visas, that they entered Nigeria legally. Entry information may be obtained at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 3519 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 822-1500, or at the Nigerian Consulate General in New York, telephone (212) 808-0301. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Nigerian embassy or consulate.
Visit the Embassy of Nigeria web site at http://www.nigeriaembassyusa.org/ 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:
The Department of State continues to caution U.S. citizens about the possible dangers of travel to some parts of Nigeria. [Please also see the Crime Section below.] In light of the risk of kidnapping, crime, militant activity, or armed attacks, the U.S. Mission restricts the travel of U.S. government personnel to the following states to official travel only: Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom in the Niger Delta, and Edo and Imo in the south. Only essential travel by non-official Americans is recommended to these areas. In addition, the military's Joint Task Force patrols the creeks in the Niger Delta because of ongoing militant and piracy incidents, especially against oil-related facilities or infrastructure, so individuals may be questioned, detained or arrested when traveling in these sensitive areas without evidence of permission from the Nigerian government or for carrying electronic equipment such as cameras, recorders, etc. Periodically, travel by U.S. mission personnel is restricted in certain parts of Nigeria based on changing security conditions, often due to crime, general strikes, or student/political demonstrations or disturbances. See the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Nigeria for more information.
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 current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and 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: Violent crime committed by individual criminals and gangs, as well as by some persons wearing police and military uniforms, is a problem, especially in Lagos, Abuja and other large cities, although it can occur anywhere. Some visitors and resident Americans have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglary, carjacking, kidnappings and extortion, often involving violence. Home invasions are on the rise in Lagos, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by following, or tailgating, residents or visitors arriving by car into the compound, subduing guards and gaining entry into homes or apartments. Armed robbers in Lagos also access waterfront compounds by boat. U.S. citizens, as well as Nigerians and other expatriates, have been victims of armed robbery on roads to airports during both daylight and evening hours. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly or not at all, and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens and other expatriates have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian officials.
Nigerian-operated fraud scams, known as 419s, are noted for their cleverness and ingenuity. These scams target foreigners worldwide, posing risks of both financial loss and personal danger to their victims. Scams are often initiated through internet postings or from internet cafes, by unsolicited emails, faxes, and letters, or can involve credit card use. As anywhere else, no one should provide personal or financial information to unknown parties or via Nigerian telephone lines. The expansion of bilateral law enforcement cooperation, which has resulted in numerous raids on commercial fraud premises, has reduced the overall level of overt fraud activity, but new types of sophisticated scams are introduced daily.
American citizens are very frequently the victims of Nigerian confidence artists offering companionship through internet dating websites. These confidence artists almost always pose as American citizens visiting or living in Nigeria who unexpectedly experience a medical, legal, financial or other type of “emergency” that requires the immediate financial assistance of the American citizen in the United States. In these cases, we strongly urge the American citizen in the United States to be very cautious about sending money to any unknown person purportedly acting on their behalf, or traveling to Nigeria to meet someone with whom their sole communications have been via the internet. Other common scams involve a promise of an inheritance windfall, work contracts in Nigeria, or an overpayment for goods purchased on-line. For additional information on these types of scams, see the Department of State's publication, International Financial Scams.
Commercial scams or stings that targets foreigners, including many U.S. citizens, continue to be a problem. One needs to be alert to scams that may involve U.S. citizens in illegal activity, resulting in arrest, extortion or bodily harm. These scams generally involve phony offers of either outright money transfers or lucrative sales or contracts with promises of large commissions or up-front payments, or improperly invoke the authority of one or more ministries or offices of the Nigerian government and may cite, by name, the involvement of a Nigerian government official. In some scams, government stationery and seals are also improperly used to advance the scam. The ability of U.S. consular officers to extricate U.S. citizens from unlawful business deals or scams and their subsequent consequences is extremely limited. U.S. citizens have been arrested by police officials and held for varying periods on charges of involvement in illegal business activity or scams. Nigerian police or other law enforcement officials do not always inform the U.S. Embassy or Consulate immediately of the arrest or detention of a U.S. citizen. The U.S. Department of Commerce has advisories to the U.S. business community on a variety of issues that should be seriously reviewed with respect to doing business in Nigeria. To check on a business’s legitimacy while in the United States, contact the Nigeria Desk Officer at the International Trade Administration, Room 3317, Dept. of Commerce, Washington, D.C. 20230, telephone 1-800-USA-TRADE or (202) 482-5149, fax (202) 482-5198. If you are abroad, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
The Department of State encourages all travelers abroad to register their travel. The most convenient way to do so would be through the online travel registration page. Travelers may also register in person at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos. See the section on Registration / Embassy Location below.
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, for example, can provide you with a list for appropriate medical care, or contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred to you to cover unexpected costs. 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 the Department of State’s information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: While Nigeria has many well-trained doctors, medical facilities in Nigeria are in poor condition, with inadequately trained nursing staff. Diagnostic and treatment equipment is most often poorly maintained, and many medicines are unavailable. Caution should be taken as counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a common problem and may be difficult to distinguish from genuine medications. This is particularly true of generics purchased at local pharmacies or street markets. Hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their health insurance policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation from a foreign country to the United States or another location. Please see the our brochure 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 Nigeria is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Roads in many areas are generally in poor condition, causing damage to vehicles and contributing to hazardous traffic conditions. There are few working traffic lights or stop signs. The rainy season from May to October is especially dangerous because of flooded roads and water-concealed potholes.
Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, and the lack of basic maintenance and safety equipment on many vehicles are additional hazards. Motorists seldom yield the right-of-way and give little consideration to pedestrians and cyclists. Gridlock is common in urban areas. Chronic fuel shortages have led to long lines at service stations, which disrupt or block traffic for extended periods.
Public transportation vehicles are unsafe due to poor maintenance, high speeds and overcrowding. Motorbikes, known in Nigeria as "okadas," are a common form of public transportation in many cities and pose particular danger to motorists, their own passengers and pedestrians. Motorbike drivers frequently weave in and out of traffic at high speeds and observe no traffic rules. Motorbikes are banned within Abuja's city limits. Passengers in local taxis have been driven to secluded locations where they were attacked and robbed. Several of the victims required hospitalization. The U.S. Mission advises that public transportation throughout Nigeria be avoided.
It is recommended that short-term visitors not drive in Nigeria. A Nigerian driver's license can take months to obtain, and to date an international driving permit is not recognized. Major hotels offer reliable car-hire services complete with drivers. Reliable car-hire services can also be obtained at the customer service centers at the airports in Lagos, Abuja, and Kano. Inter-city travelers must also consider that roadside assistance is extremely scarce, and as noted above medical facilities and emergency care are poor, meaning that being involved in a traffic incident might result in a lack of available medical facilities to treat either minor or life-threatening injuries.
All drivers and passengers are reminded to wear seat belts, lock doors, and raise windows. It is important to secure appropriate automobile insurance. It is also important to be aware that drivers and passengers of vehicles involved in accidents resulting in injury or death have experienced extra-judicial actions, i.e., mob attacks, official consequences such as fines and incarceration or involvement with the victim's family. Night driving should be done with extreme caution, but it is recommended to avoid driving between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. as bandits and police roadblocks are more numerous at night. Streets are very poorly lit, and many vehicles are missing one or both headlights, tail lights, and reflectors.
The Government of Nigeria charges the Federal Road Safety Commission with providing maps and public information on specific road conditions. The Federal Road Safety Commission may be contacted by mail at: Ojodu-Isherri Road, PMB 21510, Ikeja, Lagos; telephone  (1) 802-850-5961 or  (1) 805-684-6911.
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 Nigeria, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Nigeria’sCivil 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 Port Harcourt International Airport, which was closed in mid-2006 for rehabilitation, resumed operations in December 2007 for domestic daylight flights. Installations and improvements needed for international flights and night operations are expected to be completed in 2008.
For additional information on aviation safety concerns, see the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Nigeria.
Permission is required to take photographs or videotape any government buildings, airports, bridges, and in areas where the military is operating throughout the country. These sites include, but are not limited to, Federal buildings in the Three Arms Zone (Presidential palace area, National Assembly, Supreme Court/Judiciary) of the capital of Abuja, other government buildings around the country and foreign Embassies and Consulates. Many restricted sites are not clearly marked, and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation by the Nigerian security services and can result in detention. Permission may be obtained from Nigeria's State Security Services, but even permission may not prevent the imposition of penalties or detention. Penalties for unauthorized photography or videography may include confiscation of the still or video camera, exposure of the film or deletion of film footage, a demand for payment of a fine or bribe, and/or detention, arrest, or physical assault. For these reasons, visitors to Nigeria should avoid taking still photos or videotaping in and around areas that are potentially restricted sites, including any government sites.
The Nigerian currency, the naira, is non-convertible. U.S. dollars are widely accepted. Nigeria is a cash economy, and it is usually necessary to carry sufficient currency to cover the expenses of a planned visit, which makes travelers an attractive target for criminals. Credit cards are rarely accepted beyond a few upscale hotels. Due to credit card fraud in Nigeria and by cohorts in the United States, credit card use should be considered carefully. While Citibank cashes some traveler’s checks, most other banks do not. American Express does not have offices in Nigeria; however, Thomas Cook does. Inter-bank transfers are often difficult to accomplish, though money transfer services such as Western Union are available. For further information, visitors may contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Please see the Department of State’s information on 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 Nigerian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, detained, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nigeria 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 the Department of State’s information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Nigeria are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Nigeria and other general information.Americans withoutInternet 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 1075 Diplomatic Drive, Central Area, Abuja. American citizens can call  (9) 461-4176 during office hours (Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.). For after-hours emergencies, call  (9) 461-4000. The email address for the Consular Section in Abuja is ConsularAbuja@state.gov.
The U.S. Consulate General is located at 2 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos. American citizens can call  (1) 261-1215 during office hours (7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.). For after-hours emergencies, call  (1) 261-1414, 261-0050, 261-0078, 261-0139, or 261-6477. The e-mail address for the Consular Section in Lagos is Lagoscons2@state.gov.
The Embassy and Consulate website is http://nigeria.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 16, 2007, to update sections on Country Description, Safety and Security, Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, Special Circumstances and Registration / Embassy Location.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Warri, Nigeria, April 1, 2020 (AFP) - Thousands of Nigerians have been left cut off from homes and businesses as states across Africa's most populous nation have shut their borders to halt the spread of coronavirus. Central Benue on Wednesday became the latest of Nigeria's 36 states to ban all movement in and out, meaning swathes of the country have become impassable. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday ordered a total lockdown in largest city Lagos and the capital Abuja.
But a string of regional governors around the country have taken matters into their own hands and unilaterally ordered the closure of their state borders. The governors -- powerful players in Nigeria's federal system -- insist the strict measures are needed to contain the disease as Nigeria has so far registered 151 confirmed cases and two deaths. But the moves have sown confusion and left many stranded. Thousands have crowded on a bridge across the river Niger trying to cross between Delta and Anambra states in the oil-rich south of the country.
Emeka Okwudile lives on one side of the river but owns a shop in a market in a town on the other side. "We have no option than to either adhere to the lockdown or cross the river Niger using canoes to access our shops," he told AFP. Adewale Timiyin was travelling from his home in Lagos out to the east of the country when the barriers went up. He said he had bribed a police officer to get by one checkpoint but there was now no way to proceed. "We have to stay with a cousin pending when the lockdown will elapse," he said.
By Celia Lebur with AFP Africa Bureaux
Lagos, March 30, 2020 (AFP) - More than 20 million Nigerians on Monday went into lockdown in sub-Saharan Africa's biggest city Lagos and the capital Abuja, as the continent struggles to curb the spread of coronavirus. President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a two-week "cessation of all movements" in key cities to ward off an explosion of cases in Africa's most populous country.
Businesses are being closed, non-food shops shut and people required to stay at home as officials look to track down possible carriers of the disease after reporting 131 confirmed cases and two deaths so far. Enforcing the restrictions in sprawling Lagos will be a mammoth challenge as millions live crammed into slums and rely on daily earnings to survive.
In the ramshackle outdoor markets of Lagos Island, anxious locals complained they did not have the money to stock up, while at higher-end supermarkets better-off residents queued to buy supplies. "Two weeks is too long. I don't know how we will cope," said student Abdul Rahim, 25, as he helped his sister sell foodstuffs from a stall in Jankarra market. "People are hungry and they won't be able to stock food."
City officials have pledged to provide basic provisions to 200,000 households but the central government in Africa's largest oil producing nation is already facing financial strain as the price of crude has collapsed. The streets of Ghana's capital Accra were also empty as most people in two regions appeared to be following a presidential order to stay indoors after it went into force.
- Zimbabwe locks down -
Dozens of African nations have imposed restrictions ranging from night-time curfews to total shutdowns. Zimbabwe, which is already suffering a recession, began enforcing a three-week lockdown after the disease left one person dead and infected six others. Police mounted checkpoints on routes leading to Harare's central business district, stopping cars and turning away pedestrians who had no authorisation to be in the area. "We don't want to see people here on the streets. We don't want to see people who have no business in town just loitering," a policewoman said through a loud hailer. "Everyone to their homes."
Some people were trying to head for villages. "We would rather spend the 21 days at our rural home, where we don't have to buy everything. I can't afford to feed my family here when I am not working," said Most Jawure. "We have been waiting here for more than two hours but there are no buses," Jawure told AFP while standing with his wife and daughter beside a bulging suitcase.
For many of Zimbabwe's 16 million people, the lockdown means serious hardship. With the unemployment rate estimated at around 90 percent, most Zimbabweans have informal jobs to eke out a living and few have substantial savings. As a similar scenario played out in other poor nations, the UN on Monday called for a $2.5-trillion aid package to help developing countries weather the pandemic, including debt cancellation and a health recovery "Marshall Plan".
- 'A matter of time' -
Experts warn that Africa is highly vulnerable to COVID-19 given the weak state of health systems across the continent. The number of infections lags far behind Europe but testing has been limited and the figures are growing rapidly. Angola and Ivory Coast on Sunday became the latest countries to record their first deaths, bringing the number of African fatalities to around 150 of nearly 4,800 recorded cases.
In Democratic Republic of Congo, two new cases were reported in the volatile South Kivu region and an adviser to the nation's president announced he had tested positive.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni ordered a 14-day lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the disease after reporting 33 infections. Police in South Sudan, one of a few nations in Africa yet to confirm a case, enforced strict new rules, shutting shops selling non-essential items and limiting passengers in public transport. Mauritius, which has 128 cases -- the highest in East Africa -- has extended its lockdown to April 15.
South Africa's defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Monday denounced alleged intimidation by security forces after videos emerged showing some forcing civilians to squat or roll on the ground for allegedly violating restrictions. In an interview with local Newzroom Afrika television channel, she said she was aware of two videos "which have circulated where clearly there (is) some abuse". "I'm saying I condemn that, we will not allow that to continue," she said.
Abuja, March 22, 2020 (AFP) - Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa, on Saturday tightened restrictions in three states on places of worship, airports and bars to try and protect its population against the new coronavirus. In Lagos state, Abuja and Ogun, churches, mosques, social gatherings, football viewing centres and night clubs must restrict attendance to 50 people, according to new regulations drawn up by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Three airports, including one serving oil centre Port Harcourt will no longer take flights from abroad, but the country's two main airports, in Lagos and the capital Abuja, "will remain opened to and accept international flights," a statement said. Congregations at places of worship are hereby restricted to a maximum of 50 persons at any given time," it added.
The Nigerian Railway Corporation also announced a suspension of rail links from Monday, March 23. In Lagos, a sprawling, densely-populated city of 20 million people, a municipal decree on Friday had already closed bars, restaurants and night clubs. Nigeria has recorded around a dozen confirmed cases of new coronavirus infections, but testing has been limited.
Abuja, March 21, 2020 (AFP) - Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa, on Saturday tightened restrictions on places of worship, airports and bars to try and protect its population against the new coronavirus. In a country of 200 million inhabitants, churches, mosques, social gatherings, football viewing centres and night clubs can still welcome to up to 50 people, according to new regulations drawn up by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
Three airports, including one serving oil centre Port Harcourt will no longer take flights from abroad, but the country's two main airports, in Lagos and the capital Abuja, "will remain opened to and accept international flights," a statement said. Congregations at places of worship are hereby restricted to a maximum of 50 persons at any given time," it added. From Monday, schools are to remain closed as well. In Lagos, a sprawling, densely-populated city of 20 million people, a municipal decree on Friday had already closed bars, restaurants and night clubs. Nigeria has recorded around a dozen confirmed cases of new coronavirus infections, but testing has been limited.
Lagos, March 20, 2020 (AFP) - Authorities in Nigerian megacity Lagos said Friday that hospitals had seen cases of chloroquine poisoning after US President Donald Trump touted the drug as a treatment against the new coronavirus. Trump on Thursday said the anti-malarial drug had been "approved" to treat COVID-19 by America's Food and Drug Administration, only for the head of the agency to row back and say it had not yet been given a definitive green light. The drug has recently been used to treat coronavirus patients in China and in France, here some researchers said it showed great promise, though scientists agree that only more trials would determine if it really works and is safe.
Health officials in Lagos said there had already been claims online pushing chloroquine as a treatment and that Trump's message had seen interest surge. "In the last few days, we've seen a lot of messages going around on social medias about chloroquine being a cure for coronavirus and in some parts of Lagos, it was no longer available," Ore Awokoya, senior special assistant to the Lagos state governor on health, told AFP. "But after Donald Trump's statement it took another dimension, people were massively queueing in front of the pharmacies to buy chloroquine."
She describe the rush to take the drug as "worrying" given that people were "self-medicating without any sort of guidance". "We've already registered two cases of poisoning -- the patients have been hospitalised in Lagos -- but we will probably see more and more cases in the coming days," she said. Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has so far recorded 12 confirmed cases of new coronavirus infections, but testing has been limited. The nation of some 200 million people is seen as highly vulnerable to the global pandemic given its weak health system and high population density. Health authorities in Lagos on Thursday said that there were now cases of "local transmission" of the virus in the city.
Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
Safety & Security:
The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.
Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Podgorica, Montenegro, Aug 14, 2019 (AFP) - Smoking indoors in public places was banned from Wednesday in Montenegro, a major challenge in the tobacco-mad Balkan country with some of the highest smoking rates in Europe. More than one third of adults among the population of just 650,000 are regular smokers, according to the public health institute. Under the new law, lighting up is prohibited in all closed public places, including restaurants and cafes where smoking was previously common as elsewhere across the region. The exception is casinos, where smoking will still be allowed. Businesses can also set up separate rooms solely for smoking.
Fines for violating the law range from 500 euros ($560) to 20,000 euros ($22,370) under legislation that also regulates cigarette sales and warnings on the packaging. On Wednesday, cafes in the capital Podgorica had put up notices about the ban in their windows and removed ashtrays from indoor tables. "Fines are high and we have to comply with the ban," said barista Milan. But the ban is not without its critics. "This law is hypocritical. If its adoption was motivated by health concerns, casinos should not have been exempted," says Dusan, a customer.
Montenegro, which is hoping to join the European Union, had already adopted an anti-tobacco law in 2004, but it was not respected. Regulations passed in 2012 requiring restaurants to pay additional taxes for allowing smoking inside were similarly ineffective. "The Ministry will persevere in its efforts to enforce every section of the law to the letter," assured Health Minister Kenan Hrapovic. According to the health ministry, some 400 Montenegrins are diagnosed with lung cancer every year. The medical treatment is costly -- amounting to some 70,000 euros per patient. Smoking indoors is widespread in the Balkans, though Croatia and North Macedonia have similar bans on closed public places.
By Sally MAIRS and Olivera NIKOLIC
Kotor, Montenegro, Aug 22, 2018 (AFP) - Montenegro's medieval walled city of Kotor, an Adriatic seaport cradled in a spectacular fjord-like bay, has survived centuries of weather and warfare. Now it is facing a different kind of assault, that of gargantuan cruise ships disgorging throngs of tourists threatening a place that was only a few years ago commonly described as a "hidden gem". The coastline the poet Lord Byron called the "most beautiful merging of land and sea" is now one of unbridled real estate development.
With rocky slopes jutting into azure waters, Kotor's bay and its white-stone old town have been hailed as an alternative for travellers looking to avoid the mass tourism choking Dubrovnik some 70 kilometres (45 miles) up the coast in Croatia. Last year the hugely popular Dubrovnik -- like Kotor, a medieval walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage site -- became synonymous with the global "overtourism" scourge, showing up on lists of destinations to avoid.
Dubrovnik has seen a marked surge of visitors since scenes of the HBO series "Game of Thrones" were set there. Now there are fears Kotor could meet a similar fate. "Kotor was once known for being more authentic (than Dubrovnik), but now we're in the same place," said Sandra Kapetanovic from Expedito, a local architecture group that advocates sustainable development. "We are being transformed into a city of souvenir shops," she said, noting that rising prices have forced out a library, hair salon, market and shoemaker in the past year. Last week a Lonely Planet travel writer tweeted a photo of a massive cruise ship moored in Kotor, which welcomes up to four of them at once, contributing to some 10,000 daily visitors at the height of the season.
- Tipping point? -
"There were 3 of these obnoxious giants clogging up the bay yesterday," wrote Peter Dragicevich. "They've killed #Venice and #Dubrovnik. Here's hoping they don't kill #Kotor as well." UNESCO, which named Kotor a World Heritage site in 1979, has been warning for years that rampant construction in the bay is threatening its main appeal -- the city's "harmony" with the natural landscape. In 2016 the UN cultural body threatened to revoke Kotor's heritage status -- a wakeup call for the Montenegro authorities, who imposed a temporary moratorium on construction last year. "The question is what happens next?" asked Ana Nives Radovic, head of Kotor's local tourism body. "We are witnessing an era where we either make big changes, or we will be completely devastated if we just choose some profit from investments," she warned.
Montenegro was once a magnet for the glitterati, drawing American movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and British royalty like Princess Margaret in the 1960s. But the tourism industry collapsed with the wars leading to the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. After the tiny country of just 600,000 people declared independence 2006, it went on a construction spree. Foreign investors -- mostly Russians -- drove a property boom that saw apartment complexes blight the coast. Tourism was largely spared the ravages of the 2008 global financial crisis, and today accounts for nearly a quarter of Montenegro's gross domestic product.
The annual influx totals around two million visitors -- mostly in summer, and mostly on the coast. During that time, tourism puts "great pressure on cities, on the area, on communal infrastructure," said Damir Davidovic, a senior tourism ministry official. Authorities are "analysing" the situation to find the right balance, he told AFP. One key concern is the rise of private accommodation -- a model that hurts hotel operators and is changing the character of communities, as many locals evacuate for the summer to rent their homes. The explosion of online rental platforms like Airbnb has only amplified the problem. "It is really a serious issue," said Davidovic, estimating that more than half the private accommodation for tourists operate in a "grey zone", with owners evading taxes by not registering their properties. Rade Ratkovic, a professor of tourism in nearby Budva, another hotspot marred by over-construction, said the town was being "attacked by huge buildings".
- Love-hate -
For now, many locals are trapped in a love-hate relationship with the visitors. Gazing at a jam-packed beach in Ulcinj farther south, local journalist and tourism expert Mustafa Canka shook his head. "Traffic, parking, electricity... with such huge numbers of tourists it is an attack on the infrastructure -- and on the nerves of the local people," he said. "But," he added, "all of us who work in tourism live for these 45 days." Without other industries in Montenegro's coastal towns, the crucial income from travellers has so far staved off "overtourism" protests like those seen in Barcelona and Venice. Yet Canka is worried about the future. "We are not worthy of this city and its history," he said, gesturing towards Ulcinj's ancient castle, perched on a rocky peninsula. "Greed is what is happening, and this consumerism is eating up our space and our people -- and now our future."
Podgorica, Montenegro, July 17, 2017 (AFP) - Montenegro asked Monday for international help to fight wildfires in the Lustica peninsula on the country's Adriatic coast, while forest fires in neighbouring Croatia spread to suburbs of the coastal city of Split. "The situation at Lustica is critical. The interior ministry of Montenegro asked for the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism" to be activated to help extinguish the fire, the government said in a statement. Mayors of the threatened coastal towns of Kotor, Tivat and Herceg Novi urged the government to ask neighbouring nations -- Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia-- to send fire-extinguishing aircraft. Fanned by strong winds, the forest fires forced the evacuation of more than a hundred campers.
Firefighters aided by the armed forces and volunteers have been battling the blazes since Sunday, boosted by police aircraft on Monday, the interior ministry said. Further north, wildfires on Monday evening spread to the suburbs of Split, Croatia's second largest city on the central Adriatic coast, where a shopping centre had to be evacuated and several cars were burned, local media reported. The city waste dump was set on fire, HRT state-run television reported, while the town was covered with thick black smoke.
Some dozen wildfires were raging for the second consecutive day in the Split area villages, burning several houses, local media reported. Some 400 firefighters were trying to fight the blaze, helped by more than 100 soldiers and firefighting planes. "Current situation is apocalyptical, the blaze engulfed a large area, all is in smoke and fire," head of the Split county, Blazenko Boban, told reporters. The cause of the fires is not known.
By Olivera Nikolic
Kotor, Montenegro, June 11, 2016 (AFP) - With its winding cobbled streets and stunning Adriatic bay, the Montenegrin town of Kotor draws crowds of visitors each summer. But deadly gang violence threatens to cloud the tourist boom.
Dozens of anti-terrorist police officers have descended on the medieval fortress town in the past week after a string of public shootouts between rival drug-trafficking clans. "Kotor is a hostage town," Montenegro's Interior Minister Goran Danilovic told reporters after the special forces were sent into the Balkan resort last weekend. "Kotor has to stop being centre of clashes between criminal gangs."
According to police sources, Kotor's main drugs cartel split into three feuding gangs in 2014 over the disappearance of 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of South American cocaine in the Spanish town of Valencia. Their quarrels have led to at least five murders in the past year across the region -- and at least four murder attempts in the past two months in Kotor, all of them in public places.
The latest on June 3 -- although there were no casualties -- pushed the authorities to deploy an anti-terrorist unit that has nearly 70 members, the police sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The town is in a drugs hell, left to criminals," said 52-year-old Mladen, working in an art gallery in the town centre. Like most local residents who spoke to AFP, he was afraid to give his full name because of the tensions in the small community. "I fear for the future of my two sons," he said, complaining that authorities "do nothing" to stop rampant crime.
- Lonely Planet's top city -
The heightened security comes as Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, gears up for a bumper tourist season. Kotor was named the top city in the world to visit in 2016 by travel guide Lonely Planet, and tourism officials expect up to a million visitors this year. Many of them arrive on cruise ships carrying up to 3,000 people, and the restaurants, churches and museums behind the 12th-century walls are already filling up. For now, the police presence is subtle: an AFP reporter saw one black armoured vehicle parked at the entrance to the old town, about 20 metres from anchored cruise liners.
But some locals are worried the security forces could turn off holiday-makers. "I'm afraid that sending them only few weeks before the start of the tourist season will damage it," said Branko, a 55-year-old former sailor, sitting in a cafe in the old town. With nearly 850,000 visitors last year, making it the country's top tourist destination, Kotor sums up the Montenegrin dilemma: a growing tourism sector under the threat of powerful organised crime. The nation of fewer than 650,000 people is a candidate for European Union membership, but the EU's progress report on Montenegro last year said "further efforts are needed, in particular to investigate wider criminal networks and to counter money laundering".
- From sailing to trafficking -
Kotor has a rich seafaring history and was once home to successful shipping company Jugooceanija, which fell apart with the break up of Yugoslavia. Some out-of-work sailors are thought to have subsequently got involved in lucrative cocaine trafficking. The sense of impunity among Kotor's criminal gangs today is such that they installed surveillance cameras around town to control each other's movements -- something a prosecutor is now investigating. Balkans "cocaine king" Darko Saric, who was jailed for 20 years by a Serbian court last year, had several companies in Kotor including a nightclub popular with tourists, according to local media.
Foreign visitors who spoke to AFP expressed little awareness of Kotor's darker side. Canadian cruise-goer Claire Tremblay, 58, said she had chosen Montenegro over Istanbul owing to recent terrorist attacks in Turkey. "Now we see that we got a bonus. Kotor and the Adriatic Sea are beautiful," she said. Kotor's Mayor Aleksandar Stjepcevic said the situation had improved since the special police arrived, but he regretted that his town had become "the scene of clashes" between gangs. "I am disappointed that such scenes became part of everyday life. They should not be a characteristic of this ancient town," he said.
Podgorica, Montenegro, March 29, 2016 (AFP) - Montenegro has deported 58 foreign members of a Japanese doomsday cult, most of them Russians, for lacking the right permits to visit the Balkan country, police said on Tuesday. "Police received information from partner security services showing that a group of foreign nationals, who were members of a closed religious group, were staying in Montenegro," a police statement said. The statement did not specify the religious group, but a police source told AFP anonymously that they belonged to Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese doomsday cult that carried out a deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Local media also reported that the expelled group belonged to the cult.
Police briefly detained the group at a hotel in the central town of Danilovgrad on Friday and found they were not in possession of valid visitor permits, so they were asked to leave the country, the statement said. The group was made up of 43 Russian nationals, seven from Belarus, four from Japan, three from Ukraine and one from Uzbekistan. Police did not elaborate on their reasons for being in Montenegro. An earlier Russian foreign ministry statement said 60 foreign nationals, including Russians, had been detained by Montenegro police on suspicion of involvement in "international organised crime" but were released without charge after questioning. It said however they were to be deported for failing to register their stay.
May 21, 2008
The Union of the Comoros is a developing nation located in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa.
Comoros consists of three islands, Ngazidja (also known
A fourth island, Mayotte, is claimed by Comoros but remains a territory of France.
Ngazidja is home to the capital city, Moroni, and is the most developed of the three islands.
Facilities for tourism are limited and telecommunication links are unreliable.
French, Arabic, Swahili, and Comorian Creole are spoken.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Union of Comoros for additional information.
A passport and onward/return ticket are required.
Visas are available from the Comoran Mission to the United Nations in New York; American citizens visiting Comoros can obtain a free, 24-hour transit visa upon entry.
The following day, visitors are required to go to the immigration office in Moroni to change their visa status.
A fee is charged, depending on length of stay.
Travelers should obtain the latest details from the Mission of the Union of Comoros, 420 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022; telephone number (212) 972-8010, fax (212) 983-4712.
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:
Comoros has experienced frequent strikes and civil unrest, resulting in violent clashes between police and demonstrators.
The most recent unrest involved the de facto separation of Anjouan from the Union government.
In March 2008, Union forces re-took Anjouan and are preparing the island for elections.
The former leader of Anjouan, Mohamed Bacar, has applied for asylum with France and is being held on the French Island of Reunion while his asylum claims is adjudicated.
As the government completes the transition to constitutional federalism and as Bacar’s asylum claim is pending, periodic strikes and protests will likely continue to occur.
U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.
American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.
Conditions are subject to rapid change on each of the three islands of the Comoros due to weak political institutions and a lack of economic development.
In a rare, apparently religious-based attack, a clinic run by a foreign Christian organization was firebombed on the island of Grande Comore in August 2007.
Religious intolerance and religious-based violence remain very unusual in Comoros.
Although foreign residents and visitors have not been targeted, the potential for further outbreaks of civil disorder remains high, and Americans should exercise caution and good judgment, keep a low profile, and remain vigilant with regard to their personal security.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar, if visiting or residing in Comoros.
Embassy contact information is provided below.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. 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. travelers are advised to be vigilant against pick-pocketing and other forms of petty crime when visiting crowded market areas, parks, and at the beaches.
Violent crime is uncommon.
The most commonly reported crime is breaking into homes.
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, help you find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in Comoros are poorly equipped.
Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Malaria is prevalent in Comoros.
Travelers to Comoros should take malaria prophylaxis.
The serious and sometimes fatal strain of malaria, P. falciparum, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine.
Because travelers to Comoros are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam™), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone™).
The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease.
In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, help to reduce malaria risk.
Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking.
For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and anitmalarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health web pages.
The East African Indian Ocean islands have seen a rise in the cases of chikungunya, a viral dengue-like ailment, and dengue itself.
As with malaria, chikungunya and dengue are transmitted by mosquitoes.
Every effort should be made to use repellants, proper clothing and barriers that discourage/prevent mosquito bites.
The CDC web site contains further information on chikungunya at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/chikungunya/ and dengue at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-DengueFever.aspx.
There have been occurrences of measles in Comoros, with outbreaks of greater severity on the islands of Anjouan and Moheli.
Travelers are advised to ensure that their measles vaccinations are up to date.
Further, 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.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Comoros is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
In Comoros, one drives on the right side of the street.
Roads are ill-maintained, congested, very narrow and poorly lit at night.
Travelers should exercise extreme caution when driving after dark.
Most urban roads are paved, but many rural roads are not.
Many roads are full of potholes and dangerous curves.
Most roads have no posted speed limits, but road conditions limit speeds to below 30 miles an hour.
Drivers and front seat passengers are required to wear seat belts.
There are no laws regarding child safety seats.
There are no organizations in Comoros that provide emergency or roadside assistance.
Individuals involved in accidents rely on passersby for assistance.
Taxis or a rental car with driver are preferable to public transportation.
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 Comoros, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Comoros’ Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: While religions other than Islam are permitted in Comoros, evangelization is illegal.
Violators of this law can be fined or imprisoned.
Few establishments accept credit cards in the Comoros and most prefer Comoran Francs or Euros to dollars.
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 the laws of Comoros, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Comoros are strict, with convicted offenders receiving a mandatory minimum five-year jail sentence and heavy fines.
Engaging in sex 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:
The United States has no Embassy in Comoros.
Americans living or traveling in Comoros are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Comoros.
Americans without Internet access may register in person at the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 14-16 Rue Rainitovo, Antsahavola, Antananarivo.
The mailing address is B.P. 620, Antsahavola, Antananarivo, Madagascar; telephone  (20) 22-212-57; fax  (20) 22-345-39.
The Embassy web site is http://www.usmission.mg/.
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated October 26, 2007 to update the section on Safety and Security.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
The number of reported cases has remained stable since the beginning of April  (on average, 4 to 5 reported cases per week). Since the beginning of the health alert, human cases have remained mainly in the center and northwest of the island." (<https://lejournaldemayotte.yt/2019/05/11/fievre-de-la-vallee-du-rift-a-mayotte-stabilite-du-nombre-de-nouveaux-cas/>).
By Philippe ALFROY
Bambao, Comoros, March 25, 2019 (AFP) - The Bambao hospital, nestled in a tropical forest on Anjouan island in the Comoros, was meant to bring state-of-the-art medical care to the poor Indian Ocean nation. Just two years later, the hospital is deep in debt and shunned by potential patients who find it too costly. "A poisoned chalice", "a colossus with feet of clay", "a sinking ship" are among the cliches that chief paediatrician Ahmed Rakibou used to describe the facility funded and built under a Chinese aid scheme. "If they had consulted us while building it, this could have been a jewel," the doctor said, regretting that "today it's all going straight to hell". The hospital is some 30 kilometres (about 20 miles) east of Mutsamudu, the capital of Anjouan, the poorest of the three islands comprising the Union of the Comoros.
The aim was to make the hospital a flagship of Comoran healthcare, with 120 beds in a brand-new building, a team of 167 staff, many recruited locally, and modern equipment including a digital radio scanner. China's ambassador to the Comoros, Xiao Ming, hailed a "new page in the annals of cooperation" at the opening ceremony, saying "public health has always had a priority place in Sino-Comoran cooperation". But a project that cost four billion Comoran francs (8.1 million euros, $9.2 billion) today looks more like a ghost ship, with a handful of patients wandering its corridors in stifling heat. For lack of funds, about 100 staff jobs have not been filled.
- 'Not many patients' -
In the emergency ward, a doctor silently examines a child's injured arm. The lethargic mood is broken only by the arrival of an ambulance carrying the victim of a motorcycle accident. "Our activity is very varied," nurse Ali Mosthadoi says cautiously before going further. "In fact, we don't have many patients."
Deputy director Sidi Chaanbane was more forthcoming. Since the hospital was opened by President Azali Assoumani in 2017, it has faced mounting difficulties, he said. "At the start, the road from Mutsamudu was in a very bad state and patients had trouble getting here," the administrator said. "It's been repaired since, but our real problem is that we sorely lack equipment and staff." In addition to staff salaries, the Comoran state provides just five million francs (10,000 euros) a month, but the hospital needs three times as much to pay its bills. "We can't balance the budget," Chaanbane said.
Day-to-day management is a nightmare. The scanner broke down soon after it was first used. Repairs were not covered by the Chinese cooperation agreement, so the hospital took out a loan to get the machine working again. The main problem is the cost of treatment, which is not free in the former French colony, independent since 1975. Much of the funding comes from the French Development Agency (AFD) in its aid budget. France still rules over the fourth major island in the archipelago, Mayotte. The three islands forming Comoros lack the standard of living on Mayotte and are far from able to make up the remaining health budget.
- 'Expensive' -
Rakibou said the hospital charges 125,000 Comoran francs for a Caesarean birth. "What Comoran can pay that?" he asks. "No -- this hospital is not made for the population." Kanissa Adbou, 27, brought her eight-year-old daughter who trod on a nail to the hospital. "The treatment is expensive. If I could afford it, I would go to Mayotte because there, hospital is free." Those who believed that providing a modern hospital on Anjouan would dissuade Comorans from trying their luck on Mayotte have been disappointed, although the trip is illegal. "People here prefer to pay 1,000 euros to go to Mayotte by kwassa kwassa (human traffickers' dugouts) than to come to us," a nurse said. "They trust only white doctors."
The failure to put the sophisticated equipment at Bambao to regular good use enrages Ahmed Abdallah, secretary general of the Hombo public hospital in Mutsamudu. "The money spent there would have been enough to repair our buildings, replace our equipment and build roads so that sick people could come from nearby villages," he said. "We don't have even a single ambulance, yet the government has I don't know how many four-wheel drives." Health Minister Fatma Mbaraka declined to respond to requests for comment from AFP. But Rakibou refuses to throw in the towel. He hopes that the winner of Sunday's presidential election and the international community will come up with increased funding. "It wouldn't take much to change our lives!" he said.
- since the beginning of the health alert, human cases have been located mainly in the centre and north west of the island, with nearly 60% of cases in Chiconi and Tsingoni.
Afghanistal US Consular Information Sheet March 03, 2009
Afghanistan has made significant progress since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, but still faces daunting challenges, including de
A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport or any other ports of entry in Afghanistan. American citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passport and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passport and obtaining a visa, as well as possible deportation from the country. Americans arriving in the country via military air usually have considerable difficulties if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial air, because their passports are not stamped to show that they entered the country legally. Those coming on military air should move quickly after arrival to legalize their status if there is any chance they will depart the country on anything other than military air. Visit the Embassy of Afghanistan web site at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org for the most current visa information. The Consular office of the Embassy of Afghanistan is located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, phone number 202-298-9125. 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:
The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan emphasizes that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. The Taliban and associated insurgent groups, al-Qaida network terrorist organizations, and narco-traffickers oppose the strengthening of a democratic government. These groups aim to weaken or bring down the Government of Afghanistan and to drive Westerners out of the country. They do not hesitate to use violence, including targeting civilians. Terrorist activities may include, but are not limited to bombings -- including improvised explosive devices and car bombs -- assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults and kidnappings. There were over 120 suicide attacks in 2008. There is an ongoing threat to attack and kidnap U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. In 2008,, more than 30 NGO workers were killed (six foreigners) and at least 78 NGO staff members (seven foreigners) were abducted. Over 25 other foreign civilians, including journalists, were kidnapped. Kabul continues to experience suicide bombings against Afghan government personnel and installations, Afghan and coalition military assets, and international civilians. Riots -- sometimes violent -- have occurred in response to various political or other issues. Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. Official Americans' use of the Kabul-Jalalabad, Kabul-Kandahar highways and other roads throughout the country is often restricted or completely curtailed because of security concerns. Insurgents continue to use roadside and car bombs to conduct attacks and abductions along major highways. Millions of unexploded land mines and other ordinance present a constant danger. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. Americans should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns. The absence of records for ownership of property, differing laws from various regimes and the chaos that comes from decades of civil strife have left property issues in great disorder. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property, or Americans coming to the country to engage in business, have become involved in complicated real estate disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death. Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated, with few roads, mostly in poor condition, irregular cell phone signals, and none of the basic physical infrastructure found in Kabul or the larger cities. Americans traveling in these areas who find themselves in trouble may not even have a way to communicate their difficulties to the outside world. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, 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.
A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries as well as kidnappings and assault. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for assistance. The Embassy 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 provide a list of attorneys if needed. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in Afghanistan is: 119 Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
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 Afghanistan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. Arrested Americans have faced periods of detention—sometimes in difficult conditions—while awaiting trial. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Another sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing is often viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society. Proselytizing may lead to arrest and/or deportation. 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.
Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are limited. Some ATM machines exist at Standard Charter Bank and Afghan International Bank (AIB) in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using them. International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities, but can be unreliable. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited. In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Afghanistan may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. For additional information on dual nationality in general, see the Consular Affairs home page for our dual nationality flyer. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited. Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors -- men and women -- are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside of Kabul, may want to ensure that their tops have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; American women visitors should carry scarves for this purpose. Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. American travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States. Please see our Customs Information sheet.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. Several western-style private clinics have opened in Kabul: the DK-German Medical Diagnostic Center (www.medical-kabul.com), Acomet Family Hospital (www.afghancomet.com), and CURE International Hospital (ph. 079-883-830) offer a variety of basic and routine-type care; Americans seeking treatment should request American or Western health practitioners. Afghan public hospitals should be avoided. Individuals without government licenses or even medical degrees often operate private clinics; there is no public agency that monitors their operations. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul, although there are some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from Afghanistan is limited and could take days to arrange. Even medevac companies that claim to service the world may not agree to come to Afghanistan. Those with medevac insurance should confirm with the insurance provider that it will be able to provide medevac assistance to this country. There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry in Afghanistan, to include the areas of Nangahar, Laghman, and Wardak provinces, and in the city of Kabul, however, there have been no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in humans. Updates on the Avian Influenza situation in Afghanistan are published on the Embassy’s web site at http://kabul.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html. For additional information on Avian Influenza, please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet available at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Afghanistan. For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx| The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Afghanistan. However, if one has questions, please inquire directly with the Embassy of Afghanistan at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org before you travel. 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. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site. Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
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 Afghanistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. All drivers face the potential danger of encountering improvised-explosive devices and land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million landmines and large quantities of unexploded ordinance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and kidnappings are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, although the international community is constructing modern highways and provincial roads. Vehicles are poorly maintained, often overloaded, and traffic laws are not enforced. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved. 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 Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa. U.S. Government personnel are not authorized to travel on Ariana Afghan Airlines or any other airline falling under the oversight of the Government of Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, owing to safety concerns; however, U.S. Government personnel are permitted to travel on international flights operated by airlines from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. R
EGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. 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 in Kabul on Great Massoud (Airport) Road, local phone number 0700-108-001 or 0700-108-002, and for emergencies after hours 0700-201-908. The web site is http://kabul.usembassy.gov/ * * * * * This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 16, 2008 to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Kabul, Feb 24, 2020 (AFP) - Afghanistan has detected its first novel coronavirus case, the country's health minister said Monday, a day after Kabul announced it would suspend air and ground travel to Iran, where 12 people have died from the outbreak. "I announce the first positive coronavirus (case) in Herat," health minister Firozuddin Feroz told a press conference, calling on citizens to avoid travel to the western province which borders Iran.
A trade route through this valley has been used by travellers since antiquity
A map of this region can be found at
Although Xinjiang in Western China has reportedly 75 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1 death (assessed 16 Feb 2020 at 9:43 PM EST) (<https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6>), spread of COVID-19 to this very remote region in Afghanistan, that is easily cut off from the rest of the world especially in winter, seems unlikely. Also, 43% of deaths (15/35) occurred in children, which would be unusual for COVID-19. However, we are not told the clinical presentation of the illness, nor how a diagnosis of "pneumonia" was made in this undeveloped region. Other diagnoses, such as influenza, are also possible. More information from knowledgeable sources would be appreciated. - ProMED Mod.ML]
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London, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - Britain on Saturday reported 708 more deaths from COVID-19 in a new daily high, as the number of confirmed cases rose to nearly 42,000. The health ministry said 4,313 people who tested positive for the virus in hospital had died as of 1600 GMT Friday while there were 41,903 confirmed cases as of 0800 GMT Saturday, up 3,735. The toll has been steadily increasing at more than over 500 deaths a day this week and the country is bracing for an expected peak in the next week to 10 days. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is in self-isolation after developing mild symptoms of the disease, ordered a three-week lockdown of the country on March 23 to try to cut infections.
But there has been concern that warmer weather forecast for this weekend could tempt people from their homes to green spaces and public parks. "I just urge you not to do that," Johnson said in a video message on Friday. "Please, please stick with the guidance now." Health Secretary Matt Hancock also warned against any relaxation in social distancing. "If we do, people will die," he told a daily briefing on the government's response on Friday. A special address on the crisis by Queen Elizabeth II is to be broadcast on Sunday evening.
Imperial College London epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who is advising the government, told BBC radio on Saturday a peak was expected around the Easter weekend. "We still think things will plateau but we'll be at quite high levels of infection for weeks and weeks rather than seeing quite a rapid decline as the type seen in China," he said. But he said that was dependent on people staying at home. If that happened, it could lead to less stringent measures in place "at least by the end of May", he added.
The announcement of another record rise in deaths came after 13 residents at a care home in Glasgow died in one week in a suspected outbreak of coronavirus. The Burlington Court Care Home in the Cranhill area of the city said those who died had underlying medical conditions and two staff members were being treated for COVID-19.
Tests for coronavirus are currently carried out on the most serious cases that require hospital treatment, suggesting the true extent of confirmed cases and deaths is an under-estimate. The government meanwhile announced that up to 4,000 low-risk prisoners near the end of their sentence could be release from jails in England and Wales to try to stop the spread of COVID-19. A total of 88 prisoners and 15 prison staff have tested positive for the virus, and there is concern it could spread rapidly because of shared cells and overcrowding. The justice ministry said those released would be electronically tagged and temporarily released on licence in stages. High-risk offenders will not be considered for early release.
Madrid, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced Saturday the extension of the country's lockdown until April 25 in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. "The cabinet on Tuesday will again ask for authorisation from parliament to extend for a second time the state of alert until Saturday April 25 at midnight,' Sanchez said in a televised speech.
Istanbul, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - Turkey stepped up controls Saturday on crowded public spaces including markets and ferries in Istanbul a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed the use of face masks to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Turkey has so far recorded 425 coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 21,000 cases, most of them in the country's economic capital Istanbul, according to official figures. From Saturday, all those going out to shops or markets must wear a face mask, Erdogan said, calling on the population to maintain a distance of "three paces" from each other when outside.
At an Istanbul bazaar in the Besiktas neighbourhood open every Saturday, police and local municipal employees handled the use of masks and hand disinfectants, while checking the temperature of incoming customers at the entrance. Veli Yildirim, 50, who sells vegetables including tomatoes, said the measures came "too late." "We are the latest compared to the rest of the world. Even this is not enough, there should be a complete lockdown" in Istanbul, he told AFP. A 60-year-old customer in the bazaar, Asuman Karaman wearing a mask, agreed: "If these measures had been taken one or two months earlier, maybe the virus would not have been so widespread." The bazaar looked quite calm -- in stark contrast to its usual noisy and crowded state.
Vendors complained their business was hit badly. "This has a had a big impact, there is no one at the market, at this time of the day, we have nothing to do here," said Abbas Kose, who sells vine leaves. At the ferries in Istanbul, passengers were seen wearing face masks. The city's mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has been calling for total confinement but authorities have so far stopped short of that. As part of the measures taken nationwide, authorities suspended international flights, issued a confinement order for everyone aged under 20 and over 65 and shut schools. Erdogan on Friday also said vehicles would no longer be able to leave or enter 31 towns and cities, including Istanbul, for 15 days.
Geneva, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - Switzerland on Saturday saw the number of cases of the new coronavirus in the country pass 20,000, as its death toll in the pandemic swelled past 500. The health ministry said 20,201 people in Switzerland had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday morning -- nearly 1,000 more than a day earlier. The small Alpine country of some 8.5 million people is thus one of the worst hit compared to population size, now counting 236 registered infections per 100,000 people. At the same time, an additional 76 people died over the past 24 hours, bringing Switzerland's death toll in the pandemic to 540, the health ministry said. "We have not yet reached the peak," health ministry official Daniel Koch told reporters.
Worldwide, well over 1.1 million cases have been registered across 188 countries, while close to 60,000 people have died, according to a tally compiled by AFP Saturday from official sources. The high incidence in Switzerland could in part be linked to the fact that it is among the countries that have administered most tests per capita. Since the first case surfaced in the country on February 24, more than 150,000 tests have been administered with around 15 percent coming up positive. Drive-in testing stations have been set up in several places, including in the capital Bern, to help simplify safe testing for COVID-19. In the past 24 hours, the country has conducted nearly 7,000 tests, including 975 that were positive, the health ministry said.
Switzerland's southern canton of Ticino, which borders hard-hit Italy, has registered most cases, followed by Geneva. As in other countries, men seemed to suffer more from the virus. Slightly more women had tested positive for the virus, but men accounted for 64 percent of the deaths, the ministry found. Switzerland has unblocked some $60 billion to buffer the harsh blow to its economy from the pandemic and the measures taken to halt the spread of the virus. The economic affairs ministry said Saturday some 1.3 million people, or a quarter of the country's workforce, have applied for temporary unemployment benefits since the start of the crisis.
Honiara, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - At least 28 ferry passengers were swept overboard in a powerful storm off the Solomon Islands, reports said Saturday, with the captain unaware he had lost anyone until the boat docked. The passengers were heading from the capital Honiara to West Are'are, more than 120 kilometres (75 miles) away, under a government programme to evacuate people to their home villages during the global coronavirus epidemic.
The MV Taimareho set sail on Thursday night as tropical cyclone Harold bore down on the Solomons, and with weather forecasters warning against any unnecessary voyages. But the captain ignored advice not to sail, the nation's leader said, as survivors reported dozens of people were swept overboard by huge waves and strong winds. Local media put the death toll at 28.
But police said it was impossible to verify the number. "Initial reports say the captain of the boat had no knowledge of the missing people until he was informed when the boat arrived at her destination at Are'are," police marine department chief Charles Fox Sau said. "At this stage we cannot confirm how many people are missing as the investigation into this sad incident continues."
In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Manasseh Sovagare said a search and rescue operation was under way. "It is with deep regret to learn that a number of passengers are missing at sea after being washed overboard from a passenger vessel which departed ... from Honiara, despite the several weather warnings issued," he said. Disaster authorities in the Solomons, which has limited healthcare facilities, have been stretched as they prepared for the impact of coronavirus while the region was being battered by tropical cyclone Harold.
The island nation, with a population of just over 600,000, is one of a dwindling number of countries where there have been no reported coronavirus cases so far. Harold, packing winds of up to 160 kilometres per hour (100 mph), downed trees and damaged homes before heading away and was expected to intensify before reaching Vanuatu late Sunday. Although the government has not yet completed a damage assessment, Australia has donated Aus$100,000 (US$60,000) in immediate emergency funding.
London, April 4, 2020 (AFP) - The Falklands Islands government has confirmed the territory's first case of the new coronavirus. A patient tested positive after being admitted to hospital with symptoms on March 31, according to a statement released on Friday that said they were in isolation and in "stable condition". Located in the southern Atlantic Ocean, the British overseas territory had been among a dwindling number of remote places that have reported no COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.
Health authorities in the Falklands -- home to 3,400 people -- have been sending samples to the UK for testing, the statement said. "In some respects we are fortunate that we have been COVID-19 free until now, as we have taken this time to plan our approach," Chief Medical Officer Dr Rebecca Edwards said. "We have reorganised the hospital and staffing arrangements, and put our supplies and pharmaceuticals in place, which many countries were not in a position to do before they identified their first cases."
The disparate group of places to officially remain untouched by the pandemic include Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. Argentina, which invaded and briefly occupied the territory in 1982, claims sovereignty over the islands and calls them Las Islas Malvinas.
Kinshasa, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo is prepared to take part in testing of any future vaccine against the coronavirus, the head of the country's taskforce against the pandemic said on Friday. "We've been chosen to conduct these tests," said the head of the national biological institute, Jean-Jacques Muyembe. "The vaccine will be produced in the United States, or in Canada, or in China. We're candidates for doing the testing here," Muyembe told a news briefing in comments that sparked controversy in DR Congo amid charges the population was being used as guinea pigs.
Muyembe suggested that clinical trials could begin in July or August. "At some point, COVID-19 will be uncontrollable," the virologist said. "The only way to control it will be a vaccine, just like Ebola. It was a vaccine that helped us end the Ebola epidemic." Muyembe's comments came as two leading French doctors came under a storm of criticism after discussing on a television programme the idea of testing a vaccine for coronavirus in Africa. Camille Locht, head of research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Lille, and Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at the Cochin hospital in Paris, suggested that Africa offered better conditions for testing the vaccine.
Their remarks sparked furious criticism, with the French anti-racism NGO, SOS Racisme, saying, "No, Africans aren't guinea pigs". Even former international and Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba joined in. "It is inconceivable that we continue to accept this. Africa is not a laboratory. I strongly denounce these very serious, racist and contemptuous words," the former Chelsea and Marseille striker wrote on his Facebook page and on Twitter. "Help us save lives in Africa and stop the spread of the virus that is destabilising the whole world instead of seeing us as guinea pigs. It is absurd." The tenth Ebola epidemic in DR Congo is set to be declared over on April 12, after it killed more than 2,200 people in the east of the country since its outbreak on August 1, 2018. More than 320,000 people were given two different experimental vaccines to stop the spread.
Libreville, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Gabon on Friday banned the sale and eating of bats and pangolins, which are suspected of sparking the novel coronavirus in China where they are highly prized in traditional medicine. President Ali Bongo Ondimba also announced the government was planning to lock down the capital Libreville and unveiled an emergency package for those hard hit by the pandemic. The novel coronavirus is believed to have come from bats, but researchers think it might have spread to humans via another mammal. Pangolins are critically endangered and have long been protected, but they are sold in the markets of the capital Libreville, as are bats, and their meat is popular.
The central African nation is 88 percent covered in forest and hunting and bush meat have long been a way of life. The water and forest ministry said the novel coronavirus was a "combination of two different viruses, one close to bats and the other closer to pangolins", and claimed to be quoting a scientific study published in Nature. Gabon has declared 21 COVID-19 infections, but none from animals, the ministry said. "A similar decision was taken by the authorities when our country was affected by the Ebola virus -- a ban on eating primates," Forestry Minister Lee White said.
The national parks agency ANPN announced in mid-March that tourists would no longer be allowed to interact with great apes to avoid any risk of contamination by the coronavirus. The pangolin, the world's most heavily trafficked mammal, also called the scaly anteater, is believed to have possibly been a vector in the leap of the novel coronavirus from animal to human at a market in China's Wuhan city last year. Its body parts fetch a high price on the black market as they are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, although scientists say they have no therapeutic value.
Gabon has also put in place a raft of measures such as grounding international flights, closing schools and ordering a night curfew to stop the spread of the coronavirus. On Friday, Bongo said Libreville would be put under lockdown "in the coming days" but gave no precise date. All but one of Gabon's reported 21 cases are in the city, where a large proportion of the country's two million residents live. Bongo also announced an aid package of 250 billion CFA francs (380 million euros) to help both individuals and businesses whose livelihoods have suffered because of the crisis.
Istanbul, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday issued a mandatory confinement order for everyone aged under 20 starting from midnight, as part of tougher measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus in Turkey. In a television address, Erdogan also announced that vehicles would no longer be able to leave or enter 31 towns and cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, for 15 days. People aged over 65 or those with chronic medical conditions are already subject to mandatory confinement in Turkey. "Throughout the country, people aged under 20, that is to say born after January 1, 2000, will not be allowed to go out on the street" from midnight on Friday, Erdogan said.
Also, from Saturday, all those going out to shops or markets will be obliged to wear a face mask, the Turkish leader added, calling on the population to maintain a distance of "three paces" from each other when outside. Turkey has registered over 20,000 coronavirus cases, 425 of which have been fatal. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca warned on Friday that the country is just at the beginning of the outbreak, which has left over 50,000 people dead worldwide. More than half of the Turkish cases have been in the economic capital Istanbul, which has a population of around 16 million people.
The city's mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has been calling for total confinement. Erdogan's announcements on Friday are the latest moves to stem the spread of the virus in Turkey in recent weeks. Schools have been closed down, flights grounded and gatherings banned. Next week the Turkish parliament is set to consider a draft law to free 90,000 prisoners, a third of the population of the overcrowded prisons. It will concern several categories of prisoners, among them pregnant women and older people with medical conditions. But it excludes convicted murderers, sexual offenders and narcotics criminals, as well as political prisoners charged under Turkey's controversial anti-terrorism laws.
Singapore, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Singapore will close schools and workplaces while people are being told to stay home, as the city-state ramps up curbs to stem the spread of coronavirus, the premier said Friday. The country has won praise for its handling of the outbreak, and had largely kept the crisis in check by carrying out large numbers of tests and tracing close contacts of those infected. Authorities had slowly been introducing curbs, such as closing bars and nightclubs, but had so far avoided the kind of tough restrictions seen in worse-hit nations.
However, after a jump in the number of locally transmitted cases in recent days, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it was time to apply a "circuit breaker" to halt the virus's spread. Workplaces except for essential services, such as supermarkets and hospitals, and those deemed to be in key economic sectors will be closed from Tuesday, he said in a televised address.
Schools will also be closed from next week except for children of those who have to continue to work and cannot make alternative arrangements, he said. People are being told to stay at home as much as possible, and only go out for essentials -- such as buying food and getting exercise. "Looking at the trend, I am worried that unless we take further steps, things will gradually get worse, or another big cluster may push things over the edge," Lee said. Singapore has reported 1,114 virus infections including five deaths. Globally, the number of confirmed cases has soared past one million and deaths have topped 50,000.