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.
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Athens, May 2, 2020 (AFP) - A 6.0 magnitude quake struck off the Greek island of Crete on Saturday but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the epicentre was about 55 kilometres (35 miles) south of the city of Ierapetra. It hit at 1251 GMT (15:51 pm). "No victims or serious damage has been reported so far," a local police officer told AFP by telephone.
Tremors were felt across the island and landslides were reported on some roads in Lasithi, where Ierapetra is located, the fire service said. "Luckily the quake happened at a depth of 19 kilometres in the sea and there has not been any serious damage so far," said Giorgos Aspadrakis, the head of the fire brigade in Lasithi. "The quake went on for a long time," said Georgia Santamouri, 29, who lives at Heraklion -- almost 100 km from Ierapetra. "I was in bed. I was really scared in the beginning and I couldn't move initially but then I ran out," she said.
Greece is prone to earthquakes, with many occurring offshore. The last deadly quake occurred on the island of Kos in the Aegean Sea in July 2017. The 6.7-magnitude quake killed two people. The deadliest temblor in recent years struck the Athens region in 1999, killing 143 people.
Athens, April 23, 2020 (AFP) - Greece is extending coronavirus lockdown measures by a week to May 4, the government said Thursday. The country has managed to keep fatalities at a low level after registering its first virus death on March 12, despite a decade of cuts imposed on its public health system during the post-2010 debt crisis.
Supermarkets, banks and food delivery restaurants are among the few businesses still operating, and Greeks must inform authorities when leaving their homes for necessities, or risk fines. "Restrictive measures that apply until April 27 are extended by a week to May 4," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week will be announcing steps to remove some of the nationwide lockdown measures imposed on March 22, Petsas added. The relaxation of the restrictions is set to begin with a partial reopening of courts and land registers on April 27. The education ministry has also announced plans for final-year school pupils to hold university entry exams in June. Greece has so far officially announced 121 deaths, with 55 people still in intensive care.
Athens, April 7, 2020 (AFP) - Hundreds of Greek healthcare workers demonstrated on Tuesday to protest at working conditions and lack of manpower and equipment in public hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. The demonstrations were staged to coincide with World Health Day, according to the federation of hospital personnel. "You only saw us when we covered our faces," proclaimed a poster printed by hospital trade unions, bearing a picture of doctors wearing anti-coronavirus masks. Demonstrators at the large Evangelismos hospital in central Athens held up signs demanding job hiring, virus testing and hospital equipment.
Police tried to enter the hospital courtyard where the rally was taking place before being forced back by demonstrators, an AFP photographer said. A similar protest was held at the main hospital in Larissa in central Greece, according to images from public television ERT. Despina Tossonidou, president of the doctors' union at Voula hospital in southern Athens, said that in addition to the hiring of medical staff, intensive care units in private clinics should be requisitioned "to overcome the shortcomings of the public sector" during the virus crisis. Health care in Greece was drastically affected by the country's 2010-2018 financial crisis and tough austerity required by creditors in exchange for bailouts.
As part of its measures to deal with the pandemic, the government has offered clinics 30 million euros ($32.6 million) and announced the hiring on short-term contracts of 2,000 doctors and 2,000 nursing staff. "These measures are just a drop in the ocean," said Tossonidou, a radiologist. "The hospital system needs 30,000 additional permanent doctors," she said, also citing the lack of protective equipment and COVID-19 testing in hospitals. "The majority of tests are currently carried out in private hospitals at costs ranging from 150 to 300 euros ($163-326)," said Tossonidou. Greece, a country of around 10.7 million people, has suffered relatively less than other European nations in the pandemic, recording 81 deaths out of 1,755 cases.
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.
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.
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Jakarta, May 6, 2020 (AFP) - A 6.8 magnitude earthquake jolted a remote part of eastern Indonesia late Wednesday, the United States Geological Survey said, but there was no tsunami warning issued and no immediate reports of damage. The undersea quake struck at a depth of some 107 kilometres (66 miles) in the sea between Indonesia's Maluku and East Timor at 22:50 local time (13:50 GMT). The epicentre was about 390 kilometres south of the city of Ambon in the archipelago's Maluku province. "We have not received any reports of damages so far as a result of the quake. The result of our modeling also shows that the earthquake did not trigger any potential tsunami," said Taufan Maulana, the spokesman of Indonesia's weather and geophysics bureau.
The bureau further reported that the tremors were strongly felt by people on nearby small islands, as well as those in some cities in Papua, the easternmost province of Indonesia. Researcher Fawwaz Rifasya told AFP that he was on the fourth floor of a hotel in Manokwari, Papua, when he felt the building swaying. Meanwhile, Andika Baskoro in Merauke, Papua, said that he noticed the quake after he saw hanging lamps and water in a gallon swaying. An AFP journalist in Dili, East Timor, roughly 400 kilometres away, reported feeling a slight tremor. Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth. In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island left more than 4,300 people dead or missing.
By Agnes ANYA, Safrin Labatu
Jakarta, April 29, 2020 (AFP) - From shirtless soldiers to teens sun tanning on their parents' driveways, Indonesians are soaking up rays like never before in the hope that plentiful sunshine will ward off coronavirus. The rush to take up a practice usually associated with Bali-bound foreigners has been driven by unfounded claims on social media that sunlight -- and the vitamin D it supplies -- can slow or kill the virus.
That hope got a boost last week when a senior US official said new research showed sunlight quickly destroys the virus. The study has yet to be evaluated independently, but US President Donald Trump spoke about it enthusiastically during a press conference. "I always avoided the sun before because I didn't want to get tanned," said Theresia Rikke Astria, a 27-year-old housewife in Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta. "But I'm hoping this will strengthen my immune system," she added.
Medics have their doubts, but say a 15-minute burst of morning sunshine can be good for you. "Exposing the body to direct sunlight is good to get vitamin D, not to directly prevent the disease," said Dr. Dirga Sakti Rambe at Jakarta's OMNI Pulomas Hospital. Vitamin D, which comes from fish, eggs, milk and sunlight exposure, is important in maintaining a healthy immune system, he said, but added: "Sunbathing does not kill the virus that causes COVID-19."
Whatever the science, one thing is for sure: there is no shortage of sunshine in the tropical 5,000-kilometre- (3,100-mile-) long Southeast Asian archipelago. The rush outdoors has led to an Indonesian government warning about the dangers of skin cancer, and calls for novice sun-seekers to slap on protection. It was a rare caution in a place where sunbathing is not practised widely and beauty product commercials extol the virtues of fair skin. Across Asia, pale skin has long been associated with a higher social class and skin-lightening products are big sellers. Muslim majority Indonesia's relatively conservative dress codes -- especially for women -- mean skimpy swimwear isn't a feature of the new craze.
- 'Asian skin tone' -
But the pandemic has made a convert of Rio Zikrizal, even if he struggles with the idea of soaking his shirtless torso in the sun. "In normal times I'd be reluctant to sunbathe," the Jakarta resident said. "I've got an Asian skin tone which gets dark easily so I often use products to make my skin lighter." Nabillah Ayu, who lives on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta, starts her newly adopted sunbathing routine around 10 am -- when she used to be in the office -- in the hopes of avoiding the deadly respiratory disease. "Sunlight can't directly kill coronavirus, but it can boost the immune system and stop you from getting it," the 22-year-old said. Bare-chested suntan sessions have been incorporated into morning exercise routines for some military and police units.
And in major cities, residents are flocking from neighbourhoods crammed with narrow, dark alleyways to open areas -- including commuter train tracks -- where they can catch some unobstructed rays. It is a motley mix of women in head-covering hijabs with rolled up sleeves and pants, shirtless male teens and wrinkly pensioners all clamouring for a bit of sunshine as the odd train zips by. "I've just started sunbathing regularly since the pandemic hit," Alfian, who goes by one name, told AFP near train tracks in Tangerang on the edge of Jakarta. "Afterwards I take a shower and my body feels fitter." Pensioner Wadianto Wadito, who suffers from heart disease and diabetes, figures he can use all the help he can get. "I'm already taking a lot of medicines anyway, so now I'm sunbathing to get all my vitamins without taking more pills," the 65-year-old said.
Jakarta, April 23, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia will ban all air and sea travel until June, officials said Thursday, in an apparent effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus during the holiest period on the Islamic calendar. The temporary ban takes effect Friday, the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan for the Muslim-majority country, and lasts until June 1. It comes a day after the government, fearing an explosion in virus cases, banned the annual exodus for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, when millions travel to their hometowns and ancestral villages.
The latest measure will not apply to emergency, diplomatic or cargo transport, the government said. The repatriation of Indonesian citizens from abroad and foreigners living in the Southeast Asian archipelago will also be exempt. "It applies to both domestic and international commercial travel but there are some exceptions," Transportation Ministry spokeswoman Adita Irawati told AFP. The country's biggest airlines Garuda and Lion Air had already scaled backed their commercial flights as the tourism market shrivelled up.
But the ban on sea travel could hamper the movement of millions in a country of some 17,000 islands where passenger ferries are a key mode of transportation. The government had already called on residents of major cities, including the capital Jakarta, to stay put. As of Thursday, Indonesia had confirmed 7,775 cases of COVID-19 and 647 deaths. But the toll is widely believed to be much higher in a country with one of the lowest testing rates in the world.
Jakarta, April 16, 2020 (AFP) - Reduced to sharing goggles and cheap raincoats, Indonesia's under-equipped doctors are battling a tide of coronavirus infections that is overwhelming its creaky health-care system -- and killing their colleagues. Two dozen doctors have died since the pandemic began in the Southeast Asian nation, and critics warn that the official death toll of 459 is way below reality in a country with some of the lowest virus testing rates in the world. Hospitals don't have enough basic protective gear -- never mind sophisticated ventilators -- leaving many poorly paid doctors to battle the virus with little more than plastic rain ponchos.
Jakarta doctor Muhammad Farras Hadyan said supplies are running so low at his hospital that some colleagues rely on donations from family members to buy the few available certified hazardous material suits. "The rest rely on the hospital's supply and they've got to wait," he said. Handoko Gunawan, a 79-year-old pulmonary specialist, was on the front lines until he was forced into quarantine on suspicion he had contracted the virus. "I was shaking so bad, and the nurse was trembling," Gunawan, who later tested negative for the illness, said of treating patients. "These young health workers have spouses and children at home, but they still brave the challenges. "Doctors are scarce in Indonesia and if they die we'll have fewer people to treat patients," he added.
Indonesia has fewer than four doctors for every 10,000 people, according to World Health Organization data -- far below hard-hit Italy (around 40) or South Korea (about 24). The Indonesian Doctors' Association has warned that the coronavirus crisis is much worse than reported and the government's response is "in tatters". Latest official figures say Indonesia had some 5,136 confirmed cases, but only 36,000 people have been tested across a sprawling archipelago of more than 260 million -- the world's fourth most populous nation. The health ministry revealed this week that nearly 140,000 Indonesians are being monitored on suspicion they may have the virus. "The government's official data doesn't reflect the real picture of infections across the country," said Halik Malik, a spokesman for the doctors' association.
Jakarta municipal figures show more than 1,000 suspected or confirmed victims buried in local cemeteries under COVID-19 protocols that require bodies to be quickly interned -- about five times the government toll in the capital, the epicentre of the outbreak in Indonesia. Burials in Bandung, a city in West Java that borders the capital region, have doubled to about 400 a month since the outbreak, the province's governor Ridwan Kamil told AFP. "It is the same phenomenon as in Jakarta," Kamil said. "We can't confirm these are all COVID-19, but the number of deaths is higher than usual." The surge has left doctors like Raditya Nugraha and colleagues at a West Java hospital struggling to keep up, and having to share equipment. "We don't have enough goggles so we take turns wearing them," he said.
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.
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by Neil Sands
ALOFI, Niue, July 23, 2011 (AFP) - In a once-thriving village on the Pacific island of Niue, homes lie abandoned, their stucco-clad walls mildewed and crumbling as the jungle slowly reclaims them. "These villages used to be bustling with people -- now you go there in the afternoon and there's no one," says the Niue Tourism Authority chairman Hima Douglas. The number of people living on the lush coral atoll, about 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) northeast of New Zealand, has been declining for decades as inhabitants seek a better life overseas.
The population, which peaked at more than 5,000 in the mid-1960s, has dwindled to just 1,200, according to a New Zealand parliamentary report, raising doubts about the island nation's economic viability. Douglas said a major cyclone in 2004, which destroyed much of Niue's infrastructure, accelerated the exodus, and the threat of future natural disasters was discouraging people from returning. "Of course it's concerning but it's not something we can do too much about until we can build an economy that will give them the confidence to come back," Niue's Premier Toke Talagi told reporters this month. "There aren't simple and easy answers to people leaving. We've got to build a strong economy and hope to attract them back." Known locally as "The Rock", Niue was settled by Polynesian seafarers more than 1,000 years ago and the palm-dotted island's name in the local language means "behold, the coconut".
The British explorer captain James Cook tried to land there three times in 1774 but was deterred by fearsome warriors, eventually giving up to set sail for more welcoming shores and naming Niue "savage island" on his charts. But modern day Niueans are desperate for visitors, with Talagi unveiling plans this month to turn it into a boutique tourism destination in a bid to put his nation on a sound economic footing. Using aid from New Zealand, with which Niue has a compact of free association giving its people dual citizenship, Talagi has overseen construction of a new tourism centre and expansion of the island's Matavai Resort.
Paths have also been cut through the jungle to give visitors access to swimming spots on the rugged limestone coastline, and cruise liners are being encouraged to include Niue on their itineraries. "We can become self-sustaining in the long term (and) reduce New Zealand assistance to Niue," Talagi said, estimating that visitor numbers could quadruple to 20,000 a year in the next decade. Addressing a visiting delegation of New Zealand business executives this month, Talagi acknowledged doubts about the nation's ability to meet the challenge. "I know some of you are a bit sceptical about our ability to become self sustaining... (but) tourism is not going to fail and I don't expect it to fail given the numbers that are being generated," he said.
The New Zealand parliamentary report, released last December, estimates that about 50,000 Niueans and their children now live in Australia and New Zealand, creating a shortage of skilled labour in one of the world's smallest states. "Niue is caught in a vicious cycle, with its economic difficulties both exacerbated by, and reflected in, the long-term decline of its population," it said, adding that 40 years of New Zealand aid "has yielded almost no return". The report's authors suggested Niue should concentrate on promoting itself as a retirement destination for elderly New Zealanders, who could help revitalise the economy. "The climate is excellent, existing buildings could be brought into service, and health facilities are satisfactory," it said. "Retirees would bring steady cash flow and contribute to stable employment options."
Asked about the suggestion, Talangi said "we'll look at everything", although one long-time resident, who asked not to be named, was unenthusiastic at the prospect. "How depressing to think that we might be turned into a major geriatric ward," she said. "Not that I have anything against old people, mind." Another resident said that whatever steps Niue took to improve its economy must result in major changes, pointing out people could earn more by moving to New Zealand and claiming unemployment benefits than working on the island. "It's pretty hard when your cuzzies (cousins) call you and say 'we're getting more on the dole in Auckland than you're getting paid'," he said.
Italy is a developed democracy with a modern economy.
The Holy See is a sovereign entity that serves as the ecclesiastical, gove
San Marino is a developed, constitutional democratic republic, also independent of Italy, with a modern economy.
Tourist facilities are widely available. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Italy, the Holy See, and San Marino for additional information. ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
Italy is a party to the Schengen agreement.
As such, U.S. citizens may enter Italy for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa.
The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.
For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our fact sheet.
For all other purposes, a visa is required and must be obtained from the Italian Embassy or Consulates before entering Italy.
For further information concerning visas and entry requirements for Italy, travelers may contact the Embassy of Italy at 3000 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, via telephone at (202) 612-4400 or online at http://www.ambwashingtondc.esteri.it/ambasciata_washington, or Italian Consulates General in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, or San Francisco, accessible through the Italian Embassy web site. Americans staying or traveling within Italy for less than three (3) months are considered non-residents. This includes persons on vacation, those taking professional trips, students registered at an authorized school, or persons performing research or independent study. As of May 2007, under Italian law (http://www.camera.it/parlam/leggi/07068l.htm), all non-residents are required to complete a dichiarazione di presenza (declaration of presence). Tourists arriving from a non-Schengen-country (e.g. the United States) should obtain a stamp in their passport at the airport on the day of arrival. This stamp is considered the equivalent of the declaration of presence. Tourists arriving from a Schengen-country (e.g. France) must request the declaration of presence form from a local police office (commissariato di zona), police headquarters (questura) or their place of stay (e.g hotel, hostel, campgrounds) and submit the form to the police or to their place of stay within eight business days of arrival. It is important that applicants keep a copy of the receipt issued by the Italian authorities. Failure to complete a declaration of presence is punishable by expulsion from Italy. Additional information may be obtained (in Italian only) from the Portale Immigrazione at http://www.portaleimmigrazione.it and the Polizia di Stato at http://www.poliziadistato.it/pds/ps/immigrazione/soggiorno.htm. Americans staying in Italy for more than three (3) months are considered residents and must obtain a permesso di soggiorno (permit of stay). This includes Americans who will work or transact business and persons who want to simply live in Italy.
An application “kit” for the permesso di soggiorno may be requested from one of 14,000 national post offices (Poste Italiane). The kit must then be returned to one of 5,332 designated Post Office acceptance locations.
It is important that applicants keep a copy of the receipt issued by the post office.
Additional information may be obtained from an Italian immigration website online at http://www.portaleimmigrazione.it/.
Within 20 days of receiving the permit to stay in Italy, Americans must go to the local Vital Statistics Bureau (Anagrafe of the Comune) to apply for residency. It generally takes one to two months to receive the certificate of residence (Certificato di Residenza). 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:
There have been occasional episodes of politically motivated violence in Italy, most often connected to Italian internal developments or social issues.
Italian authorities have found bombs outside public buildings, received bomb threats, and were subjects of letter bombs.
Firebombs or Molotov cocktails have been thrown at buildings or offices in the middle of the night.
These incidents have all been attributed to organized crime or anarchist movements.
Americans were not targeted or injured in these instances.
Demonstrations may have an anti-American character.
Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful have the potential to turn into confrontational situations and possibly escalate into violence.
U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Italy should take common sense precautions and follow news reports carefully in order to avoid demonstrations and to be aware of heightened security and potential delays when they occur.
American citizens are encouraged to read the Warden Messages posted on the Embassy’s web site at http://italy.usembassy.gov/acs/demonstration/default.asp. Italy remains largely free of terrorist incidents.
However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Italy’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s, 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., 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 A Safe Trip Abroad. CRIME:
Italy has a moderate rate of violent crime, some of which is directed towards tourists, principally for motives of theft.
Some travelers are victims of rape and beatings.
There are incidents of drinks laced with drugs being used by criminals to rob, and in some cases, assault tourists.
Many of these incidents occur in the vicinity of Rome’s Termini train station and at major tourist centers such as Campo de Fiori and Piazza Navona, as well as in Florence and Naples.
Criminals using this tactic “befriend” a traveler at a train station, bus stop, restaurant, café or bar in tourist areas, then eventually offer a drink laced with a sleeping drug.
When the tourist falls asleep, criminals steal the traveler’s valuables.
There are also instances where the victim is assaulted, either physically or sexually. Americans are urged to exercise caution at train stations and airports, and when frequenting nightclubs, bars and outdoor cafes, particularly at night, because criminals may make initial contact with potential victims in such settings.
Individuals under the effect of alcohol may become victims of crime, including robbery, physical and sexual assault, due to their impaired ability to judge situations and make decisions.
This is particularly a problem for younger Americans visiting Italy, where the age limit on the sale of alcoholic beverages is lower than in the United States.
If you are a victim of such a crime, please file a police report and contact the U.S. Embassy or nearest consulate.
There are also in-country organizations, which provide counseling, medical, and legal assistance to certain crime victims. Petty crimes such as pick-pocketing, theft from parked cars, and purse snatching are serious problems, especially in large cities.
Pick-pockets sometimes dress like businessmen.
Tourists should not be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that well-dressed individuals are not potential pick-pockets or thieves.
Most reported thefts occur at crowded tourist sites, on public buses or trains, or at the major railway stations: Rome’s Termini; Milan’s Centrale; Florence’s Santa Maria Novella; and Naples’ Centrale and Piazza Garibaldi.
Travelers should also be alert to theft in Milan’s Malpensa Airport, particularly at car rental agencies.
Clients of Internet cafes in major cities are also targeted.
Tourists who have tried to resist petty thieves on motor scooters have suffered broken arms and collarbones. Thieves in Italy often work in groups or pairs.
Pairs of accomplices or groups of street urchins are known to divert tourists’ attention so that another can pick-pocket them.
In one particular routine, one thief throws trash, waste or ketchup at the victim; a second thief assists the victim in cleaning up the mess; and the third discreetly takes the victim’s belongings.
Criminals on crowded public transportation slit the bottoms of purses or bags with a razor blade or sharp knife removing the contents.
Theft of small items such as radios, luggage, cameras, briefcases, and even cigarettes from parked cars is a major problem. Carjackings and thefts are reported by occupants of vehicles waiting in traffic or stopped at traffic lights.
Vehicles parked near beaches during the summer are broken into and robbed of valuables.
Robbers take items from cars at gas stations often by smashing car windows. In a scam practiced on the highways, one thief signals a flat tire to the driver of another car and encourages the driver to pull over.
Often, the tire has been punctured by an accomplice, while in other instances, there may, in fact, be nothing wrong with the vehicle.
When the driver stops, one thief helps change the tire, while the other takes the driver’s belongings.
Use particular caution driving at night on highways, when there may be a greater incidence of robbery attempts.
There are occasional reports of break-ins of rental cars driven by Americans when the precautions mentioned above were not followed during stops at highway service areas. On trains, a commonly reported crime involves one or more persons who pretend to befriend a traveler and offer drugged food or drink.
Also, thieves are known to impersonate police officers to gain the confidence of tourists.
The thief shows the prospective victim a circular plastic sign with the words “police” or “international police.”
If this happens, the tourist should insist on seeing the officer’s identification card (documento), as impersonators tend not to carry forged documents.
Tourists should immediately report thefts or other crimes to the local police. The U.S. Secret Service in Rome is assisting Italian Law Enforcement authorities in investigating an increase in the appearance of ATM skimming devices.
These devices are attached to legitimate bank ATMs, usually located in tourist areas, and capture the account information stored electronically on the card’s magnetic strip.
The devices consist of a card reader installed over the legitimate reader and a pin-hole video camera mounted above the keypad that records the customer’s PIN.
ATMs with skimming devices installed may also allow normal transactions to occur.
The victim’s information is sold, traded on-line, or encoded on another card such as a hotel key card to access the compromised account.
Here are some helpful hints to protect yourself and to identify skimming devices: 1) Use ATMs located in well-lit public areas, or secured inside the bank/business 2) Cover the keypad with one hand as you enter your PIN 3) Look for gaps, tampered appearance, or other irregularities between the metal faceplate of the ATM and the card reader 4) Avoid card readers that are not flush with the face of the ATM 5) Closely monitor your account statements for unauthorized transactions Organized criminal groups operate throughout Italy, but are more prevalent in the south.
They occasionally resort to violence to intimidate or to settle disputes.
Though the activities of such groups are not generally targeted at tourists, visitors should be aware that innocent by-standers could be injured. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.
In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm. According to Italian Law (Law 80 of May 14, 2005), anyone caught buying counterfeit goods (for example, DVD’s, CD’s, watches, purses, bags, belts, sunglasses, etc.) is subject to a fine of no less than EUR 1,000.
Police in major Italian cities enforce this law to varying degrees.
Travelers are advised to purchase products only from stores and other licensed retailers to avoid unknowingly buying counterfeit and illegal merchandise. INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.
The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Lost or stolen credit cards present risk of identity theft and should be cancelled immediately.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Italy is: 113. Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States. 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 of 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 Italian law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Italy are severe and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in illicit 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. SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Strikes and other work stoppages occur frequently in the transportation sector (national airlines, airports, trains, and bus lines).
Most are announced in advance and are of short duration.
Information on strikes may be found at http://www.infrastrutture.gov.it/page/NuovoSito/site.php.
Reconfirmation of domestic and international flight reservations is highly recommended. U. S citizens using public transportation while in Italy are reminded they must adhere to local transportation laws and regulations. Travelers must purchase train tickets and validate them by punching them in validating machines usually located near the entrance of train tracks prior to boarding.
Failure to follow this procedure may result in an on-the-spot fine by an inspector on the train. Travelers must purchase bus tickets prior to boarding and validate them immediately after boarding. Tickets may be purchased at tobacco stores or kiosks. Failure to follow this procedure may result in an immediate fine imposed by an inspector on the bus. If the violator does not pay the fine on the spot, it will automatically double and will be forwarded to the violator’s home address. MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities are available, but may be limited outside urban areas.
Public hospitals, though generally free of charge for emergency services, sometimes do not maintain the same standards as hospitals in the United States, so travelers are encouraged to obtain insurance that would cover a stay in a private Italian hospital or clinic.
It is almost impossible to obtain an itemized hospital bill from public hospitals, as required by many U.S. insurance companies, because the Italian National Health Service charges one inclusive rate (care services, bed and board). In parts of southern Italy, the lack of adequate trash disposal and incineration sites has led to periodic accumulations of garbage in urban and rural areas.
In some cases, residents have burned garbage, resulting in toxic emissions that can aggravate respiratory problems. The U.S. Navy initiated a public health evaluation in the Naples area in 2008.
Updates on that evaluation can be found at http://www.nsa.naples.navy.mil/risk.
After finding levels of bacterial and chemical contamination of potential health concern, particularly in samples of area well water, the Navy recommended all personnel living off-base in the Naples area use only bottled water for drinking, cooking, ice-making, and brushing teeth.
For more information on safe food and water precautions, see the CDC’s web site below.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Italy. 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 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 Italy is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Streets in historic city centers are often narrow, winding and congested.
Motor scooters are very popular and drivers often see themselves as exempt from conventions that apply to automobiles. Travelers who rent scooters should be particularly cautious.
Pedestrians and drivers should be constantly alert to the possibility of scooters’ sudden presence.
Most vehicle-related deaths and injuries involve pedestrians or cyclists who are involved in collisions with scooters or other vehicles.
U.S. citizens should remain vigilant and alert while walking or cycling near traffic.
Pedestrians should be careful, as sidewalks can be extremely congested and uneven.
Drivers of bicycles, motorcycles, and other vehicles routinely ignore traffic signals and traffic flows and park and drive on sidewalks.
For safety, pedestrians should look carefully in both directions before crossing streets, even when using a marked crosswalk with a green avanti (“walk”) light illuminated.
Traffic lights are limited, often disobeyed, and a different convention of right-of-way is observed.
Italy has over 5,600 kilometers (3,480 mi.) of Autostrada, or superhighways.
Commercial and individual vehicles travel and pass on these well-maintained roads at very high speeds.
Accidents occur in which contributing factors include excessive speed, alcohol/drug use, and/or sleepiness of long-distance drivers.
Italy has one of the highest rates of car accident deaths in the European Union. In rural areas, a wide range of speed on highways makes for hazardous driving.
Roads are generally narrow and often have no guardrails.
Travelers in northern Italy, especially in winter, should be aware of fog and poor visibility, responsible for multiple-car accidents each year.
Most Italian automobiles are equipped with special fog lights.
Roadside assistance in Italy is excellent on the well-maintained toll roads, but limited on secondary roads.
Use of safety belts and child restraining devices is mandatory and headlights should be on at all times outside of urban areas. U.S. citizens driving in Italy are reminded that they must adhere to the local driving laws and regulations.
Vehicle traffic in some historic downtown areas of cities and towns throughout Italy is limited by a system of permits (called “ZTL” and functioning the same way as an EasyPass system in the United States might on the freeway).
Cameras record the license plates of cars driving in parts of the city that require a permit.
Although most of the automated verification stations are clearly marked, if a driver passes one it is impossible to know at the time that a violation occurred or has been recorded.
Violators are not pulled over or stopped, and there is no personal contact with a police officer.
Whenever possible, the fines imposed for these violations are forwarded to the driver’s home in the United States to request payment.
The fines are cumulative for each time a driver passes a control point.
A similar system of automated traffic control cameras is in place in many parts of the highway system and is used to ticket speeding violations. U.S. citizens driving in Italy should also note that, according to Italian regulation, if a resident of a non-European Union country (e.g. the United States) violates a traffic law, the violator must pay the fine at the time the violation occurs to the police officer issuing the ticket.
If the citizen does not or cannot pay the fine at the time, Italian regulation allows the police officer to confiscate the offender’s vehicle (even if the vehicle is a rental vehicle). For specific information concerning Italian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Italian Government Tourist Board (ENIT) offices via the Internet at: http://www.enit.it, tel: 212-245-4822 or the A.C.I. (Automobile Club Italiano) at Via Magenta 5, 00185 Rome, tel: 39-06-4477.
For information on obtaining international drivers licenses, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the web site of the country’s national tourist office at http://www.italiantourism.com and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.infrastrutturetrasporti.it. AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the Government of Italy’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Italy’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa. DISASTER PREPAREDNESS:
Several major earthquake fault lines cross Italy.
Principal Italian cities, with the exception of Naples, do not lie near these faults, but smaller tourist towns, like Assisi, do and experience earthquakes.
General information about disaster preparedness is available online from the U.S. Federal Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.
Detailed information on Italy’s earthquake fault lines is available from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at http://www.usgs.gov Italy also has several active volcanoes generating geothermal events.
Mt. Etna, on the eastern tip of the island of Sicily, has been erupting intermittently since 2000.
Mt. Vesuvius, located near Naples, is currently capped and not active.
Activity at Mt. Vesuvius is monitored by an active seismic network and sensor system, and no recent seismic activity has been recorded.
Two of Italy’s smaller islands, Stromboli and Vulcano in the Aeolian Island chain north of Sicily, also have active volcanoes with lava flows.
Detailed information on volcano activity in Italy is available from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at http://www.usgs.gov. CHILDREN’S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS:
Americans living or traveling in Italy are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, so they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Italy.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Via V. Veneto 119/A, tel.: 39-06-46741 and fax: 39-06-4674-2217; web site: http://italy.usembassy.gov/english/. The U.S. Consulates are located in: Florence:
Lungarno Amerigo Vespucci 38, tel: 39-055-266-951, consular fax: 399-055-215-550; Milan:
Via Principe Amedeo 2/10, tel: 39-02-290-351, and fax:
Piazza della Repubblica, tel:
39-081-583-8111, and consular fax:
39-081-583-8275. There are U.S. Consular Agents located in: Genoa:
Via Dante 2, tel:
39-010-584-492, and fax: 39-010-553-3033; Palermo:
Via Vaccarini 1, tel:
39-091-305-857, and fax:
Viale Galileo Galilei, 30, tel: 39-041-541-5944, and fax: 39-041-541-6654. * * * This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 10, 2008, to update the sections onSafety and Security and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Rome, May 20, 2020 (AFP) - All Italian airports will be able to reopen from June 3 after many were closed to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, the country's transport minister said Wednesday. The Italian government had said on Saturday that it would reopen its borders to European Union tourists on that date and cancel the compulsory quarantine for foreign visitors to the peninsula. "It will be possible to proceed with the reopening of all airports from June 3, when inter-regional and international transfers will again be allowed," Paola De Micheli told lawmakers.
Italy, the first European country to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, closed many airports, including Linate airport in Milan, on March 12. Other airports could still operate but in a limited way, such as Rome's Fiumicino, Milan's Malpensa and the airports in Bologna, Palermo and Turin. Ciampino airport in Rome and Peretola in Florence, which were closed on March 13, have been allowed to reopen since May 4.
The troubled Italian airline Alitalia, which is set to be nationalised, said on Wednesday that it would increase its flights by 36 percent in June compared with May. Alitalia said that from June 2 it would gradually resume its services between Rome and New York and between Milan and southern Italy, as well as certain flights to Spain.
Rome, May 16, 2020 (AFP) - Italy will reopen to European tourists from early June and scrap a 14-day mandatory quarantine period, the government said on Saturday, as it quickened the exit from the coronavirus lockdown. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also said on Saturday that gyms and cinemas would soon be able to welcome the public again, as the government seeks to restart economic activity while treading cautiously amid the lingering, though waning, coronavirus. "We're facing a calculated risk in the knowledge that the contagion curve may rise again," Conte said during a televised address. "We have to accept it otherwise we will never be able to start up again."
Conte enforced an economically crippling shutdown in early March to counter a pandemic that has so far killed nearly 32,000 people in Italy. The shutdown halted all holidaymaking in a country heavily dependent on the tourism industry. Although Italy never formally closed its borders and has allowed people to cross back and forth for work or health reasons, it banned movement for tourism and imposed a two-week isolation period for new arrivals.
In March, the European Union banned foreign nationals from entering its Schengen zone, an open border zone comprising 22 of 27 member states, with exceptions for medical workers and essential travel. But on Wednesday, the EU set out plans for a phased restart of summer travel, urging member states to reopen its internal borders, while recommending that external borders remain shut for most travel until at least the middle of June.
Beginning on June 3, visitors within the Schengen zone will be allowed to enter Italy with no obligation to self-isolate. Italians will also be able to move between regions, though local authorities can limit travel if infections spike. Movements to and from abroad can be limited by regional decree "in relation to specific states and territories, in accordance with the principles of adequacy and proportionality to the epidemiological risk", the government said in a statement. The latest decree is also a boon to Italy's agricultural sector, which relies on roughly 350,000 seasonal workers from abroad. Farming lobby group Coldiretti said farms were already preparing to organise some 150,000 workers from places including Romania, Poland and Bulgaria.
- Cannot await vaccine -
The peak of Italy's contagion passed at the end of March but with experts warning a second wave cannot be ruled out, Conte had been reluctant to lift the lockdown quickly. In his address, Conte said the country should ideally await a vaccine before opening up for business again, "but we can't afford it, we would end up with a strongly damaged economic and social structure". His approach in recent weeks frustrated many of Italy's regions, with some already allowing businesses to reopen before the restrictions were lifted. Restaurants, bars and hairdressers are being allowed to reopen on Monday, two weeks earlier than initially planned.
Shops will also open and Italians will finally be able to see friends, as long as they live within their same region. Church services will begin again but the faithful will have to follow social distancing rules and holy water fonts will be empty. Mosques will also reopen. Gyms, pools and sports centres will be able to open up again on May 25, Conte said on Saturday, provided they respect security protocols. Theatres and cinemas will be allowed to reopen on June 15, he said. Gatherings of large groups remain banned.
By Ella IDE and Dmitry ZAKS
Rome, May 4, 2020 (AFP) - Stir-crazy Italians were free to stroll and visit relatives for the first time in nine weeks on Monday as Europe's hardest-hit country eased back the world's longest remaining coronavirus lockdown. More than four million people -- an estimated 72 percent of them men -- returned to their construction sites and factories as the economically and emotionally shattered country tried to get back to work.
The sounds of banging and drilling echoed across Rome and a group of men drank espresso out of plastic cups in front of the Pantheon, the former Roman temple, as cafes reopened for takeout service. "We can hear more noise now," Rome grocery story owner Daniela observed. "It's better than this frightening silence." But bars and even ice cream parlours will remain shut. The use of public transport will be discouraged and everyone will have to wear masks in indoor public spaces.
- 'Moment of responsibility' -
Italy became the first Western democracy to shut down virtually everything in the face of an illness that has now officially killed 28,884 -- the most in Europe -- and some fear thousands more. The lives of Italians began closing in around them as it became increasingly apparent that the first batch of infections in provinces around Milan were spiralling out of control. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte began by putting a quarter of the population in the northern industrial heartland on lockdown on March 8.
The sudden measure frightened many -- fearful of being locked in together with the gathering threat -- into fleeing to less affected regions further south. The danger of the virus spreading with them and incapacitating the south's less developed health care system forced Conte to announce a nationwide lockdown on March 9. "Today is our moment of responsibility," Conte told the nation. The official death toll was then 724. More waves of restrictions followed as hundreds began dying each day. Almost everything except for pharmacies and grocery stores was shuttered across the Mediterranean country of 60 million on March 12. Conte's final roll of the dice involved closing all non-essential factories on March 22. Italy's highest single toll -- 969 -- was reported five days later.
- 'Worried about reopening' -
The economic toll of all those shutdowns has been historic. Italy's economy -- the eurozone's third-largest last year -- is expected to shrink more than in any year since the global depression of the 1930s. Half of the workforce is receiving state support and the same number told a top pollster that they were afraid of becoming unemployed. And some of those who are out of a job already say they do not entirely trust in Conte's ability to safely navigate the nation out of peril. "I am worried about the reopening. The authorities seem very undecided about how to proceed," 37-year-old Davide Napoleoni told AFP.
Conte's popularity has jumped along with that of most other world leaders grappling with the pandemic thanks to a 'rally around the flag' effect. But a Demos poll conducted at the end of April found some of Conte's lustre fading. Confidence in his government has slipped by eight percentage points to a still-strong 63 percent since March.
- Psychological toll -
Italy's staggered reopening is complicated by a highly decentralised system that allows the country's 20 regions to layer on their own rules. Venice's Veneto and the southern Calabria regions have thus been serving food and drink at bars and restaurants with outdoor seating since last week. The area around Genoa is thinking of allowing small groups of people to go sailing and reopening its beaches.
Neighbouring Emilia-Romagna is keeping them closed -- even to those who live by the sea. All this uncertainty appears to be weighing on the nation's psyche. A poll by the Piepoli Institute showed 62 percent of Italians think they will need psychological support with coming to grips with the post-lockdown world. "The night of the virus continues," sociologist Ilvo Diamanti wrote in La Repubblica daily. "And you can hardly see the light on the horizon. If anything, we're getting used to moving in the dark."
Rome, April 30, 2020 (AFP) - Italy said on Thursday it would reopen two of its shuttered airports next week, Ciampino in Rome and Peretola in Florence. The two airports will reopen on May 4 for passenger flights, the transport ministry said in a brief statement. Ciampino is Rome's secondary airport and is mostly used by low-cost carriers, while Peretola is Tuscany's second-largest airport after Pisa. The two airports have been shut to passenger flights since March 13.
Italy's current coronavirus lockdown expires on May 4, when many restrictions remain but more people are expected to head back to work and travel within regions will be allowed under some circumstances. Over a series of weeks, more businesses will be allowed to reopen. The nationwide quarantine began on March 9. The opening of the airports next week will allow for testing of a screening system for coronavirus, the ministry said, without elaborating. Italy's trains will also add new long-distance connections "in order to ensure minimum essential services," it said.
Rome, April 27, 2020 (AFP) - One of Italy's top public health officials warned Monday that wearing face masks should not give people a false sense of security against the new coronavirus. Italy and other countries are debating whether people should wear masks outdoors at all times -- even while not in a confined space. The Mediterranean country is making the use of face masks mandatory on transport and in stores as it gradually rolls back lockdown measures starting next Monday.
ISS public health institute director Silvio Brusaferro said face masks should be worn on the street in cases when it is hard to maintain a safe distance from others. But masks "must not give a false sense of security," Brusaferro told reporters. "It is an additional element, but personal hygiene and distancing are more important." Italy's official death toll from the virus rose Monday by 333 to 26,977 -- the highest in Europe and second behind the United States. But both the number of deaths and new daily infections were the lowest in over a month.
August 13, 2008
Colombia is a medium-income nation of some 44 million inhabitants.
Its geography is very diverse, ranging from tropical coastal areas and rainforests t
Tourist facilities in Colombia vary in quality and safety, according to price and location.
Security is a significant concern for travelers, as described in the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Colombia.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Colombia for additional information.
All U.S. citizens who are not also Colombian citizens must present a valid U.S. passport to enter and depart Colombia, and to return to the United States.
Dual U.S-Colombian citizens must present a Colombian passport to enter and exit Colombia, and a U.S. passport to return to the United States.
Be aware that any person born in Colombia may be considered a Colombian citizen, even if never documented as such.
U.S. citizens born in Colombia or who otherwise have Colombian citizenship, will need both a Colombian passport and a U.S. passport for the trip.
U.S. citizens traveling to Colombia do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist stay of 60 days or less.
Travelers entering Colombia are sometimes asked to present evidence of return or onward travel, usually in the form of a round-trip plane ticket.
Americans traveling overland must enter Colombia at an official border crossing.
Travelers arriving by bus should ensure, prior to boarding, that their bus will cross the border at an official entry point.
Entering Colombia at unauthorized crossings may result in fines or incarceration.
Travelers planning to enter Colombia over a land border should carefully read our information on Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below.
The length of stay granted to travelers is determined by the Colombian immigration officer at the point of entry and will be stamped in your passport.
Extensions may be requested by visiting an office of the Colombian immigration authority, known as the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, or DAS, after arrival in Colombia.
Fines are levied if a traveler remains in Colombia longer than authorized, and the traveler cannot leave Colombia until the fine is paid.
Any traveler possessing a Colombian visa with more than three months’ validity must register the visa at a DAS immigration office within 15 days of arrival in Colombia or face fines.
The DAS immigration office in Bogota is located at Calle 100 and Carrera 11B.
No arrival tax is collected upon entry into Colombia, but travelers leaving by plane must pay an exit tax at the airport, in cash.
The tax varies with the dollar/peso exchange rate, but is usually between $50 and $70.
Some airlines include all or a portion of this tax in the cost of your airline ticket; check with your airline to find out how much you will have to pay at the airport.
U.S. citizens whose U.S. passports are lost or stolen in Colombia must obtain a new U.S. passport before departing.
They must then present the new passport, along with a police report describing the loss or theft, to a DAS office.
Information about obtaining a replacement U.S. passport in Colombia is available on the U.S. Embassy’s website at http://bogota.usembassy.gov.
Contact information for DAS is available in Spanish at http://www.das.gov.co.
The Embassy in Bogotá or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla can provide guidance on contacting DAS when you apply for your replacement passport.
For further, specific guidance on Colombian entry requirements, including information about Colombian visas, travelers should contact the Colombian Embassy at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 387-8338; website: http://www.colombiaemb.org; or the nearest Colombian consulate.
Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Also see the Department of State’s general information on Entry and Exit Requirements.
Visit the Embassy of Colombia website at http://www.colombiaemb.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.
ADDITIONAL EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS:
To prevent international child abduction, Colombia has implemented special exit procedures for Colombian children under 18 who are departing the country without both their mother and their father or a legal guardian.
These procedures apply even if the child is also a U.S. citizen.
Complying with the procedures can be complex and time-consuming, especially if an absent parent is outside Colombia at the time.
Advance planning is essential.
The procedures are as follows: Upon exiting the country, the person traveling with the child (or the child him/herself) must present a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, along with written, signed authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian.
The authorization must explicitly grant permission for the child to travel alone, with one parent, or with a third party, by name.
When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of a death certificate is required instead of written authorization.
When one parent has sole custody of the child, that parent may present a custody decree instead of the other parent’s written authorization.
If the documents to be presented originated in the United States, they must first be translated into Spanish and then signed in front of a Colombian consul at a Colombian consulate.
Then, upon arrival in Colombia, the documents must be presented to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for certification of the consul’s signature.
Alternatively, the documents can be translated into Spanish, then notarized by a notary public in the United States, and authenticated by requesting an apostille from the competent authority in the state where the documents were prepared.
The document, translation, and apostille can then be presented to immigration officers at the airport when the child travels.
If the documents originated in Colombia and are written in Spanish, only notarization by a Colombian notary is required.
For documents originating in countries other than the United States or Colombia, please inquire with the Colombian embassy serving that country.
In cases where the absent parent refuses or is unable to provide consent, the other parent can request assistance from the Colombian child protective service, Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF).
In appropriate cases, ICBF will investigate and may issue a document that will allow the child to travel without both parents’ consent.
This process may take a significant amount of time and is not within the control of the U.S. government.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Violence has decreased markedly in many urban destinations, including the cities of Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena.
Cali has made less progress combating crime than most other large cities.
The level of violence in Buenaventura remains high.
Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can be extremely dangerous due to the presence of narco-terrorists.
Common crime remains a significant problem in many urban and rural areas, as described in the section on crime below.
The incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak at the beginning of this decade.
Nevertheless, terrorist groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and other criminal organizations, continue to kidnap and hold civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips.
No one is immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors.
On July 2, 2008, the GOC effected a successful military rescue of three Americans, Ingrid Betancourt, and eleven members of the Colombia security forces. President Uribe called on the FARC to release the remaining hostages and seek peace. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped Americans, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to kidnappers.
Consequently, the U.S. government’s ability to assist kidnap victims is limited.
Official and personal travel by U.S. Embassy employees outside most urban areas is subject to strict limitations and reviewed by security officers on a case-by-case basis.
U.S. Embassy employees are allowed to travel by air, but inter- and intra-city bus transportation is off limits to them.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or for overseas callers, 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.
Although the threat of terrorism has decreased in most of Colombia’s cities, they nevertheless experience much of the same crime that is seen in comparably sized cities throughout the region.
Robbery and other violent crimes, as well as scams against unsuspecting tourists, are common in urban areas.
Generally speaking, if you are the victim of a robbery, you should not resist.
Some of the most common methods used by criminals in Colombia are noted below:
Robberies of ATM customers:
Tourists and others have been robbed after using automatic teller machines (ATMs) on the street.
In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and later flee the scene.
Americans are urged to use ATMs only inside shopping malls or other protected locations.
Driving to and from the location – rather than walking – provides added protection.
When using an ATM, you should be on the lookout for anyone watching or following you.
Robberies of taxi passengers:
Robbery of taxi passengers is a serious problem in Bogota.
Typically, the driver – who is one of the conspirators – will pick up the passenger and then stop to pick up two or more armed cohorts, who enter the cab, overpower the passenger, and take his/her belongings.
If the passenger has an ATM card, the perpetrators may force the passenger to withdraw money from various ATM locations.
Such ordeals can last for hours.
In almost every case of taxi-related crime, the victims have been riding alone and have hailed taxis off the street.
Rather than hailing a taxi, you should use the telephone dispatch service that most taxi companies offer.
Many hotels, restaurants, and stores will call a taxi for you, and the taxi usually arrives within minutes.
When a taxi is dispatched by telephone, the dispatcher creates a record of the call and the responding taxi.
Robberies while departing airports:
U.S. citizens arriving at major Colombian airports have occasionally been victimized by armed robbery while en route from the airport to their hotel or home.
The perpetrators typically scout out victims at the airport and then follow their vehicles before robbing the occupants at a stoplight.
Travelers should remain vigilant at airports and report to local airport police if they suspect they are being observed.
Robberies on Hiking Trails:
Several U.S. citizens were robbed in 2007 while hiking on nature trails in and around Bogota.
Because hiking trips generally take place in isolated settings, participants are especially vulnerable.
Hikers in Colombia are more protected if they travel in large groups.
Use of disabling drugs:
The Embassy continues to receive reports of criminals in Colombia using disabling drugs to temporarily incapacitate tourists and others.
At bars, restaurants, and other public areas, perpetrators may offer tainted drinks, cigarettes, or gum.
Typically, victims become disoriented or unconscious, and are thus vulnerable to robbery, sexual assault, and other crimes.
Avoid leaving food or drinks unattended at a bar or restaurant, and be suspicious if a stranger offers you something to eat or drink.
Counterfeit money scam:
U.S. citizens in Colombia routinely fall victim to a scam in which purported undercover police officers approach them on the street and request to examine their money, supposedly to determine if it is counterfeit.
The “officers,” who are in fact criminals, then flee with the money.
In a variation of this scam, the thieves may ask to see jewelry.
Legitimate Colombian police officers do not make such requests.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Colombia is 112 for police and 119 for fire.
There will not be an English speaker answering the phone[g1] .
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies greatly in quality elsewhere.
Emergency rooms in Colombia, even at top-quality facilities, are frequently overcrowded and ambulance service can be slow. Many private health care providers in Colombia require that patients pay for care before treatment, even in an emergency.
Some providers in major cities may accept credit cards, but those that do not may request advance payment in cash.
Uninsured travelers without financial resources may be unable to obtain care, or relegated to seeking treatment in public hospitals where care is far below U.S. standards.
The Embassy regularly receives reports of U.S. citizens in Colombia who have died or suffered complications from liposuction and other elective surgeries intended to treat obesity.
Before undergoing such a procedure in Colombia, the Department of State recommends that you consult with your personal physician, research the credentials of the provider in Colombia, and carefully consider your ability to access emergency medical care if complications arise.
It is important to confirm that your medical insurance provides coverage in Colombia, to include treatment of complications from elective procedures or medical evacuation if necessary.
Should you suffer complications as a result of medical malpractice, collecting damages from your surgeon may be difficult.
Colombia has seen a recent increase in the use of unregulated drugs that purport to enhance sexual performance.
Several American tourists recently died after using these substances, which come in liquid, powder, or tablet form.
You are urged to seek guidance from a physician before ingesting any such substances in Colombia.
Travelers to the capital city of Bogota may need time to adjust to the altitude of 8,600 feet, which can affect blood pressure, digestion, and energy level, and cause
mild dyspnea with exercise, headaches, sleeplessness, , and other discomfort.
Travelers should drink liberal fluids to maintain hydration,, and should avoid strenuous exercise unti they have acclimated to the altitude.
Travelers with circulatory or respiratory problems should consult a physician before traveling to Bogota or other high-altitude locations.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water 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 website at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
Colombia has imposed HIV/AIDS travel restrictions on groups of travelers subject to restrictions or bans.
Entry is restricted to PLWHA (customs officials on the lookout). A waiver may be requested from the Colombian embassy (Source: NAM April 2006, USSD December 06).
Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Colombia at http://www.colombiaemb.org before you travel.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm that 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 Colombia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Due to the security environment in Colombia, U.S. government officials and their families are not permitted to travel by road between most major cities.
They also cannot use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night.
All Americans in Colombia are encouraged to follow these same precautions.
Traffic laws in Colombia, including speed limits, are often ignored and rarely enforced, creating dangerous conditions for drivers and pedestrians in major cities.
Under Colombian law, seat belts are mandatory for front-seat passengers in a private vehicle.
Car seats are not mandatory for children, but a child under ten is not permitted to ride in a front seat.
It is against the law to talk on a cellular phone while driving in Colombia, and violators may be fined.
While driving outside major cities, it is mandatory to drive with your lights on.
If an accident occurs, the involved parties must remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the authorities arrive; this rule is strictly enforced, and moving a vehicle or leaving the scene of an accident may constitute an admission of guilt under Colombian law.
Americans seeking to import their own vehicles into Colombia should consult with their nearest Colombian consulate for information on Colombian taxes and licensing rules, which can be complicated and bureaucratic.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards for oversight of Colombia’s air carrier operations.
For more information, please visit the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Colombia employs strict screening procedures for detecting narcotics smuggling at its international airports.
Americans and other travelers are occasionally questioned, searched, fingerprinted, and/or asked to submit to an abdominal x-ray upon arrival or departure.
Most airport inspectors do not speak English, and travelers who do not speak Spanish may have difficulty understanding what is asked of them.
Please refer to the section on Criminal Penalties for further information on the strict enforcement of Colombia’s drug laws. Please see our Customs Information.
Travelers generally must not enter or exit Colombia while carrying cash or other financial instruments worth more than 10,000 U.S. dollars.
Colombian authorities may confiscate any amount over $10,000, and may initiate a criminal investigation into the source of the money and the traveler’s reasons for carrying it.
Recovery of the confiscated amount requires a lengthy, expensive legal process and may not always be possible.
Americans wishing to send large sums of money to or from Colombia should contact their nearest Colombian consulate, or speak with Colombian customs officials, and should also consider seeking advice from an attorney or financial professional.
Colombian law prohibits tourists and business travelers from bringing firearms into Colombia.
Illegal importation or possession of firearms may result in incarceration.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Buying or selling them is illegal in Colombia, and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and fines.
Colombian law forbids the export of pre-Columbian objects and other artifacts protected by cultural patrimony statutes.
Under an agreement between the United States and Colombia, U.S. customs officials are obligated to seize pre-Columbian objects and certain colonial religious artwork when they are brought into the United States.
Please contact the Embassy of Colombia in Washington or one of Colombia's consulates in the United States for detailed customs guidance.
Please see our Customs Information.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Colombia’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
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.
If you are arrested, the U.S. government cannot request your release.
Colombia and the United States do not have a prisoner transfer agreement, and so any sentence for a crime committed in Colombia is ordinarily served in a Colombian prison.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Colombia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long prison sentences under harsh conditions, with significant expense and great hardship for themselves and their families.
Colombian police make multiple arrests daily for drug trafficking at major airports, and have sophisticated means for detecting illegal drugs in baggage or on your person.
Travelers are sometimes requested to undergo an x-ray to ensure that they are not smuggling narcotics within their own bodies.
There are more than 30 Americans incarcerated in Colombia for attempting to smuggle drugs out of the country.
The hardships resulting from imprisonment do not end even after release from prison:
Colombian law requires that serious offenders remain in the country to serve a lengthy period of parole, during which the offender is given no housing and may lack permission to work.
As a result, family members must often support the offender, sometimes for more than a year, until the parole period expires.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Colombia is an earthquake-prone country.
Flooding and mudslides also sometimes occur in parts of the country.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
If a serious natural disaster occurs in Colombia, the Embassy will publish important information for American citizens on its website at http://bogota.usembassy.gov.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans residing or traveling in Colombia 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 Colombia.
Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Calle 24 Bis No. 48-50 Bogotá, D.C. Colombia.
Carrera 45 No. 24B-27 Bogotá, D.C. Colombia.
In case of a serious emergency that jeopardizes the health or safety of an American citizen in Colombia, please call the Embassy at (571) 315-0811; Embassy fax: (571) 315-2197;
Consular Section phone: (571) 315-1566. The Embassy’s American Citizens Services office provides routine information at http://bogota.usembassy.gov.
For questions not answered there, inquiries may be sent by email to ACSBogota@state.gov.
Email messages are answered by the next business day.
The Embassy’s American Citizens Services office is open for passport applications, notary services, and routine in-person inquiries from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon Monday through Thursday, excluding U.S. and Colombian holidays.
Inquiries concerning Social Security and other federal benefits can be made in-person from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, except holidays.
The American Citizens Services fax number is (571) 3152196/7.
The U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which accepts passport applications and performs notarial services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (575) 353-2001; fax (011-57-5) 353-5216.
The Consular Agency is not staffed to respond to after-hours emergencies; in case of an emergency in the Barranquilla/north coast area, please contact the Embassy in Bogota at (571) 315-0811.
This replaces the Country Specific Information issued May 29, 2008, to update sections throughout.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Bogota, May 10, 2020 (AFP) - Avianca, the second-largest airline in Latin America, filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States on Sunday to reorganize its debt "due to the unpredictable impact" of the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement issued in Bogota, Avianca said that along with "some of its subsidiaries and affiliates," it had asked to "voluntarily file for Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code" in a New York court. The process allows financially struggling companies to reorganize and restructure their debt. The airline's operations "have been dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic," as well as federal air travel restrictions. The company "continues to have high fixed costs," the statement said.
Avianca temporarily suspended all passenger operations in late March, following Colombian President Ivan Duque's decision to close the country's airspace as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose. The decision, which grounded 142 aircraft, "has reduced consolidated income by more than 80 percent and has put significant pressure on liquidity," according to the statement. It added that 12,000 of the airline's more than 20,000 employees would take unpaid leave. The company asked the New York court for "authorization to fulfill work commitments" prior to the bankruptcy protection request and "maintain the compensation scheme applicable to its employees."
The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a crushing blow to the global aviation industry, which has been directly affected by confinement measures and travel restrictions. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Latin American airlines will lose $15 billion in revenue this year, the worst crisis in the industry's history. Avianca, which had already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US in 2003, recorded a net loss of $894 million in 2019, against a $1.1 million profit the year before. Avianca Holdings -- which carried 30.5 million passengers in 2019 -- is currently comprised of the Colombian airlines Avianca and Tampa Cargo, the Ecuadorian airline Aerogal and the companies of the Taca International Airline Group, which has offices in Central America and Peru.
Montevideo, March 26, 2020 (AFP) - Countries across Latin America have tightened measures to halt the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, with more lockdowns, border and school closures as well as increased aid to the region's poorest. As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise -- numbering more than 7,400 and 123 deaths as of Wednesday -- Bolivia and Colombia became the latest countries to impose a total lockdown, while Chile extended its school closures until the end of April. Here are the latest measures taken in several Latin American nations:
- Bolivia -
Bolivia is closing its borders and ordering a strict lockdown until April 15 starting at midnight Wednesday, President Jeanine Anez said as she declared a state of "sanitary emergency." The steps are designed to add teeth to a lockdown that was ordered on Sunday but has largely been ignored. More police and soldiers have been deployed to enforce the measures, Anez said. There would be narrow exceptions to who can cross the borders and the times at which people can be outside their homes, she added.
- Colombia -
A three-week total lockdown began just after midnight Tuesday and is set to last until April 12. "Stay at home, prevent the virus from spreading and save lives," said President Ivan Duque. Nearly 500 cases of the deadly virus have been reported in Colombia, which has a population of 48 million. The capital city Bogota had already been on lockdown since Sunday on the orders of the mayor.
- Chile -
About 1.3 million residents of Santiago -- including those of the Chilean capital's most affluent neighborhoods -- will be on lockdown for least a week starting at 0100 GMT Thursday, officials said. This follows an order by authorities to extend school closures until May. Classes were suspended on March 16, just under two weeks after the first coronavirus case was recorded. Chile has reported more than 1,100 infections and three deaths.
- Panama -
Panama will allow the cruise ship Zaandam -- operated by the Holland America cruise line -- to sail through its canal even though there are 42 people aboard with flu-like symptoms, Health Minister Rosario Turner said Wednesday. The vessel, with 1,800 passengers, set sail on March 7 from Buenos Aires headed for San Antonio on the central coast of Chile. But the ship had to alter its plans when ports along the way stopped it from docking due to coronavirus fears. Every ship that reaches Panama must present a list of sick people, "and if we suspect there are people with respiratory problems, they cannot land," Turner said. The Zaandam is set to cross the 80-kilometer inter-oceanic Panama Canal on Thursday and meet up on the Caribbean side with another cruise ship, the Rotterdam, which is to deliver supplies and kits to test for COVID-19. The aim is to reach Fort Lauderdale in Florida on March 30, its operator said. There have been 558 cases of the virus in Panama, including eight deaths.
- Honduras -
Soldiers have begun distributing food to locked-down residents in the poorest neighborhoods of the capital Tegucigalpa. President Juan Orlando Hernandez said 800,000 poor families -- 3.2 million people -- would receive food to ensure they stayed indoors. Honduras has recorded 36 COVID-19 cases so far.
- Brazil -
President Jair Bolsonaro has warned of possible "chaos" and "looting" of supermarkets if state shutdowns ordered by the governors of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are not ended. Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly scoffed at the severity of the deadly pandemic, previously criticized the closing of schools and businesses in Sao Paulo and Rio, two of the country's most populous states. "Companies aren't producing anything. They can't pay their employees. And if the economy collapses, there won't be any way to pay public officials. We are facing chaos," Bolsonaro said. If that happens and supermarkets are looted, he added, "we'll have chaos plus the virus."
Bogota, Dec 5, 2019 (AFP) - Thousands of protesters took part in anti-government demonstrations in Colombia's capital Bogota and other cities Wednesday during the country's third general strike in two weeks. Strike leaders say they intend to maintain pressure on right-wing President Ivan Duque's government, after brushing aside his appeals to cancel the strike on the grounds its effects were crippling the economy. But crowds were smaller than previous demonstrations as protests took place for a 14th consecutive day. Some roads were blocked in the capital and in the northeastern city of Cali, but many businesses remained open. Around 250,000 people took part in the first demonstration against Duque's 15-month-old government on November 21, when the initial general strike brought the country to a standstill.
Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez estimated that 40,000 people took part in demonstrations across the country on Wednesday, but organizers said the number of participants was much higher. "The Colombian people have woken up!" shouted Paola Jiminez, a 41-year-old lawyer taking part in a pot-banging "cacerolazo" demonstration in Bogota. "Colombians are finding it more and more difficult financially," she said. A student taking part in one of several peaceful protests in Bogota, who gave his name as Nicolas, held up a banner saying: "The state lies more than my ex."
Police were deployed in nearby streets, but there were no confrontations of the kind that have marred some protests over the last two weeks, during which four people died. Some 500 have been injured. On Tuesday, the Colombian National Strike Committee -- comprising unions, students and teacher organizations, indigenous groups and the opposition -- met directly with Duque's advisors for the first time, but reached no agreement. Another meeting was scheduled for Thursday.
Under fire for his economic policies and corruption in the country, Duque launched a national dialogue with mayors and other officials 10 days ago. The strike committee has presented Duque with a list of 13 demands, including the withdrawal of his proposed tax reforms, and full compliance with the 2016 peace deal with FARC guerrillas. Among them is a call to dismantle the feared ESMAD riot police, widely criticized for its heavy handed response to protesters. Duque has yielded to some of the demands on tax reform, announcing the return of Value Added Tax to the poorest 20 percent of the population and benefits for companies that hire young people.
By Hector Velasco
Bogota, Nov 27, 2019 (AFP) - Colombian unions marked their second general strike in a week on Wednesday as tens of thousands poured onto the streets in protest against the government of right-wing President Ivan Duque. Public transport was largely shut down and shops and offices closed in the centre of the capital as a series of protests that began with a 250,000-strong march last Thursday continued for a seventh consecutive day.
Some protesters banged pots and pans as they made their way through the streets. Large demonstrations were also held in Cali and Medellin. "We are outraged by so much mistreatment and so much corruption," said David Martinez, a 50-year-old public employee who joined a march in Bogota dressed as a clown. "I'm dressed as a clown because that's how the government sees us. People have risen up in Ecuador, Chile, in Bolivia, now it's our turn to say: No More!" Martinez told AFP.
The protests have been largely peaceful but sporadic violence has left four dead -- including a young man who died Monday after being wounded in clashes with riot police on Saturday. Some 500 people have been injured. Police said 184 people had been detained in the protests since last week. "They have turned Colombia into a democracy where they favor a minority of businessmen and bureaucrats, while the vast majority must try to hang on to their privileges," teachers union Fecode said in a statement. Duque, under fire over his economic policies and corruption, launched a "national dialogue" Sunday with mayors and other officials in a bid to assuage popular anger. However, protest leaders reacted angrily when they were initially omitted from direct talks.
- US support -
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced "steadfast support" for Duque's government in a phone call to the beleaguered president on Wednesday, the State Department said. Pompeo "welcomed the national conversation that President Duque has convened in Colombia in response to recent demonstrations," it said. A Gallup poll published on November 7 showed Duque's approval ratings at 26 percent in October, the lowest since he took office in August 2018, while 70 percent of respondents believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.
The National Strike Committee -- which groups unions, students, university lecturers and indigenous groups -- presented a list of 13 demands to the government, including the withdrawal of Duque's proposed tax reforms, and full compliance with the 2016 peace deal with FARC guerrillas. But perhaps the most controversial is the call to dismantle the feared ESMAD riot police, after the death Monday of 18-year-old protester Dilan Cruz, who was hit in the head by a tear gas canister.
Duque has yielded to some of the demands on tax reform, announcing the return of Value Added Tax to the poorest 20 percent of the population and benefits for companies that hire young people. "This government is open building towards the future, but it must be done with the whole of society," Duque said in an interview with Colombia's W Radio, insisting that many of the protesters claims were based on disinformation or "false premises."
Albania US Consular Information Sheet November 04, 2008
Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Eu
A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. U.S. citizens do not require a visa prior to entering Albania, but those traveling without a visa will be charged a fee for an entry stamp at the point of entry, which is valid for a stay of up to 90 days. This fee is currently 10 Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Travelers without a visa who intend to stay in Albania for more than 90 days should be aware that Albanian law allows a traveler without a visa to remain in Albania for 90 days only within a specific 180-day period. That 180-day period is defined from the first day of entry. For example, a traveler entering without a visa on January 1 may remain in Albania for 90 days total during the period of time between January 1 and June 28. Departing Albania during this time period does not "restart the clock." Travelers attempting to reenter Albania without a visa and within 180 days of a previous entry and after an aggregate stay of 90 days may be denied entry. For stays exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Visit the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/consular.html#visa for the most current visa information. Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian Embassy or Consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. 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
Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal activity continues to operate in all regions, and corruption is pervasive. US Government employees need permission to travel to the northern administrative districts of Shkoder, Malesi E Madhe and Tropoje (with the exception of the route along the national road to Montenegro and the city of Shkoder) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. Travel restrictions for U.S. Government employees have been lifted for overnight stays in the city of Shkoder. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Photographing anything that authorities regard as being of military or security interest may cause travelers problems. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
In the latest State Department assessment, Albania’s crime rating is “medium.” Crime against foreigners is rare in Albania, as targeting foreigners is often viewed as too risky. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, have occurred in the past, particularly in the early morning hours. Within the last years there have been fewer cases of carjacking compared with previous years. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime continues to be more common in northern and northwestern Albania than in the rest of the country. Street crime is fairly common in Albania, particularly at night. Criminals do not seem to deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but do seek targets of opportunity, and select those who appear to have anything of value. Vehicle theft is still one of the biggest problems in Albania. Pick-pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pick-pockets. INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 129, though coverage is inconsistent at best. See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION
Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications. Recent electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country, which can affect food storage capabilities of restaurants and shops. While some restaurants and food stores have generators to properly store food, travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Water in Albania is not potable. Visitors should plan to purchase bottled water or drinks while in country. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Albania. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
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 Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Major roads in Albania are often in very poor condition. Traveling by road throughout Albania is the most dangerous activity for locals and tourists. Vehicle accidents are the major cause of death, according to police statistics. Electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country that can happen any hour of the day or night. Such outages affect traffic signals and street lights, making driving increasingly treacherous at any time of day. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and icy conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at www.albaniantourism.com.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. See our information pertaining to dual nationality. Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in most cities. 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 Albania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION
Americans living or traveling in Albania are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Albania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rruga Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 2247285; fax (355)(4) 2232222. The U.S. Embassy web site is http://tirana.usembassy.gov/ * * * This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 10, 2008, to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, May 7, 2020 (AFP) - Ever since the coronavirus reared its head in Albania in early March, infectious disease specialist Nevila Gjermeni has been on the frontline. That means she hasn't seen her children for two months -- a painful separation she hopes will soon be coming to an end as officials prepare to ease restrictions. "Each of us has a family," the 38-year-old, pausing to fight back tears, said of colleagues who are urging the public to stay vigilant about health precautions.
Albania was quick to lock down and has so far avoided the devastation seen in places like Italy, which lies just across the Adriatic sea. Some 30 people have died and fewer than 1,000 are known to be infected. But as the country now slowly eases its sweeping restrictions, exhausted doctors fear a fresh inundation of infections in their hospital wards. "We won the first battle but we are still at war," said Loreta Bici, a cardiologist working at a Tirana hospital that treats the most serious patients. Like elsewhere in the world, the physical and emotional toll has been punishing for medical staff working around the clock.
In the Tirana hospitals converted into coronavirus centres -- now known as Covid 1 and Covid 2 -- doctors and nurses in hazmat suits and other cumbersome protective gear have spent their waking hours trying to care for patients who are lonely and afraid. "You're all covered up, (the patient) can't see your eyes, he tries to recognise your voice, who you are, who is helping him," Najada Como, an infectious disease expert in charge of Covid 1, told AFP as her voice shook with emotion.
- First words, birthdays -
Many hospital staff have also been robbed of their emotional support systems. Since March, Gjermeni and her husband Arber, a resuscitation doctor in another department, have only been able to see their 15-month-old daughter Hana and 10-year-old son Bjorn over video chats. Their toddler "is at the age where she's exploring faces" and it's impossible to tell her that she shouldn't touch, said Gjermeni.
The doctor also fears infecting her frail parents, who are looking after the children. Important milestones have already been missed, such as Hana's first steps and attempt at words. The parents were also unable to be with their son on his birthday, Gjermeni said through tears. Other medical staff have feared for their own lives.
Adelina Dragoti, the 48-year-old head nurse at Covid 2, came down with the virus herself. But she was back to work after four weeks. "It is a true joy when we manage to save a life, when the patient wakes up, looks at you and says: 'I owe you my life,'" she told AFP of the rare bright moments inside the wards. "I cannot forget these words."
Tirana, April 20, 2020 (AFP) - Albania will allow some businesses to reopen Monday to ease to the economic pain of a coronavirus clampdown that has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs in the Balkan state. Firms in the agriculture, fishing, mineral, oil and textile sectors are among those permitted to reboot activity once they have received a certificate from the health ministry, according to a list published on the government's website.
Hotels that meet all required hygiene conditions will also be allowed to open their doors, though venues like bars, restaurants and beauty salons remain shuttered. Under the new relaxed rules, businesses must also respect a nightly 5:30 pm (1530GMT) curfew and "strictly" enforce social distancing measures for employees, who must wear protective gear, the government said. Albania was quick to shut down public and economic life after its first cases of the virus emerged on March 9.
Since then nearly all businesses except for food shops and pharmacies have gone dark while residents are only allowed outsided with authorisation. According to government figures, the tight lockdown appears to have staved off a major outbreak, with almost 600 known infections and 26 deaths from the virus in the country of 2.8 million. But the economic costs have piled up, as some 50,000 Albanians -- around four percent of the official workforce -- have lost their jobs, according to Ministry Economy. A series of relief efforts are also costing the government some 540 millions euros.
By Briseida MEMA
Tirana, Nov 26, 2019 (AFP) - Six people died and some 150 were injured in Albania after the strongest earthquake in decades rocked the Balkan country early Tuesday, destroying buildings and burying victims in rubble.
The epicentre of the 6.4 magnitude quake was about 34 kilometres (about 20 miles) northwest of the capital Tirana, at a depth of 10 km, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre. "We have victims," Prime Minister Edi Rama wrote on Twitter. "We are working to do everything possible in the affected areas." The quake struck at 3:54 am local time (0254 GMT) and sent panicked residents running out onto the streets of Tirana, with people huddling in the open, an AFP correspondent said.
The worst damage appeared to be around the coastal town of Durres. The quake was the strongest to hit this region since 1926, Albanian seismologist Rrapo Ormeni told local television. Three bodies were pulled from the ruins of damaged buildings in the port town, where a three-story hotel collapsed and other buildings were damaged, according to the defence ministry. The bodies of a man and a woman were uncovered in rubble in the nearby town of Thumane, the ministry said.
A man in his fifties died after he jumped out of his building in panic in the town of Kurbin, the defence ministry said. Some 300 armed forces personnel have rushed to Durres and Thumane for rescue operations, where "there are people trapped under the ruins", defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qahajaj said.
In Thumane, around a dozen rescuers used an excavator to dig through a mountain of debris in search of possible victims. At least 150 people with injuries have sought first aid in Tirana and Durres, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterliu said.
- Trapped under rubble -
In Thumane, soldiers, rescuers and families were sifting through the rubble of a collapsed five-storey building as cries of people trapped under debris were heard, an AFP reporter said. Thoma Nika, a 58-year-old who lived in the building, said there were at least six people under rubble. Another man, Arben Allushi said with tears in his eyes, that his wife and niece missing after the building collapsed.
A man in Durres told local television that his daughter and niece were trapped in the rubble of a collapsed apartment building. "I talked with my daughter and niece on the phone. They said they are well and are waiting for the rescue. I could not talk to my wife. There are other families, but I could not talk to them," the man said.
The tremors were felt across the Balkan region, from Sarajevo to Bosnia and even in the Serbian city of Novi Sad almost 700 kilometres away, according to reports in local media and on social networks. It was followed by several aftershocks, including one of 5.3 magnitude, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre said. It was described by authorities as the strongest earthquake in the last 20-30 years. The Balkans is an area prone to seismic activity and earthquakes are frequent.
Tirana, Sept 21, 2019 (AFP) - Albania was rattled by its strongest earthquake in decades Saturday, officials said, sending people fleeing into the streets in several cities, damaging buildings and triggering power cuts in the capital. The epicentre of the shallow 5.6-magnitude quake, was near Durres, less than 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the capital Tirana, according to the US Geological Survey.
Albania's defence ministry said it was the "strongest earthquake in the country in the last 20 to 30 years". "There are no deaths," defence ministry spokeswoman Albana Qajaj said. Some 80 people sought medical help in both Tirana and Durres, 21 of whom were hospitalised due to injuries caused by falling objects or parts of walls as well as for panic attacks, Health Minister Ogerta Manasterilu said. Qajaj told AFP that houses and buildings in Tirana had been damaged but were still standing and that the ministry was accessing damage in other towns and villages. Prime Minister Edi Rama cancelled his scheduled trip to the United States following the quake, which cut electricity and telephone lines in Tirana and a number of other towns and villages.
Many people remained outside their homes for several hours in the capital, fearful of aftershocks. "I fear to return because such a strong earthquake could be followed with others," Drita Lohja, a resident in her fifties, told AFP. Falling debris pulverised parked cars in parts of the city. AFP reporters and witnesses saw windows broken and deep fissures in the facades of buildings in Durres, as well as in the capital. Media reported that a large building in Tirana was seriously damaged and that residents were being evacuated. A University of Tirana building was also damaged, witnesses said.
According to local media reports, at least two people were lightly injured and a dozen houses collapsed in the village of Helmes, 10 kilometres from Tirana. Two other earthquakes followed the strong one that occurred at around 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) and was felt in neighbouring Montenegro and Italy, but also on the Greek island of Corfu according to some Twitter users.
Tirana, March 9, 2018 (AFP) - The military has been deployed in northern Albania to help hundreds of people trapped by floods following heavy rainfall, authorities said on Friday. More than 9,230 hectares (22,800 acres) of agricultural land is underwater in the Shkodra region, including villages where the only means of transport is by boat, the defence ministry said.
Army personnel are evacuating residents and securing food supplies in the affected areas, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital, Tirana. The torrential rain in recent days has caused landslides damaging dozens of homes and flooding roads, said the transport ministry. The rain has also forced the Albanian authorities to release excess water from a hydroelectric plant, which has added to the flooding in northern areas of the country. Weather forecasters say the rain is likely to ease from Saturday.
World Travel News Headlines
Yerevan, June 1, 2020 (AFP) - Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his family have tested positive for the coronavirus, he said Monday, as the rate of new infections soared in the Caucasus nation. "My coronavirus test was positive yesterday," Pashinyan said in a self-recorded video message on Facebook, adding that his family were also infected. He said he had no "viable symptoms" of the virus and would be working from home. The prime minister and his wife Anna Hakobyan, who is a journalist, have four children. The ex-Soviet republic of some three million has so far reported 9,492 cases of the coronavirus and 139 deaths.
Coronavirus patients have overwhelmed Armenia's hospitals and last week health officials said that intensive care treatment could be soon restricted to patients with the best chance of survival. Pashinyan's announcement came nearly one month after Armenia on May 4 lifted a state of emergency imposed in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The prime minister acknowledged his government had failed to enforce anti-virus measures and there had been widespread quarantine violations. Pashinyan was elected prime minister in the wake of mass popular protests he led two years ago against veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican Party. He has since led a relentless crusade against graft and initiated sweeping judicial reforms.
San Salvador, June 1, 2020 (AFP) - Tropical Storm Amanda triggered flash floods, landslides and power outages as it barrelled through El Salvador and Guatemala Sunday, killing 14 people, authorities said, warning of further heavy rain to come. El Salvador President Nayib Bukele declared a 15-day state of emergency to cope with the effects of the storm, which he estimated to have caused $200 million in damage, but which weakened later in the day as it moved into Guatemala.
Amanda, the first named storm of the season in the Pacific, unleashed torrents of floodwater that tossed vehicles around like toys and damaged about 200 homes, the head of the Civil Protection Service William Hernandez said. The fatalities were all recorded in El Salvador, Interior Minister Mario Duran said, warning that the death toll could rise. One person is still missing, senior government official Carolina Recinos added. "We are experiencing an unprecedented situation: one top-level emergency on top of another serious one," San Salvador mayor Ernesto Muyshondt said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
He added that half of those killed died in the capital, and that 4,200 people had sought refuge in government-run shelters after losing their homes or being forced to leave because they were in high-risk areas. In some flooded areas, soldiers worked alongside emergency personnel to rescue people. "We lost everything, we've been left with nowhere to live," said Isidro Gomez, a resident of hard-hit southeastern San Salvador, after a nearby river overflowed and destroyed his home.
Another victim, Mariano Ramos, said that at dawn residents of his San Salvador neighborhood were slammed by an avalanche of mud and water. An elderly man died in the area, officials said. El Salvador's environment ministry warned residents of the "high probability" of multiple landslides that could damage buildings and injure or kill people.
Nearly 90 percent of El Salvador's 6.6 million people are considered vulnerable to flooding and landslides due to its geography. In neighboring Guatemala, officials said roads had been blocked by at least five landslides and some flooding was reported, but no evacuations were underway. Even though Amanda weakened to tropical depression status, Guatemalan officials warned that heavy rain would continue, with swollen rivers and possible "landslides affecting highways ... and flooding in coastal areas."
Lima, June 1, 2020 (AFP) - Peru on Sunday reported 8,800 new COVID-19 infections, setting a new daily record for a country that already has the second highest number of novel coronavirus cases in Latin America after Brazil. The death toll is now at 4,506, the third highest in the region -- itself the new hotspot of the deadly disease -- after Brazil and Mexico, with President Martin Vizcarra warning the country is only halfway through the crisis.
Infections have jumped in Peru despite a months-long mandatory lockdown and a nigh time curfew and the government ordering international borders to be closed. The spike is concentrated around the capital Lima, where one third of the population lives, and put tremendous strain on Peru's economy and healthcare system. Four out of every ten Peruvians lost their source of income when the lockdown began, according to one study, and last week Peru secured a two-year, $11 billion credit line from the International Monetary Fund.
- 'Tremendous challenge' in Chile -
Neighbouring Chile on Sunday reported 57 more fatalities in the past 24 hours, a new record that brings the country's COVID-19 death toll to 1,054. "We are facing the largest pandemic of the past 100 years," said Deputy Health Minister Paula Daza, as she announced the latest figures. "It is a tremendous challenge; we are living very difficult times in our country."
In Santiago, where the 80 percent of the virus cases were reported, 96 percent of the emergency room beds were taken, officials said. Officials reported a sharp increase in cases over the past two weeks. In early May the government of President Sebastian Pinera said that the number of virus cases had hit a plateau, and lockdown restrictions would be loosened.
By Anna SMOLCHENKO
Moscow, June 1, 2020 (AFP) - Shopping malls and parks are set to reopen in Moscow on Monday as the Russian capital eases coronavirus restrictions despite having the world's third-largest caseload. The relaxation of the confinement orders in Moscow, the epicentre of Russia's outbreak with a population of more than 12 million, comes after President Vladimir Putin announced the epidemic had passed its peak in the country.
Under lockdown since March 30, residents of Europe's most populous city were until now only allowed to leave their homes for brief trips to shop, walk dogs or travel to essential jobs with a permit. While Muscovites welcomed the opportunity to return to parks and malls after weeks of being cooped up at home, many ridiculed the Moscow mayor's "experiment" aimed at regulating people's walks and exercise.
As a two-week test measure, Sergei Sobyanin said residents of Moscow will be allowed to take walks according to a staggered schedule based on their home address. "Regular walks are allowed between 9am and 9pm but no more than three times a week -- twice on weekdays and once on a weekend," said Sobyanin on his blog, adding that a detailed schedule would be released separately. People can jog or exercise between 5am and 9am but must wear masks, according to the new rules. Sobyanin said he feared that without limits on walking, people would throng the streets in scenes reminiscent of May Day outpourings in Soviet times.
- 'Sheer lunacy' -
The new regulations unleashed a flood of mockery on social media, with political commentator Alexander Golts calling them "sheer lunacy". Critics quipped that life in Moscow was beginning to imitate dystopian fiction such as the novels of Aldous Huxley and Yevgeny Zamyatin.
Popular comedian Maxim Galkin, who has nearly eight million followers on Instagram, released a sketch in which Putin and Sobyanin discuss a "breathing schedule" for Moscow residents. The five-minute parody has been viewed nearly six million times over the past few days. When the restrictions are relaxed, dry-cleaners, laundry services and repair workshops will be allowed to reopen, while restaurants, cafes and cinemas will remain closed for now.
Moscow authorities also said that no mass gatherings would be allowed during the city-wide quarantine that will remain in place until at least June 14. On Thursday authorities sentenced prominent reporter and activist Ilya Azar to 15 days in jail for staging a lone protest in central Moscow. Dozens of his supporters have also been briefly detained over the past few days. Rights organisations including Amnesty International and the Council of Europe have warned Moscow against using the coronavirus lockdown as a pretext to muzzle activists.
Many critics have also questioned the move to lift the restrictions as Russia reported more than 9,000 new infections on Sunday. With more than 405,000 confirmed infections and over 4,600 deaths, the country has the world's third-largest caseload after the United States and Brazil. Analysts say Putin is keen to open up the Russian economy and has recently ordered a World War II victory parade postponed by the contagion to be held on June 24. The 67-year-old leader is also widely expected to announce a new date for a vote on constitutional reforms that could pave the way for him to potentially stay in power until 2036.
Mogadishu, May 31, 2020 (AFP) - At least 10 people died and 12 were wounded when an explosive device ripped through a minibus outside the Somali capital Mogadishu on Sunday, the government said. The deadly explosion occurred near Lafole village along the Afgoye-Mogadishu where the passenger bus was travelling early in the day. "At least 10 civilians were killed in an explosion at Lafole area this morning, those who died were all civilians," the information ministry said in a statement, adding that the victims were on their way to a funeral.
Witnesses said the minibus was completely destroyed, and described an horrific scene with everyone on board either dead or wounded and many bodies ripped apart or burned beyond recognition. "This was a horrible incident this morning, the explosive device went off as the bus was passing by the area and destroyed it completely," said Daud Doyow, a witness. "Bodies of civilians were strewn in pieces and most of the people died," he added. "There were more than 20 people on board and 10 of them were confirmed dead while the rest are seriously wounded and taken to hospital, this is a horrible scene here," said another witness, Abdirisak Adan. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Somalia's al Qaeda-aligned Shabaab group carries out regular attacks in and around the capital, often killing civilians.
Nairobi, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - Kenya said Wednesday it had documented a record 123 cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, a "staggering" figure although one also explained in part by wider testing. "Today, I come to you with sombre news," Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said. "Our figures today are staggering. Out of the 3,077 samples tested, we have 123 positive cases. For the first time we have hit a triple digit. "This is the highest number of positive cases we have ever recorded in a single day since we recorded the first case on March 13."
A total of 1,471 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Kenya since the start of the epidemic. Of these, 55 have been fatal. The tally of infections has doubled since mid-May but the country has also tripled its number of daily tests, from less than 1,000 to nearly 3,000, which has helped unearth more cases.
Kagwe sounded a warning about the vulnerability of crowded slums in the capital Nairobi, which leads the list of new cases followed by the port city of Mombasa. "There is a raging number of infections in these areas," he said, adding: "No-one should have a false sense of security about their immunity to COVID-19." Among its anti-coronavirus measures, Kenya has a national 7pm-5am curfew, which is currently in force until June 6, and has a ban on entering or exiting the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera.
Nicosia, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - Cyprus hopes to attract tourists after its coronavirus lockdown by paying the medical costs of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 while holidaying on the island, officials said Wednesday. The plan was outlined in a letter to tour operators and airlines detailing the measures Cyprus is taking to ensure the safety of its tourism sector. The letter was made public Wednesday and signed by the ministers of foreign affairs, transport, and tourism.
The Mediterranean island is marketing itself as a safe holiday destination during the global pandemic. The Republic of Cyprus has reported 939 novel coronavirus cases and only 17 deaths. The government said it is "committed to taking care of all travellers who test positive during their stay, as well as their families and close contacts". It pledged to cover accommodation, dining and medical care if a tourist falls ill with the virus. The "traveller will only need to bear the cost of their airport transfer and repatriation flight," it said.
- 'Quarantine hotels' -
A 100-bed hospital will be available exclusively for tourists who test positive, with more beds available "at very short notice if required". An additional 112 beds in intensive care units with 200 respirators will be reserved for critically ill patients. Designated "quarantine hotels" will have 500 rooms available for family members and close contacts of patients.
Other hotels on the island will be allowed to remain open if a guest tests positive, but their room will "undergo a deep clean". Authorities have forecast a 70 percent decline in tourist arrivals in 2020. Tourism earned Cyprus EUR2.68 billion ($2.94 bn) in 2019 -- about 15 percent of gross domestic product -- down one percent from the previous year, which was bolstered by a record 3.97 million arrivals. Cyprus plans to reopen its airports on June 9 to arrivals from 13 countries considered low risk. These include Israel, Greece, Germany, Austria and Malta but the island's two biggest markets Britain and Russia are not on the approved list.
hose arriving between June 9-19 will need to provide a health certificate proving they do not have the virus. That requirement will be dropped from June 20, when another six countries will be added to the approved list, including Switzerland and Poland. Cyprus says it will update the list of approved countries on a weekly basis based on scientific advice.
Officials will administer temperature checks and free random testing of arrivals. Having tested over 10 percent of its population, Cyprus says it has one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in Europe. "Very few countries worldwide, especially in the Mediterranean, can boast about such statistics," the letter said.
Stockholm, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - Airline SAS said Wednesday it would resume flights on several domestic and international routes in June, over two months after the operator grounded most of its fleet over the new coronavirus' impact on travel. "This primarily includes domestic flights within and between the Scandinavian countries, but flights to New York, Chicago and Amsterdam from Copenhagen are also set to resume," SAS said in a statement.
The Scandinavian airline announced in mid-March it was halting most of its traffic and furloughing around 90 percent of its staff. In late April the airline, whose two largest shareholders are the Swedish and Danish states, announced it was laying off about 5,000 people, representing 40 percent of the company's workforce.
In early May the company secured a state-guaranteed credit line of 3.3 billion Swedish kronor ($344 million or 313 million euros) to help it navigate the impact of the new coronavirus. Even with the resumption of some flights, the airline continues to operate at a reduced capacity, but the added routes means an effective doubling of the aircraft in use from 15 to 30, according to SAS. Finnair, of Nordic neighbour Finland, announced early last week it would start resuming its long-haul flight to Asia in July.
Yerevan, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - Virus cases have overwhelmed Armenia's hospitals, officials said Wednesday, raising the prospect that intensive care treatment could be restricted to patients with the best chance of survival. The tiny Caucasus nation of some three million has so far reported 7,774 coronavirus cases and 98 deaths. At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said "the situation with the coronavirus pandemic is very severe in Armenia."
Health ministry spokeswoman Alina Nikoghosyan told AFP: "if the current situation persists, in the coming days, intensive care will only be available for the patients with the best survival chances." Health Minister Arsen Torosyan said Sunday that out of the country's 186 intensive care beds for coronavirus patients, only 32 remained empty and would soon be filled.
The prime minister called for stricter enforcement of measures aimed at containing the outbreak such as the wearing of face masks in public spaces. This comes after the country lifted a state of emergency on May 4 which it had declared in March because of the pandemic. Pashinyan said his government had failed to enforce anti-virus measures and there had been widespread quarantine violations. "Our mistake was that we put too much trust in our citizens' sense of responsibility," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said he did not rule out that the government could have to impose a fresh nationwide lockdown. Analysts have criticised the government's handling of the crisis, saying a decision to close borders was taken too late and officials sent the public "confusing messages." "Officials were calling for the wearing of face masks, but they themselves didn't wear them until recently," said analyst Tatul Hakobyan.
New Delhi, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - India is wilting under a heatwave, with the temperature in places reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) and the capital enduring its hottest May day in nearly two decades. The hot spell is projected to scorch northern India for several more days, the Meteorological Department said late Tuesday, "with severe heat wave conditions in isolated pockets". As global temperatures rise, heatwaves are a regular menace in the country -- particularly in May and June. Last year dozens of people died.
Met officials said Churu in the northern state of Rajasthan was the hottest place on record on Tuesday, at 50 Celsius, while parts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh sweltered in the high 40s. Parts of the capital, New Delhi, recorded the hottest May day in 18 years with the mercury hitting 47.6 Celsius. No deaths have been reported so far this year, but last year the government said the heat had killed 3,500 people since 2015. There have been fewer
The country of 1.3 billion people suffers from severe water shortages with tens of millions lacking running water -- to say nothing of air conditioning. Parts of Delhi and elsewhere regularly see scuffles when tankers arrive to deliver water. Last year Chennai made international headlines when the southern city ran out of water entirely. The heatwave adds to problems the country already has dealing with the spread of coronavirus. India now has the 10th highest number of coronavirus cases globally, climbing above 150,000 on Wednesday with almost 4,500 deaths.
Last week cyclone Amphan killed more than 100 people as it ravaged in eastern India and Bangladesh, flattening villages, destroying farms and leaving millions without power. Huge swarms of desert locusts, meanwhile, have destroyed nearly 50,000 hectares (125,000 acres) of crops across western and central India, and may enter Delhi in coming days. The north-eastern states of Assam and Meghalaya are also currently experiencing floods, with more heavy rainfall forecast in the coming days.