WORLD NEWS

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

Greece

Background
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
within western Europe and a short flight away from many of the cooler northern destinations - like Ireland. Travellers from these regions descent on Greece in very significant numbers each year and for the vast majority of them they will have a splendid and healthy time. However for some this may not be the case and serious illness and accidents are regularly reported. Following some commonsense rules would go a long way to avoiding disaster and ensuring that this trip is truly one to be remembered for all the right reasons.
Climate
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.
Insect bites
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.
Animal bites
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.
Swimming
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.
Summary
This is still one of the most popular destinations for northern European travellers and, in the vast majority of cases, they will have a fantastic time with only good memories. Unfortunately some less prepared folks will end up with serious sunburn and other illnesses or diseases which perhaps are frequently associated with their own lack of care and protection rather than anything specific to this beautiful country.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2020 18:02:51 +0100 (MET)

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.
Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2020 10:59:18 +0100 (MET)

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.
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2020 09:33:48 +0100 (MET)

Athens, Feb 26, 2020 (AFP) - Greece has announced a broad shutdown of public areas and travel restrictions, to be activated in case of a coronavirus outbreak.   The measures, formalised in a decree late on Tuesday, include temporary travel bans to and from countries with a large number of infections.

The decree also permits the requisitioning of beds in hotels and private clinics.   It also foresees the temporary closure of "indoor public gathering areas" such as schools, places of worship, cinemas, theatres, sports halls and businesses.   "We are ready to do whatever is necessary to protect public health," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.   The country has so far registered no confirmed cases of the virus.   Greece's health ministry has earmarked 13 hospitals nationwide equipped to handle virus cases.

A health ministry spokesman earlier this week noted that owing to the virus' long gestation period, health checks at ports and airports had minor chances of success.   On Monday, the Greek Olympic Committee said it had discussed alternative plans for the Olympic Flame lighting ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Games in case of a virus outbreak.

The flame for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is scheduled to be lit on March 12 in ancient Olympia and, following a torch relay on Greek soil, will be handed to the Tokyo organisers at a ceremony on March 19 at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2020 09:07:42 +0100 (MET)

Athens, Feb 18, 2020 (AFP) - Greece was hit with a 24-hour strike Tuesday over a pension reform encouraging people to stay longer in the workforce.   The labour action paralysed public transport in Athens, intercity trains and ferry ship services.   Civil servants are also walking off the job and journalists will stage a three-hour work stoppage against the pension reform.   "This bill is practically the continuation of (austerity) laws introduced in 2010-2019," civil servants' union ADEDY said.

Unions will hold street protests in Athens, Thessaloniki and other major cities later in the day.   The new conservative government says the reform, to be voted by Friday, will make the troubled Greek pension system viable to 2070.   The labour ministry says the overhaul -- the third major revamp in a decade -- will contain pension increases and reduce penalties for pensioners still working.

Successive governments have attempted to reform the pension system, whose previously generous handouts are seen as one of the causes of the decade-long Greek debt crisis.   Chronic overspending and the inaccurate reporting of the budget deficit spooked creditors in 2010, and required three successive bailouts by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to avert a Greek bankruptcy.   In return for billions of euros in rescue funds, Greece had to adopt unpopular austerity reforms and pension cuts.
6th December, 2019
HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre

On 27/11/2019, a possible case of diphtheria was reported to the Department of Epidemiological Surveillance and Intervention through the Mandatory Notification System in Greece. It concerned an 8 years old boy of Greek nationality, who was hospitalized in the ICU of General Children's Hospital  where he died.  This child had underlying conditions (severe pulmonary hypertension) and was admitted to ICU  on 22/11/2019 with clinical presentation of laryngitis (without the presence of characteristic pseudo membranes) and pneumonia, immediately intubated, covered with double antibiotic regimen and died due to deterioration of his clinical presentation on 26/11/2019.
 
According to the epidemiological data given , there is no travel history, group living, no connection to another case and the child does not belong to a specific population group. Regarding his immunization status, the child was vaccinated with at least 3 doses against diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis.
 
Laboratory investigation of bronchial exudate isolated Corynebacterium diphtheriae via VITEK. Further laboratory testing was performed by the Public Health England  reference Laboratory for Corynebacteria. On Thursday 5/12/2019, the National Public Health Organization was informed that multiplex PCR testing was positive for C. Diphtheriae and positive for the diphtheria toxin gene. The Elek test was also positive for toxin production. The results of the child's post-mortem exam are pending.

Contact tracing and management is ongoing and has identified most of the close contacts of the patient. The National Public Health Organization provided recommendations on obtaining nasopharyngeal cultures in close contacts to evaluate carriage as well as the necessary preventive measures to protect the child's close contacts as well as the medical staff involved in direct patient care (i.e. awareness for potential compatible with diphtheria symptoms and administration of antibiotic prophylaxis together with booster or complete vaccination series as appropriate) according to the WHO’s Diphtheria Surveillance Standards (September 2018). In addition we have initiated the procedure for the procurement of a limited stockpile of DAT.
More ...

Indonesia

*****
Information for Bali
*******
General
************************************
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
ly the climate is tropical and humid throughout the year. Many Irish travellers will use the island as a stopover. If this is for only 24 to 28 hours the extent of your jetlag may leave you little time to enjoy the country and its people.
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.

Local Customs
************************************
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.
Night Activities
************************************
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.
Medical Facilities
************************************
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.
Sun Exposure
************************************
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.
Swimming
************************************
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.
Jet Lag
************************************
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.
Summary
************************************
The majority of those visiting Bali will enjoy the many tourist attractions on the island. However commonsense and care is required to ensure that you do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk. The staff of the Tropical Medical Bureau can be contacted at either of the numbers below if you require further information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:10:45 +0200 (METDST)

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.
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2020 11:53:09 +0100 (MET)

Jakarta, March 27, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia's coronavirus crisis is far worse than being officially reported and the government's response is "in tatters", the country's doctors association warned Friday as the death toll climbed to 87.   The world's fourth-most populous country only reported its first confirmed infection this month but by Thursday, that had ballooned to over 1,000.

Indonesia's 87 confirmed coronavirus deaths are the highest toll in Southeast Asia, with public health and diplomatic officials warning that its weak health system is being rapidly overwhelmed.   "The government's plans are in tatters and they appear to be avoiding a lockdown," said Indonesian Doctors' Association spokesman Halik Malik.   "Our health system is not as strong as other countries."

A London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine study warned this week that cases in Indonesia -- with a population of more than 260 million people -- could be vastly underreported.   The government's virus task force has estimated as many as 700,000 people were at risk of infection nationwide.   But the rate of testing has been low compared with many other countries -- only 2,300 tests were conducted before the government stopped announcing nationwide figures.

Authorities have come under heavy criticism for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including the capital Jakarta, a vast city home to about 30 million where most of the deaths have been reported.   "The COVID-19 situation in Indonesia is very serious and getting worse quickly," the Canadian embassy in Jakarta said Thursday, saying it was urgently advising citizens to leave.    "The health care system in Indonesia will soon be overwhelmed. The ultimate number of fatalities will be very high."   Indonesia had fewer than four doctors for every 10,000 people, according to World Health Organization data from 2017.

In comparison, neighbouring Malaysia had about 15 doctors and Australia had 35 per 10,000 people.   Images shared on social media have shown Indonesian doctors threatening to go on strike if resources aren't beefed up, with concerns about a lack of ventilators, protective gear and other equipment needed to handle coronavirus cases.   At least seven doctors have died of the virus, according to the official figures.

In a tweet that went viral, the brother-in-law of one of those doctors slammed the Indonesian government's handling of the crisis.   "You were infected as you actively served people. Many health workers have been infected and left. The limited amount of protective equipment is hard to forgive," wrote Pandu Riono, a University of Indonesia public health expert.   The government has pledged to boost testing to upwards of one million checks as extra equipment and test kits are flown in from China.   It has also turned an athletes village built for the 2018 Asian Games into an emergency treatment centre to help ease the pressure on hospitals.
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2020 09:24:46 +0100 (MET)

Jakarta, March 27, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia's most active volcano Mount Merapi erupted Friday, shooting a column of ash some 5,000 metres (16,000 feet) into the air in its second major eruption this month.   Ash and sand covered areas several kilometres (miles) away from the peak of the rumbling crater near Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta.   But authorities did not raise Merapi's alert level.   "There has been no reports of damage from the  eruption. We urge people to stay calm and not panic," national disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said.   Merapi erupted earlier this month, shooting a massive ash cloud some 6,000 metres in the air.    That eruption coated Yogyakarta and neighbouring city Solo with grey dust and forced an airport closure.

Mount Merapi's last major eruption in 2010 killed more than 300 people and forced the evacuation of 280,000 residents.  That was Merapi's most powerful eruption since 1930, which killed around 1,300 people, while another explosion in 1994 took about 60 lives.    The Southeast Asian nation -- an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and islets -- has nearly 130 active volcanoes.    It sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity
Date: Tue, 3 Mar 2020 05:53:04 +0100 (MET)

Solo, Indonesia, March 3, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia's most active volcano Mount Merapi erupted Tuesday, shooting a massive ash cloud some 6,000 metres (20,000 feet) in the air which coated nearby communities with grey dust and forced an airport closure.   Ash mixed with sand rained down on towns as far as 10 kilometres (six miles) from the belching crater near Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta.   "There was a thundering noise for at least five minutes and I could see the ash clouds from my house," Jarmaji, a resident of Boyolali regency, told AFP.

Authorities did not raise the rumbling volcano's alert status, but they temporarily shuttered the international airport in Solo city -- also known as Surakarta -- some 40 kilometres away after the early morning eruption.   Indonesia's volcano agency warned residents to stay out of a three-kilometre no-go zone around Mount Merapi, citing possible danger from flowing lava and pyroclastic flows -- a fast-moving mixture of hot gas and volcanic material.

Mount Merapi's last major eruption in 2010 killed more than 300 people and forced the evacuation of some 280,000 residents.   That was Merapi's most powerful eruption since 1930, which killed around 1,300 people, while another explosion in 1994 took about 60 lives.   The Southeast Asian nation -- an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and islets -- has nearly 130 active volcanoes.   It sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.
Date: Mon, 2 Mar 2020 08:33:07 +0100 (MET)
By Peter BRIEGER, Agnes ANYA

Denpasar, Indonesia, March 2, 2020 (AFP) - Bali's Galungan festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil, but a new enemy was threatening that cosmic balance this year -- coronavirus.   Temples across the Island of the Gods were filled with faithful who hoped incense-and-flower offerings would get Hindu-majority Bali back on its feet after a drastic slump in Chinese visitors hammered the key tourism sector.  "We're praying for good things in this universe and that the virus is gone soon so Bali's tourism can bounce back," priest Made Langgeng Buwana told AFP during the recent February Galungan celebration in the capital Denpasar.

Concerns over the rapidly-spreading outbreak prompted Indonesia to shut down all flights to and from China last month, dealing a body blow to scores of Bali businesses including restaurants, hotels, travel agents, wedding planners and Mandarin-speaking interpreters. Around a million Chinese tourists visit the holiday island each year -- the second-largest group of foreign arrivals after Australians -- and inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy.    Thousands travelled there from the mainland for last month's Lunar New Year holiday just as the virus outbreak was beginning to snowball, prompting the lockdown of China's Hubei province where the infection was first detected.

- Ghost town? -
In Bali, some China-focused businesses have closed and others say they're on the brink of bankruptcy.   Management at one upscale hotel was so desperate to cut costs they told employees to wear street clothes on the job to reduce uniform cleaning expenses, according to staff.

Bali's tourism industry has suffered -- and recovered -- before, including when volcano Mount Agung erupted in 2018.   "There was a drop then but not something like this," said Robin, 29, an Indonesian interpreter who used to guide wealthy Chinese around the island.   Jakarta has announced more than $700 million in stimulus to bolster
Southeast Asia's biggest economy as its tourism sector takes a hit, while Bali officials hope social media influencers can help draw more visitors.

The island's tourism agency head Putu Astawa -- barely two months into his new job -- acknowledged that losing 100,000 Chinese visitors a month has stung.   But the number of visitors from Australia, Japan, North America and Europe is stable, despite unfounded reports that Bali is a ghost town, he insisted.   "I don't worry about the virus," Astawa said in an interview.   "I worry about social media hoaxes hurting the image of our tourism sector. I'm tired of fighting it."

- 'Fatally impacted' -
The ghost-town image isn't fake news at Dream Island Bali Beach Club, however.   Chinese tourists used to roll in for wedding photos, massages in thatched huts, beachside camel rides and a $17 'Dream Dinner' package with a fire-dance show.   The now-empty operation also ferried mainly Chinese visitors on boats to company-run restaurants nearby.

Those eateries are now closed, the ferries are beached and Dream Island is headed for bankruptcy with half the staff on leave, said manager Wayan Tirta.   "Now we're trying to get local students to come here because there aren't any tourists," he said, plunging his hand downward to show the drop in business.   "We've been fatally impacted by the outbreak and are just trying to stay afloat."   At Dream Island's deserted Mermaid Bay restaurant, Arik and two other staff played with their smartphones as a pair of unemployed camels lay in the sand nearby.   "We don't have anything to do. Hopefully we'll get some more guests," she said.

In Denpasar, OYO 1992 China Town Hotel -- draped in bilingual signage and a huge lobby painting of a woman with a Chinese-style fan --  is also feeling the pinch.   The hotel once employed scores of massage therapists who relied on mainland tourists, but that crucial moneymaker has dried up.   "Before coronavirus we were planning to add more massage beds," said manager Vincent Fonda in the hotel's empty Chinese food restaurant.   "At the end of the day, we're probably going to close down."
More ...

Niue

No Profile is available at present

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

20th July 2012

- Niue Island. 20 Jul 2012. Two tourists visiting Niue have been taken to hospital with dengue fever. More than 100 people, or about 8 percent of the population, are believed to be suffering from the fever, and visitors are being warned to use insect repellent during early morning and evening. Dengue, which does not often occur on Niue, has been afflicting  the island since February [2012]. It was originally confined to a small area of Niue's main village but has now spread throughout the island. One local man recently died from a serious form of the virus.
==================
[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map showing the location of Niue Island in the Pacific Ocean can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/1ZWb>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Monday 30th April 2012
A ProMED-mail post
<http://www.promedmail.org>

- Niue Island. 24 Apr 2012. The Niue Health Department says it believes the dengue outbreak has peaked. The department says there have been 47 recorded cases of dengue fever, but only one case has been picked up in the last 7 days. The Acting Director of Health, Manila Nosa, says it's a relief to see the wane in cases, but it's too early to say that dengue is completely gone. He said that there has been a lot of rain lately, and it's hoped this won't contribute to a further spread.
======================
[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of Niue Island can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/1ZWb>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Monday 16th April 2012
A ProMED-mail post
<http://www.promedmail.org>

- Niue Island. 12 Apr 2012. Health authorities on Niue are confident that they are on top of the latest dengue outbreak that has infected 20 people to date. The chief medical officer, Dr Eddie Akau'ola, says this outbreak began about 3 weeks ago but they believe they have been able to contain it. He says it is peaking now and they expect a decline in a week or 2. Dr Akau'ola says none of the cases have been too serious.
====================
[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map showing the location of Niue Island in the Pacific can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/2bMz>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Tuesday 13th March 2012
A ProMED-mail post
<http://www.promedmail.org/>

- Niue Island. 6 Mar 2012. Niue health authorities are hopeful they've contained a rare outbreak of dengue fever on the island where 3 people were reported with dengue last week, with 2 admitted to hospital.
======================
[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map showing the location of Niue Island in the Pacific can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/1ZWb>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2011 10:42:49 +0200 (METDST)
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.
More ...

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

More ...

Kuwait

Kuwait US Consular Information Sheet
September 2, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Kuwait is a small, oil-rich constitutional monarchy with 10% of proven world oil reserves. Foreign workers constitute approximately 90% of the labor force. Kuwaiti
citizens constitute only 34% of the country's population of three million, and enjoy the benefits of a generous social welfare system that guarantees employment, housing, education and medical care. Facilities for travelers are widely available. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Kuwait for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
Passports and visas are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Kuwait. U.S. citizens can obtain visitor visas for a fee at the port of entry in Kuwait. Travelers who overstay their visas may be required to pay large fines before leaving Kuwait. Travelers who leave Kuwait without completing Kuwaiti exit procedures may also be required to pay large fines if they return to and attempt to depart from Kuwait. This includes travelers proceeding via Kuwait to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. Effective May 15, 2007, the Government of Kuwait no longer admits travelers with a contractor identification card. All contractors entering or transiting the State of Kuwait should have a valid passport. Visas can be obtained upon arrival in Kuwait for a fee of 3 Kuwaiti Dinar (KD). For further information on entry and exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Kuwait at 2940 Tilden Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 966-0702, or the Kuwaiti Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 973-4318.

Kuwaiti officials are extremely sensitive about travel to Iraq. There have been instances in which Americans, especially those of Iraqi descent, have been detained for questioning at ports of entry/exit. Americans seeking to travel to Iraq through Kuwait have also on occasion been turned around and/or detained. On a number of occasions the border between Iraq and Kuwait has been closed without notice, stranding Americans on either side of the border.

Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, including Americans, who have been charged with criminal offenses, placed under investigation, or involved in unresolved financial disputes with local business partners are subject to travel bans. These bans, which are rigidly enforced, prevent the individual from leaving Kuwait for any reason until the matter is resolved. Travel bans can be initiated by any person for almost any reason and may remain in place for a substantial period of time while the case is being investigated. Expatriates have been detained in Kuwait for cases with seemingly little or no evidence or legal merit. A person who has influence with the Kuwaiti government can ensure that a travel ban remains in place even if a judge or government official states the ban should be lifted. In the case of purely financial disputes, it may be possible to depart the country if a local sponsor pledges funds equal to the amount in dispute. Once such legal orders are in place, the U.S. Embassy can assist American citizens in obtaining legal representation, but cannot overcome the ban on exit from the country until the matter is resolved.

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:
Americans in Kuwait should exercise a high level of security awareness. The Department of State remains concerned about the possibility of further terrorist actions against U.S. citizens and interests abroad, specifically in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. Americans considering travel to Kuwait should review the Worldwide Caution.

All U.S. citizens in Kuwait should exercise caution, maintain a low profile, and avoid areas where Westerners are known to congregate. Heightened security awareness should be exercised at all hotels and residential complexes, as terrorists in the past have specifically targeted hotel chains perceived as Western along with a variety of Western housing facilities. Military members, as well as civilians and contractors related to military interests, are also potential targets.

Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Terrorist actions may include bombings, hijackings, hostage taking, kidnappings and assassinations. Increased security at official U.S. facilities may lead terrorists and their sympathizers to seek softer targets such as public transportation, residential areas and apartment complexes, schools and places of worship, oil-related facilities and personnel, and public areas where people congregate including restaurants, hotels, clubs, and shopping areas. U.S. citizens are advised to immediately report any unusual or suspicious activity in Kuwait to the Kuwaiti police or to the U.S. Embassy.

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 U.S. Embassy in Kuwait has an active warden program and records warden notices in both English and Arabic for audio playback. The English-language notices can be heard by calling +965-259-1048; Arabic-language notices are available at +965-259-1049.

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.

Additional information regarding security and crime in Kuwait can be found in the Overseas Security Advisory Council’s Crime and Safety Report.
This document can be found at www.osac.gov.
CRIME: The crime threat in Kuwait is assessed as low. Violent crimes against expatriates are rare, but do occur. The U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that one would practice in the United States or any other large city abroad. Physical and verbal harassment of women are continuing problems. The Kuwaiti police accept crime reports at the police station with jurisdiction where the crime occurred. If filing a crime report, it is advisable that an American citizen be accompanied by a person who speaks Arabic or a local attorney. The Embassy’s List of Attorneys is available on the Embassy web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov/attorneys.html. Filing a crime report can take several hours as a police investigator will take the victim’s statement orally while composing his investigative report. In all cases of abuse, the victim must obtain a medical report from a Kuwaiti hospital in order to file a police report.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds 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 of the “911” emergency line in Kuwait is “777” and can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The quality and range of services provided by the emergency line are not equivalent to those provided in the U.S. and response times may vary greatly depending on the time of day and the location of the emergency.
See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The health care system continues to develop, with many government and private medical facilities available in Kuwait. Medical care at government-run clinics and hospitals is provided at low cost to residents of Kuwait. Private physicians and hospitals charge fees for services, and some do not accept local health insurance. Many hospital and clinic services do not compare to U.S. standards, and staff often have no U.S. experience or training. For information on avian influenza (bird flu), please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

The government of Kuwait has strict regulations regarding certain diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.
Medical examinations are required for all residency applications and any applicants who are found positive for these restricted diseases will be asked to leave the country immediately and will be permanently barred from re-entry.
Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Kuwait at http://www.embassy.org/embassies/kw.html before you travel.
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 Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Driving in Kuwait is hazardous. Although Kuwait has an extensive and modern system of well-lit roads, excessive speeding on both primary and secondary roads, coupled with lax enforcement of traffic regulations and a high density of vehicles (one vehicle for every 2.8 residents), leads to frequent and often fatal accidents. In 2006, the government of Kuwait reported 60410 vehicular accidents with 460 deaths and 9100 serious injuries.
However, these numbers are approximations and the actual numbers are believed to be much higher.
The average age of death was between 21 and 30 years. There are now over one million motor vehicles registered in Kuwait. Incidents of road rage, inattention and distraction on the part of drivers, poor driving skills, and highway brinksmanship are common in Kuwait, and can be unsettling to Western drivers in Kuwait who are accustomed to more rigid adherence to traffic laws.

The government-owned Kuwait Public Transportation Company operates bus services throughout the Kuwait City metropolitan area on 50 different routes, which are widely used by the low-income expatriate labor force. Taxis are available at major hotels and pick up passengers at other locations upon telephonic request. Unaccompanied women should not use taxis after dark. It is now possible to hail taxis on streets. Taxis have meters, but fares are more commonly negotiated.

Visitors can use international driving permits issued by their respective countries within the time limit of their visas; however, the visitor must also have liability insurance. It is illegal to drive in Kuwait without a license and car registration documents. If you are stopped and cannot produce them, you may be taken to a police station and held until they are presented on your behalf.

The Government of Kuwait may provide American citizens with a Kuwaiti driver’s license if their valid American driver’s license is first certified by the American Embassy. This service costs 9 KD and is available from the American Citizens Services Unit of the Consular Section. The Embassy’s certification must be authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American permit must be translated by an approved translation service. Additional information is available at the Embassy’s Consular Section.

If you are in an accident, Kuwaiti law mandates that you must remain at the scene until the police arrive. The use of front seat belts is mandatory in Kuwait. Driving is on the right side of the road. Speed limits are posted. Making a right turn on a red light is not permitted unless there is a special lane to do so with a yield sign. Parking is not allowed where the curb is painted black and yellow. Digital cameras for registering traffic violations, including speeding, are in use on Kuwaiti roads.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol (possession and consumption of alcohol is illegal in Kuwait) is a serious offense, which may result in fines, imprisonment, and/or deportation. Repeat traffic violations or violations of a serious nature may also result in the deportation of an expatriate offender. When a driver flashes his/her high beams in Kuwait, it is meant as a request to move your car into a slower lane to allow the driver with the flashing beams to proceed ahead.

Kuwait has one of the highest per capita rates of cellular telephone ownership in the world and using a cellular telephone while driving remains legal. Local emergency service organizations may be contacted by dialing 777. Ambulance crews do not respond as quickly as in the United States and do not often include trained paramedics.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior at www.moi.gov.kw for information and statistics in Arabic about traffic safety and road conditions in Kuwait.

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

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
The workweek in Kuwait is Sunday through Thursday for most businesses, government offices and commercial banks.

Kuwaiti customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Kuwait of items such as firearms, religious materials, pornography, and alcohol. Alcohol, pork products, and pornography are illegal in Kuwait. Travelers with prescription medications should carry them in their original packaging or bottle, as dispensed, and carry a copy of their prescription in case customs authorities question their importation into Kuwait. Kuwaiti customs authorities screen the baggage of all travelers entering Kuwait. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Kuwait in Washington, D.C. or Kuwait's Consulate in New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Photographing government and public buildings, military installations and economic infrastructure, particularly that related to the oil industry, is against the law and can result in arrest, investigation, and prosecution. Also, some traditionally-dressed women find being photographed to be offensive and may complain to the local police. If photographing public scenes or persons, visitors should take care to ask permission beforehand and not to inadvertently cause offense that could lead to an official complaint to the authorities.

Humiliating a person, including a police officer or a public official, is a crime in Kuwait similar to disorderly conduct or harassment in the United States. A person charged with humiliating another is subject to police investigation and possible prosecution. Persons under investigation can be prevented from departing Kuwait. Proselytizing is prohibited for all religions except Islam.

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 Kuwaiti laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Kuwait. 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 in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is PO Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-259-1001 or 259-1002. The fax number is 965-259-1438 or 538-0282. The after-hours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be obtained through the Embassy's web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Kuwait dated January 16, 2008 to update the sections on Information for Victims of Crime and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2019 11:38:15 +0100 (MET)

Kuwait City, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - Hundreds of workers at Kuwait's international airport held a one-hour strike Monday to demand better working conditions, threatening to stage longer walkouts in the coming days.    Ahmed Mohammed al-Kandari, a union representative, said workers were calling for improved treatment and to be compensated for daily exposure to pollution and noise.  Monday's strike by Kuwaiti staff did not affect flights, officials said.   The right to strike is guaranteed for citizens in Kuwait, but such actions remain rare in the Gulf country.

Foreign workers do not have the right to strike.  "Airport traffic is very normal," Sheikh Salman Al-Hamoud Al-Sabah, head of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation, told AFP.    Another official, Saleh Al-Fadaghi, the airport's director of operations, also said flights were not affected. "During the one-hour strike, 19 flights were operated as scheduled. There were five departures and 14 arrivals," he told AFP.

Kandari said the purpose of the strike was not to disrupt operations but "to make our voices heard". He added that Kuwaiti workers would hold a further two-hour strike on Wednesday and a 24-hour strike on Sunday if their demands are not met.    Of 4,500 civil aviation employees, 1,500 took part in Monday's strike, he said.
Date: Thu 12 Apr 2018
Source: Arab Times Kuwait English Daily [edited]

Almost 270 cases of scabies disease have been recorded lately in the country. Among them, 200 cases were recorded in Adan Hospital and the remaining 70 were recorded in Jahra Hospital.

The recorded cases are within Ahmadi and Jahra governorates, while it is widespread in Khafji and Hafr Al-Baten areas along Saudi border. This revelation coincided with a series of cases recorded in several regions of Saudi Arabia, especially along the border of Kuwait.

There are growing concerns that the disease could spread massively across the country if not handled properly in accordance with the rules and regulations. This includes providing necessary treatment to the affected people and raising awareness among citizens and expatriates.

According to spokesperson of Ministry of Health Dr. Ahmad Al-Shatti, individual cases within the country cannot be regarded as an epidemic.

He [Dr. Ahmad Al-Shatti] assured that the authority will take necessary steps to wipe out the disease, raise the level of awareness and instruct doctors to treat affected people with authorized medications. Dr Al-Shatti did not rule out the possibility that several cases could be recorded without reaching the level of epidemic, especially since the ministry has enough medicines to deal with the disease.  [Byline: Stephanie McGehee]
==================
[Just a week ago [week of Sun 1 Apr 2018] ProMED reported a widespread outbreak of Scabies in schools in Mecca, which was not related to the Umrah. This report suggests that at least some cases have links to Saudi Arabia. Further epidemiological mapping is needed. As discussed in our posting the [Fri 6 Apr 2018], scabies is highly contagious and outbreaks are usually seen in cramped conditions with poor hygiene. It is important to treat both patients and close contacts for instance the entire household. Classical treatment with for instance a whole body cream containing a pyrethroid has been replaced by treatment with oral ivermectin.

A map of Kuwait: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/129>. - ProMED Mod.EP]
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2017 14:40:12 +0100

Kuwait City, Feb 6, 2017 (AFP) - A fire broke out Monday at a cultural centre in Kuwait that houses the Gulf state's opera house, the fire department said.   The blaze started during maintenance work on the titanium roof, the department said in a statement on Twitter.   It said the fire was put out and caused no injuries.

Parts of the roof were seen to be missing after the blaze but it was unclear if that was the result of the maintenance work or the fire.   The centre was launched in October with a performance at the 2,000-seat opera house by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.   The sprawling 214,000-square-metre (2.3 million square feet) centre, located in the heart of the capital Kuwait City, cost $750 million.
Date: Thu 14 Apr 2016
Source: Arab Times [edited]

Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Affairs at Ministry of Health Dr Majdah Al-Qattan revealed that Kuwait recorded 5 cases of cholera in people who came from Iraq and they have been treated. On the sidelines of the inaugural ceremony of the Scientific Conference on Latest Surgeries for Breast and Kidney Cancers, Dr Al-Qattan affirmed that the precautionary measures taken so far for preventing the spread of cholera in the country are being closely monitored to complement the previous steps.

She said it was decided during that meeting of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] Epidemic Committee last month [March 2016] that the GCC member states must take proactive steps to prevent incursion and spread of cholera, indicating that this is the reason why the Customs officers have been screening travelers from Iraq and other affected countries.

Dr Al-Qattan revealed that the import of food items from these countries has also been banned till further notice. She stressed the ministry's keenness to bring new vaccines for the disease and take all necessary steps in that regard, stating that the Higher Committee on Vaccination follows certain procedures with the concerned companies and storage facilities for approving the import of new vaccines.  [Byline: Marwa Al-Bahrawi]
====================
[A map showing Kuwait and Iraq is available at

The mortality from cholera is related to non-replacement of fluid and electrolytes from the diarrheal illness.

As cited in Lutwick LI, Preis J: Cholera. In: Tropical Pediatrics. Roach RR, Greydanus DE, Patel DR, Homnick DN, Merrick J (eds), 2014, Nova Science Publishers, 2015, oral rehydration therapy can be life-saving in outbreaks of cholera and other forms of diarrhea:

"As reviewed by Richard Guerrant and colleagues (1), it was in 1831 that cholera treatment could be accomplished by intravenous replacement and, although this therapy could produce dramatic improvements, not until 1960 was it 1st recognized that there was no true destruction of the intestinal mucosa, and gastrointestinal rehydration therapy could be effective, and the therapy could dramatically reduce the intravenous needs for rehydration. Indeed, that this rehydration could be just as effective given orally as through an orogastric tube (for example, references 2 and 3) made it possible for oral rehydration therapy (ORT) to be used in rural remote areas and truly impact on the morbidity and mortality of cholera. Indeed, Guerrant (1) highlights the use of oral glucose-salt packets in war-torn Bangladeshi refugees, which reduced the mortality rate from 30 percent to 3.6 percent (4) and quotes sources referring to ORT as "potentially the most important medical advance" of the 20th century. A variety of formulations of ORT exist, generally glucose- or rice powder-based, which contain a variety of micronutrients, especially zinc (5).

The assessment of the degree of volume loss in those with diarrhea to approximate volume and fluid losses can be found in reference 6 below. Those with severe hypovolemia should be initially rehydrated intravenously with a fluid bolus of normal saline or Ringer's lactate solution of 20-30 ml/kg followed by 100 ml/kg in the 1st 4 hours and 100 ml/kg over the next 18 hours with regular reassessment. Those with lesser degrees of hypovolemia can be rehydrated orally with a glucose or rice-derived formula with up to 4 liters in the 1st 4 hours, and those with no hypovolemia can be given ORT after each liquid stool with frequent reevaluation."

References
----------
1. Guerrant RL, Carneiro-Filho BA, Dillingham RA: Cholera, diarrhea, and oral rehydration therapy: triumph and indictment. Clin Infect Dis 2003; 37: 398-405.
2. Gregorio GV, Gonzales MLM, Dans LF, Martinez EG: Polymer-based oral rehydration solution for treating acute watery diarrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009; (2): CD006519. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006519.pub2.
3. Gore SM, Fontaine O, Pierce NF: Impact of rice based oral rehydration solution on stool output and duration of diarrhoea: meta-analysis of 13 clinical trials. BMJ 1992; 304(6822): 287-91.
4. Mahalanabis D, Choudhuri AB, Bagchi NG, et al: Oral fluid therapy of cholera among Bangladesh refugees. Johns Hopkins Med 1973; 132(4): 197-205.
5. Atia AN, Buchman AL: Oral rehydration solutions in non-cholera diarrhea: a review. Am J Gastroenterol 2009; 104(10): 2596-604.
6. WHO: The treatment of diarrhoea, a manual for physicians and other senior health workers. 4th ed. 2005.

An illustration (supplied by ProMED Mod.JW) of how to make a "home brew" oral rehydration solution can be found at
Date: Mon 23 Nov 2015
Source: Kuwait Times [edited]

Minister of Health Dr Ali Saad Al-Obaidi yesterday [22 Nov 2015] said the incidence of swine flu in Kuwait is nothing to worry about, according to WHO global health estimates, stressing the ministry's keenness to speak frankly with citizens and residents about all similar situations.

Speaking after opening the Haya Abdulrahman Al-Mujil Kidney Center yesterday [22 Nov 2015], Obaidi said the ministry is seeking to apply the strategies and protocols developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to ensure the safety and health of citizens and residents. He explained that swine flu has been widespread since 2009, adding that the number of casualties began to decline after a global fight against the virus. He said the ministry of health is taking all preventive precautions to halt the spread of infection, pointing to the success of the ministry's efforts in dealing with more serious diseases such as Ebola and MERS. The minister said flu vaccinations given in August and November [2015] have reduced much of the incidence of the disease.
==================
[Excerpted from WHO

Most swine influenza viruses (SIVs) do not cause disease in humans. However, some countries have reported cases of human infection with SIVs. Most of these human infections have been mild and the viruses have not spread further to other people. The H1N1 virus that caused the influenza pandemic in 2009-2010, thought to have originated in swine, is an example of an SIV that was able to spread easily among people and also cause disease.

Because pigs can become infected with influenza viruses from a variety of different hosts (such as birds and humans), they can act as a "mixing vessel," facilitating the reassortment of influenza genes from different viruses and creating a "new" influenza virus. The concern is that such "new" reassortant viruses may be more easily spread from person to person, or may cause more severe disease in humans than the original viruses. WHO and animal health sector partners are working at the human-animal interface to identify and reduce animal health and public health risks within national contexts.

Manifestations of H1N1 influenza are similar to those of seasonal influenza. Patients present with symptoms of acute respiratory illness, including at least 2 of the following: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting.

There is no evidence that this current set of cases of H1N1, most likely H1N1pdm09, originated with pigs. This influenza strain is now a seasonal flu that spreads from human to human. - ProMed Mod.LK]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 08:29:09 +0200 (METDST)

Hanga Roa, Chile, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Inhabitants of Easter Island are leaning on a traditional form of ancestral discipline to overcome a coronavirus-imposed lockdown that threatens the Pacific island's vital tourism sector, and consequently their livelihoods.   Situated 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) off the coast of Chile, the island of 7,750 people is renowned for its giant humanoid monoliths called moais that were sculpted from basalt more than 1,000 years ago.

So far, there have been just two confirmed coronavirus cases on Easter Island, with two or three more under observation. But the local population can ill afford the outbreak to spread with just one hospital and three ventilators on the island.   Faced with this crisis, the locals have turned to the Tapu, an ancient tradition based on taking care of oneself that has been passed down through generations of the native Rapa Nui people.   "To accompany this self-care concept, we're applying the Rapa Nui tradition, an ancestral rule based on sustainability and respect," said the island's mayor Pedro Edmunds.   "It's called Tapu. You can hear about this concept in all the Polynesian islands."

Tapu is a complex concept related to secrecy, rules and prohibitions from which the English word "taboo" derives.   "If you say the word Tapu to a Polynesian, they will immediately tell you why we have to do Tapu. That's precisely because they know and understand what it signifies," said Edmunds.   It means that the island's lockdown has been diligently respected, leading to the virus being prevented from spreading far and wide.   "We've applied the Tapu concept for all Rapa Nui and the acceptance has been incredible," said Edmunds.   "The virus is contained in two families in the same area, so we know where they are, who they are, and they've been respecting the (isolation) protocols since the beginning," Edmunds told AFP.

- Tourism impact -
But now, there are greater worries about the pandemic's impact on tourism.   On average, 100,000 people visit the volcanic Polynesian island each year, mostly attracted by the mysterious moais.   The local government was quick to react to the spreading pandemic in Latin America, closing the island's borders on March 11 -- a week before Chile's government in Santiago did likewise -- with the apparition of its first positive case.   Throughout Chile, there have now been more than 3,000 cases with 16 deaths.   A week ago, Easter Island was put under total lockdown with a nighttime curfew from 2:00 pm to 5:00 am. On Tuesday, these were extended for a further two weeks.

- Plan B planting -
With streets, beaches and parks deserted, the indigenous inhabitants have turned to the knowledge passed down through generations to deal with the crisis.   Some indigenous Rapa Nui inhabitants have already adapted to their new circumstances and started to cultivate their land, like their ancestors did, said Sabrina Tuki, who has worked in tourism for 20 years.   "Our family and many families are already applying a Plan B and we've already started planting," said Tuki, whose regular work has completely ground to a halt.

Everyone is worried about the coming months. Edmunds says the island's inhabitants can last for a month with the borders closed.   But at the end of April, 3,000 people "will be seen begging in the streets for food from some local or national authority, because they won't be able to eat," said Edmunds.   It won't be the Rapa Nui, though, according to Edmunds, because the community has begun to rally together behind its concept of Tapu.   But the island's other inhabitants, who make up around half the population and mostly work in the service industry, will be in trouble.

- Taken by surprise -
The mayor doesn't expect the recovery to come until August, when tourists would return to the islands.   When it does restart, he's expecting a reduced capacity compared to the two flights a week the island was welcoming until three weeks ago.   Only one airline, Latam, operated the five-hour flights from the continent, but like many airlines its business has been hard hit by the virus.   "We're all affected; the whole chain, from the biggest agency to the craftsman," said Samuel Atan, a hiking guide who says the crisis caught everyone unawares.

The pandemic has highlighted the fragility of such a remote location. Without state subsidies, many could not survive, Edmunds says.   The challenge for the future will be to improve infrastructure and "re-enchant people to come back," said Tuki.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 04:05:11 +0200 (METDST)

New York, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - New York mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday urged all of the city's residents to cover their faces when outside and near others to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.   "Let's be clear. This is a face covering. It could be a scarf. It could be something you create yourself at home. It could be a bandana," de Blasio told reporters.   "It doesn't need to be a professional surgical mask. In fact, we don't want you to use the kind of masks that our first responders need, that our health care workers need. Don't use those," he added.   New York is the epicenter of America's deadly COVID-19 outbreak.   The city has recorded almost 50,000 confirmed cases, including 1,562 deaths, according to the mayor's office.   As of Thursday evening, the United States had a total of more than 243,000 declared cases and over 5,900 fatalities, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

President Donald Trump told reporters at his daily White House briefing on the coronavirus that he was not considering making it mandatory for all Americans to cover their faces.   "For example on the masks, if people wanted to wear them they can. If people wanted to use scarves, which many people have them, they can.   "In many cases, scarves are better. It's thicker. Depending on the material, it's thicker," he said.   Vice President Mike Pence added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would release official guidelines on masks in the coming days.   But Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator at the White House, said it is important people do not think masks replace social distancing or hand-washing.     "We don't want people to get an artificial sense of protection," she said. "They're an additive."

California Governor Gavin Newsom made similar recommendations as de Blasio on Thursday, but stressed that masks were "not a substitute" for social distancing.   "Individuals (who) want to have face coverings... that is a good thing and a preferable thing, in addition to the physical distancing and the stay-at-home order," he said.   More than three-quarters of Americans are currently living under various forms of lockdown, including New Yorkers who have been told not to leave their residences unless absolutely necessary.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 02:16:41 +0200 (METDST)

Lima, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced on Thursday a new measure restricting public movement by gender, as the country tries to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.   Men will only be allowed to leave their homes on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, while women are authorized to step outdoors on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.   No one is allowed out on Sundays.   "We have 10 days left, let's make this extra effort to control this disease," said Vizcarra.   He said the restrictions would apply until April 12, the original end date to a lockdown he imposed on March 16.   Panama announced a similar measure on Monday that went into effect two days later and will last for 15 days.

By Thursday, Peru had recorded just over 1,400 coronavirus cases and 55 deaths.   Vizcarra said the new measure aims to reduce by half the number of people circulating in public at any one time.   "The (existing) control measures have given good results, but not what was hoped for," said Vizcarra.   These restrictions will not apply to people employed in essential services, such as grocery stores, banks, pharmacies and hospitals.   Vizcarra added that security forces tasked with patrolling the streets have been told to be respectful toward the gender identities of homosexual and transgender people.   "The armed forces and police have been instructed not to have homophobic attitudes," said the president.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 00:55:21 +0200 (METDST)
By Samir TOUNSI

Kinshasa, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Lack of resources, a muddle over confinement and incipient panic are hobbling the response to coronavirus in DR Congo, fuelling fears especially for Kinshasa, one of Africa's largest and most chaotic cities.

Almost all of the infections in the vast central African nation have occurred in the capital, along with a handful in the east -- a deeply-troubled region hit by Ebola and militia attacks.   "The coming week will be the most difficult for Kinshasa. The numbers will quickly double or triple," Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who is leading DRC's fight against the pandemic, warned in an interview with Jeune Afrique magazine.   According to official figures released late Wednesday, there have been 123 confirmed cases, 11 of them deaths, in a nation of some 80 million people.

Kinshasa, which has been isolated from the rest of the country, has 118 cases but this is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg giving the paucity of testing.   "On average, 50 tests are carried out each day at the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB)," said a health official, speaking on condition of anonymity.   Five cases have been recorded in six days in the Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile east, destabilised by 25 years of rebel and militant attacks.   Two of them emerged in Goma, the capital of the eastern North Kivu province, which is officially due to declare an end to the Ebola outbreak on April 12 if no more cases of haemorrhagic fever emerge.

- Fears of looting -
Kinshasa, home to at least 10 million people, was meant to go into lockdown on Saturday for four days under an announcement made unilaterally by the region's governor.   But officials delayed the measure after the announcement triggered fears of a rise in the prices of basic goods and the risk of unrest.   The national intelligence agency "warned the presidency of the threat of looting," an informed source said.   The city witnessed pillaging, led by security forces, in 1991 and 1993.

A day after the lockdown U-turn, President Felix Tshisekedi held an emergency meeting but there have been no announcements since.   "They want to decide on something that works. They can't afford to make mistakes," an observer said.   Later on Thursday, governor Gentiny Ngobila announced that Kinshasa's government district, which is also home to a number of embassies and banks, will be "put in quarantine" for two weeks starting from Monday.   Two globally-renowned names have been enlisted in the campaign against coronavirus: Dr. Muyembe, who helped discover the Ebola virus in 1976, is national coordinator, while the 2018 Nobel Peace laureate, gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, is overseeing the response in the east.

- 'General panic' -
Despite these reassuring appointments, preparations to deal with large numbers of coronavirus cases in Kinshasa are a mess, according to experts.   "The medical facilities are unequipped to take in sick people, apart from a hospital run by the Chinese," a health expert said.   There are only 65 ventilators in all of Kinshasa's hospitals, a researcher said. The INRB has no vehicles or fuel and foreign NGOs are pitching in to help, other sources said.   The problems have been experienced first-hand by some of Tshisekedi's entourage.    The president's special adviser, Vidiye Tshimanga, tested positive on March 23, after spending two days at home during which medical teams failed to arrive.

Tshimanga, who was diagnosed with a mild forum of coronavirus and is on the mend, told AFP that when he went for a lung scan on Monday, he was met by a hospital official "who refused to let me get out of the ambulance."
   One of his friends and a close aide of the president has meanwhile died, he told AFP.   "The medical teams were ill-informed and fearful of COVID-19 and hardly took care of him," Tshimanga said of his deceased colleague.   "I have heard of other cases like this," he said.  "A kind of general panic has set in. COVID-19 patients are being left to one side without receiving care. There is a lack of information... something that we (the government) are going to have to tackle as soon as possible."
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 22:32:53 +0200 (METDST)

Quito, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Troops and police in Ecuador have collected at least 150 bodies from streets and homes in the country's most populous city Guayaquil amid warnings that as many as 3,500 people could die of the coronavirus in the city and surrounding province in the coming months.   A joint military and police task force sent out to gather corpses in the horror-struck port city had  collected 150 in just three days, government spokesman Jorge Wated said late Wednesday.

Residents had published videos on social media showing abandoned bodies in the streets in the Latin American city worst hit by the pandemic.   Some left desperate messages for authorities to take away the corpses of people who had died in their homes.   Authorities have not confirmed how many of the dead were victims of the coronavirus.

Rosa Romero, 51, lost her husband Bolivar Reyes and had to wait a day for his body to be removed from their home.    A week later, amid the chaos of the city's mortuary system, she does not know where it is.   "In the forensic bureau they told us that they had taken him to the Guasmo Hospital. We went there to find him but he was not registered anywhere," Romero told AFP.   A 15-hour curfew imposed in the city makes further searching difficult.

- Government apology -
The government's spokesman apologized in a message broadcast on state television late Wednesday.   He said mortuary workers had been unable to keep up with the removal of bodies because of the curfew.   "We acknowledge any errors and apologize to those who had to wait days for their loved ones to be taken away," Wated said.    Mortuary workers in masks and protective clothing were seen carrying plastic-wrapped coffins in the city on Wednesday as authorities tried to cope with the backlog of dead.

Work at cemeteries and funeral homes has stalled, with staffers reluctant to handle the dead over contagion fears.   Ecuador is the Latin American country worst hit by the virus after Brazil, with more than 3,160 infections and 120 deaths by Thursday morning.

Guayaquil has Latin America's highest mortality rate from COVID-19 with 1.35 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants -- higher than the 0.92 per 100,000 registered in Brazil's epicenter Sao Paulo -- according to Esteban Ortiz from Ecuador's University of the Americas.    Guayaquil's surrounding province of Guayas has 70 percent of the country's COVID-19 infections.   Ecuador's first reported case of COVID-19 was a 71-year-old Ecuadoran woman who arrived in Guayaquil from Spain on February 14.

- 'Difficult days ahead' -
Wated said the government is preparing for even more difficult days ahead.   "The medical experts unfortunately estimate that deaths from COVID in these months will reach between 2,500 and 3,500 -- in the province of Guayas alone, and we are preparing for that," he said.   Autopsies have been restricted and the government, which has banned usually crowded funeral services, initially insisted that COVID-19 victims be cremated but was forced to relent after a public backlash.   "We are working so that each person can be buried with dignity in one-person spaces," Wated said, referring to a government-run cemetery being made available with capacity for around 2,000 bodies.

Last month, the city's mayor Cynthia Viteri sent municipal vehicles to block an Iberia plane sent to repatriate stranded foreigners from landing at the city's international airport.    But Viteri was unapologetic as the number of cases spiraled in her city.   "I take responsibility for protecting my city," she said.
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 20:58:06 +0200 (METDST)

Blantyre, Malawi, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Malawi on Thursday announced its first three coronavirus infections, one of the last African countries to report the potentially deadly disease.   The southern African country was one of the few without any confirmed cases along with the Comoros, Lesotho, Sao Tome and Principe and South Sudan.      President Peter Mutharika said the infections were in the capital Lilongwe.

The first was detected in an elderly woman who had recently travelled to India to visit her relatives.   "Upon arrival in Malawi, she placed herself in self-quarantine for 14 days but later became symptomatic within the quarantine period," said Mutharika in an address to the nation.   Two of her contacts also tested positive.   Mutharika said the government would provide medical care for the three patients and track down their immediate contacts.   To date coronavirus has infected more than 6,720 people across Africa and killed at least 273.
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 17:06:55 +0200 (METDST)

Port Louis, Mauritius, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Residents of the Indian Ocean island nation Mauritius rushed to supermarkets on Thursday after they had been shut for 10 days under a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.   Mauritius, usually a paradise holiday destination known for pristine beaches and coral reefs, has the most cases in eastern Africa with 169 infected and seven deaths -- including a 20-year-old woman with no prior health issues who died on Thursday.   The country was one of the first in Africa to impose a lockdown on March 20 -- when cases still stood at seven -- going so far as to shut supermarkets, bakeries and other shops often kept open in other nations.

Aware that people's stocks were starting to run low, the government decided to re-open under strict rules which divide people into three alphabetical groups to decide on which days they are allowed to shop.   Prakash Beeharry, a primary school teacher, told AFP he was lucky his surname starts with a 'B'.   "My neighbour, Mr Jayen Veerasamy, has to wait two more days before he can access the supermarket," he said.   Like many other mask-wearing shoppers, Beeharry stood in line from 6am to 10am before he was allowed in the supermarket.   "We only had 30 minutes to get all the groceries. Quite a challenge. I'm 45 years old and I've never experienced this... I hope things don't get worse."

Snaking long lines spread out from different supermarkets on the island, where shoppers kept a safe distance from each other and had their temperatures taken as they entered the stores.   "I feel relieved now that I have some supplies," said retired citizen Joseph who was one of the first at the Intermart in central Curepipe.   Other rules put in place allow only one member of a family in the store at a time, and masks are obligatory. The purchase of basics such as rice, flour, milk or oil are subject to restrictions.   Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth had initially shut the supermarkets because the situation was "extremely serious" and he saw the move as "the only way to stop the spread of the virus".

The decision was widely criticised, as while the middle and upper classes were able to prepare and stock food, the poor were not -- and many had yet to receive their salaries.   Tourism Minister Joe Lesjongard explained Tuesday that the government was "aware the population is starting to lack supplies".   "We should never have shut the supermarkets," said former prime minister and prominent opposition leader Paul Berenger.   In a bid to assist the poorest members of society, the government has distributed basic necessities to some 30,000 people.

A solidarity fund has also been created by government officials, with all lawmakers donating ten percent of their annual salaries.   Hotels on the island are now mostly empty, aside from a handful used as quarantine centres, while the renowned smiles of tourism staff have been replaced by the exhausted, defeated expressions of health workers.
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 15:40:59 +0200 (METDST)

Bangkok, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Thailand will introduce a six-hour night curfew in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus, authorities said Thursday, warning anyone who breached the order faced a two-year jail term.   The curfew from 10 pm to 4 am (1500 to 2100 GMT) will begin on Friday and bars everyone in the country from leaving their homes.    Exemptions will be made for essential staff, including medical workers, food and fuel transport staff, and postal services.    The number of infections in Thailand has soared past 1,800 -- up more than 80 percent from a week ago -- and the death toll has nearly quadrupled to 15 as of Thursday.

The government has come under criticism for not acting soon enough to curb the spread of the virus -- introducing incremental measures despite being the first country outside China to confirm a case, which happened in January.   In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha urged citizens not to panic.   "You can buy things in the daytime," he said.   Penalties for hoarding essential supplies such as face masks carry penalties of up to seven years in prison and a 140,000 baht ($4,200) fine, he said.

The stepped-up measures also include an entry ban on all arrivals -- including Thais -- for two weeks.   Thais who insist on returning will be placed under state quarantine, though Prayut implored them to defer travel plans.    On Thursday, Bangkok's popular markets were shuttered, while parks that were ordered to close were empty of joggers.   Thailand's economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus, especially those employed in the informal sector.   The Bank of Thailand expects the economy to shrink by 5.3 percent this year -- a 22-year low -- and nearly 22 million people have registered for cash handouts.
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 13:02:41 +0200 (METDST)

Seoul, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - North Korea remains totally free of the coronavirus, a senior health official in Pyongyang has insisted, despite mounting scepticism overseas as confirmed global infections near one million.   The already isolated, nuclear-armed North quickly shut down its borders after the virus was first detected in neighbouring China in January, and imposed strict containment measures.

Pak Myong Su, director of the anti-epidemic department of the North's Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarters, insisted that the efforts had been completely successful.   "Not one single person has been infected with the novel coronavirus in our country so far," Pak told AFP.   "We have carried out preemptive and scientific measures such as inspections and quarantine for all personnel entering our country and thoroughly disinfecting all goods, as well as closing borders and blocking sea and air lanes."

Nearly every other country has reported coronavirus cases, with the World Health Organization saying on Wednesday that there were nearly one million confirmed infections globally.   Aside from China, South Korea endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the virus, which has claimed more than 45,000 lives around the world.   Experts have said the North is particularly vulnerable to the virus because of its weak medical system, and defectors have accused Pyongyang of covering up an outbreak.

The top US military commander in South Korea, General Robert Abrams, said Thursday that Pyongyang's assertion it had no cases was "untrue".   "I can tell you that is an impossible claim based on all of the intel that we have seen," Abrams told VOA News.   The North's military was "locked down" for 30 days in February and early March over the epidemic, he said.   "They took draconian measures at their border crossings and inside their formations to do exactly what everybody else is doing, which is to stop the spread," he added.

US President Donald Trump said previously North Korea "is going through something" and offered "cooperation in the anti-epidemic work", in a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.   And Choi Jung-hun, a former North Korean doctor who fled to the South in 2012, told AFP: "I heard there are many deaths in North Korea but the authorities are not saying that it's caused by the coronavirus."

-- 'Strict control' --
As part of its anti-virus efforts Pyongyang put thousands of its own people and hundreds of foreigners -- including diplomats -- into isolation and mounted disinfection drives, with state media constantly exhorting citizens to obey health directives.   Published images have shown universal face mask use, with the exception of leader Kim, who has never been seen wearing one, even though for several weeks the officers alongside him when he supervised firing exercises donned black coverings.

More recently his aides have also been seen without face masks, although defector Choi said that did not signal the North's containment efforts had been widely successful.   Pyongyang -- which is subject to multiple international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes -- has sought virus-related aid.   In February, Russia's foreign ministry said it provided Pyongyang with 1,500 coronavirus diagnostic test kits at its request "due to the persisting risk of the new COVID-19".

The United Nations has granted sanctions exemptions to relief groups including Doctors without Borders and UNICEF on items such as diagnostic kits, face masks, protective equipment and disinfectants.   Both Doctors Without Borders and UNICEF -- whose shipments were requested by North Korean authorities -- said that their supplies had arrived overland from China.   "DPRK has an overall lack of medical supplies and the latest diagnostic equipment," a Doctors Without Borders spokesperson told AFP, using the initials of the country's official name.   The World Health Organisation plans to spend $900,000 to support Pyongyang's coronavirus response activities, according to data posted on the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs website.
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 12:24:14 +0200 (METDST)

Dubai, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Emirates Airline said Thursday it is to resume a limited number of outbound passenger flights from April 6, less than two weeks after its coronavirus-enforced stoppage.   "Emirates has received approval from UAE authorities to restart flying a limited number of passenger flights," its chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, said on Twitter.   "From April 6, these flights will initially carry travellers outbound from UAE," he said, adding that details would be announced soon.      Dubai-owned carrier Emirates, the largest in the Middle East with 271 wide-body aircraft, grounded passenger operations last week as the UAE halted all passenger flights to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The UAE, which groups seven emirates including Dubai, has declared 814 coronavirus cases along with eight deaths.   It has imposed a sweeping crackdown, including the flight ban and closure of borders.   Sheikh Ahmed said Emirates, which owns the world's largest fleet of Airbus A-380 superjumbos with 113 in its ranks, was looking to gradually resume passenger services.   "Over the time, Emirates looks forward to the gradual resumption of passenger services in line with lifting of travel and operational restrictions, including assurance of health measures to safeguard our people and customers," he said.

When Emirates suspended flights, it cut between 25 percent and 50 percent of the basic salary of its 100,000-strong staff for three months, saying it wanted to avert layoffs.   Dubai's crown prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum said Tuesday that Dubai will support the airline by injecting new capital.   Tourism, aviation, hotels and entertainment are key contributors to Dubai's mostly non-oil economy.