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Kuwait

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

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

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

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

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

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

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

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

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

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

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

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

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

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent of the “911” emergency line in Kuwait is “777” and can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The quality and range of services provided by the emergency line are not equivalent to those provided in the U.S. and response times may vary greatly depending on the time of day and the location of the emergency.
See our information on Victims of Crime.

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

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

The government of Kuwait has strict regulations regarding certain diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.
Medical examinations are required for all residency applications and any applicants who are found positive for these restricted diseases will be asked to leave the country immediately and will be permanently barred from re-entry.
Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Kuwait at http://www.embassy.org/embassies/kw.html before you travel.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Kuwait is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please see our Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Kuwaiti laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Kuwait are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Kuwait are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Kuwait. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait is located at Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa Street, Block 6, Plot 14, Bayan, Kuwait. The mailing address is PO Box 77, Safat 13001, Kuwait. The primary telephone numbers are 965-259-1001 or 259-1002. The fax number is 965-259-1438 or 538-0282. The after-hours number is 965-538-2097. Additional information may also be obtained through the Embassy's web site at http://kuwait.usembassy.gov
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Kuwait dated January 16, 2008 to update the sections on Information for Victims of Crime and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu 12 Apr 2018
Source: Arab Times Kuwait English Daily [edited]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Thu 19 Nov 2015
Source: Gulf News [edited]

Public schools in Kuwait have been put on alert after the discovery of 4 cases of the swine flu [H1N1; probably not truly a swine flu, see below - ProMed Mod.LM] at facilities in the Hawalli and Adeiliya areas, said Minister of Education Dr Bader Al Eisa on Thu [19 Nov 2015].

Those who contracted the disease are being given treatment, and the necessary precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of the disease, the minister told the Kuwait News Agency (Kuna). The cases were reported by the families.

"The Ministry of Education will continue to coordinate with the Ministry of Health, and schools that record more than 5 swine flu [H1N1] cases will be shut down," he said. "There are steady and regular contacts with the health ministry for advice and guidance, and doctors are visiting all the schools," he said. Reports said there is not enough vaccine available for all students.

On 10 Nov [2015], Al Eisa said there was one confirmed case of swine flu [H1N1] in a 6-year-old student in a private school.

Reports emerging from Kuwait said that a University of Kuwait teacher tested positive for the swine flu.

The case at the social sciences college triggered an alert among the teachers and staff and the preparation of a special room for suspected cases. A hotline was set up to help with queries and assistance. However, the college dean denied rumours that courses were being suspended, insisting that the staff were working normally.

According to Kuwaiti daily Al Jareeda, several parents have refused to allow their children to go to school citing concerns about health risks. Schools where suspected cases were noticed have not been willing to inform parents for fear they will keep their children at home. However, several parents have been exchanging information on social media and agreed that the school has suspected cases and that their children should not attend classes.

A hospital in Kuwait City has received 69 swine flu [H1N1] cases in the last 2 months, reports said. Health officials told local daily Al Jareeda that 58 patients left Al Adan Hospital after receiving the necessary treatment while the remaining 11 are still being treated. Some of the cases are in the intensive care unit, while others are in isolated rooms, the officials said.

One patient, a 68-year-old Kuwaiti, died on Wed [18 Nov 2015] from the disease, while an Indian expatriate passed away 3 days earlier, the officials said.

However, the hospital is taking all the measures possible whenever they are dealing with any suspected case, including contacting families and friends and providing them with the necessary vaccine while monitoring their health for 10 days, the officials added.  Byline: Habib Toumi
More ...

Indonesia

*****
Information for Bali
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General
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Bali is one of the main tourist destinations for many Irish travellers to Indonesia. The island is well developed for the tourist industry and genera
ly the climate is tropical and humid throughout the year. Many Irish travellers will use the island as a stopover. If this is for only 24 to 28 hours the extent of your jetlag may leave you little time to enjoy the country and its people.
Safety & Security
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Throughout Indonesia there are many regions where it is unsafe to travel. The Parliament in Indonesia may impeach the President in the near future. Civil disturbance with student demonstrations in the capital Jakarta, earthquakes in the island of Sumatra, unrest regarding the independence of Timor and profound warring fractions on the island of Borneo has the potential to spill over into Bali. Nevertheless during the past years Bali has remained stable and there have been few reports of serious disturbances that have affected tourists or business travellers. Lombok is an island close to Bali often visited by tourists. It is regarded as more unstable and recently (Dec 2000) four explosions during fighting between two villages (Bongor & Parampuan). The main tourist region around Senggigi has remained quiet.

Local Customs
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The laws against illegal drugs are severe and travellers should ensure that they carry sufficient well-marked medication that they may require for their time in Indonesia. Travellers are required to show identification at any time and so carrying photocopies of your passport is a wise precaution. Keep all valuable documents in a safe place and do not flaunt personal wealth while travelling around the island.
Night Activities
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The nightlife in Bali is one of the main attractions for many tourists but sensible precautions are required. Travelling alone is unwise. Take care to ensure that your drink could not be spiked at any stage and do not walk at night, use an authorised taxi where possible. The level of HIV infection among the bar workers is high and close personal contact is very unwise.
Medical Facilities
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The level of available health facilities varies greatly through Bali and other parts of Indonesia. In general most of the main hotels will have English speaking doctors but care would be required if your illness requires hospitalisation.
Food and Water
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It is wise to maintain a high level of care with regard to your food and water while in Indonesia. This includes even those in high quality hotels but also particularly for those eating from street vendors. Bivalve shellfish (e.g. oysters, mussels, clams etc) should be avoided at all times due to inadequate cooking. Bottled water should be purchased from your hotel or good quality shops to ensure that it is pure.
Mosquitoes and Insect Bites
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Malaria transmission occurs throughout Indonesia all year but the risk in Bali is so low that prophylaxis is not generally recommended for most tourists. Nevertheless for those visiting Lombok (overnight visits) the risk exists and prophylaxis should be considered. Other mosquito borne diseases also occur throughout Indonesia and care must be taken to avoid insect bites. In Jakarta and other main cities there is a particular problem with a viral disease called Dengue Fever. The mosquito, which transmits this disease, typically bites during the day and in main urban centres.
Sun Exposure
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The strength of the sun in Bali is considerable higher than that experienced in Ireland at any time of the year. Sufficient head covering should be worm when exposed and travellers should ensure that their fluid intake is sufficient. Salt depletion also needs to be replaced in times of significant perspiration.
Swimming
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If swimming in pools, make sure that sufficient chlorination has been used. Take care with small children when close to the deep end of the pool. If sea swimming make sure that there are always others around and that you heed any local advice and warning signs. Never swim soon after alcohol or for an hour after mealtime.
Jet Lag
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The extent of jet lag, which you will experience, depends on the duration of your flight and the amount of rest you were able to get before arrival. Try to rest for the first 24 hours to allow your body to acclimatise and make sure you do not fall asleep beside the swimming pool during this initial period.
Vaccinations for Bali
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There are no essential vaccines or entry to Bali from Western Europe. However for your personal protection travellers are recommended to consider vaccination cover against;
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Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
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Tetanus (childhood booster)
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Typhoid (food & water disease)
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Hepatitis A (food & water disease)
Other travellers planning a more rural or extensive trip may need to consider other vaccine cover against diseases like Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Rabies.
Summary
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The majority of those visiting Bali will enjoy the many tourist attractions on the island. However commonsense and care is required to ensure that you do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk. The staff of the Tropical Medical Bureau can be contacted at either of the numbers below if you require further information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 7 Nov 2018 12:13 GMT
Source: Daily Mail [edited]

Australian tourists in Bali are being told to take extra precautions because of an outbreak of a viral brain infection transmitted through mosquitoes.

Indonesia's Ministry of Health has revealed they're keeping close tabs on the deadly Japanese encephalitis after a spike of cases in Bali and Manado, in North Sulawesi.

The infection [virus] is commonly transmitted to humans through mosquitoes, but birds, bats, cows, and pigs can also carry the disease.

The virus can cause blindness, weakness, movement disorders, and in 30 percent of [clinical] cases, death. [Most infections are mild or asymptomatic. - ProMED Mod.TY]

The disease takes up to 15 days to develop with warning signs flu-like symptoms such as a headache, fever, and convulsions.

Ministry of Health Director of Surveillance and Quarantine, Vensya Sitohang, said in Nusa Dua on [Tue 6 Nov 2018] that Bali has had the most cases, followed by Manado, North Sulawesi, according to the ministry's data.

The ministry say they're now introducing a vaccine in Bali in the hopes it will prevent the transmission of the infection to other regions in the country. [Vaccination provides immunity to individuals. Individuals do not spread the virus. - ProMED Mod.TY]

Vaccinations are starting from those aged 9 months to 15 years-old as children under the age of 15 are most susceptible to infection.

Aside from the vaccinations, tourists are urged to use insect repellent, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, to shut windows and use air-conditioning when indoors (when possible), and to pick accommodation that provide screens on windows or mosquito nets around beds.

- Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus is the leading cause of brain inflammation in Asia and the western Pacific.
- For most travellers to Asia, the risk for JE is very low but varies based on destination, duration of travel, season, and activities.
- Humans can get virus if bitten by an infected mosquito.
- Most human infections show mild to no symptoms.
- However, a small percentage of infected persons develop inflammation of the brain, with symptoms including headache, high fever, disorientation, coma, tremors, and convulsions.
- 1 in 4 [clinical] cases are fatal as there are no specific treatment for JE.
- Steps to prevent JE include using personal protective measures to prevent mosquito bites and vaccination.  [Byline: Wade Sellers]
====================
[JE infections occur in Bali infrequently. The last ProMED-mail post on JE in Bali was in 2011. It is difficult to assess the current importance of JE in Bali and Manado as no case numbers are given nor the dates that the infections were acquired. Clearly, the Ministry of Health Director of Surveillance and Quarantine believes the situation to be serious enough to initiate a vaccination campaign. The advice about avoiding mosquito bites is prudent and should be followed. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Indonesia:
Date: Sat, 13 Oct 2018 09:59:24 +0200

Mandailing natal, Indonesia, Oct 13, 2018 (AFP) - At least 22 people have died and many are missing after heavy rain unleashed flash floods and landslides in western Indonesia, an official said Saturday.   Heavy downpours since Wednesday triggered flooding and landslides that hit several districts on Sumatra island.   At least 17 people were confirmed killed in the last three days in North Sumatra province, while five others were killed in West Sumatra, authorities said.   "Eleven students of an Islamic boarding school in Muara Saladi village, Mandailing Natal district, North Sumatra died Friday afternoon during class as they were struck by a building which was destroyed by the flash floods," spokesman for the national disaster agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Dozens of houses have also been destroyed.    "The disaster and search and rescue agency have gone to the districts but have been hampered by the landslides in several areas," the head of North Sumatra disaster agency Riadil Lubis told AFP.   Landslides and flooding are common in Indonesia, a vast tropical archipelago prone to natural disasters and torrential downpours.   In February, 12 people died when an avalanche of mud and rock cascaded down a steep slope in central Java, Indonesia's main island.   In June 2016, nearly 50 people died when heavy downpours sent torrents of water, mud and rock into villages also in Central Java province.
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2018 22:04:27 +0200

Jakarta, Oct 10, 2018 (AFP) - A shallow 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali early Thursday, the United States Geological Survey said, causing panicked people to flee their homes.   The head of Indonesia's geophysics agency said there had been no reports of casualties or damage, although information was still being gathered in East Java province.    "The quake didn't trigger any tsunami for sure," Dwikorita Karnawati told
AFP.

The strong quake's epicentre was in the Bali Sea around 40 kilometres (25 miles) off the eastern end of Java island, according to the USGS, and was felt in Denpasar on the holiday island of Bali.   "Wow, that was really strong and it lasted a long time," said a woman named Davy who took refuge in the parking lot of a Bali hotel, several kilometres from where the IMF and World Bank are holding their annual meetings this week.   Some guests at the hotel in Nusa Dua, south of Bali's main international airport, briefly fled outside after the strong tremor shook the building.   "The quake was very big. I immediately woke up and took my little kids out of the house," Ni Komang Sudiani told AFP.   "All my neighbours were also running," said the mother of two.   The quake was also felt in Surabaya, the capital of East Java province, which is about 200 km from Situbondo, the nearest town to the quake epicentre.   "I felt it for about 10 seconds. People were sleeping but got woken up by it," Tonny Akbar Mahendro told AFP.

The tremor comes after a 7.5-magnitude and subsequent tsunami struck off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi -- around 1,000 km northeast of Situbondo -- last month, killing more than 2,000 people.   A string of earthquakes in Lombok in eastern Indonesia killed more than 550 people over the summer.   Indonesia, one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth, straddles the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide and many of the world's volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2018 11:41:54 +0200
By Maryke VERMAAK

Palu, Indonesia, Oct 9, 2018 (AFP) - Indonesia on Tuesday told foreign aid workers their help was not needed in disaster-ravaged Palu and they should go home, frustrating relief efforts after a quake-tsunami killed more than 2,000 people.   Foreign teams on the ground were told new rules barred them from searching for the dead in hard-hit parts of Palu, where thousands are missing since the September 28 twin disaster.

[Authorities in] Indonesia initially refused international help but President Joko Widodo reluctantly agreed to allow in overseas aid once the picture became clearer on Sulawesi island.   Foreign aid poured into the ravaged city of Palu where authorities believe 5,000 people could be missing and 200,000 survivors desperately need food, water and other life-saving supplies.   But international search and rescue teams were prevented Tuesday from accessing hard-hit parts of Palu, where thousands are believed to be buried underneath rubble.

Ahmed Bham, from South African charity Gift of the Givers, was told that new rules barred foreign urban search and rescue teams (USAR) from playing any part in retrieving the dead.   They were told "all foreign USAR teams should make their way obviously back to their countries. They don't need them in Indonesia", he said.   "We've got experienced search and rescue teams here in Indonesia with really specialised equipment. I'd like to use them," he told AFP in Palu.

Their 27-strong team arrived in Palu three days ago from Johannesburg, but days of delay frustrated their wish to join the search for the dead.   "A lot of days were wasted... where we could have assisted and used our expertise and skill," Bham said.   "There seemed to be -- I won't say red-tape -- but it was just like, 'you can't work here, you can't do this, you can't do that'. It's something we haven't experienced in other major disasters like this."

- 'They can't work' -
Indonesia's disaster agency issued a set of rules over the weekend instructing international staff to leave Palu, and requiring foreign donations be channelled through local partners.   "The truth is that they have put out a statement saying foreign personnel should be withdrawn," World Vision Australia chief advocate Tim Costello told Australian broadcaster ABC on Tuesday.   "It is very odd as foreign journalists are free to walk around and report. This is what's very strange."   He said aid was reaching survivors but "it is still, for us who are used to these crises, too slow".   Bham said most of the international teams he had seen in Palu were at the airport.   "They can't work. They are starting to make their way back to their countries," he said.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said no foreign aid workers had been asked to leave Palu yet.   "But in Lombok there were many (asked to leave)," he told reporters Tuesday. A string of earthquakes in Lombok in eastern Indonesia over the summer killed more than 550 people, sparking a major aid response.   "The president said we didn't need foreign aid anymore but they kept coming."   Getting vital supplies to the affected areas has proved hugely challenging as flights into Palu were limited by its small airport, leaving aid workers facing gruelling overland journeys.   More than 70,000 people have been displaced since the 7.5-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami tore through Palu.
Date: Mon, 8 Oct 2018 08:49:51 +0200

Palu, Indonesia, Oct 8, 2018 (AFP) - Nearly 2,000 bodies have been recovered from Indonesia's disaster-ravaged Palu city, an official said Monday, as the search for victims ended at a hotel destroyed in the powerful
earthquake and tsunami.

The death toll from the twin disaster on Sulawesi island that erased whole suburbs in Palu has reached 1,944, said local military spokesman M. Thohir.   "That number is expected to rise, because we have not received orders to halt the search for bodies," Thohir, who is also a member of the government's official Palu quake taskforce, told AFP.   Authorities have said as many as 5,000 are believed missing in two hard-hit areas since the September 28 disaster -- indicating far more may have perished than the current toll.

Hopes of finding anyone alive have faded and the search for survivors amid the wreckage has turned to gathering and accounting for the dead.   The disaster agency said the official search for the unaccounted would continue until October 11 at which point they would be listed as missing, presumed dead.   But rescuers called off the search Monday at Hotel Roa-Roa, which was reduced to a tangled mess of twisted rebar and smashed concrete by the force of the quake.

The hotel emerged as an early focus of efforts to extract survivors, with seven people pulled alive from its mangled ruins in the immediate aftermath.   But nobody else was saved as the days passed, and optimism faded as corpses surfaced from the wreckage.   "The SAR (search and rescue) operation at Hotel Roa-Roa has ended, because we have searched the entire hotel and have not found any more victims," Bambang Suryo, SAR field director in Palu, told AFP.

Agus Haryono, another SAR official at the scene who confirmed the search was off, said 27 bodies were recovered from the hotel including three pulled from the debris Sunday.   Among the confirmed dead were five paragliders in Palu for a competition, including an Asian Games athlete and a South Korean, the only known foreign victim in the disaster.   Authorities believed the 80-room hotel was near capacity when the district was ravaged by a 7.5 magnitude quake and tsunami and estimated 50 to 60 people could be trapped inside.

- Mass graves -
Rescuers have struggled to extract bodies from the wreckage of Palu, a job made worse as mud hardens and bodies decompose in the tropical heat.   The government has said some flattened areas will be declared as mass graves, and left untouched.   Balaroa resident Sarjono agreed with sealing off the obliterated neighbourhood where vast numbers of bodies are believed trapped beneath the ruins.   "But only if they help us relocate elsewhere. If they don't, where will we live?" the 50-year-old told AFP near the debris of his former home.

Gopal, whose aunt and uncle were missing in Balaroa, picked through wreckage knowing just days were left to find his loved ones.   "Even if they (search teams) stop looking, we will still try to find them ourselves," said the 40-year-old who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.   "When we can no longer do it ourselves, we leave it to Allah."   Excavators and rescuers combed Balaroa on Monday, where a massive government housing complex was all but swallowed up by the disaster.   Officials say as many as 5,000 people were feared buried at Balaroa and Petobo, another decimated community.   Petobo, a cluster of villages, was subsumed when vibrations from the 7.5-magnitude quake turned soil to quicksand -- a process known as liquefaction.

Relief efforts have escalated to assist 200,000 people in desperate need. Food and clean water remain in short supply, and many are dependent entirely on handouts to survive.   Helicopters have been running supply drops to more isolated communities outside Palu, where the full extent of the damage is still not entirely clear.   The Red Cross said Monday it had treated more than 1,800 people at clinics and administered first aid to a similar number in the immediate disaster zone.   Indonesia sits along the world's most tectonically active region, and its 260 million people are vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2018 06:41:40 +0100

Hanoi, Dec 13, 2018 (AFP) - Floods caused by heavy downpours have killed 13 people in central Vietnam, officials said Thursday, as farmers scrambled to save crops and livestock ahead of more bad weather forecast for this week.   Torrential rains have lashed six provinces in the centre of the country since Saturday, killing thousands of cows and chickens and flooding several cities -- including the coastal resort town of Danang.    More than 50 centimetres (20 inches) of rain hit some areas, with more downpours expected in the coming days, the disaster management office said Thursday.   "Thirteen people were killed, while one remains missing in Quang Ngai province," the office said.    Around 12,000 hectares of crops were destroyed, and some 160,000 livestock killed, it added.

One farmer in Quang Nam province said he lost all his chickens in the flooding, costing him tens of thousands of dollars.       "The water receded but thousands of our chickens were dead. We had to collect them for burial as the smell was so bad," Nguyen Thanh said, quoted by state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper.    Several areas in Quang Nam and Quang Ngai provinces were still inundated on Thursday after hydropower plants discharged reservoir waters.    Vietnam is frequently hit by heavy downpours during the typhoon season from May to October, but forecasters said the rains arrived late this year.     More than 200 people have been killed in weather-related disasters in 2018, down from 389 last year.
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 08:14:22 +0100

Bangkok, Dec 12, 2018 (AFP) - A French tourist was gunned down early Wednesday by an off-duty Thai cop after a drunken bar fight in a seedy Bangkok district, police said.   The 41-year-old Parisian was shot dead at a downtown apartment block after an altercation with the police sergeant major who had approached the tourist's Thai girlfriend.     "They were drunk... they started to argue and then had a fist fight but the policeman couldn't fight back," the Chief of Thailand's Immigration Police Surachate Hakpan told AFP.   "The policeman followed him back to his place and shot him twice," he said, adding the victim had been in Thailand for several months.

The officer has been arrested and "will be fired... and prosecuted on a murder charge", Surachate added.   Police are hunting a second suspect seen on CCTV.    Gruesome pictures circulated on Thai media showed the victim lying in a pool of blood in front of a doughnut shop at his apartment block.    Bangkok is one of the world's most visited cities, famed for its food and racy nightlife, much of it around Nana district where the murder took place.    Thailand as a grim reputation for its gun culture, with drunken arguments, business disputes and soured romances frequently resolved by violence.
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2018 02:09:59 +0100

Mexico City, Dec 12, 2018 (AFP) - A massive fireworks explosion during a procession at a Mexican church killed eight people Tuesday and left some 50 wounded, authorities said.   Two children aged 11 and 12 were among those killed in the accident, which occurred around dawn at the San Jose parish atrium in Tequisquiapan, some 145 kilometres (90 miles) northwest of Mexico City.

Parishioners had donated the fireworks for a festival, but "something went wrong and they exploded," said Gabriel Bastarrachea, emergency response official for the state of Queretaro.   A video posted on social media showed people marching toward the church in a festive procession when suddenly a giant, fiery blast sent them running and screaming.

It was the latest in a string of deadly fireworks accidents in Mexico, where a thriving but dangerous cottage industry supplies a seemingly endless array of colourful explosives to celebrate holidays and festivals.   At least 24 people were killed in a series of fireworks explosions last July in the town of Tultepec in central Mexico, and 42 people were killed there when a rocket exploded in December 2016 at the height of the Christmas fireworks rush.
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2018 22:14:43 +0100

Bogota, Dec 11, 2018 (AFP) - The abandoned building where Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar lived will be covered in posters paying tribute to the victims of his Medellin Cartel before it is torn down next year.   The exhibition is part of a move by municipal authorities to tell the other side of Escobar's story -- that of his victims -- to counter a surge of television series glamorizing his life and that of his cartel.   "Respect our pain, honour our victims (1983-1994). 46,612 fewer lives," reads the message on one of the posters that now greet Medillin's "narco-tourists" flocking to the Monaco apartment block.

Portraits of slain journalist Guillermo Cano, gunned down in 1986, former presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan and police chief Valdemar Quintero -- both murdered in 1989 -- are emblazoned over a message that reads, in English: "It is not fiction, it is reality."   Mayor Federico Gutierrez told reporters that the tourist site had become a "symbol of illegality."   "Now, there are messages that should lead us to reflect," he said.   The posters will remain affixed to the building until municipal workers tear it down on February 22, more than 25 years after Escobar was shot dead by police in 1993.     The former luxury block will be replaced by a municipal park.
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2018 19:29:44 +0100

Beni, DR Congo, Dec 11, 2018 (AFP) - Children account for a third of Ebola cases in an outbreak of the disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with hundreds orphaned or isolated, the United Nations said on Tuesday.   Nearly 300 people have died from the highly contagious disease since August in the restive east around the city of Beni.

The UN children's agency UNICEF said the organisation and its partners had identified more than 400 children who have been orphaned or isolated during the outbreak.    "We are deeply concerned by the growing number of children confirmed to have contracted Ebola," said UNICEF's Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, returning from Beni.    "The earlier children infected with Ebola receive treatment in a specialised health facility, the greater their chances of survival. Community mobilisation and public awareness activities are also crucial."

After it was declared on August 1 -- the tenth outbreak in DR Congo since 1976 -- at least 285 people have died, according to the last health ministry update on December 9.   Nearly 44,000 people have been vaccinated.   The outbreak has hit an area already struggling with violence from armed groups.   In November, medical and vaccination efforts were briefly suspended and health workers evacuated after clashes between UN peacekeepers and fighters from the local Allied Democratic Forces militia.
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2018 14:28:55 +0100

Paris, Dec 11, 2018 (AFP) - The soaring Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Elysees in Paris will reopen Wednesday after being covered in graffiti and ransacked during anti-government protests which rocked the capital on December 1, the French monuments commission said.   The arc, under which lies the tomb of the unknown soldier, commemorating France's war dead, has been a focal point of the "yellow vest" rallies against fuel tax increases and the cost of living which began on November 17.   But the demonstrations degenerated into daylong clashes with police early this month, with protesters spray-painting the arc with slogans such as "the yellow vests will win."

The protesters later managed to break into the monument where they smashed sculptures and display cases in an underground gallery and snatched commemorative medals and other items.   They also snuffed out the eternal flame burning on the tomb of the unknown soldier.    Some protesters were also seen on the top of the landmark building which offers panoramic views of the capital.   "All the networks and equipment essential for the security and proper functioning of the monument will have been restored and repaired," the commission said in a statement Tuesday.   "Some furniture, notably in the gift shop and library, have been temporarily repaired while awaiting new installations," it added.   It said the damage was estimated at several hundred thousands of euros (dollars).   Thirteen people were charged last week over the looting and destruction and investigations are continuing to identify other suspects.
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:30:30 +0100

Madrid, Dec 11, 2018 (AFP) - Spanish railway workers will stage a nationwide strike on December 21 and January 7 during the busy Christmas holiday period over job cuts and working conditions, a union said Tuesday.   The "main reason" for the strike is the "continued reduction in the number of staff" at state train operator Renfe and state rail infrastructure company Adif, the CCOO union, one of the main trade unions representing rail workers, said in a statement.   "We are mobilising to recover the jobs which have been lost, improve purchasing power and ensure agreed pay increases come into effect," said Manuel Nicolas Taguas, general secretary of the railway workers sector at the CCOO.   The union says that since 2005 the workforce employed by the two companies in charge of Spain's rail network has been slashed by around 5,000 workers to roughly 26,000 employees.   The union representing Renfe rail guards has called a one day strike on December 14 to protest working conditions.
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 14:05:06 +0100

Nairobi, Dec 10, 2018 (AFP) - South Sudan will vaccinate key health workers against Ebola close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, which faces a new epidemic, the World Health Organization said Monday.   The ministry of health's vaccination campaign, with cooperation from the WHO, will target healthcare and frontline workers in the high-risk states of Juba, Yei, Yambio and Nimule, the UN agency said in a statement.   South Sudan is one of several countries bordering the vast DRC, where the new outbreak of the highly contagious viral disease had since August claimed 271 lives by December 6, according to Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga.

A total of 2,160 doses of the experimental vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV have been allocated to South Sudan for a programme starting on December 19. This trial vaccine is not yet licenced but is considered safe and provided "under the compassionate-use guidelines in response to the ongoing Ebola outbreak in DRC", the WHO said.   Like neighbouring Uganda, where similar measures have been taken for health personnel, South Sudan has declared a state of alert because of the risk that Ebola may be carried into its territory. At present, no cases have been reported, according the WHO.   The experimental vaccine first went on trial during the terrible epidemic of Ebola that ravaged parts of West Africa between the end of 2013 and 2016, at a cost of more than 11,300 lives. The disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids from other people or infected animals.

The vaccine was created by Canadian public health specialists at the National Microbiology Laboratory and is considered highly effective by the WHO, but it works only against the Ebola virus-Zaire strain, confirmed in the outbreak in the DRC.   South Sudan has been torn by civil war for five years in a conflict that has left nearly 400,000 dead. More than four million people -- about a third of the population -- have fled.   The main belligerents signed a peace accord in September, but the work of humanitarian organisations remains complicated and dangerous.   Participants in the vaccination programme have been trained on rVSV-ZEBOV and undertaken a simulation exercise. Meanwhile, the Ebola preparedness contingency plan covers measures ranging from screening travellers, community engagement and provision for safe and dignified funerals, the WHO said.
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 11:42:55 +0100

Bangkok, Dec 10, 2018 (AFP) - An Iranian man has been arrested after using travel freebies to lure an unsuspecting Japanese tourist into smuggling a bag of clothes laced with crystal meth, Thai police said Monday.   The tourist, whose name has not been disclosed, found the deal on a travel website that offered free getaways to Thailand, Shanghai and Frankfurt, complete with thousands in spending money.

But after arriving in Thailand last week, he was handed "suspicious" luggage for his next trip to Shanghai, Itthipol Itthisarnronnachai, deputy chief of Thailand's immigration department, told reporters.   "Inside the bag, he found clothes that felt more solid than usual. He then contacted the Japanese embassy," Itthipol said.   Police said the clothes had been coated with crystal methamphetamine -- known as ice.

Four bags of the drug were also found, adding up to 2.2 kilogrammes (4.9 pounds) in total.    Thailand gets 35 million tourists a year and some fall prey to low-level scams or robbery, but few are swept up in transnational drug-running.   "It's a never-seen-before method, luring tourists to traffick drugs out of the country," Itthipol added.

Demand for meth is surging in the region at a time when authorities are attempting to crack down on the lucrative business.   Police said the Iranian national was arrested when he went to retrieve the luggage after the Japanese man pretended to be sick and said he wanted to cancel the trip.   They found 10 kilogrammes of ice and ice-coated clothing in the suspect's apartment.   "We will pursue this case and investigate networks in Thailand and Japan to take down this scam," Itthipol said.
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 08:53:28 +0100

Frankfurt am Main, Dec 10, 2018 (AFP) - Germany was plunged into transport chaos Monday as most train services were halted by a railworkers' strike over pay, affecting millions of passengers.   Inter-city and regional services as well as many urban commuter trains were cancelled throughout Europe's biggest economy by the four-hour stoppage from 5:00 am (0400 GMT), Deutsche Bahn (DB) said.   The strike halted all high-speed ICE trains and other inter-city services as well as most cargo trains, and its ripple effects and delays were expected to continue well into the afternoon.   In the capital Berlin, where additionally the entire public announcement system broke down, frustrated commuters were asked to switch from S-Bahn commuter trains operated by DB to subways, buses or trams.

The strike came after talks broke down Saturday between the DB and the EVG rail workers' union, which is demanding a 7.5-percent salary rise for 160,000 employees.   "The employer made offers which did not correspond to the demands of our members," said EVG negotiator Regina Rusch-Ziemba.   DB shot back and described the strike as a "completely unnecessary escalation", insisting its offer was "attractive and met the main demands" of employees.   DB had offered a pay rise of 5.1 percent in two phases, with an option for staff to take extra time off instead, and a one-off payment of 500 euros ($570), the DPA national news agency reported.   Deutsche Bahn in a tweet also denied it had broken off the negotiations, charging that "the EVG left the talks and went on strike".   "DB remains ready to continue the negotiations at any time. There is an open invitation for today."

The strike also impacted DB customer services offices, meaning that in many stations passengers were left without information over loudspeakers or display boards.   DB said that purchased tickets would remain valid until next Sunday or could be refunded and urged passengers to delay travel where possible.   It also called on the union -- which threatened follow-up strikes if necessary -- to return to the negotiating table quickly.   A DB spokeswoman said: "Parties that negotiate must be prepared to make concessions. DB has asked the EVG to continue the talks this afternoon."