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Benin

Benin - US Consular Information Sheet
April 28, 2008

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Benin is a developing country in West Africa. Its political capital is Porto Novo. However, its administrative capital, Cotonou, is Benin's largest city and the
site of most government, commercial, and tourist activity. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Benin for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas are not routinely available at the airport. Visitors to Benin should also carry the WHO Yellow Card (“Carte Jaune”) indicating that they have been vaccinated for yellow fever. Contact the Embassy of Benin for the most current visa information. The Embassy is located at: 2124 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: 202-232-6656.

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:
U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
U.S. citizens should not walk on the beach alone at any time of day. It is also highly recommended not to carry a passport or valuables when walking in any part of the city. Travelers should carry a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport (see Crime section). They should not walk around the city after dark, and should take particular care to avoid the beach and isolated areas near the beach after dark.
The ocean currents along the coast are extremely strong and treacherous with rough surf and a strong undertow, and several people drown each year.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

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

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

CRIME: Street robbery is a significant problem in Cotonou. Robbery and mugging occur along the Boulevard de France (the beach road by the Marina and Novotel Hotels) and on the beaches near hotels frequented by international visitors. Most of the reported incidents involve the use of force, often by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim. Travelers should avoid isolated and poorly lit areas and should not walk around the city or the beaches between dusk and dawn. Even in daylight hours, foreigners on the beach near Cotonou are frequent victims of robberies. When visiting the beach, travelers should not bring valuables and should carry only a photocopy of their passport. If you are a victim of crime, you should contact the U.S. Embassy immediately. There has been a continued increase in the number of robberies and carjacking incidents after dark, both within metropolitan Cotonou and on highways and rural roads outside of major metropolitan areas. Motorists are urged to be wary of the risk of carjacking. Keep the windows of your vehicle rolled up and the doors locked. Stay alert for signs of suspicious behavior by other motorists or pedestrians that may lead to carjacking, such as attempts to stop a moving vehicle for no obvious reason. Travelers should avoid driving outside the city of Cotonou after dark and should exercise extreme caution when driving in Cotonou after dark (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below). Overland travel to Nigeria is dangerous near the Benin/Nigeria border due to unofficial checkpoints and highway banditry.
Travelers should avoid the use of credit cards and automated teller machines (ATMs) in Benin due to a high rate of fraud. Perpetrators of business and other kinds of fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Benin, and are more frequently perpetrated by Beninese criminals. Business scams are not always easy to recognize, and any unsolicited business proposal should be carefully scrutinized. There are, nevertheless, some indicators that are warnings of a probable scam. Look out for:

Any offer of a substantial percentage of a very large sum of money to be transferred into your account, in return for your "discretion" or "confidentiality";

Any deal that seems too good to be true;
Requests for signed and stamped, blank letterhead or invoices, or for bank account or credit card information;
Requests for urgent air shipment, accompanied by an instrument of payment whose genuineness cannot immediately be established;
Solicitations claiming the soliciting party has personal ties to high government officials;
Requests for payment, in advance, of transfer taxes or incorporation fees;
Statements that your name was provided to the soliciting party either by someone you do not know or by "a reliable contact";
Promises of advance payment for services to the Beninese government; and
Any offer of a charitable donation.
These scams, which may appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts, pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently more American citizens have been targeted. The perpetrators of such scams sometimes pose as attorneys. One common ploy is to request fees for “registration” with fictitious government offices or regulatory authorities. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Travelers should carefully check out any unsolicited business proposal originating in Benin before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. For additional information, please see the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, International Financial Scams.

Scams may also involve persons posing as singles on Internet dating sites or as online acquaintances who then get into trouble and require money to be "rescued." If you are asked to send money by someone you meet online please contact the U.S. Embassy before doing so.

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.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Benin are limited and not all medicines are available. Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Not all medicines and prescription drugs available in Benin are USFDA-approved. Malaria is a serious risk to travelers to Benin. For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/.

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 website 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 Benin is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

With the exception of the road linking Cotonou in the south to Malanville on the border with Niger in the north, and from Parakou in central Benin to Natitingou in the northwestern part of the country, roads in Benin are generally in poor condition and are often impassable during the rainy season. Benin's unpaved roads vary widely in quality; deep sand and potholes are common. During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, dirt roads often become impassable. Four-wheel drive vehicles with full spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended.
Most of the main streets in Cotonou are paved, but side streets are often dirt with deep potholes. Traffic moves on the right, as in the United States. Cotonou has no public transportation system; many Beninese people rely on bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes, and zemidjans (moped taxis). All official Americans are required to wear safety helmets when on a motorcycle and are strongly discouraged from using zemidjans. Travelers using zemidjans, particularly at night, are much more vulnerable to being mugged, assaulted or robbed. Buses and bush taxis offer service in the interior.
Gasoline smuggled from Nigeria is widely available in glass bottles and jugs at informal roadside stands throughout Cotonou and much of the country. This gasoline is of unreliable quality, often containing water or other contaminants that can damage or disable your vehicle. Drivers should purchase fuel only from official service stations. There are periodic gas shortages, which can be particularly acute in the north of the country where there are few service stations.
U.S. citizens traveling by road should exercise extreme caution. Poorly maintained and overloaded transport and cargo vehicles frequently break down and cause accidents. Drivers often place branches or leaves in the road to indicate a broken down vehicle is in the roadway. Undisciplined drivers move unpredictably through traffic. Construction work is often poorly indicated. Speed bumps, commonly used on paved roads in and near villages, are seldom indicated. Drivers must be on guard against people and livestock wandering into or across the roads. Nighttime driving is particularly hazardous as vehicles frequently lack headlights and/or taillights, and brake lights are often burned out.
With few exceptions, Cotonou and other cities lack any street lighting, and lighting on roads between population centers is non-existent. The U.S. Embassy in Cotonou prohibits non-essential travel outside of metropolitan areas after dusk by official Americans and strongly urges all U.S. citizens to avoid night driving as well. There have been numerous carjackings and robberies on roads in Benin after dark, several of which resulted in murder when the driver refused to comply with the assailants' demands. The National Police periodically conduct vehicle checks at provisional roadblocks in an effort to improve road safety and reduce the increasing number of carjackings. When stopped at such a roadblock, you must have all of the vehicle's documentation available to present to the authorities.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at http://www.benintourisme.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Benin, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Benin’s 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:
U.S. citizens are advised to keep a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport with them at all times when traveling in Benin.
The Embassy has had a few reports of officials requesting a "gift" to facilitate official administrative matters (e.g., customs entry). Such requests should be politely but firmly declined.
It is prohibited to photograph government buildings and other official sites, such as military installations, without the formal consent of the Government of Benin. In general, it is always best to be courteous and ask permission before taking pictures of people. Beninese citizens may react angrily if photographed without their prior approval.
Obtaining customs clearance at the port of Cotonou for donated items shipped to Benin from the United States may be a lengthy process. In addition, to obtain a waiver of customs duties on donated items, the donating organization must secure prior written approval from the Government of Benin. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou for more detailed information.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 Benin laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Benin 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 Benin are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Benin. Americans withoutInternet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rue Caporal Anani Bernard in Cotonou. The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 2012, Cotonou, Benin. The 24-hour telephone numbers are (229) 21-30-06-50, 21-30-05-13, and 21-30-17-92. The Embassy’s general fax number is (229) 21-30-06-70; the Consular Section’s fax number is (229) 21-30-66-82; http://cotonou.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Benin dated August 17th, 2007 to update sections on Safety and Security and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 10 May 2019 19:38:30 +0200
By Hazel WARD and Daphne BENOIT

Paris, May 10, 2019 (AFP) - French special forces have freed two French hostages, an American and a South Korean in northern Burkina Faso in an overnight raid in which two soldiers died, authorities announced Friday.   The operation was launched to free two French tourists who had disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in neighbouring Benin on May 1.

But during the raid, the French troops were surprised to discover two women also in captivity, with top officials saying they had been held for 28 days.    The French tourists were identified as Patrick Picque, 51, and Laurent Lassimouillas, 46, but the women's identities were not immediately clear.     "No one was aware of (the women's) presence," French Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters, while French armed forces chief Francois Lecointre said.   "We know little about these other two hostages," Parly told reporters, saying that even Seoul and Washington did not appear to be aware the pair were in increasingly unstable Burkina Faso.    The raid was approved by French President Emmanuel Macron in what was seen as the last opportunity to stop the hostages being transferred to lawless territory in Mali to the north.

Parly said it was "too early to say" who had snatched the two French nationals from Benin, which has long been an island of stability in a region where Islamist militants are increasingly active.   "The message to terrorists and criminal gangs is clear: those who attack France and its nationals know that we will not spare any effort to track them down, find them and neutralise them," she said.   Four of the six kidnappers were killed in the raid.    French forces, helped by intelligence provided by the United States, had been tracking the kidnappers for several days as they travelled across the semi-desert terrain of eastern Burkina Faso from Benin to Mali.   They seized the opportunity to prevent "the transfer of the hostages to another terrorist organisation in Mali," Lecointre said, referring to the Macina Liberation Front (FLM).   The FLM is a jihadist group formed in 2015 and headed by a radical Malian preacher, Amadou Koufa. It is aligned with Al-Qaeda in the region.

- US intelligence support -
In a statement, Macron congratulated the special forces on the operation, in which he also expressed sorrow over the death of the two soldiers "who gave their lives to save those of our citizens".   And Parly thanked authorities in Benin and Burkina Faso for their help with the "complex operation", as well as the United States which provided intelligence and support.

The operation was also made possible by the presence of France's Operation Barkhane, which counts some 4,500 troops deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces battle jihadist groups.   American special forces and drones are also known to operate in the violence-wracked Sahel region, which France fears could become further destabilised as jihadist groups are pushed out of north Africa, Iraq and Syria.   Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

- Relief and sadness -
The French tourists -- Patrick Picque who works in a Paris jewellery shop, and Laurent Lassimouillas a piano teacher, -- went missing with their guide on the last leg of their holiday in usually peaceful Benin.   The Pendjari wildlife reserve, which is famed for its elephants and lions, lies close to the porous border with Burkina Faso.   The badly disfigured body of their guide was found shortly after they disappeared, as well as their abandoned four-wheel Toyota truck.   The two freed men will be flown back to France on Saturday, alongside the South Korean woman, where they will be met on arrival by Macron and other top French officials.   Washington thanked the French forces for freeing the American hostage, with France saying she would likely be "repatriated independently" from the other three. 

The two dead French soldiers were named as Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, decorated naval special forces members born in 1986 and 1991 respectively.   They were part of the prestigious Hubert commando unit of the French naval special forces which was deployed to the Sahel at the end of March.   A total of 24 French soldiers have died in the region since 2013 when France intervened to drive back jihadist groups who had taken control of northern Mali. The last death was on April 2.
Date: Tue 15 Jan 2019
Source: Punch [edited]

The Kwara state government has confirmed 2 cases of Lassa fever infecting a husband and wife in the state.

Speaking with newsmen on Tuesday [15 Jan 2019] at a news briefing, the Kwara commissioner for health, Alhaji Usman Rifun-Kolo, said the outbreak of Lassa fever was identified in a farm settlement in Taberu, Baruten local government area.

He explained that the 2 cases of the disease affected a husband and wife, natives of Benin republic, which shares a border with the state. He added that the husband and wife are farming in Baruten. "These cases of Lassa fever originated from Benin republic, whose citizen have interrelations with people in the Baruten area," he said.

According to him, the husband and wife were diagnosed in a health facility, and the state government had already deployed a disease-surveillance team to identify those who have been in contact with the patients.

Rifun-Kolo further explained that the surveillance team identified 4 people with a history of fever in the area. He said that the 4 cases raised suspicion of Lassa fever, which prompted them to take samples from the individuals for further investigation. He noted that the 4 individuals have commenced treatment in Taberu, Baruten LGA.
=====================
[The above report states that the couple was infected in Benin, although the timeline when that may have occurred is not given. The report also mentions 4 individuals in the Kwara state who had a history of Lassa fever, implying that the virus is present in that state in Nigeria as well. In December [2018], there were Lassa fever cases in Benin that were imported from Nigeria as well as infections that were locally acquired in Benin, so the Lassa fever cases cross the border in both directions. The source of the infecting virus for any of these cases is not mentioned. - ProMED Mod.TY

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Kwara state, Nigeria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/19690>]
Date: Wed 26 Dec 2018
Source: Quotidein Le Matinal [in French, trans. ProMED Corr.SB, edited]

Minister of health Benjamin Hounkpatin confirmed on Wednesday [26 Dec 2018] 4 new cases of Lassa haemorrhagic fever in Benin, including one in Cotonou. This occurred in the period from 15-26 Dec 2018.

In the case of Cotonou, a 28-year-old (has been infected). His case was detected on 24 Dec [2018], but his illness commenced the previous week. He had a fever, a cough, a cold, and fatigue. Due to the persistence of the cough and cold, and with the appearance of traces of blood in nasal discharge on 24 Dec 2018, the alert was given.

The patient was placed in isolation on [Tue 25 Dec 2018], and on the morning of Wed 26 Dec 2018, his result from the laboratory came back positive [for Lassa fever]. Subsequently, the patient was isolated and put on treatment.

According to the details provided by Hounkpatin, there is no indication of travel [by the patient] to an epidemic locality of Lassa fever. According to the patient's statements, there is no known contact with rodents.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, the minister reassured the public that public health measures are underway. He also reminded people of the behaviours that will help avoid becoming infected. This involves washing hands regularly with soap and water; avoiding contact with stool, sperm, urine, saliva, vomit, and contaminated objects from a person suspected to be ill or dead from Lassa; and protecting food and keeping it in a safe place, out of reach of rodents.

It should be recalled that 7 cases have been recorded since the beginning of the epidemic to date, including 5 positive cases.
=======================
[One case is located in Cotonou on the Benin coast and apparently was locally acquired, perhaps from contact with the rodent host or its excrement. The location of the other 3 cases is not mentioned, but a 13 Dec 2018 report indicated that there were 3 cases in the municipality of Parakou in Borgou Department, in the northern part of Benin. Perhaps these 3 cases, which came from the village Taberou (in Nigeria), located 5 km [3.1 mi] from Tandou in the commune of Tchaourou, are the ones mentioned in this report.

The previous Lassa fever cases in Benin this year [2018] occurred in January and also involved case importation from Nigeria. A previous WHO report stated that Lassa fever is endemic in bordering Nigeria, and, given the frequent population movements between Nigeria and Benin, the occurrence of additional cases is not unexpected. Strengthening of cross-border collaboration and information exchange between the 2 countries is, therefore, needed. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Images of the rodent reservoirs of Lassa fever virus can be seen as follows:
For _Mastomys natalensis_, see
For _M. erythroleucus_ and _Hylomycus pamfi_, see

HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2018 13:37:32 +0200

Cotonou, June 29, 2018 (AFP) - Benin's Constitutional Court has banned the right to strike by workers in the country's defence, security, justice and health sectors, sparking concern among union officials and legal observers.   The ruling, issued late on Thursday, came after months of wrangling between the government and the court, which had previously said the measure was unconstitutional.

"Civil servants, public security forces and equivalents should fulfil their duties in all circumstances and not exercise their right to strike," the court said in its new ruling.   "There should be no disruption to the duties of public sector defence, security, justice and health workers."   The decision was taken "in the public interest" and for "the protection of citizens", it said.

Speaking on Friday, one senior union leader, who asked to remain anonymous, described the ruling as shocking and a "hammer blow".   And Benin legal affairs expert Albert Medagbe told AFP the decision was a "worrying sudden legal U-turn".   Earlier this month, a close ally of President Patrice Talon, Joseph Djogbenou, was elected to lead the Constitutional Court during a vote held behind closed doors.   Djogbenou is Talon's former personal lawyer and was previously  Benin's attorney general.

Until his arrival, the court had strained relations with Talon, and had criticised the government for misunderstanding and failing to respect the constitution.   The small West African nation was last year hit by a wave of public sector strikes, which brought the education, health and justice system to a near halt.   The industrial action was sparked by Talon's attempts to introduce free-market reforms.
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 17:31:52 +0100

Cotonou, Feb 21, 2018 (AFP) - Nine people appeared in a Benin court Wednesday on charges of selling fake drugs at the start of a landmark trial in a regional campaign against illicit medicines.   The suspects, who include executives from major pharmaceutical companies operating in the West African nation, were remanded in custody until March 6 on technical grounds.   They are accused of "the sale of falsified medicines, (and) display, possession with a view to selling, commercialisation or sale of falsified medical substances."   A tenth defendant, the head of the Directorate for Pharmacies, Medications and Diagnostic Evaluation (DPMED) under the control of the ministry of health, was not in court on the trial's opening day.   He is accused of failing to prevent the offences.

Benin launched the crackdown last year after mounting alarm about the scale of the trafficking of expired and counterfeit drugs in West Africa.   Fake medicines are drugs that are bogus or below regulatory standards but often are outwardly indistinguishable from the genuine product.   Taking them may do nothing to tackle an illness or -- in the case of antibiotics -- worsen the problem of microbial resistance.   According to an investigation by the Paris-based International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM), West African markets are awash with fake drugs made in China and India.

In 2015, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated that 122,000 children under five died due to taking poor-quality antimalarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa.   A 15-nation regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), last April announced an investigation into the fake drugs business.   A lawyer for the civilian plaintiffs told AFP that the trial in Benin was adjourned until March 6 at their request "in order to incorporate another case, of illegal pharmaceutical practice".
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Benin

Benin - US Consular Information Sheet
April 28, 2008

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Benin is a developing country in West Africa. Its political capital is Porto Novo. However, its administrative capital, Cotonou, is Benin's largest city and the
site of most government, commercial, and tourist activity. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Benin for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas are not routinely available at the airport. Visitors to Benin should also carry the WHO Yellow Card (“Carte Jaune”) indicating that they have been vaccinated for yellow fever. Contact the Embassy of Benin for the most current visa information. The Embassy is located at: 2124 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: 202-232-6656.

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:
U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
U.S. citizens should not walk on the beach alone at any time of day. It is also highly recommended not to carry a passport or valuables when walking in any part of the city. Travelers should carry a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport (see Crime section). They should not walk around the city after dark, and should take particular care to avoid the beach and isolated areas near the beach after dark.
The ocean currents along the coast are extremely strong and treacherous with rough surf and a strong undertow, and several people drown each year.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

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

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

CRIME: Street robbery is a significant problem in Cotonou. Robbery and mugging occur along the Boulevard de France (the beach road by the Marina and Novotel Hotels) and on the beaches near hotels frequented by international visitors. Most of the reported incidents involve the use of force, often by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim. Travelers should avoid isolated and poorly lit areas and should not walk around the city or the beaches between dusk and dawn. Even in daylight hours, foreigners on the beach near Cotonou are frequent victims of robberies. When visiting the beach, travelers should not bring valuables and should carry only a photocopy of their passport. If you are a victim of crime, you should contact the U.S. Embassy immediately. There has been a continued increase in the number of robberies and carjacking incidents after dark, both within metropolitan Cotonou and on highways and rural roads outside of major metropolitan areas. Motorists are urged to be wary of the risk of carjacking. Keep the windows of your vehicle rolled up and the doors locked. Stay alert for signs of suspicious behavior by other motorists or pedestrians that may lead to carjacking, such as attempts to stop a moving vehicle for no obvious reason. Travelers should avoid driving outside the city of Cotonou after dark and should exercise extreme caution when driving in Cotonou after dark (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below). Overland travel to Nigeria is dangerous near the Benin/Nigeria border due to unofficial checkpoints and highway banditry.
Travelers should avoid the use of credit cards and automated teller machines (ATMs) in Benin due to a high rate of fraud. Perpetrators of business and other kinds of fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Benin, and are more frequently perpetrated by Beninese criminals. Business scams are not always easy to recognize, and any unsolicited business proposal should be carefully scrutinized. There are, nevertheless, some indicators that are warnings of a probable scam. Look out for:

Any offer of a substantial percentage of a very large sum of money to be transferred into your account, in return for your "discretion" or "confidentiality";

Any deal that seems too good to be true;
Requests for signed and stamped, blank letterhead or invoices, or for bank account or credit card information;
Requests for urgent air shipment, accompanied by an instrument of payment whose genuineness cannot immediately be established;
Solicitations claiming the soliciting party has personal ties to high government officials;
Requests for payment, in advance, of transfer taxes or incorporation fees;
Statements that your name was provided to the soliciting party either by someone you do not know or by "a reliable contact";
Promises of advance payment for services to the Beninese government; and
Any offer of a charitable donation.
These scams, which may appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts, pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently more American citizens have been targeted. The perpetrators of such scams sometimes pose as attorneys. One common ploy is to request fees for “registration” with fictitious government offices or regulatory authorities. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Travelers should carefully check out any unsolicited business proposal originating in Benin before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. For additional information, please see the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, International Financial Scams.

Scams may also involve persons posing as singles on Internet dating sites or as online acquaintances who then get into trouble and require money to be "rescued." If you are asked to send money by someone you meet online please contact the U.S. Embassy before doing so.

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.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Benin are limited and not all medicines are available. Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Not all medicines and prescription drugs available in Benin are USFDA-approved. Malaria is a serious risk to travelers to Benin. For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/.

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 website 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 Benin is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

With the exception of the road linking Cotonou in the south to Malanville on the border with Niger in the north, and from Parakou in central Benin to Natitingou in the northwestern part of the country, roads in Benin are generally in poor condition and are often impassable during the rainy season. Benin's unpaved roads vary widely in quality; deep sand and potholes are common. During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, dirt roads often become impassable. Four-wheel drive vehicles with full spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended.
Most of the main streets in Cotonou are paved, but side streets are often dirt with deep potholes. Traffic moves on the right, as in the United States. Cotonou has no public transportation system; many Beninese people rely on bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes, and zemidjans (moped taxis). All official Americans are required to wear safety helmets when on a motorcycle and are strongly discouraged from using zemidjans. Travelers using zemidjans, particularly at night, are much more vulnerable to being mugged, assaulted or robbed. Buses and bush taxis offer service in the interior.
Gasoline smuggled from Nigeria is widely available in glass bottles and jugs at informal roadside stands throughout Cotonou and much of the country. This gasoline is of unreliable quality, often containing water or other contaminants that can damage or disable your vehicle. Drivers should purchase fuel only from official service stations. There are periodic gas shortages, which can be particularly acute in the north of the country where there are few service stations.
U.S. citizens traveling by road should exercise extreme caution. Poorly maintained and overloaded transport and cargo vehicles frequently break down and cause accidents. Drivers often place branches or leaves in the road to indicate a broken down vehicle is in the roadway. Undisciplined drivers move unpredictably through traffic. Construction work is often poorly indicated. Speed bumps, commonly used on paved roads in and near villages, are seldom indicated. Drivers must be on guard against people and livestock wandering into or across the roads. Nighttime driving is particularly hazardous as vehicles frequently lack headlights and/or taillights, and brake lights are often burned out.
With few exceptions, Cotonou and other cities lack any street lighting, and lighting on roads between population centers is non-existent. The U.S. Embassy in Cotonou prohibits non-essential travel outside of metropolitan areas after dusk by official Americans and strongly urges all U.S. citizens to avoid night driving as well. There have been numerous carjackings and robberies on roads in Benin after dark, several of which resulted in murder when the driver refused to comply with the assailants' demands. The National Police periodically conduct vehicle checks at provisional roadblocks in an effort to improve road safety and reduce the increasing number of carjackings. When stopped at such a roadblock, you must have all of the vehicle's documentation available to present to the authorities.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at http://www.benintourisme.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Benin, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Benin’s 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:
U.S. citizens are advised to keep a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport with them at all times when traveling in Benin.
The Embassy has had a few reports of officials requesting a "gift" to facilitate official administrative matters (e.g., customs entry). Such requests should be politely but firmly declined.
It is prohibited to photograph government buildings and other official sites, such as military installations, without the formal consent of the Government of Benin. In general, it is always best to be courteous and ask permission before taking pictures of people. Beninese citizens may react angrily if photographed without their prior approval.
Obtaining customs clearance at the port of Cotonou for donated items shipped to Benin from the United States may be a lengthy process. In addition, to obtain a waiver of customs duties on donated items, the donating organization must secure prior written approval from the Government of Benin. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou for more detailed information.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 Benin laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Benin 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 Benin are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Benin. Americans withoutInternet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rue Caporal Anani Bernard in Cotonou. The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 2012, Cotonou, Benin. The 24-hour telephone numbers are (229) 21-30-06-50, 21-30-05-13, and 21-30-17-92. The Embassy’s general fax number is (229) 21-30-06-70; the Consular Section’s fax number is (229) 21-30-66-82; http://cotonou.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Benin dated August 17th, 2007 to update sections on Safety and Security and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 10 May 2019 19:38:30 +0200
By Hazel WARD and Daphne BENOIT

Paris, May 10, 2019 (AFP) - French special forces have freed two French hostages, an American and a South Korean in northern Burkina Faso in an overnight raid in which two soldiers died, authorities announced Friday.   The operation was launched to free two French tourists who had disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in neighbouring Benin on May 1.

But during the raid, the French troops were surprised to discover two women also in captivity, with top officials saying they had been held for 28 days.    The French tourists were identified as Patrick Picque, 51, and Laurent Lassimouillas, 46, but the women's identities were not immediately clear.     "No one was aware of (the women's) presence," French Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters, while French armed forces chief Francois Lecointre said.   "We know little about these other two hostages," Parly told reporters, saying that even Seoul and Washington did not appear to be aware the pair were in increasingly unstable Burkina Faso.    The raid was approved by French President Emmanuel Macron in what was seen as the last opportunity to stop the hostages being transferred to lawless territory in Mali to the north.

Parly said it was "too early to say" who had snatched the two French nationals from Benin, which has long been an island of stability in a region where Islamist militants are increasingly active.   "The message to terrorists and criminal gangs is clear: those who attack France and its nationals know that we will not spare any effort to track them down, find them and neutralise them," she said.   Four of the six kidnappers were killed in the raid.    French forces, helped by intelligence provided by the United States, had been tracking the kidnappers for several days as they travelled across the semi-desert terrain of eastern Burkina Faso from Benin to Mali.   They seized the opportunity to prevent "the transfer of the hostages to another terrorist organisation in Mali," Lecointre said, referring to the Macina Liberation Front (FLM).   The FLM is a jihadist group formed in 2015 and headed by a radical Malian preacher, Amadou Koufa. It is aligned with Al-Qaeda in the region.

- US intelligence support -
In a statement, Macron congratulated the special forces on the operation, in which he also expressed sorrow over the death of the two soldiers "who gave their lives to save those of our citizens".   And Parly thanked authorities in Benin and Burkina Faso for their help with the "complex operation", as well as the United States which provided intelligence and support.

The operation was also made possible by the presence of France's Operation Barkhane, which counts some 4,500 troops deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces battle jihadist groups.   American special forces and drones are also known to operate in the violence-wracked Sahel region, which France fears could become further destabilised as jihadist groups are pushed out of north Africa, Iraq and Syria.   Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

- Relief and sadness -
The French tourists -- Patrick Picque who works in a Paris jewellery shop, and Laurent Lassimouillas a piano teacher, -- went missing with their guide on the last leg of their holiday in usually peaceful Benin.   The Pendjari wildlife reserve, which is famed for its elephants and lions, lies close to the porous border with Burkina Faso.   The badly disfigured body of their guide was found shortly after they disappeared, as well as their abandoned four-wheel Toyota truck.   The two freed men will be flown back to France on Saturday, alongside the South Korean woman, where they will be met on arrival by Macron and other top French officials.   Washington thanked the French forces for freeing the American hostage, with France saying she would likely be "repatriated independently" from the other three. 

The two dead French soldiers were named as Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, decorated naval special forces members born in 1986 and 1991 respectively.   They were part of the prestigious Hubert commando unit of the French naval special forces which was deployed to the Sahel at the end of March.   A total of 24 French soldiers have died in the region since 2013 when France intervened to drive back jihadist groups who had taken control of northern Mali. The last death was on April 2.
Date: Tue 15 Jan 2019
Source: Punch [edited]

The Kwara state government has confirmed 2 cases of Lassa fever infecting a husband and wife in the state.

Speaking with newsmen on Tuesday [15 Jan 2019] at a news briefing, the Kwara commissioner for health, Alhaji Usman Rifun-Kolo, said the outbreak of Lassa fever was identified in a farm settlement in Taberu, Baruten local government area.

He explained that the 2 cases of the disease affected a husband and wife, natives of Benin republic, which shares a border with the state. He added that the husband and wife are farming in Baruten. "These cases of Lassa fever originated from Benin republic, whose citizen have interrelations with people in the Baruten area," he said.

According to him, the husband and wife were diagnosed in a health facility, and the state government had already deployed a disease-surveillance team to identify those who have been in contact with the patients.

Rifun-Kolo further explained that the surveillance team identified 4 people with a history of fever in the area. He said that the 4 cases raised suspicion of Lassa fever, which prompted them to take samples from the individuals for further investigation. He noted that the 4 individuals have commenced treatment in Taberu, Baruten LGA.
=====================
[The above report states that the couple was infected in Benin, although the timeline when that may have occurred is not given. The report also mentions 4 individuals in the Kwara state who had a history of Lassa fever, implying that the virus is present in that state in Nigeria as well. In December [2018], there were Lassa fever cases in Benin that were imported from Nigeria as well as infections that were locally acquired in Benin, so the Lassa fever cases cross the border in both directions. The source of the infecting virus for any of these cases is not mentioned. - ProMED Mod.TY

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Kwara state, Nigeria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/19690>]
Date: Wed 26 Dec 2018
Source: Quotidein Le Matinal [in French, trans. ProMED Corr.SB, edited]

Minister of health Benjamin Hounkpatin confirmed on Wednesday [26 Dec 2018] 4 new cases of Lassa haemorrhagic fever in Benin, including one in Cotonou. This occurred in the period from 15-26 Dec 2018.

In the case of Cotonou, a 28-year-old (has been infected). His case was detected on 24 Dec [2018], but his illness commenced the previous week. He had a fever, a cough, a cold, and fatigue. Due to the persistence of the cough and cold, and with the appearance of traces of blood in nasal discharge on 24 Dec 2018, the alert was given.

The patient was placed in isolation on [Tue 25 Dec 2018], and on the morning of Wed 26 Dec 2018, his result from the laboratory came back positive [for Lassa fever]. Subsequently, the patient was isolated and put on treatment.

According to the details provided by Hounkpatin, there is no indication of travel [by the patient] to an epidemic locality of Lassa fever. According to the patient's statements, there is no known contact with rodents.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, the minister reassured the public that public health measures are underway. He also reminded people of the behaviours that will help avoid becoming infected. This involves washing hands regularly with soap and water; avoiding contact with stool, sperm, urine, saliva, vomit, and contaminated objects from a person suspected to be ill or dead from Lassa; and protecting food and keeping it in a safe place, out of reach of rodents.

It should be recalled that 7 cases have been recorded since the beginning of the epidemic to date, including 5 positive cases.
=======================
[One case is located in Cotonou on the Benin coast and apparently was locally acquired, perhaps from contact with the rodent host or its excrement. The location of the other 3 cases is not mentioned, but a 13 Dec 2018 report indicated that there were 3 cases in the municipality of Parakou in Borgou Department, in the northern part of Benin. Perhaps these 3 cases, which came from the village Taberou (in Nigeria), located 5 km [3.1 mi] from Tandou in the commune of Tchaourou, are the ones mentioned in this report.

The previous Lassa fever cases in Benin this year [2018] occurred in January and also involved case importation from Nigeria. A previous WHO report stated that Lassa fever is endemic in bordering Nigeria, and, given the frequent population movements between Nigeria and Benin, the occurrence of additional cases is not unexpected. Strengthening of cross-border collaboration and information exchange between the 2 countries is, therefore, needed. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Images of the rodent reservoirs of Lassa fever virus can be seen as follows:
For _Mastomys natalensis_, see
For _M. erythroleucus_ and _Hylomycus pamfi_, see

HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2018 13:37:32 +0200

Cotonou, June 29, 2018 (AFP) - Benin's Constitutional Court has banned the right to strike by workers in the country's defence, security, justice and health sectors, sparking concern among union officials and legal observers.   The ruling, issued late on Thursday, came after months of wrangling between the government and the court, which had previously said the measure was unconstitutional.

"Civil servants, public security forces and equivalents should fulfil their duties in all circumstances and not exercise their right to strike," the court said in its new ruling.   "There should be no disruption to the duties of public sector defence, security, justice and health workers."   The decision was taken "in the public interest" and for "the protection of citizens", it said.

Speaking on Friday, one senior union leader, who asked to remain anonymous, described the ruling as shocking and a "hammer blow".   And Benin legal affairs expert Albert Medagbe told AFP the decision was a "worrying sudden legal U-turn".   Earlier this month, a close ally of President Patrice Talon, Joseph Djogbenou, was elected to lead the Constitutional Court during a vote held behind closed doors.   Djogbenou is Talon's former personal lawyer and was previously  Benin's attorney general.

Until his arrival, the court had strained relations with Talon, and had criticised the government for misunderstanding and failing to respect the constitution.   The small West African nation was last year hit by a wave of public sector strikes, which brought the education, health and justice system to a near halt.   The industrial action was sparked by Talon's attempts to introduce free-market reforms.
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 17:31:52 +0100

Cotonou, Feb 21, 2018 (AFP) - Nine people appeared in a Benin court Wednesday on charges of selling fake drugs at the start of a landmark trial in a regional campaign against illicit medicines.   The suspects, who include executives from major pharmaceutical companies operating in the West African nation, were remanded in custody until March 6 on technical grounds.   They are accused of "the sale of falsified medicines, (and) display, possession with a view to selling, commercialisation or sale of falsified medical substances."   A tenth defendant, the head of the Directorate for Pharmacies, Medications and Diagnostic Evaluation (DPMED) under the control of the ministry of health, was not in court on the trial's opening day.   He is accused of failing to prevent the offences.

Benin launched the crackdown last year after mounting alarm about the scale of the trafficking of expired and counterfeit drugs in West Africa.   Fake medicines are drugs that are bogus or below regulatory standards but often are outwardly indistinguishable from the genuine product.   Taking them may do nothing to tackle an illness or -- in the case of antibiotics -- worsen the problem of microbial resistance.   According to an investigation by the Paris-based International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM), West African markets are awash with fake drugs made in China and India.

In 2015, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated that 122,000 children under five died due to taking poor-quality antimalarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa.   A 15-nation regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), last April announced an investigation into the fake drugs business.   A lawyer for the civilian plaintiffs told AFP that the trial in Benin was adjourned until March 6 at their request "in order to incorporate another case, of illegal pharmaceutical practice".
More ...

Bahamas

The Bahamas Consular Information Sheet
July 14, 2005

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
The Bahamas is a developed, English-speaking Caribbean nation composed of hundreds of islands covering a territory approximately the size of California.
To
rism and financial services comprise the two largest sectors of the economy. Independent from the United Kingdom since 1973, The Bahamas is a Commonwealth nation with a centuries-old democratic tradition.
The capital, Nassau, is located on New Providence Island.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on The Bahamas at http://travel.state.gov for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
On December 31, 2005, the U.S. Government will begin to phase in new passport requirements for U.S. citizens traveling in the Western Hemisphere.
By December 31, 2007, all U.S. citizens will be expected to depart and enter the United States on a valid passport or other authorized document establishing identity and U.S. citizenship.
The Department of State strongly encourages travelers to obtain passports well in advance of any planned travel.
Routine passport applications by mail take up to six weeks to be issued.
For further information, go to the State Department's Consular website: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html.

U.S. citizens must present original proof of U.S. citizenship (valid U.S. passport or certified U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued photo ID) and a return ticket. A passport is recommended as it eases processing upon return to the United States.
Voter registration cards, Social Security cards, driver's licenses, affidavits, and other similar documents are not acceptable as proof of U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizens do not need to obtain visas for stays of up to one month. Travelers arriving via private watercraft are charged docking fees.
See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for information on entry to The Bahamas and other countries.
U.S. citizens may also contact The Embassy of The Bahamas at 2220 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-319-2660), its Consulates in Miami and New York, or by email at bahemb@aol.com.

For entry and exit requirements pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction, read our information at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1469.html.
For Customs Information see http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1468.html.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
The water sports and scooter rental industries in The Bahamas are not carefully regulated.
Visitors should rent equipment only from reputable operators, and should insist on sufficient training before using the equipment.
Every year, people are killed or injured by the improper use of scooters, jet-skis, and personal watercraft or by the careless or reckless operation of such equipment by others.
You should insist on seeing proof that operators have sufficient medical and liability insurance. Travelers should also invest in low-cost traveler's insurance that includes medical evacuations, as most American insurance companies do not cover this.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov 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 at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1747.html.

CRIME:
While The Bahamas has a relatively low crime rate, visitors should exercise caution and good judgment. Although most criminal incidents take place in a part of Nassau not usually frequented by tourists (the "over-the-hill" area south of downtown), crime and violence has moved into more upscale tourist and residential areas.
Criminals also target restaurants and nightclubs frequented by tourists.
The most common approach for criminals is to offer victims a ride, either as a "personal favor" or by claiming to be a taxi, and then robbing and/or assaulting the passenger once they are in the car. Visitors should take care to ride only in licensed taxis, identifiable by their yellow license plates.

In the last year the U.S. Embassy has received several reports of sexual assaults, including against teen-age girls. Most assaults have been perpetrated against intoxicated young women, some of whom were reportedly drugged. To minimize the potential for sexual assault, the Embassy recommends that young women stay in groups, consume alcohol in moderation or not at all, ride only in licensed taxis, and not accept rides or drinks from strangers.
Travelers should avoid walking alone after dark or in isolated areas, and avoid placing themselves in situations where they are alone with strangers. Be cautious on deserted areas of beaches at all hours. Hotel guests should always lock their doors and should never leave valuables unattended, especially on beaches.
Visitors should store passport/identity documents, airline tickets, credit cards, and extra cash in hotel safes. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, particularly Rolex watches, which criminals have specifically targeted. Use only clearly marked taxis with yellow license plates and make a note of the license plate number for your records.

The legal age in the Bahamas for consumption of alcoholic beverages is 18. Parents should be aware, however, that enforcement of the drinking age is weak.
It is easy for teenagers to obtain alcoholic beverages and underage drinking is prevalent.
Many of the arrests, accidents and violent crimes suffered by U.S. citizens in The Bahamas involve alcohol.

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 understand the local criminal justice process and find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1748.html.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
High quality medical care is generally available, but expensive, in Nassau and Freeport. Medical care is limited outside of Nassau and Freeport. Bahamian doctors and hospitals do not usually accept U.S. medical insurance policies and typically expect immediate cash payment for professional services. It is the patient's responsibility to seek reimbursement later from their insurance companies. Serious health problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Persons with serious or life-threatening conditions who wish to return to U.S. medical facilities for treatment normally must be airlifted.
There is a chronic shortage of blood at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, where most emergency surgery is performed.
Travelers with rare blood types should know the names and locations of possible blood donors should the need arise.
The Lyford Cay Hospital has a hyperbaric chamber for treatment of decompression illness.
Ambulance service is available, but may not be able to respond quickly in the event of a major emergency or disaster.

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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), 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.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1470.html.

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 Bahamas is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic in The Bahamas moves on the left side of the roadway. Roads in Nassau and Freeport are generally adequate, but traffic congestion in those cities is endemic.
Rural roads can be narrow, winding, and in poor repair.
Flooding frequently occurs on roads in low-lying areas throughout The Bahamas, including Nassau and Freeport.
Drivers should be alert for unmarked construction zones throughout The Bahamas.
Travel by moped or bicycle can be quite hazardous, especially in the heavy traffic conditions prevalent in Nassau and Freeport. Travelers should exercise appropriate caution when renting motorbikes. Accidents involving U.S. tourists on motorbikes have caused severe injuries and fatalities. Those who choose to ride a moped or bicycle should wear helmets and drive defensively.
Pedestrians need to remember that vehicular traffic comes from the right.
Pedestrians have been hit by cars after failing to check properly for oncoming traffic.

Emergency ambulance service is generally available and can be reached by dialing 911. Roadside assistance is also widely available through private towing services, listed in the phone book.

For specific information concerning driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance in The Bahamas, please contact The Bahamas Tourist Board in New York at http://bahamas.com, (tel:
1-800-823-3136).

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/safety/safety_1179.html.
Visit the website of the country's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of The Bahamas as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of The Bahamas' air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
CUSTOMS:
The Bahamas customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or exportation from The Bahamas of firearms. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas in Washington or one of the Bahamian consulates in the U.S. for specific information regarding customs requirements. Tourists who arrive by private boat are required to declare firearms to Bahamian Customs and leave firearms on the boat while in The Bahamas. Please see our information on customs regulations at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1468.html.

BOATING/FISHING:
Boaters should be aware that long-line fishing in Bahamian waters is illegal. All long-line fishing gear is required to be stowed below deck while transiting through Bahamian waters. Fishermen should note that stiff penalties are imposed for catching crawfish (lobster) or other marine life out of season or in protected areas.

TIME-SHARES:
U.S. citizens should exercise caution when considering time-share investments and be aware of the aggressive tactics used by some time-share sales representatives. Bahamian law allows time-share purchasers five days to cancel the contract for full reimbursement. Disputes that arise after that period can be very time-consuming and expensive to resolve through the local legal system.
HURRICANES:
The Bahamas, like all countries in the Caribbean basin, is vulnerable to hurricanes. Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, although hurricanes have been known to occur outside that time period. Visitors to The Bahamas during hurricane season are advised to monitor weather reports in order to be prepared for any potential threats. General information about disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating The Bahamas' laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in The Bahamas are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
For more information visit http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1467.html.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://www.travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in The Bahamas are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within The Bahamas.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located next to McDonald's restaurant on Queen Street in downtown Nassau; telephone (242) 322-1181, after hours: (242) 328-2206.
Consular Section hours are 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10:00-12:00 on Fridays. The Embassy is closed on local and U.S. holidays.
You may wish to visit the Embassy's website at http://bahamas.usembassy.gov/ or contact the Consular Section by e-mail at acsn@state.gov .

The U.S. Embassy is also responsible for consular services in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCIS), a United Kingdom (British) overseas territory.
U.S. citizens may obtain updated information on travel and security in TCIS from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau or the Consular Information Sheet for the Turks and Caicos.
*

*

*
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 15, 2004, to update Sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances, and Registration/Embassy Location; to include a Section on Information For Victims of Crime; and to combine and update the Sections on Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2019 11:42:27 +0200 (METDST)

Geneva, Sept 2, 2019 (AFP) - Hurricane Dorian has caused "extensive damage" across the Bahamas, the Red Cross said Monday, warning that as many as 13,000 houses may have been severely damaged or destroyed.   "We don't yet have a complete picture of what has happened," Sune Bulow, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' Emergency Operation Centre in Geneva, said in a statement.   "But it is clear that Hurricane Dorian has had a catastrophic impact," he said, adding that "we anticipate extensive shelter needs, alongside the need for short-term economic support, as well as for clean water and health assistance."

Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas with ferocious wind and rain on Sunday, the monstrous Category 5 storm wrecking towns and homes as it churned on an uncertain path toward the US coast where hundreds of thousands were ordered to evacuate.   There was no immediate word on casualties in the low-lying islands.   But IFRC said that up to 13,000 houses may have been severely impacted.

The organisation also warned that extensive flooding on the island of Abaco was believed to have contaminated wells with saltwater.   IFRC said it had released 250,000 Swiss francs ($252,000, 230,000 euros) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to bolster the initial response to the crisis, and to provide some 500 families with emergency shelter assistance.   Packing sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (295 kilometre per hour), Dorian crashed onshore in the Abacos Islands, in the northwest of the Bahamas, as the strongest storm ever to hit the Caribbean chain.

After days of nerve-wracking uncertainty surrounding the storm's path, the southeastern US states of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina finally ordered coastal residents to evacuate in a mass exodus set to affect hundreds of thousands of people.    The American Red Cross estimated that some 19 million people live in areas that could be impacted by the storm, with as many as 50,000 people in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina potentially in need of emergency shelter, depending on the impact.   IFRC said that hundreds of Red Cross volunteers, emergency response vehicles and more than 30 truck loads of relief supplies were being mobilised to help people living in the path of the hurricane.
Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2019 00:55:48 +0200 (METDST)
By Leila MACOR

Riviera Beach, United States, Sept 1, 2019 (AFP) - Hurricane Dorian blasted the northern Bahamas as a monster Category 5 storm on Sunday, pummeling the low-lying island chain with torrential rains and winds of a violence unprecedented in its history.   Packing winds of 185 miles per hour (295 kilometers per hour), Dorian made landfall twice in the Bahamas' Abaco Islands, and was tied for the second most powerful hurricane ever in the Atlantic basin, the National Weather Service said.

Footage posted on social media showed major destruction. There was no immediate word on casualties.   Parts of the Abaco Islands were reported to be under water as forecasters warned it was facing a towering 18 to 23 foot storm surge. Winds were gusting over 220 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.   Video posted on the website of the Bahamian newspaper Tribune 242 showed water up to the roofs of wooden houses in what ppeared to be a coastal town. Capsized boats floated in muddy brown water dotted with wooden boards, tree branches and other debris.

In other social media footage of what appears to be an inland area, cars were smashed or turned over, telephone poles and trees were snapped like twigs and debris filled the yards of severely damaged homes. AFP could not immediately confirm the authenticity of any of this footage.   Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis broke down in tears as he addressed a news conference, calling it "probably the most sad and worst day of my life," the Nassau Guardian reported.   "We're facing a hurricane... one that we've never seen in the history of the Bahamas," he said.

Footage shot in Cooper's Town, Abaco and obtained by AFP showed waves crashing violently onshore, sending up huge clouds of spray along the coastline.   Local radio reported that people were calling for help after winds blew the roof off the Island Breezes Hotel in Marsh Harbour, a commercial hub in the Abacos.   "Things are really starting to rock and roll," a post on the Facebook page of the Hope Town Bulletin in Abacos said at 10:00 am local time.    As of 2200 GMT, the storm was 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama and moving slowly west.   In Grand Bahama, thousands have evacuated to get out of Dorian's predicted path.   "It feels like we are standing in a line waiting for a beating," Yasmin Rigby, a resident of Freeport, the island's main city, told AFP.

- Strongest storm to hit Bahamas -
The NHC said Dorian had become "the strongest hurricane in modern records for the northwestern Bahamas."   Describing "catastrophic" conditions in the Abacos Islands, it said the storm was "heading with all its fury towards Grand Bahama," where it was expected Sunday night into Monday.  NHC director Ken Graham on Facebook Live said the Bahamas would be under major hurricane conditions for a punishing 30 hours or more.   "That's major hurricane winds, that's storm surge of 10 and even 20 feet in some of those areas," he said. "That's also torrential rainfall of 15 to 20 inches, isolated 30 inches."

In Washington, US President Donald Trump met with his emergency management chiefs and declared "this looks monstrous."   "We expect that much of the eastern seaboard will be ultimately impacted and some of it very, very severely," he said.   Tropical storm warnings were in effect for parts of the Florida coast, and residents up and down the Atlantic coast braced for a brush with danger.   Florida issued its first evacuation orders in parts of Palm Beach, home of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, and Martin Counties.

- 'Very great danger' -
Kevin McAleenan, acting homeland security secretary, said hurricane force winds could hit Florida, followed by a prolonged rain event combined with a storm surge.   "That's going to be very difficult as the storm starts to move northward, mostly like, up the coast of Florida and toward Georgia and South Carolina," he said on ABC's "This Week."   While Miami appeared likely to be largely spared, 30-year-old David Duque, picking up sandbags there on Saturday, noted that "everything could change... I know it could be a scare, but better prepare instead of doing nothing."   The Florida National Guard said roughly 2,000 service members had been mobilized, with another 2,000 poised to join them.

- 'Absolute monster' -
Trump has declared a federal state of emergency in Florida, authorizing US assistance to supplement state and local efforts.   Following a similar state order in Florida, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday, saying, "Given the strength and unpredictability of the storm, we must prepare for every possible scenario."   Neighboring North Carolina also declared a state of emergency, and Georgia announced a state of emergency for 12 counties.   Orlando International Airport was to protectively halt commercial flights at 2:00 am (0600 GMT) Monday, and Florida's NASA Kennedy Space Center said it was moving an enormous mobile rocket launcher inside to protect it.
Date: Wed 25 Jul 2018
Source: Eyewitness News [edited]

Cases of reported conch poisoning are on the rise in the capital, according to Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands. The health minister confirmed Tue 24 Jul 2018 that over 3 dozen persons have sought medical attention for conch poisoning since the Ministry of Health announced the new outbreak in New Providence nearly a month ago.

Luckily, there have been no reports of conch poisoning in the Family Islands. Dr. Sands confirmed that the outbreak has been isolated to New Providence. "We can now confirm 25 clinical cases with laboratory testing," he said. "There are an additional 15 clinical cases that meet the definition but are still awaiting finalization of their laboratory data, so there may be as many as 40 clinical cases that might have been presented to the hospital. There are some people who get conch poisoning but it's not severe enough for them to come to the hospital for treatment."

The health minister continued to issue warning to patrons and vendors. "I continue to say that this is a preventable problem, so to the vendors, you have to wash the conch in fresh water. To the patrons, it is a good idea to insist that [the conch] is washed in fresh water."

Conch poisoning occurs when raw conch meat is not thoroughly washed in fresh water. Bacteria that resides on the skin of conch is what leads to the treacherous poisoning. The most recent major outbreak of conch poisoning in the Bahamas dates back to the 1990s.  [Byline: Theo Sealy]
=====================
[The aetiology is _V. parahaemolyticus_, a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It lives in brackish saltwater and causes gastrointestinal illness in humans. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever and chills. Usually these symptoms begin within 24 hours of exposure. Illness is usually self-limited and lasts approximately 3 days. Severe disease is rare and occurs more commonly in persons with weakened immune systems.

Infections with this organism, which can be normal microflora in seawater, have been associated with the consumption of raw, improperly cooked, or cooked and recontaminated fish and shellfish. A correlation exists between the probability of infection and warmer months of the year. Improper refrigeration of seafood contaminated with this organism will allow its proliferation, which increases the possibility of infection. ProMED-mail covered a large 2005 outbreak in Chile. It was impressive in its size (more than 10 000 cases), continued to spread despite early recognition, and involved clams and mussels rather than the classical oyster vehicle. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
New Providence Island, New Providence, Bahamas:
Date: 5 Jul 2018
Source: The Nassau Guardian [edited]

The Ministry of Health warned yesterday of a recent outbreak of conch poisoning. Health authorities yesterday [4 Jul 2018] confirmed 4 cases of conch poisoning stemming from Potter's Cay in the past 72 hours but said the outbreak of _Vibrio parahaemolyticus_ could easily be prevented by vendors washing their conch supplies in fresh water.

_V. parahaemolyticus_ is a bacterium found in brackish saltwater, which, when ingested, causes symptoms including abdominal cramps, vomiting, headache, diarrhea and fever. "This is a preventable illness that requires basic hygiene as it relates to conch preparation," said Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands during a press conference at the Ministry of Health of Meeting Street. He continued, "I think there is no reason why we can't say we will ensure that every single vendor is reminded of the requirement to wash the conch with copious amounts of fresh, clean water. To those in the purchasing public, if your vendor does not have access to fresh tap water or distilled water, and is only washing the conch in seawater, until we get the all clear, don't buy from that vendor."

The 4 patients with confirmed cases of vibriosis are Bahamians. There were at least 6 more people exhibiting symptoms awaiting confirmation of conch poisoning.

Sands assured the public that health officials, who received reports of the cases yesterday morning [4 Jul 2018], have mobilized in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment to take the necessary steps to protect the health of those affected and, through targeted interventions, prevent further cases. The minister also advised all conch vendors will be required to take a food-handling course and maintain fresh potable water at their stalls.

As it relates to the unconfirmed cases, Sands said those patients, who were admitted to the Emergency Room at Doctors Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital in the past 24 hours with gastroenteritis, were awaiting lab results. "Bear in mind that gastroenteritis can occur for a number of reasons," he said, "And so, to ascribe a case of gastroenteritis to vibrio would require confirmatory testing."

Sands said one of the priorities of the ministry is to have the conversation with the public early and spread awareness. "The 2nd thing we would like to do and we have started to do is to ensure the environmental health teams speak directly with the vendors, but throughout New Providence [Bahamas] and anywhere else we may suspect a possibility of exposure," the minister said. "We learned back in the 1990s this is easily controlled if people practice very simple techniques of washing conch with fresh water, which minimizes, if not eliminates, the possibility of transmission. And so, we just redouble those efforts combined with public education."

Additionally, Sands advised conch purchasers to ask vendors and restaurants whether the conch has been washed in fresh water before purchasing and eating it. "If the answer is affirmative, then you ought to feel reasonably comfortable you can eat it," he said. "If the answer is no, then I wouldn't suggest you eat or purchase it." No vendor has been closed down as a result of the cases presented. Sands said that would be premature, noting that conch poisoning from _V. parahaemolyticus_ can be easily prevented.

Thousands of visitors frequent Potter's Cay and other venues to sample conch in the variety of ways it is prepared, such as conch salad, in which the conch is consumed raw with vegetables, pepper and lime. According to health officials, cooking the conch removes the chance of it being contaminated.

There were 223 cases of vibriosis in New Providence [Bahamas] in 2003. In 1991 and 1999, there were also outbreaks of conch poisoning with a combined 1100 cases, Sands said.

Regarding testing, Sands was asked whether the ministry has periodically tested random conch batches from vendors. "This is not an issue of the meat itself," he responded. "Vibrio is a bacteri[um] ordinarily living in sea water and is a part of the surface of the conch. The conch meat itself is not infected with _V. parahaemolyticus_, so you can wash it off. Testing the conch meat itself is not the issue."

Sands continued, "We have learned historically you can eliminate this problem by washing the conch in fresh water. If you are washing the conch with _Vibrio_-containing water, you are not going to solve the problem, even though the conch may appear clean on the surface." Sands said while this is a breaking matter and the ministry has a strategic plan, it has not gotten to the stage of testing batches of conch and the storage water, but "that does not mean that we won't get there."

Symptoms of conch poisoning from _V. parahaemolyticus_ can persist for 72 hours, and some patients may require hospitalization for treatment of dehydration. Those experiencing symptoms are asked to contact the ministry's surveillance unit at +1-242-502-4790 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EDT.  [Byline: Torrell Glinton]
====================
[There is now confirmation the agent involved in the conch poisoning situation is the bacterium _Vibrio parahaemolyticus_. I apologize for the error regarding identification of the agent. Laboratory confirmation is always appreciated. [ProMED would like to thank Mr. Ryan Burke for bringing the laboratory confirmation to our attenttion. - ProMED Mod.JH]

_V. parahaemolyticus_ is a bacterium in the same family as those that cause cholera. It lives in brackish saltwater and causes gastrointestinal illness in humans. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and fever and chills. Usually these symptoms begin within 24 hours of exposure. Illness is usually self-limited and lasts approximately 3 days. Severe disease is rare and occurs more commonly in persons with weakened immune systems <http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/vibrio/basics.html>.

Additional information regarding _V. parahaemolyticus_ may be found on the CDC fact sheet <https://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/faq.html> - ProMED Mod.TG]

[Infections with this organism, which can be normal microflora in seawater, have been associated with the consumption of raw, improperly cooked, or cooked and recontaminated fish and shellfish. A correlation exists between the probability of infection and warmer months of the year. Improper refrigeration of seafood contaminated with this organism will allow its proliferation, which increases the possibility of infection. ProMED-mail covered a large 2005 outbreak in Chile. It was impressive in its size (more than 10 000 cases), continued spread despite early recognition, and the involvement of clams and mussels rather than the classical oyster vehicle. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/11584>]
Date: Thu 5 Jul 2018
Source: EW News [edited]

With 4 confirmed cases of conch poisoning in New Providence, [Bahamas], the Ministry of Health cautioned Bahamians against consuming the delicacy in the wake of this latest outbreak. Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands confirmed the 4 Bahamians suffering from the illness. The earliest case, he said, dates back to [Sat 30 Jun 2018].

Dr. Sands revealed that an additional 6 persons have been hospitalized with symptoms of conch poisoning. He said even though the number of cases is considered minimal, the ministry's warning is a proactive measure to prevent future cases. The ministry, he said, is expected to begin dialogue with local vendors to ensure they are utilizing proper cleaning methods in the preparation of conch dishes.

"Conch should be washed with fresh water, and not salt water, to ensure that all bacteria is removed from the conch meat," suggested Dr. Sands. He urged Bahamians to ask local vendors about the processes they employ during the preparation of conch dishes. "If they do not wash the conch in fresh water during the process of preparing it, then do not purchase the conch," he warned.

The early onset of conch poisoning is said to be accompanied by watery diarrhoea and extreme abdominal cramps. Some cases, the health minister said, are severe and can lead to dehydration and subsequent hospitalization.

The last major outbreak of conch poisoning dates back to the 1990s, according to Dr. Sands.  [Byline: Theo Sealy]
=========================
[The group of conchs that are sometimes referred to as "true conchs" are marine gastropod molluscs in the family Strombidae, specifically in the genus _Strombus_ and other closely related genera. For example, see _Lobatus gigas_, the queen conch, and _Laevistrombus canarium_, the dog conch (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conch>).

In ciguatera poisoning, the poisonous ingredient is ciguatoxin. This is a poison made in small amounts by certain algae and algae-like organisms called dinoflagellates. Environmental conditions are right for other organisms, mollusks, or fish to ingest the algae and dinoflagellates. Smaller organisms may be ingested by larger organisms, thus transferring the toxic agent to the larger animal.

Ciguatera is a foodborne illness (food poisoning) caused by eating fish that is contaminated by ciguatera toxin. Ciguatera toxin, a heat-stable, lipid-soluble compound produced by dinoflagellates and concentrated in fish organs, can cause nausea, pain, and cardiac and neurological symptoms in humans when ingested.

Ciguatera toxin is harmless to fish but poisonous to humans. The toxin is odorless and tasteless, and cooking does not destroy the toxin. The toxin activates voltage-dependent sodium channels, causing symptoms in gastrointestinal, cardiac, and nerve tissues of humans and other mammals.

Symptoms in people generally begin 6-8 hr after eating the contaminated fish but can occur as early as 2 or as late as 24 hr after ingestion. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, numbness, tingling, abdominal pain, dizziness, and vertigo. There is no specific antitoxin available for ciguatera toxin.

Some investigators have suggested vomiting should be induced if the victim is awake and alert and has eaten ciguatera toxin-containing fish within the last 3-4 hr. Ipecac, a substance that causes vomiting, was suggested as the medication to use, but many investigators now think ipecac causes too much dehydration. Currently, some physicians recommend gastrointestinal decontamination with activated charcoal. Activated charcoal may absorb the toxin if administered 3-4 hr after ingestion.

Victims should maintain hydration. Intravenous fluids may be necessary for uncontrollable nausea and vomiting. Although there is no specific antidote available, supportive therapy and time usually is curative.

Portions of this comment were extracted from

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
New Providence Island, New Providence, Bahamas:
More ...

Singapore

Singapore - US Consular Information Sheet
May 12, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:Singapore is a small, stable, highly developed country with an elected parliamentary system of government. Tourist facilities are modern and widely available. Singapore'
resident population of over 4.6 million inhabitants (including permanent residents and foreign workers) comprises 75% Chinese, 14% Malay, 9% Indian and 2% others. English is widely spoken. Criminal penalties are strict and law enforcement rigorous; see sections on “Entry/Exit Requirements,” “Special Circumstances,” and “Criminal Penalties,” below, for further details. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Singapore for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required. U.S. citizens do not need a visa if their visit is for business or social purposes and their stay is for 90 days or less. Travelers to the region should note that Singapore and some neighboring countries do not allow Americans to enter under any circumstances with fewer than six months of validity remaining on their passport. Female U.S. citizens who are pregnant when they apply to enter Singapore for a social visit are no longer required to make prior application through the nearest Singapore overseas mission or to provide documentation from a U.S. embassy concerning the nationality the child will acquire at birth.
Specific information about entry requirements for Singapore may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Singapore at 3501 International Place NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 537-3100. Visit the Embassy of Singapore’s web site at http://www.mfa.gov.sg/washington/ for the most current visa information.
Find more information about dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: In 2001, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a terrorist organization with links to Al Qaeda, planned attacks in Singapore against government and private targets associated with the United States, Singapore and other countries. These plans were disrupted and the JI organization in Singapore was dismantled. On February 27, 2008 suspected JI leader Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from detention in Singapore. His current whereabouts are unknown. Singapore remains a target of interest for terrorist groups. The Department of State remains concerned because extremist groups in Southeast Asia continue to demonstrate the desire and capability to carry out attacks against locations where Westerners congregate. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Americans residing in or traveling to Singapore and neighboring countries should therefore exercise caution, especially in locations where Americans and other Westerners live, work, congregate, shop or visit. U.S. citizens should remain vigilant about their personal security and surroundings.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts 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: Major crimes against tourists in Singapore are uncommon. Petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and purse or briefcase snatching occur in tourist areas, hotels and at the airport. Travelers should exercise the same caution that they would in any large city.. Visitors should be aware that credit card fraud is on the rise and should practice standard precautions to avoid falling victim of credit card fraud: do not carry multiple credit cards on your person; do not allow credit cards to be removed from your sight; avoid giving credit card information over the phone and use only secure internet connections for financial transactions.

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.
See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Good medical care is widely available in Singapore. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate payment for health services by credit card or cash and generally do not accept U.S. health insurance. Recipients of health care should be aware that Ministry of Health auditors in certain circumstances may be granted access to patient medical records without the consent of the patient, and, in certain circumstances, physicians may be required to provide information relating to the diagnosis or treatment without the patient's consent.

Despite vigorous mosquito eradication efforts in Singapore, from time to time Singapore experiences a spike in the number of dengue fever cases. Outbreaks tend to be clustered in residential areas, but there have been no reports of clusters in primary tourist areas, such as the Night Safari, the Singapore zoo, or Orchard Road.

In January 2008, a new strain of the viral disease Chikungunya was detected in Singapore. A dozen cases of the disease, which like Dengue Fever is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, were documented. There were no deaths. Unlike prior cases in Singapore, these cases were contracted locally and the outbreak centered around guest worker housing on Clive Street.

Information on dengue fever, 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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Singapore is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Singapore has a highly developed and well-maintained road and highway network. Driving is done on the left-hand side of the road. Motorists should be particularly aware of motorcyclists, who often ignore lane markings. Lanes are frequently closed without warning due to construction throughout the city. Public transportation and taxis are abundant, inexpensive, and reliable. Visitors should consider using this form of transportation. The Automobile Association of Singapore provides roadside assistance, and the Land Transport Authority has rescue vehicles on the road at all hours. In addition, closed circuit cameras monitor all major roads. As with all laws in Singapore, those involving traffic rules, vehicle registration, and liability in case of accident are strictly enforced, and failure to follow them may result in criminal penalties. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

Singapore has one of the worst road-fatality records among developed countries. In 2007, 2.6 deaths were logged for every 10,000 vehicles in Singapore, compared to 0.8 in Japan, 1.2 in Australia and 1.8 in the United States. For specific information concerning Singaporean driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Singaporean National Tourist Board located at 590 Fifth Ave., Twelfth Floor, New York, NY 10036, tel. 1-212-302-4861 or fax: 1-212-302-4801.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Singapore's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Singapore’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: Singapore customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import and export of items such as weapons, illegal drugs, certain religious materials, pornographic material, videotapes, CDs, DVDs, and software. Singapore customs authorities’ definition of "weapon" is very broad, and, in addition to firearms, includes many items which are not necessarily seen as weapons in the United States, such as dive knives, kitchen knives, handcuffs, and expended shell casings. Carrying any of these items without permission may result in your immediate arrest. All baggage is x-rayed at every port of entry, so checked baggage will also be inspected for regulated items.

It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Singapore in Washington, DC at 3501 International Place NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 537-3100, http://www.mfa.gov.sg/washington/ for specific information regarding customs requirements. You may also visit Singapore Customs’ web site, http://www.customs.gov.sg/. Singapore customs officials encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA carnet headquarters located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call 1-212- 354-4480, or send an e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org or visit http://www.uscib.org/ for details.

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. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/Document_Library/Reports_Publications/2004/2004_Special_301/Section_Index.html.
Please see our Customs Information.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) are plentiful in Singapore, and they are the best method of obtaining cash. Bank transfers generally take weeks, and surcharges are steep. Transfers from commercial services such as American Express and Western Union are generally efficient.

Americans may be asked by police, employers or hotels to surrender their passports in lieu of surety (guaranteed) bonds. Americans should carefully consider whether they wish to surrender their passport rather than seek some other type of surety, particularly if the passport is requested by someone who is not a government official (e.g., an employer, or hotel employees).
Note that Singapore does not recognize dual nationality beyond the age of 21, and it strictly enforces universal national service (NS) for all male citizens and permanent residents. Male U.S. citizens who automatically acquired Singaporean citizenship and continue to reside in Singapore are liable for Singapore national service once they reach the age of 18. Travel abroad of Singaporean males may require Singapore Government approval as they approach national service age and may be restricted when they reach sixteen-and-a-half years of age. Under Singaporean law, an individual who acquires Singaporean citizenship at birth retains that status even after acquiring the citizenship of another country, including U.S. citizenship.

Males may renounce Singaporean citizenship only after having completed at least two years of national service. U.S. citizens are subject to this law. Dual nationals, Singapore Permanent Residents, and their parents should contact the Ministry of Defense in Singapore to determine if there will be a national service obligation. For additional information, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site for our dual nationality flyer, and contact the Ministry of Defense Central Manpower Base (tel. 65-6373-3127), or visit http://www.ns.sg/nsPortal/appmanager/nsp/default?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=nsPortal_NSREG_ABT&nsp_community=ENLIST.
National-service-liable males who migrated from Singapore before age 11 and have not enjoyed significant socio-economic benefits of citizenship (e.g., applied for a Singapore identity card or studied in Singapore beyond the age of 11) are allowed to renounce their Singapore citizenship, but not before they turn 21. Until then, they are required to register for national service with Central Manpower Base and apply for a deferment. After turning 21, they are then eligible to renounce their Singapore citizenship and, if successful will not be required to serve NS and may continue to make short social visits to Singapore.

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 in Singapore than for similar offenses in the United States, and persons violating Singapore laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
There are strict penalties for possession and use of drugs as well as for trafficking in illegal drugs. Trafficking charges may be brought based on the quantity of illegal drugs in a subject’s possession, regardless of whether there is any proven or demonstrated intent to distribute the drugs. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Singapore has a mandatory death penalty for many narcotics offenses. Singapore police have the authority to compel both residents and non-residents to submit to random drug analysis, and do not distinguish between drugs consumed before or after entering Singapore in applying local laws.

Visitors should be aware of Singapore's strict laws and penalties for a variety of actions that might not be illegal or might be considered minor offenses in the United States. These include jaywalking, littering, and spitting. Singapore has a mandatory caning sentence for vandalism offenses, and caning may also be imposed for immigration violations and other offenses. Commercial disputes that may be handled as civil suits in the United States can escalate to criminal cases in Singapore, and result in heavy fines and prison sentences.
There are no jury trials in Singapore. Judges hear cases and decide sentencing. The Government of Singapore does not provide legal assistance except in capital cases; legal assistance may be available in some other cases through the Law Society.

There are strict penalties for those who possess or carry arms, or who commit crimes with arms. Singaporean authorities define “arm” as any firearm, air-gun, air-pistol, automatic gun, automatic pistol and any other kind of gun or pistol from which any shot, bullet or other projectiles can be discharged or from which noxious liquid, flame or fumes can be emitted, and any component part thereof. This definition also includes any bomb or grenade and any component part thereof. The unlawful possession of any arm or ammunition could result in imprisonment and caning. Any person convicted of committing a crime with an arm could receive punishment which could result in the maximum penalty of imprisonment for life and caning.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. In Singapore, local law prohibits causing or encouraging prostitution of, or engaging in sexual relations with, a female below the age of 18. An indecent assault against anyone, male or female, regardless of age, is also prohibited. Those convicted of facilitating or abetting the prostitution of any woman or girl could be sentenced to imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine of $7,100 or both. If the crime involves a female below the age of 16, the offender faces an additional charge carrying a possible sentence of imprisonment of up to 3 years and a fine of $2,000 or both.
Singapore enforces strict laws pertaining to the propriety of behavior between people, and the modesty of individuals. The Singaporean law “Outrage of Modesty” is defined as an assault or use of criminal force on any person, intended to, or knowing it to be likely to, outrage the modesty of that person. Penalties may include imprisonment for up to 2 years, a fine, caning, or a combination thereof. Men are sometimes accused of inappropriately touching other people, often women, resulting in their prosecution and punishment under this Singaporean law.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues web site.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Singapore are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site and obtain updated information on travel and security within Singapore. 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 27 Napier Road, Singapore 258508, tel. [65] 6476-9100, fax [65] 6476-9340; web site http://singapore.usembassy.gov/. In case of emergencies after working hours, the duty officer at the Embassy may be contacted by calling tel. [65] 6476-9100.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated September 11, 2007, to update sections on Country Description, Safety and Security, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2020 10:52:32 +0200 (METDST)

Singapore, April 20, 2020 (AFP) - Singapore reported a record daily jump of more than 1,400 coronavirus cases Monday, taking its total to over 8,000, with almost all new infections linked to dormitories housing foreign labourers.

The city-state was initially successful in keeping its outbreak in check with a strict regime of testing and contact-tracing, but is now facing a fast-moving second wave.    Health authorities in the financial hub, which now has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia, reported 1,426 new cases, taking its total to 8,014, including 11 deaths.

Cases have surged since authorities started carrying out widespread testing of foreign workers living in crowded dormitory complexes, many of whom are construction workers from South Asia.  Around 200,000 workers live in dorms and typically toil for long hours earning in the region of $400 to $500 a month building the city-state's glittering skyscrapers and shopping malls.

Following criticism of poor living conditions in the dorms, the government moved thousands of workers to other sites -- including apartments and floating accommodation usually used in offshore industries -- to try to lessen the chances of infection.   Several dormitories with serious outbreaks have been quarantined, with workers not allowed to leave the premises for two weeks. The government is providing meals, and cleaning services have been ramped up.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the weekend warned that the number of foreign workers found to have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is likely to rise further as more are tested.   "Fortunately, the vast majority of the cases are mild because the workers are young," Lee wrote on Facebook.   While the government is working to stop transmission in the dorms "it will take some time to show results, so we must expect to see more dorm cases for while longer", he said.

The city-state this month introduced tough restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the virus, including closing schools and advising people to stay at home.    Since then, the number of new infections reported among Singaporeans has slowed -- only 16 of the cases reported Monday were citizens or people holding permanent residency status.
Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2020 17:44:12 +0200 (METDST)

Singapore, April 10, 2020 (AFP) - Singapore reported almost 200 new coronavirus cases and one death Friday as a country previously seen as a model for tackling the disease battles a fast-moving second wave of infections.   The city-state was among the first places to report COVID-19 cases after the virus emerged in China, but kept the outbreak under control with a strict regime of testing and contact-tracing.   It has however seen a sharp surge in locally transmitted cases this month, prompting the government to impose tough curbs it had previously resisted, including the closure of most workplaces.

On Friday health authorities reported 198 new cases and an additional death, taking the city-state's total number of infections to 2,108 including seven fatalities.    The figure is low by global standards -- the worldwide death toll is approaching 100,000 -- but observers say Singapore's experience offers a warning to other countries to keep their guard up, even when it appears they have got on top of the crisis.

Several places in Asia which kept cases down in the early stages of the outbreak are now facing a second wave as infected citizens return from overseas and local transmissions increase.   Massive dormitory complexes housing mostly South Asian workers have emerged as infection hotspots in Singapore, with more than 500 cases so far reported at the sites.

Authorities have quarantined several dorms housing tens of thousands of workers, and are moving a large number to other living quarters in a bid to reduce the chances of infection.   Speaking Friday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "We are paying close attention to the welfare of the foreign workers.    "They came to Singapore to work hard for a living, and provide for their families back home."
6th April 2020

The city-state has put nearly 20,000 migrant workers under quarantine for two weeks after a growing number of coronavirus infections were detected in their dormitories.   Authorities reported 120 new virus cases Sunday, the highest jump for the country in a single day, with many linked to foreign workers' dorms.    Many workers from less affluent countries, particularly parts of South Asia, come to Singapore to work in construction and are typically housed in large dormitory complexes.
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2020 11:49:00 +0200 (METDST)

Singapore, April 3, 2020 (AFP) - Singapore will close schools and workplaces while people are being told to stay home, as the city-state ramps up curbs to stem the spread of coronavirus, the premier said Friday.   The country has won praise for its handling of the outbreak, and had largely kept the crisis in check by carrying out large numbers of tests and tracing close contacts of those infected.   Authorities had slowly been introducing curbs, such as closing bars and nightclubs, but had so far avoided the kind of tough restrictions seen in worse-hit nations.

However, after a jump in the number of locally transmitted cases in recent days, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it was time to apply a "circuit breaker" to halt the virus's spread.   Workplaces except for essential services, such as supermarkets and hospitals, and those deemed to be in key economic sectors will be closed from Tuesday, he said in a televised address.

Schools will also be closed from next week except for children of those who have to continue to work and cannot make alternative arrangements, he said.   People are being told to stay at home as much as possible, and only go out for essentials -- such as buying food and getting exercise.   "Looking at the trend, I am worried that unless we take further steps, things will gradually get worse, or another big cluster may push things over the edge," Lee said.   Singapore has reported 1,114 virus infections including five deaths. Globally, the number of confirmed cases has soared past one million and deaths have topped 50,000.
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2020 05:52:43 +0100 (MET)

Singapore, March 27, 2020 (AFP) - Singaporeans could be jailed for up to six months if they intentionally stand close to someone else, under tough new rules announced Friday to halt the spread of the coronavirus.   The city-state has introduced a series of new measures to tackle the virus, including closing bars and cinemas as well as banning large events.   One step aimed at ensuring "social-distancing" -- a key approach being used worldwide to halt the spread of the contagious disease -- is a ban on individuals standing less than one metre (three feet) apart in certain settings.

People are barred from intentionally standing too close to someone else in a queue, or sitting on a seat less than one metre from another individual in a public place, according to the regulations.    Those found guilty of breaking the rules face a jail term of up to six months and a maximum fine of Sg$10,000 (US$7,000).    Business owners are also required to take steps such as putting seats not fixed to the ground at least one metre apart, and making sure that people keep their distance when queueing.   They face the same punishments if found to have broken the rules.

Singapore, known for having a low crime rate and a tough approach to law and order, introduced stricter curbs after a spike in infections being brought in from overseas.   The health ministry said earlier this week that "we must implement tighter safe distancing measures now to minimise activities and exposure".   The city-state has reported 683 virus infections and two deaths, but has won praise for its approach and has so far avoided going into a total lockdown.   The rapidly spreading pandemic has infected over half a million people worldwide and killed more than 23,000.
More ...

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.