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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: Sat, 2 May 2020 17:14:39 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, May 2, 2020 (AFP) - A 6.0 magnitude quake struck off the Greek island of Crete on Saturday but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.   The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the epicentre was about 55 kilometres (35 miles) south of the city of Ierapetra. It hit at 1251 GMT (15:51 pm).   "No victims or serious damage has been reported so far," a local police officer told AFP by telephone.

Tremors were felt across the island and landslides were reported on some roads in Lasithi, where Ierapetra is located, the fire service said.    "Luckily the quake happened at a depth of 19 kilometres in the sea and there has not been any serious damage so far," said Giorgos Aspadrakis, the head of the fire brigade in Lasithi.   "The quake went on for a long time," said Georgia Santamouri, 29, who lives at Heraklion -- almost 100 km from Ierapetra.   "I was in bed. I was really scared in the beginning and I couldn't move initially but then I ran out," she said.

Greece is prone to earthquakes, with many occurring offshore.   The last deadly quake occurred on the island of Kos in the Aegean Sea in July 2017. The 6.7-magnitude quake killed two people.   The deadliest temblor in recent years struck the Athens region in 1999, killing 143 people.
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2020 12:20:54 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, April 23, 2020 (AFP) - Greece is extending coronavirus lockdown measures by a week to May 4, the government said Thursday.   The country has managed to keep fatalities at a low level after registering its first virus death on March 12, despite a decade of cuts imposed on its public health system during the post-2010 debt crisis.

Supermarkets, banks and food delivery restaurants are among the few businesses still operating, and Greeks must inform authorities when leaving their homes for necessities, or risk fines.   "Restrictive measures that apply until April 27 are extended by a week to May 4," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week will be announcing steps to remove some of the nationwide lockdown measures imposed on March 22, Petsas added.   The relaxation of the restrictions is set to begin with a partial reopening of courts and land registers on April 27.   The education ministry has also announced plans for final-year school pupils to hold university entry exams in June.   Greece has so far officially announced 121 deaths, with 55 people still in intensive care.
Date: Tue, 7 Apr 2020 12:55:32 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, April 7, 2020 (AFP) - Hundreds of Greek healthcare workers demonstrated on Tuesday to protest at working conditions and lack of manpower and equipment in public hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.   The demonstrations were staged to coincide with World Health Day, according to the federation of hospital personnel.   "You only saw us when we covered our faces," proclaimed a poster printed by hospital trade unions, bearing a picture of doctors wearing anti-coronavirus masks.    Demonstrators at the large Evangelismos hospital in central Athens held up signs demanding job hiring, virus testing and hospital equipment.

Police tried to enter the hospital courtyard where the rally was taking place before being forced back by demonstrators, an AFP photographer said.   A similar protest was held at the main hospital in Larissa in central Greece, according to images from public television ERT.    Despina Tossonidou, president of the doctors' union at Voula hospital in southern Athens, said that in addition to the hiring of medical staff, intensive care units in private clinics should be requisitioned "to overcome the shortcomings of the public sector" during the virus crisis.   Health care in Greece was drastically affected by the country's 2010-2018 financial crisis and tough austerity required by creditors in exchange for bailouts.

As part of its measures to deal with the pandemic, the government has offered clinics 30 million euros ($32.6 million) and announced the hiring on short-term contracts of 2,000 doctors and 2,000 nursing staff.    "These measures are just a drop in the ocean," said Tossonidou, a radiologist.    "The hospital system needs 30,000 additional permanent doctors," she said, also citing the lack of protective equipment and COVID-19 testing in hospitals.    "The majority of tests are currently carried out in private hospitals at costs ranging from 150 to 300 euros ($163-326)," said Tossonidou.    Greece, a country of around 10.7 million people, has suffered relatively less than other European nations in the pandemic, recording 81 deaths out of 1,755 cases.
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.
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Cyprus

Cyprus US Consular Information Sheet
December 30, 2009

Since 1974, Cyprus, a Mediterranean island nation, has been divided de facto into a government-controlled area comprising the southern two-thirds of the island, and a northern third (t
e self-declared “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus"), administered by Turkish Cypriots. The United States does not recognize the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” nor does any country other than Turkey. Facilities for tourism in Cyprus are highly developed. Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Cyprus for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required for travel to Cyprus. A visa is not required for a stay of up to 90 days. For longer stays, a visa or residence permit is required. U.S. citizens should be mindful that the Government of Cyprus does not recognize the residence permits issued by Turkish Cypriot authorities for the portions of the island under Turkish Cypriot administration. The Government of Cyprus does not issue residency permits to individuals who live in the areas outside government control.
On occasion, Americans who resided in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots for more than 90 days without a Republic of Cyprus residence permit have been detained by officials at Larnaca airport and denied entry into the government-controlled area. They also may be subject to prosecution.

The U.S. Embassy encourages travelers to read the “Special Circumstances” section of this fact sheet for important additional information about entry requirements into the Turkish Cypriot-administered areas.
For further information on entry requirements for Cyprus, travelers can contact the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus at 2211 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008-4082, tel. (202) 462-5772, or the Cypriot Consulate in New York at 13 East 40th St., 5th Floor, New York, NY 10016, tel. (212) 686-6016/17. Visit the Embassy of Cyprus’ web site at http://www.cyprusembassy.net for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to enter the U.N. buffer zone at any place other than a designated crossing point. This area is mined and militarized.
Never photograph military installations or anything that could be perceived as being of security interest (especially in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots). Pay particular attention to areas marked with “no photography” signs. Police on both sides strictly enforce these restrictions.

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

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: The crime rate in Cyprus is low. Visitors in urban areas should take the normal precautions they would take in any large city. Americans frequenting bars should avoid so-called “cabarets,” which sometimes employ women brought to Cyprus for sexual exploitation. These establishments can also present foreign patrons with grossly inflated bar tabs, threatening those customers who refuse to pay.

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 in finding appropriate medical care, contacting family members or friends, and explaining how funds can be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of a crime in Cyprus is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Republic of Cyprus is 199 or 112.

Emergency assistance is available in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots by calling 155.
Also see our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care is available at both government hospitals and private clinics. Emergency rooms offer adequate care to stabilize patients, most of whom are then transferred to private hospitals. Many of the private-sector doctors have been trained in the United Kingdom or the United States. While fees are generally lower than those in the United States, medical supplies are often more expensive. Paramedics do not staff ambulances. The standard of medical care in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots is improving but still falls below that found in the government-controlled area. The World Health Organization considers Cyprus to be one of the healthiest areas of the Mediterranean. Water supplies are potable, and the refuse collection/sewage disposal system is adequate. Communicable diseases such as typhoid are rare. Respiratory ailments and allergies are sometimes exacerbated by the dry and dusty climate.

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Cyprus.
Legislation mandates that aliens known to have certain communicable diseases and HIV be denied entry into the country.
American citizens who think they may be included in this restriction are encouraged to check with the Embassy of Cyprus at http://www.cyprusembassy.net before they travel.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

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 Cyprus is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
In recent years, Cyprus ranked among the top three countries in Europe, on a per capita basis, in traffic fatalities. Speeding, tailgating, overtaking, and the running of caution lights are commonplace and major causes of accidents. Emergency assistance is available in the Republic of Cyprus by calling 112 or 199.
Emergency assistance is available in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots by calling 155.
There are few public buses and no rail lines. Taxis are widely available. Traffic moves on the left side of the road, British style, and modern motorways link the major cities. Secondary roads, especially in mountainous areas, tend to be narrow and winding, and they are not as well maintained as major highways. Traffic laws, signs and speed limits are consistent with the standards used throughout Europe. Traffic circles (roundabouts) are often utilized at major intersections.

The use of seat belts (in front seats) and child car seats is required. Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets and the use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited unless used with some form of hands-free kit. Liability insurance is mandatory.

Road safety conditions in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots are similar to conditions in the south, except that the road network is less developed. Insurance purchased in the government-controlled area is not valid in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, but insurance for that area may be purchased near the U.N. "buffer zone" checkpoints.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. For specific information concerning driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance in Cyprus, contact the Cyprus Tourism Organization at 13 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016, tel. (212) 683-5280, email: gocyprus@aol.com, web site: http://www.visitcyprus.com/wps/portal.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Cyprus, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Cyprus’ Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Since 1974, the Republic of Cyprus has designated Larnaca and Paphos international airports, and the seaports of Limassol, Larnaca, and Paphos, as the only legal points of entry into and exit from Cyprus. These ports are all in the government-controlled southern part of the island. Entry or exit via any other air or seaport is considered an illegal act by the Republic of Cyprus. Formerly, visitors choosing to arrive at non-designated airports and seaports in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots were not allowed to cross the U.N.-patrolled “buffer zone” to the government-controlled area in the south. Since 2004, when the Republic of Cyprus implemented new EU-related crossing regulations, Americans (and citizens of other non-EU countries not requiring visas) have been able to cross regardless of their port of entry into Cyprus.

Most American visitors to Cyprus are able to cross the “buffer zone” without hindrance, although on occasion difficulties are encountered at both the government and Turkish Cypriot checkpoints. Cypriot officials at the “buffer zone” checkpoints or at airports and seaports in the government-controlled area may detain and prosecute Americans who have been present for more than 90 days in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots if they do not possess a residency permit issued by the Government of Cyprus.

For visits of less than 90 days, American citizens may enter the Turkish Cypriot-administered area by displaying a valid U.S. passport.
Stays for 90 days or longer require a “temporary residency visa” issued by Turkish Cypriot authorities.
Turkish Cypriot authorities have deported foreigners who violate this law.
Turkish Cypriot authorities emphasize that the requirement to obtain a temporary residency visa within 90 days of arriving in the Turkish Cypriot-administered area cannot be avoided by periodically visiting the southern part of the island controlled by the Republic of Cyprus.
Policy and procedures regarding travel across the “buffer zone” are subject to change. More information on current procedures may be obtained at the U.N. “buffer zone” Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated strict identification procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian, if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry and departure. Although Cyprus is party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the Convention cannot be used effectively to recover a child abducted to the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.

Cyprus customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Cyprus of items such as firearms. There are no restrictions on contemporary religious materials and medication for personal use; however, Cyprus does restrict the export of Byzantine era ecclesiastical material.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus in Washington, DC for specific information regarding customs requirements or visit http://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/customs/ced.nsf/DMLindex_en/DMLindex_en?OpenDocument.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. Cyprus restricts the export of Byzantine period ecclesiastical material and all archaeological material, including ancient coins. The U.S. Customs Service may impose corresponding import restrictions in accordance with the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. Also see our Customs Information.

In addition to being subject to all Cypriot laws affecting American citizens, individuals who also possess Cypriot nationality may be subject to laws that impose special obligations on citizens of Cyprus. For example, American citizens whom the Republic of Cyprus considers to be Cypriot citizens may be subject to compulsory military service and other aspects of Cypriot law while in Cyprus. American citizen males between the ages of 16 and 26 years who reside in the United States and whose parents or grandfather were Greek Cypriots or have Greek Cypriot names are advised to obtain a written confirmation that they reside permanently outside of Cyprus from the Cypriot Embassy in Washington, D.C. before they travel to Cyprus.
After their arrival in Cyprus, the young men should present their foreign residency confirmation statement to the Cypriot National Guard Registration office to obtain an exit permit. Those who believe they may be affected should inquire at the Embassy of the Republic of Cyprus regarding their status. American citizens whom the Turkish Cypriot authorities consider to be "citizens" may also be subject to compulsory military service in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. The U.S. Embassy is unable to exempt dual nationals from such service.
For additional information, please see our dual nationality flyer.

American Citizens who buy or lease property, particularly in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, may find their ownership challenged by people displaced as a result of the 1974 conflict. Prospective property buyers should always seek legal advice before buying. On October 20, 2006, the government of the Republic of Cyprus passed Article 303A of the Criminal Code which makes it a felony to buy, rent or sell property in Cyprus without the consent of the registered owner. Cypriot courts have used the law to prosecute people involved in the sale or purchase of property in the area administered by the Turkish Cypriots. The government of Cyprus has also attempted to enforce Cypriot legal judgments in property matters in other EU countries. Cypriot customs authorities routinely detain anyone arriving in Cyprus or crossing the buffer zone found to be in possession of documents relating to property purchases in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.

In June 2006 the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" amended the laws governing its "Immovable Property Commission" to enable the Commission to accept claims for compensation or restitution from Greek Cypriots for property in the north.
The Government of the Republic of Cyprus does not recognize the legitimacy of the "Immovable Property Commission."
Some Greek Cypriots who have filed claims with the Commission have been subjected to intensive governmental and public pressure to withdraw their claims.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, American citizens are 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 under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Cypriot laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Cyprus are strict, and convicted offenders can expect 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 Cyprus are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration web site
in order to obtain updated information on travel and security within Cyprus. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located at Metochiou and Ploutarchou Streets, Engomi, Nicosia, tel. 357-22-39-3939; fax 357-22-39-3344; e-mail consularnicosia@state.gov; web site http://cyprus.usembassy.gov/
The U.S. Government also maintains an office in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. The office is located at 6 Serif Arzik Street, Koskluciftlik, Nicosia.
The telephone number when calling from the United States or the Republic of Cyprus is 0090-392-227-3930. When calling within the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, please dial 227-3930.
* * * * * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 27, 2008
to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Information for Victims of Crime,
Special Circumstances, and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 21 May 2020 12:46:52 +0200 (METDST)
By Charlie Charalambous

Nicosia, May 21, 2020 (AFP) - The Cypriot government ended a strict coronavirus lockdown Thursday, reopening outdoor restaurants, barber shops and beaches, but keeping the Mediterranean resort island's vital airports and hotels closed for now.   After two months of living in self-isolation, Cypriots are allowed to move around freely again.

Some 32,000 more people went back to work as part of the government's second stage out of lockdown.   Thousands of children returned to the classroom as state-run schools resumed most classes.   Since mid-March people could only go outside for exercise and essential trips which needed to be approved by text message while a curfew was enforced every night.   Cyprus activated the second stage of its draft timetable for ending the lockdown after the the daily number of new infections remained in single figures throughout the first three weeks of May.

Virologist Dr Leontios Kostrikis, who is a member of the health ministry's epidemiological monitoring unit, said he was "very satisfied" with the figures so far.   Announcing four new infections in the previous 24 hours on Wednesday evening, Kostrikis said Cyprus was entering a watershed moment in its fight against the coronavirus.   "The second stage is a make or break point for a full return to normalcy and for this reason we kindly ask you to keep up the good work with the same determination so that we are not forced to take backward steps," Kostrikis told reporters.

Due to the better than expected figures, the government has also decided to allow Cypriots access to organised beaches from 23 May, rather than June 1 as planned.   At present only swimming is allowed not sunbathing or any other leisure activity.   Parks and public spaces have also reopened but not children's playgrounds.   Church services and other forms of religious worship will also be allowed to resume from May 23 instead of June.

- Still no flights -
But the island's two international airports in Larnaca and Paphos remain firmly shut for now, as do the crossing points to the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot north of the island.   The tourism sector makes up a key part of the Cyprus economy and the government has been under heavy pressure to reopen airports and hotels before the peak summer season.   The government has said it hopes to reopen airports gradually from mid-June with hotels to reopen two weeks after that.

But it has yet to issue any health protocols on how they will operate.   Gyms and indoor bars and restaurants will also remain shut until the third phase out of lockdown scheduled to start from June 9.   The government has said crossing points through the UN-patrolled buffer zone that divides the government-controlled south from the breakaway north will not reopen before next month.

Their closure has prevented thousands of Turkish Cypriots from reaching work in the south and sparked Turkish Cypriot demonstrations.   Since the first case on March 9, the Cyprus government has confirmed 922 coronavirus infections and 17 deaths, including in the island's British sovereign base areas.   Turkish Cypriot authorities have confirmed 108 cases and four deaths.
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2020 21:55:29 +0200 (METDST)

Nicosia, April 29, 2020 (AFP) - Cyprus revealed a plan Wednesday to gradually ease coronavirus lockdown measures  and reboot the Mediterranean holiday island's economy.   The Republic of Cyprus, which controls the southern two-thirds of the divided island, had imposed strict measures soon after its first COVID-19 cases were confirmed on March 9.

President Nicos Anastasiades announced that some of the emergency regulations would be eased from May 4 and further lifted in stages, on the advice of health experts wary of a new spike in COVID-19 cases.   "The distance we have to travel, unfortunately, remains great," Anastasiades said in a televised address after a cabinet meeting.   "Nevertheless, the progress that continues to be made allows us to implement the first phases for a gradual easing of restrictive measures," he added.

The first phase will see the reopening of the key construction sector, as well as retailers and markets, though shopping malls will remain closed.   The public sector will go back to work, but under strict social distancing rules. Parks, marinas and playgrounds will remain closed until the second phase.   Under the lockdown measures, Cyprus residents were only permitted to leave the house once a day for limited purposes, and needed to obtain government permission via SMS for each trip.    From Monday they will be allowed three outings per day, Anastasiades said.   A night-time curfew will remain in place, but the start time will be pushed an hour later to 10:00 pm (1900 GMT).

From May 21, all movement restrictions will be lifted, Anastasiades added.   Open-air restaurants, cafes and bars will also reopen from May 21, as will barber shops, hair salons and beauty parlours.   Students in their final year of secondary school at state-run and private schools are set to return to class from May 11.

Cypriots will again be allowed to visit the island's many beaches from June 1.   A ban on gathering at places of worship, which had been in place during Greek Orthodox Easter in mid-April, will also be eased.   Groups of fewer than ten people will be permitted in places of worship from Monday and religious services opened to the public from June 1.

The plan did not mention the reopening of airports and hotels.    A commercial flight ban has been imposed until mid-May, with only Cypriot citizens and residents allowed to enter the country and facing quarantine on arrival.   Seaports will operate again from June 1, but passengers will not be able to disembark from cruise ships.   The Republic of Cyprus has recorded 843 cases of the novel coronavirus, including 15 deaths, since early March.    The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Ankara, has reported 108 cases, including four deaths.
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2020 12:00:12 +0200 (METDST)

Nicosia, April 24, 2020 (AFP) - Cyprus has extended a ban on all commercial flights until May 17 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the transport minister said Friday.  "We have decided to extend the decree on a total ban on flights at Larnaca and Paphos airports until Sunday 17 May," Yiannis Karousos wrote on Twitter.   The transport ministry said the decree continued to apply to all countries.   Cargo and humanitarian flights, as well as repatriation flights to and from the Mediterranean island, are exempt.

The extension is the third since authorities first introduced a two-week ban on March 21. The current period had been scheduled to end on April 30.   Cyprus has imposed tough restrictions to confront the coronavirus pandemic.   Most people are allowed to leave their homes only once a day and a night-time curfew is in place, while those returning on repatriation flights are subject to a 14-day quarantine period at a designated facility.

Authorities are assessing whether to start gradually easing the lockdown in early May, with new cases of the COVID-19 illness appearing to slow and low transmission rates.   As of Thursday evening, the Republic of Cyprus had officially declared 795 coronavirus cases, including 10 on sovereign British military bases on the island, and 13 deaths.   The breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has registered 108 cases and four deaths.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 22:17:15 +0200 (METDST)

Nicosia, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday extended a lockdown designed to combat the spread of coronavirus until the end of April, taking in Greek Easter.   "The cabinet has agreed to extend all measures and decrees until April 30," Anastasiades announced in a televised address.

Cyprus has closed schools, banned gatherings and imposed a nigh time curfew, allowing residents to leave their homes only once a day.   The shutdown had originally been due to run until April 13.   "We must not succumb to the difficulties caused by the measures. The duration of the measures depends on how faithfully we follow them," Anastasiades said.   The Republic of Cyprus on Wednesday announced 32 new coronavirus cases, taking the confirmed total in the EU member state to 526, among whom nine have died.

Two other people, both German tourists, have died of COVID-19 in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet in the north of the divided island.   "Without wanting to cultivate optimism, it seems that our measures allow us to see a ray of light," the president said.   "It is not our way of life which is at stake but our lives," he said.

The president was referring to Greek Easter, the most important date in the Orthodox calendar that this year falls on April 19.   He said there will be 20,000 more coronavirus tests for people still working, including the army, and further repatriations of students and other Cypriot nationals stranded abroad.
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 11:30:15 +0200 (METDST)

Nicosia, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Cyprus has extended a ban on all commercial flights for another two weeks until April 17 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the transport minister said Thursday.   After "evaluating the situation... "we (decided to) extend the decree" introduced for two weeks on March 21 by another 14 days, Yiannis Karousos tweeted.

The transport ministry told local news site Financial Mirror that cargo flights from a list of 28 countries were exempted from the ban as well as flights for stranded foreign nationals and "for humanitarian reasons".   As of Wednesday evening, Cyprus had recorded a total of 397 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths from the pandemic, including two fatalities in the Turkish-run north of the divided island.   The island has imposed tough restrictions on movement, including a nighttime curfew and allowing people to leave their homes only once a day with permission.
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Netherlands

The Netherlands - US Consular Information Sheet
January 04, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
The Netherlands is a highly developed, stable democracy.
Tourist facilities are available throughout the Kingdom.
Read the Department of State
ackground notes on The Netherlands for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required.
Visas are not required for U.S. citizens for tourist visits of up to 90 days.
That period begins when you enter any of the Schengen group of countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.
To be admitted into the Netherlands, travelers must have a passport with a validity that exceeds their intended stay, a return airline ticket, and enough money to finance the planned stay.
For further information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Netherlands at 4200 Linnean Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or one of the Dutch consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York or Miami.
Additional information is available on the Netherlands' National Bureau for Tourism's Internet web site at http://www.goholland.com.
See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on the Netherlands and other countries.
Visit the Embassy of the Netherlands web site at http://www.netherlands-embassy.org/homepage.asp for the most current visa information.
Information on work, residency and immigration requirements in the Netherlands can be found on the web site of the Dutch immigration authorities at www.ind.nl.

Note: Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passport upon initial entry to a Schengen country; many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function.
If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry.
Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passport may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.

See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.
Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
In 2004, the Dutch government implemented heightened security measures in response to concerns of international Islamic extremist terrorist activity on Dutch soil.
The November 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic extremist in Amsterdam further increased concerns over Islamic extremist activity in the Netherlands.
One individual was arrested and later sentenced to life in prison for van Gogh's murder and related Islamic extremist activities.
Since the murder, the Dutch government has remained on heightened alert.

U.S. citizens in the Netherlands are encouraged to monitor media reports, and are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.
As with other countries in the Schengen area, the Netherlands' open borders with its European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.
Demonstrations are commonplace in the Netherlands and may range in number from a few people to several thousand.
Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations, and police oversight is routinely provided.
Nonetheless, situations may develop which could pose a threat to public safety.
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid areas in which public demonstrations are taking place.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
While the rate of violent crime in the Netherlands is low, tourists are often targets of thieves.
Visitors frequently fall prey to pickpockets, bag snatchers and other petty burglars.
Theft from automobiles and hotel rooms are also on the rise.
Never leave baggage or other valuables unattended.

While thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam receives frequent reports of thefts from specific areas.
Within Amsterdam, thieves are very active in and around train and tram stations, the city center and public transport.
More specifically, trains to and from Schiphol Airport are considered to be high risk, and theft of laptop computers has increased.
Thieves often work in pairs; one distracts the victim, often by asking for directions, while the accomplice moves in on the victim's momentarily unguarded handbag, backpack, laptop or briefcase.
The timing of these thefts usually coincides with train stops, enabling the thieves to escape.
In addition, many Americans have reported that their purses and briefcases have been stolen while eating in downtown restaurants, including hotel breakfast rooms.
A good rule of thumb is to never leave your personal items unattended when going to the restroom, buffet table, etc.

Confidence artists have victimized a number of Americans.
Typically, a U.S. citizen is notified via email of a winning lottery ticket, an inheritance, or other offer, which requires his/her assistance and cooperation to conclude.
The American is asked to forward advance payments for alleged"official expenses," "taxes," etc. and, often, to come to Amsterdam to conclude the operation.
Several Americans have lost tens of thousands of dollars in such scams.
Funds transferred in response to such offers cannot be recovered.
Information on fraud schemes can be found on the U.S. Embassy's web page.
For additional information, please contact the nearest office of the U.S. Secret Service or visit that agency's web site at www.secretservice.gov.
Additional information is also provided in the Department of State's pamphlet, Advance Fee Business Scams.
Travelers may also contact the Fraud Unit, Amsterdam Police, Police Headquarters, PB 2287, 1000 CG Amsterdam, Netherlands, tel. (31) (20) 559-2380, fax (31) (20) 559-5755.

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.
In the Netherlands, the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam provides all passport and American citizen services.
A lost or stolen passport can usually be replaced within a few hours during normal working hours for those with immediate travel plans.
If you are the victim of a crime while in the Netherlands, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Consulate General for assistance.
It is a good idea to make a photocopy of the "biographic page" of your passport, to bring extra passport photos, and to keep these separate from your actual passport just in case it is lost or stolen.
Consulate staff can, for example, help you 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.
Contact information is provided at the bottom of this document.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund (CICF) of the Netherlands provides financial compensation, under specific circumstances, for victims of crime and for those who have suffered injuries and consequent loss caused by such incidents.
The fund also provides for dependents or immediate family members of homicide victims.
For more information, contact the Dutch Ministry of Justice at (31) (70) 414-2000.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Good medical facilities are widely available.
Emergency medical response can be accessed by calling 1-1-2.
Reputable pharmacies are widely available and can assist with emergency prescription needs.
Some common medications are not available in the Netherlands without a prescription, and some prescription drugs cannot be mailed into the country.
Travelers are therefore urged to carry an adequate supply of prescription drugs in their original container while traveling.
Some U.S. over-the-counter medications are not available in the Netherlands and travelers should carry an adequate supply of these as well.
Those traveling with any preexisting medical problems should bring a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs.

Vaccinations are not required for travel to the Netherlands.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Medical evacuations cost thousands of dollars and are not always covered by travel insurance.
Foreign doctors and hospitals usually require payment at the time service is rendered, and this too may not be covered by a traveler's policy.
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 the Netherlands is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Travel in, around, and between cities is possible via a highly advanced national train, light rail, tram, and bus network, by use of an extensive system of bike paths, and by automobile and motorcycle on the modern highway system.
Rail is often a convenient alternative to driving, particularly in the areas around Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam, where road congestion is frequent.
Rail network information is available at http://www.ns.nl.

Intercity travel by road is relatively safe in comparison with some other European countries.
Nonetheless, more than 1,000 people die and another 10,000 are injured in traffic accidents in the Netherlands each year.
More than two thirds of the fatal accidents occur outside urban areas.

A valid driver's license issued by a Department of Motor Vehicles in the U.S. is valid for use in the Netherlands for up to 180 days.
Seat belt and child seat use is compulsory.
Driving is on the right side of the road.
The maximum speed limit on highways is 120 km/h, with a highway speed limit of 100 km/h posted in most urban areas.
Secondary roads and some urban area highways have a speed limit of 80 km/h.
The speed limit in towns and cities is 50 km/h, with 30 km/h posted in residential areas.
The Dutch government has reduced speed limits on certain roads near cities in an effort to reduce air pollution.
During traffic jams, authorities also reduce speed limits; drivers should be sure to check for revised limits posted on electronic billboards above the highways.
Please note that drivers must yield the right-of-way to drivers and bikers coming from the right at intersections or traffic circles, unless otherwise posted.
The maximum allowable blood alcohol level in the Netherlands is 0.5 per mille.
The use of cellular telephones while driving is illegal without the use of a "hands-free" device.

Lanes at the center of many urban two-way streets are reserved for buses, trams and taxis.
In cities, pedestrians should be mindful of trams, which often cross or share bicycle and pedestrian paths.
Motorists must be especially mindful of the priority rights of bicyclists.
Pedestrians should not walk along bicycle paths, which are often on the sidewalk and usually designated by red pavement.
Travelers should also be watchful for one-way roads.

Taxi service in the Netherlands is safe but expensive.
Trams and buses are both convenient and economical, but often frequented by pickpockets.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of the Netherlands Bureau for Tourism at http://www.goholland.com.
Information also is available from the Netherlands Ministry of Transportation, Public Works and Water Management (Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstraat) at http://www.minvenw.nl.

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

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Dutch customs authorities stringently enforce regulations concerning importation into the Netherlands of items such as firearms and other controlled materials.
Contact the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington, D.C., or one of the Dutch consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles or New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our Customs Information sheet.

Everyone age 14 and above is required to carry identification at all times while in the Netherlands.
Accepted forms of identification for U.S. citizens are either a Dutch residence card, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or a U.S. passport.

U.S. citizens who obtain Dutch nationality may be required by the Dutch authorities to relinquish their U.S. citizenship.
For further information visit http://www.ind.nl/EN/verblijfwijzer/ and/or http://netherlands.usembassy.gov/dual_nationality.html.

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 Dutch laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Netherlands are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in the Netherlands are encouraged to register with the U.S. Consulate General through the State Department's travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Netherlands.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency and to provide periodic information on issues of interest to American citizens.

The U.S. Embassy is located in The Hague, at Lange Voorhout 102; tel. (31) (70) 310-2209.
However, all requests for consular assistance should be directed to the Consulate General in Amsterdam at Museumplein 19, tel. (31) (20) 575-5309.
The after-hours emergency telephone number is (31) (70) 310-2209.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General web site at http://netherlands.usembassy.gov/ answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting or residing in the Netherlands.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 28, 2006, to update the sections on Safety and Security and Aviation Safety Oversight.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 31 Mar 2020 21:24:55 +0200 (METDST)

The Hague, March 31, 2020 (AFP) - The Netherlands extended restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 on Tuesday, saying schools, restaurants and bars will remain closed at least until April 28.   The new coronavirus has now claimed 1,039 lives in the Netherlands with 845 new infections reported overnight, bringing the total to 12,959.   "It will not surprise you that we indeed decided on an extension until Tuesday 28 April," Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.   "The progress of the number of infections on the capacity of intensive care units leaves us with no other decision."   More than 4,700 of those infected were or still are in hospital, health officials said on Tuesday.

Public places have already been closed -- including the infamous cannabis cafes, sex clubs and brothels -- to curb the coronavirus from spreading.   However, it quickly made a U-turn on the "coffee shops" where cannabis is sold, saying over-the-counter soft drug sales would continue, in an effort to curb illegal street sales.   Last week, the government also extended a ban on all social gatherings until June 1, including football matches in the top division.   However, there is no lockdown like those in Italy, Spain, France or Belgium.  Rutte reiterated his appeal to Dutch people to voluntarily work at home and warned them not to congregate in groups.
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2020 11:36:09 +0100 (MET)

London, Feb 10, 2020 (AFP) - Storm Ciara caused travel chaos on Monday, severely disrupting commutes and grounding hundreds of flights as swathes of Europe were left without power by torrential rain and winds of up to 180 kilometres (110 miles) per hour that also caused flash flooding and the cancellation of sporting fixtures.   In one of the most violent storms for years, one man died and another was reported missing in southern Sweden when their boat capsized, while three people were seriously injured in Germany by falling trees and branches.   Parts of northern France were put on orange alert and 130,000 homes had electricity cut off.

The Netherlands closed one of its big storm surge barriers as the tempest approached on Sunday night. Police said it caused Monday morning traffic jams over 600 kilometres of roads.   Around 220 flights were cancelled during the morning at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport -- Europe's third-busiest -- most destined for other European cities. Around 240 never took off on Sunday.   Another man was injured by a tree in the Czech Republic, where winds reached up to 180 kph on the country's highest mountain, Snezka. The storm left 100,000 without power there and even toppled over a truck.    Tiny Luxembourg cancelled school classes and morning rush hour traffic ground to a halt in Brussels due to street closures and flooding.

- Britain cleans up -
Britain began a clean-up after bearing the brunt of one of the most of violent and destructive storms in years.   "While Storm Ciara is clearing away, that doesn't mean we're entering a quieter period of weather," Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill warned. "Blizzards aren't out of the question".   Transport was disrupted across the country with planes and trains cancelled or delayed.

The highest wind speed recorded was 150 kilometres per hour (93 mph) in the northwest Welsh village of Aberdaron.   More than 15 centimetres (six inches) of rain fell over 24 hours at Sleddale Reservoir in northwest England's Lake District national park.   More than 170 flood warnings remained in place Monday.   The West Yorkshire towns of Hebden Bridge and neighbouring Mytholmroyd were among the worst hit by the storm.    Cars were submerged in the floodwaters and tens of thousands of homes had their electricity cut.

- Wind farm shut -
Much of the initial damage and disruption in Europe was along the coasts.   Channel ferry services between the southern English port of Dover and Calais in northern France resumed Monday morning after being halted Sunday.

The whole Belgian offshore wind farm was shut down as powerful gusts caused the turbines to stop automatically for safety reasons.   The storm was so violent that "we are forced to completely stop mainline train traffic in Germany this Sunday evening," Deutsche Bahn spokesman Achim Stauss told AFP.   The disruptions in Germany also began Sunday with more than a hundred flights across three big cities cancelled.

- Sports events hit -
Sports events were also hit.   Sunday's English Premier League fixture between Manchester City and West Ham was called off due to "extreme and escalating weather conditions", City said in a statement.   The entire Women's Super League football programme was also called off. Sunday's Scotland-England clash in the Women's Six Nations rugby tournament has been rescheduled for Monday.

But there was an upside for passengers flying British Airways to London from New York.   The storm helped the flight to finish in the sub-sonic flight record time of 4 hours 56 minutes, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24.   A British man wearing only a pair of swimming trunks braved the weather on a charity walk the length of mainland Britain from Lands End, southwest England, to John o'Groats, northeast Scotland.   "Speedos are designed to get wet and mine are absolutely soaking in this weather," said fundraiser Michael Cullen as he trekked in Glastonbury.
Date: Fri 4 Oct 2019
Source: Dutch News [edited]

A total of 3 people have died and one woman has had a miscarriage after eating cold meat contaminated with _Listeria_, the public health institute RIVM [Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment] said on Friday [4 Oct 2019]. All are thought to have become ill after eating meat products from the Offerman company over the past 2 years, the agency said.

In total, at least 20 people have become ill after eating Offerman cold cuts. The company issued a health warning on Friday [4 Oct 2019], and Jumbo, which stocks 135 different products from Offerman, ordered an immediate recall. Aldi too has recalled its Offerman products, which were also widely sold to company canteens.

The source of the infection was traced by the RIVM and product safety board NVWA [Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety] after an analysis of the different types of _Listeria_ infection this week. "It has only been recently possible to use this technique and without it, we would not have been able to identify the source," the RIVM said. [Probably they are referring to whole genome sequencing. - ProMED Mod.ML]

The factory where the bacteria originate[d] is located in Aalsmeer and has been closed pending a thorough clean-up, the AD reported on Friday afternoon [4 Oct 2019]. According to broadcaster NOS, the NVWA had ordered Offerman to take extra hygiene measures because there were suspicions that something was going wrong. "But this would appear not to have done the job," an NVWA spokesman told the broadcaster.

_Listeria_ is found in meat that has not been properly cooked and in raw foods [that] have been kept [refrigerated?] for a long time, the RIVM said. Most people suffer mild flu-like symptoms, but the bacteria can cause serious symptoms in the elderly, new-borns and people with weak immune systems. It is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and can cause miscarriages. Every year about 80 cases of [listeriosis] are reported to the RIVM.
========================
[Genotyping, e.g., by whole genome sequencing, clinical isolates of _Listeria monocytogenes_ can identify clusters of cases that have a common source, and genotyping the isolates from the food and environmental surfaces at food processing facilities can confirm the source, if genotypes match, as likely happened in the outbreak described above.

Refrigerated cold cut meats that are not cooked before eating (i.e., ready-to-eat) are well-recognized sources for listeriosis. Even if initial contamination adds only a few _Listeria_ organisms to the food, the contamination can be significant for refrigerated foods because _L. monocytogenes_ can subsequently multiply at refrigerator temperatures to a sufficient number to cause disease. People at increased risk for disseminated listeriosis include pregnant women (and their new-borns), adults aged 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Sat 28 Sep 2019
Source: Food Safety News [abridged, edited]

About 30 people are part of a _Salmonella_ outbreak in the Netherlands linked to eggs from Spain. The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) in August 2019 advised people not to eat eggs stamped with the code 3-ES-4624944A because of _Salmonella_ contamination. The agency added it was important to wash hands after touching them, as the _Salmonella_ can be found on the outside of the eggs. The eggs were supplied to neighborhood supermarkets, market stalls and catering establishments that may have further processed them into various dishes. They are not thought to have been sold at large supermarket chains in the country.

Salmonellosis is not a notifiable infection in the Netherlands. There were an estimated 27 440 patients with acute gastroenteritis due to salmonellosis in 2017.

A total of 30 patients have been reported with an identical _Salmonella_ Enteritidis type based on whole genome sequencing, some of which fell ill last year, in 2018. At least 5 patients are known to have eaten eggs from the batch the NVWA issued a warning about, according to the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).

Harald Wychgel, a RIVM spokesman, said because these studies ask people what they have eaten in recent weeks, it is not expected consumption of eggs can be confirmed for all patients. "The outbreak has been going on since 2018 with a number of patients that is insufficient to initiate source detection. RIVM linked a small cluster of patients to a batch of eggs that were withdrawn from the market at the end of August [2019]," he told Food Safety News.

"Although there has been a recall, it may still be the case that patients will be found because they may still have products at home. The eggs in question have been traced by the NVWA and are withdrawn from the market."

Information from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) shows the eggs were also distributed to Belgium.  [Byline: Joe Whitworth]
==========================
[Salmonellosis is often thought to be associated with cracked eggs or eggs dirty with faecal matter, a problem controlled by cleaning procedures implemented in the egg industry. It is clearly the case, however, that most of the salmonellosis outbreaks linked to eggs were associated with uncracked, disinfected grade A eggs, or foods containing such eggs. The undamaged eggs become contaminated during ovulation, and thus were contaminated with the bacteria before the eggshell was formed. To avoid this, uncooked eggs should only be used as an ingredient if pasteurized. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Mon 23 Sep 2019
Source: NL Times [edited]

A Hyalomma tick, commonly referred to as a giant tick, was found in Wageningen. This is the 3rd specimen of this type of tick, which can carry dangerous diseases like Crimean Congo virus and spotted fever, to be found in the Netherlands this year [2019]. The other sightings were in Drenthe and in the Achterhoek in July 2019.

This latest giant tick was found on a pony in Wageningen, according to Omroep Gelderland. It was previously thought that the Netherlands is too cold for the giant tick to grow into adulthood, but due to climate change, the conditions in the Netherlands are increasingly favourable for the animal. It is believed that this type of tick enters the Netherlands through migratory birds.

The Hyalomma tick is known as the giant tick because it is much larger than a normal tick. It can be recognized by the line pattern on its legs. Unlike other ticks that passively wait for a host to pass by, this type of tick actively hunts its host, according to the European center for disease control. They've been known to follow a host for 10 minutes or more, covering a distance of up to 100 meters.

This type of tick is a known carrier of the Crimean-Congo virus, which causes Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever. This is a serious disease that has a fatality rate of up to 50 percent, according to the American Centers for Disease Control. The tick found in Drenthe earlier this year [2019] was tested for this virus and was not a carrier, public health institute RIVM said at the time.

The Drenthe tick was a carrier of the _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ bacterium, which causes the rare spotted fever. "Spotted fever is easy to diagnose and treat with antibiotics," Dutch health agency RIVM said in a statement released over the summer.  Several Dutch agencies track sightings of the tick. Those who have seen the Hyalomma tick should report it to the NVWA, the agency said.  [Byline: Janene Pieters]
========================
[With the discovery of this tick in the 3rd locality in the Netherlands, one wonders whether it is as yet undiscovered in other parts of the country. This giant tick that was found earlier this year (2019) in Drenthe was confirmed as a _Hyalomma marginatum_, a species originating in tropical climates and previously confined to southern parts of Europe. Specimens of the tick have been found in several other northern European countries, including Germany, where it is thought to have overwintered, and in Sweden. Most have been found on livestock, primarily horses. Fortunately, Crimean-Congo virus has not been found in any of the ticks in the Netherlands,

An image of _Hyalomma marginatum_ can be accessed at the source URL above. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
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Christmas Island

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Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2006 17:41:31 +0200 (METDST) SYDNEY, Sept 19, 2006 (AFP) - A large earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 6.1 struck Tuesday near the Australian territory of Christmas Island, the US Geological Survey said. The quake struck at 20:58 local time (1358 GMT) and its epicentre was located 191 kilometres (119 miles) east-northeast of Christmas Island, the USGS report said. The reading was based on the open-ended Moment Magnitude scale, now used by US seismologists, which measures the area of the fault that ruptured and the total energy released.
27 Aug 2001 A NORWEGIAN ship carrying 438 sick and starving refugees was moored in limbo off Christmas Island last night, with John Howard refusing to allow them to disembark and Indonesia reluctant to let them berth anywhere in its territory. http://email.ni.com.au/Click?q=96-pjPWQtdfI9qzkLcbUQgkSoeR
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 26 May 2020 09:15:57 +0200 (METDST)

Riyadh, May 26, 2020 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia will end its nationwide coronavirus curfew from June 21, except in the holy city of Mecca, the interior ministry said Tuesday, after more than two months of stringent curbs.   Prayers will also be allowed to resume in all mosques outside Mecca from May 31, the ministry said in a series of measures announced on the official Saudi Press Agency.   The kingdom, which has reported the highest number of virus cases in the Gulf, imposed a full nationwide curfew during Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The ministry said it will begin easing restrictions in a phased manner this week, with the curfew relaxed between 6 am and 3 pm between Thursday and Saturday.   From Sunday until June 20, the curfew will be further eased until 8 pm, the ministry added.   The kingdom will lift the lockdown entirely from June 21.   "Starting from Thursday, the kingdom will enter a new phase (in dealing with the pandemic) and will gradually return to normal based on the rules of social distancing," Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said on Monday.   Saudi Arabia has reported around 75,000 coronavirus infections and some 400 deaths from COVID-19.

In March, Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round "umrah" pilgrimage over fears of the disease spreading in Islam's holiest cities.   That suspension will remain in place, the interior ministry said.   Authorities are yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year's hajj -- scheduled for late July -- but they have urged Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage.   Last year, some 2.5 million faithful travelled to Saudi Arabia from around the world to participate in the hajj, which Muslims are obliged to perform at least once during their lifetime.
Date: Tue, 26 May 2020 05:52:24 +0200 (METDST)

Santiago, May 26, 2020 (AFP) - Chile registered a new high for coronavirus cases on Monday, with nearly 5,000 infections in 24 hours, including two ministers in President Sebastian Pinera's government.   Health authorities announced 4,895 new infections in the South American country and 43 deaths.

Public Works Minister Alfredo Moreno and Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobet said they were among those with the disease.   "I have been informed that the COVID-19 test I had a few days ago was positive," Moreno said on Twitter, adding that he had no symptoms so far.   The 63-year-old minister had placed himself in quarantine after one of his staff tested positive.  Jobet also tested positive after starting to quarantine preventatively on Saturday, "when he experienced mild symptoms, which could be associated with the disease," a statement from the Energy Ministry said.

The 44-year-old minister "has had no direct contact with President Sebastian Pinera or other cabinet members in recent days," the statement said, without specifying how he became infected.   Three other ministers, who had self-quarantined after being in contact with infected people, all tested negative and resumed work.

Chile suffered a surge in infections last week, prompting the government to order the lockdown of Santiago.   The capital is the main focus of the pandemic in Chile, with 90 percent of the country's 74,000 cases.   Last week, the Senate was closed after three senators tested positive for the coronavirus. Sessions were held by video conference.
Date: Tue, 26 May 2020 01:15:01 +0200 (METDST)

Quito, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Demonstrators defied coronavirus restrictions to march in cities across Ecuador on Monday in protest against President Lenin Moreno's drastic economic measures to tackle the crisis.   Moreno last week announced public spending cuts including the closure of state companies and embassies around the world, but trade unions Monday said workers were paying a disproportionate price compared to Ecuador's elite.   "This protest is because the government is firing workers to avoid making the rich pay," Mecias Tatamuez, head of the county's largest union, the Unitary Front of Workers (FUT), told reporters at a march in Quito.

Around 2,000 people marched in the capital, waving flags and banners and shouting anti-government slogans.   The protesters wore masks and respected distancing measures recommended against the spread of the coronavirus that has caused at least 3,200 deaths in the country, making it South America's worst hit nation per capita. Authorities say more than 2,000 further deaths are likely linked to the virus.

Demonstrations took place in several other cities, including Guayaquil, the epicentre of Ecuador's health crisis, where union leaders said hundreds marched through the city.   Moreno ordered the closure of Ecuadoran embassies, a reduction in diplomatic staff and scrapped seven state companies as part of measures designed to save some $4 billion.    He also announced the liquidation of the TAME airline, which has lost more than $400 million over the last five years.

The government says the pandemic has so far cost the economy at least $8 billion.   Public sector working hours have been cut by 25 percent, with an accompanying 16 percent pay cut.   Moreno said on Sunday that 150,000 people had lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.   Ecuador was struggling economically before the pandemic hit, due to high debt and its dependence on oil.   The IMF predicts that the economy will shrink by 6.3 percent this year, the sharpest drop of any country in South America.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 22:20:46 +0200 (METDST)

Dublin, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Ireland recorded no new deaths from the coronavirus on Monday for the first time since March 21.   Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called it a "significant milestone", adding on Twitter: "This is a day of hope. We will prevail."

The announcement came one week after Ireland, which has suffered 1,606 deaths from 24,698 infections, began to ease lockdown measures that had been in place for nearly two months.   Ireland entered lockdown in late March, recording a peak of 77 deaths on a single day on April 20.   "In the last 24 hours we didn't have any deaths notified to us," chief medical officer Tony Holohan said at a daily press briefing.   He warned that the zero figure could be a result of a lag in reporting of deaths over the weekend, but he added: "It's part of the continued trend that we've seen in (the) reduction in the total number of deaths."

Ireland has announced a five-step plan to reopen the nation by August and took the first steps last Monday -- allowing outdoor employees to return to work, some shops to reopen and the resumption of  activities such as golf and tennis.   While the news of no fresh deaths was greeted as progress, officials remain concerned there will be a "second wave" as the lockdown is loosened.   "The number of new cases and reported deaths over the past week indicates that we have suppressed COVID-19 as a country," Holohan added in a statement.   "It will take another week to see any effect on disease incidence that might arise from the easing of measures."
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 21:59:40 +0200 (METDST)

Luxembourg, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Luxembourg will ease its coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, reopening cafes and restaurants and allowing civil and religious ceremonies under strict conditions, the government announced.   The tiny country has so far registered only 3,993 COVID-19 cases, of which 110 have been fatal. Four people are in intensive care and shops were closed on March 18 to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told a news conference on Monday that eateries could reopen terraces with a maximum of four people at a single table.   Indoor dining in cafes and restaurants will resume on Friday, he said, with social distancing of 1.5 metres (five feet) between groups.   Marriages and funerals will also be allowed if the attendees wore face masks and kept two metres distance from each other.   Bettel however said cafes and restaurants would have to close at midnight.

Francois Koepp, the general secretary of the Horeca federation grouping hotels, restaurants and cafes, welcomed the announcement, saying the sector had "greatly suffered from the confinement".   He said it provided employment to some 21,000 people in this nation of 620,000 inhabitants.   Cinema theatres and gyms will open at the end of the week but children's parks will remain closed.   The government has pledged to give every citizen over 16 a voucher worth 50 euros ( $54) to spend in hotels to provide a boost to the sector.   The vouchers will also be given to some 200,000 cross border workers from Belgium, France and Germany.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 20:36:16 +0200 (METDST)

Prague, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - The Czech Republic and Slovakia will reopen their border this week for those travelling to the other country for up to 48 hours, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Monday.   "This will be possible without tests or quarantine" starting Wednesday, he added in a message posted on Twitter.   The Czech Republic and Slovakia formed a single country until 1993. Babis himself was born in the Slovak capital of Bratislava.

Both countries have fared well in the current pandemic, with Slovakia posting the lowest death toll per capita in the EU and the Czech Republic keeping its COVID-19 figures down as well.   The Czech government will also open border crossings with Austria and Germany on Tuesday but will still require negative COVID-19 tests from those entering the country.   "We have negotiated similar conditions on the other side of the border with our German and Austrian colleagues," Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said.   The interior ministry said blanket border checks would be replaced by random ones and added it would still not allow tourists into the country.

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech said the government was working on other measures to ease the travel restrictions adopted in mid-March.   "We would like to introduce them next week," he added.   Vojtech said EU citizens could now come to the Czech Republic "on business or to visit their family for a maximum of 72 hours if they submit a negative coronavirus test."

The country is also accessible to non-EU citizens who do seasonal jobs there, on condition they have tested negative.   Czech restaurants, bars, hotels, castles, zoos and swimming pools have been open since Monday, when the government lifted many anti-virus measures.   Czechs also no longer have to wear face masks outside their homes, except in shops and on public transport.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 17:45:38 +0200 (METDST)
By Shafiqul ALAM

Dhaka, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Some 15,000 Rohingya refugees are now under coronavirus quarantine in Bangladesh's vast camps, officials said Monday, as the number of confirmed infections rose to 29.   Health experts have long warned that the virus could race through the cramped settlements, housing almost a million Muslims who fled violence in Myanmar, and officials had restricted movement to the area in April.

Despite this, the first cases in the camps were detected in mid-May.   "None of the infections are critical. Most hardly show any symptoms. Still we have brought them in isolation centres and quarantined their families," Toha Bhuiyan, a senior health official in the surrounding Cox's Bazar area told AFP.   He said narrow roads to three districts of the camps -- where the majority of the infections were detected -- have been blocked off by authorities.

The 15,000 Rohingya inside these so-called blocks faced further restrictions on their movement, he said.   It comes as charity workers expressed fears over being infected in the camps as they worked without adequate protection.   Two of the areas under isolation are in Kutupalong camp, home to roughly 600,000 Rohingya.   "We are trying to scale up testing as fast as possible to make sure that we can trace out all the infected people and their contacts," Bhuiyan said.

Seven isolation centres with the capacity to treat more than 700 COVID-19 patients have been prepared, he said.   Officials hope to have just under 2,000 ready by the end of May, he added.   Mahbubur Rahman, the chief health official of Cox's Bazar, said authorities hoped this week they would double the number of tests being performed daily from 188.   He said further entry restrictions have been imposed on the camp, with a 14 day quarantine in place for anyone visiting from Dhaka.   "We are very worried because the Rohingya camps are very densely populated. We suspect community transmission (of the virus) has already begun," Rahman told AFP.

- 'Very little awareness' -
Bangladesh on Monday notched up a record single-day spike in coronavirus cases, with 1,975 new infections, taking the toll to 35,585 cases and 501 deaths.   In early April authorities imposed a complete lockdown on Cox's Bazar district -- home to 3.4 million people including the refugees -- after a number of infections.

But a charity worker with one of the many aid organisations active in the camps said Monday he and many others were "very worried".   "Fear and panic has gripped aid workers because many of us were forced to work without much protection," he told AFP without wishing to be named.   "Social distancing is almost impossible in the camps. There is very little awareness about COVID-19 disease among the refugees, despite efforts by aid agencies."

The lack of information is exacerbated by local authorities having cut off access to the internet in September to combat, they said, drug traffickers and other criminals.   More than 740,000 Rohingya fled a brutal 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar to Cox's Bazar, where around 200,000 refugees were already living.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 15:25:38 +0200 (METDST)

Antananarivo, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Madagascar's government has announced it will dispatch troops and doctors to an eastern town after several bodies were found in the streets and where two people died from the novel coronavirus.   Madagascar's cabinet held a special meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation in Toamasina, the country's second largest city.   The Indian Ocean island nation has registered 527 infections and two deaths, both in Toamasina.

Since Thursday, more than 120 new cases were confirmed, and several bodies were found in the city's streets though the cause of death was not clear.   "Doctors must carry out thorough examinations to see if these deaths are caused by another illness (...) or if they are really due to severe acute respiratory problems which is the critical form of COVID-19," Professor Hanta Marie Danielle Vololontiana, spokesperson for the government's virus taskforce, said in a national broadcast on Sunday.   The government will send 150 soldiers to reinforce Toamasina, maintain order and enforce measures against the coronavirus such as mask wearing and social distancing.

The cabinet also fired Toamasina's prefect without providing any explanation.    A team was also ordered to distribute a drink based on artemisia, a plant recognised as a treatment against malaria, which the Malagasy authorities claim cures COVID-19.    The potential benefits of this herbal tea, called Covid-Organics, have not been validated by any scientific study.    The cabinet has also announced an investigation into the death of a doctor in Toamasina. According to local press, the victim was hospitalised after contracting COVID-19 and was found dead hanged in his room on Sunday morning.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 09:20:17 +0200 (METDST)
By Bhuvan Bagga with Indranil Mukherjee in Mumbai

New Delhi, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Domestic flights resumed in India on Monday even as coronavirus cases surge, while confusion about quarantine rules prompted jitters among passengers and the cancellation of dozens of planes.   India had halted all flights within the country, and departing and leaving for abroad, in late March as it sought to stop the spread of coronavirus with the world's largest lockdown.   But desperate to get Asia's third-largest economy moving again, the government announced last week that around 1,050 daily flights -- a third of the usual capacity -- would resume on Monday.

Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said strict rules would include mandatory mask-wearing and thermal screenings, although middle seats on the aircraft would not be kept empty.   The announcement reportedly caught airlines and state authorities off-guard, with several local governments announcing that passengers would have to go into quarantine for two weeks on arrival.   Maharashtra, the Indian state with the highest number of coronavirus cases, capped at 50 the number of departures and arrivals in and out of its capital Mumbai.

Airlines scrapped dozens of flights on Monday while hundreds of passengers cancelled their bookings, reports said.   The NDTV news channel said 82 flights to and from New Delhi had been cancelled and nine at Bangalore airport.   Other flights from cities including infection hotspots Mumbai and Chennai were struck off, many at short notice, reports said.   At Mumbai airport social distancing was forgotten as irate passengers harangued staff after their flights were cancelled at the last minute.

- 'Really scary' -
At New Delhi airport, hundreds of people anxious to get home but apprehensive about the risks queued from before dawn -- all wearing masks and standing at least one metre (three feet) apart.   Security personnel behind plastic screens verified check-in documents and that passengers had the government contact tracing app, Aarogya Setu, on their phones.

"While I'm looking forward (to flying home), the idea of flying is really scary," student Gladia Laipubam told AFP as she stood in line.   "Anything can happen. It's very risky. I don't really know when I'll be able to come back to Delhi now. There is no clarity from the university too at this time."   One female airline employee wearing gloves, a mask and a protective face shield said she and many other colleagues felt "very nervous" about starting work again.   "Dealing with so many people at this time is so risky. I must have interacted with at least 200 people since this morning," she told AFP, not wishing to be named.

Cabin crew on the planes had to wear full protective suits with masks, plastic visors and blue rubber gloves, and many were also confused about the rules, the Press Trust of India reported.   "There is no clarity on whether I need to go into home quarantine for 14 days after returning to my base or show up for duty on Monday," one pilot told PTI.   New coronavirus cases in India crossed 6,000 for the third consecutive day on Sunday, surging to a record single-day spike of 6,767 infections.   The country has recorded almost 140,000 cases and over 4,000 deaths.   Singh has said that international flights could resume in June, although dozens of special flights have in recent weeks brought back some of the hundreds of thousands of Indians stuck abroad.
Date: Fri, 22 May 2020 11:02:28 +0200 (METDST)

Suva, Fiji, May 22, 2020 (AFP) - A huge fire at one of Suva's largest markets blanketed the Fijian capital in thick smoke before it was brought under control Friday, firefighters said.   The blaze engulfed the Suva Flea Market, a major tourist attraction near the waterfront, sending plumes of acrid black smoke into the air.   The National Fire Authority said an adjoining shop was also badly damaged but there were no reports of injuries.   "It's been stopped now and no one was injured but that's all we can say at the moment," a spokesman told AFP.   The said the cause of the fire was being investigated.