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Brazil

General

 Brazil is the largest country in South America and extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean to the depths of the Amazon basin. The climate varies throughout the country but generally it experiences a humid

tropical climate.

Safety & Security

The level of crime in many of the main urban centres is certainly rising and tourists need to be aware of the risks involved in travelling particularly in the evening hours. It is wise to use an official taxi for any journeys after dark. It is sensible not to flaunt any personal wealth and to use the hotel safety boxes for any valuables and your travel documents. The amount of crime against tourists tends to be greater in areas surrounding hotels, discotheques, bars, nightclubs and other similar establishments that cater to visitors, especially at dusk and during the evening hours. There are frequent reports of theft on city buses and such transportation should be avoided. A number of the main cities have established specialised tourist police units to patrol areas frequented by tourists. Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia all continue to experience a high incidence of crime.

Road Safety

Throughout this huge country the state of the roads varies greatly. In many regions the roads are dirt tracks and assistance would be hard to obtain for those travelling off from the main tourists routes. Bag snatching from traffic lights occurs in the main cities. If considering hiring a car make certain that your travel insurance is sufficient.

Jet Lag

After your flight you will experience a degree of jet lag. Travelling from Europe this will be less than when you travel home but nevertheless it will still cause your body to complain for 24 to 48 hours. Try to have a more relaxing time for the first few days (and also after returning home if possible!). Be careful not to fall asleep by the pool and then awaken with sunburn which could ruin your time abroad.

Medical Facilities

In any country of this size the level of medical care will vary greatly. This is particular true out side the main tourist resorts. English speaking doctors should be available but the level of hospital care can be worrisome. Make certain you carry sufficient supplies of any medication you may require for your entire holiday. Essential drugs (asthma, diabetes, epilepsy etc) should be divided for security.

Sun Exposure and Dehydration

The hot humid tropical climate often leads to quite significant problems for the Irish traveller. Make sure you cover your head when out in the sunlight and drink plenty of fluids to replenish that lost through perspiration. Replace the salt you loose by eating crisps etc orby putting salt on your meal (providing there is no contraindication).

Visiting the Iguassu Falls

These huge waterfalls border Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. There is only minimal risk of malaria and so malaria prophylaxis is not generally recommended. Also, Yellow fever is not transmitted in this area but mosquitoes can abound. Sensible insect bite precautions should be followed at all times.

Food & Water

Many tourists who visit Brazil stay in the main resorts along the southern coast. The food and water preparation in the hotels is normally excellent but eating food from street vendors is generally unwise. Shell fish (bivalve oysters, mussels, clams etc) are unwise even in a five star hotel. Check the water from the cold water tap in your room. If you can’t easily smell chlorine (swimming pool style) don’t use it even for brushing your teeth. If travelling around the country (Caribbean coast or into the Amazon regions) take significantly more care.

Rabies 

This viral disease occurs throughout Brazil and it is usually transmitted through the bite from an infected warm-blooded animal (eg dogs, cats & monkeys). Any contact should be avoided but if it occurs treat it very seriously and seek competent medical attention immediately after you wash out the area and apply an antiseptic.

Malaria

The risk of malaria is significant all year throughout the Amazon regions. There is insignificant risk for those staying along the coast up as far as Fortaleza and for those remaining in this region prophylaxis is not usually recommended. The risk in the region of Brasilia is also thought to be minimal though this is an area which has unusually experience an outbreak of Yellow Fever recently, and so the situation will require review.

Mosquito Borne Diseases  Apart from malaria the other two main diseases transmitted by mosquitoes which cause problems in Brazil are Dengue Fever (mainly along Caribbean Coast but has been reported much further south) and Yellow Fever (mainly in the Amazon Basin but thought to be spreading to other regions). Avoidance techniques are important at all times throughout the day. Swimming **************************************** Most of the main tourist swimming pools will be well maintained and the smell of chlorine will be evident. If sea swimming is on your agenda make sure you go where there are plenty of others and never swim alone. Look for warning signs and pay attention to local advice. Be very careful of local currents which can be dangerous. Vaccinations **************************************** The Brazilian Embassy is advising all travellers to Brazil to have vaccination cover against Yellow Fever. Also for your personal protection it is wise to consider some further vaccines. Generally we would recommend the following vaccination cover; * Yellow Fever (mosquito borne) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water borne) * Hepatitis A (food & water borne) For those travelling more extensively or staying in the country for longer periods we would usually suggest that further vaccines are considered including Hepatitis B, Meningitis and Rabies. Summary **************************************** Many travellers to Brazil will remain perfectly healthy and well providing they follow some sensible precautions. Further information is available from either of our centres regarding any recent disease outbreaks.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 6 Apr 2020 22:58:13 +0200 (METDST)

Sao Paulo, April 6, 2020 (AFP) - The epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Latin America, Brazil's Sao Paulo state, said Monday it expects 111,000 deaths in the next six months, and extended its stay-at-home measures another two weeks.   The forecast -- an official projection, the state government said -- would appear to put Brazil on track to become one of the worst-hit countries in the world.   The global death toll from the virus currently stands at 70,000, according to a tally compiled by AFP.

Sao Paulo, the teeming industrial hub where the new coronavirus first appeared in Latin America, has confirmed 4,620 cases and 275 deaths so far.   Governor Joao Doria, who closed non-essential businesses on March 24 and advised people to stay home, said containment measures would be needed for at least two more weeks or the situation would get far worse.   "If we continue seeing people in the streets and gathering unnecessarily, we will go to more restrictive measures," he told a news conference.   Police are already authorized to break up crowds by force if necessary, he said.

Without containment measures, Sao Paulo -- whose capital is the mega-city of the same name -- would register 270,000 deaths in the next six months, said the head of the state's public health research institute, Dimas Covas.   Brazil has been the Latin American country hit hardest by the new coronavirus, with 553 deaths and more than 12,000 confirmed cases so far.   Health experts warn under-testing means the real number is likely much higher.

Sao Paulo, a state whose population of 46 million makes it about the size as Spain, has seen more infections and deaths than any other.   The state is probably facing another 1,300 deaths this week, Covas said.   The governor has openly clashed over containment measures with far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who claims they are needlessly wrecking the economy over a disease he has compared to a "little flu."
Date: Thu 26 Mar 2020
Source: Mongabay.com [edited]

In April 2018, workers with the Associacao Mico-Leao-Dourado, a Brazilian non-governmental organisation [NGO] dedicated to the protection of the golden lion tamarin, found one of the endangered primates, apparently sick and unable to climb trees, lying on the forest floor in Aldeia, some 80 km (50 mi) north east of Rio de Janeiro city. The following day, field staff searched for the animal but could not find it within the sprawling tropical forest. But later that month, the dead bodies of 2 others were discovered in nearby forest in Cambucaes and Imbau.

The stricken animals immediately set off alarm bells in Brazil's conservation community. By 17 May 2018, their worst fears were realized, as the 1st confirmed death of a golden lion tamarin due to yellow fever was announced by the Brazilian Ministry of Health and Ministry of the Environment.  "Until this report we didn't know if the [animals] were susceptible to the disease, even after 4 decades of working with the tamarins, but we now understand that they are even more susceptible to it than humans," explains Dr Carlos Ruiz, president of the Associacao Mico-Leao-Dourado (the Golden Lion Tamarin Association).

Known for their distinctive, lion-like manes and gold-orange pelage, the golden lion tamarin, or _Leontopithecus rosalia_, is a primate endemic to the Atlantic Forest biome that once stretched uninterrupted for hundreds of miles along Brazil's eastern coast, but which has since been reduced to only patches. By the 1980s, _L. rosalia_ was critically endangered due to habitat loss and extremely high levels of poaching.

By then, the population was down to just a few hundred individuals in isolated forest fragments scattered around the Sao Joao river basin in Rio de Janeiro state. However, a hugely successful campaign of intensively focused conservation action, including the introduction of zoo-born tamarins to wild populations, raised that number to 3700 by 2014.

Then came the outbreak of yellow fever, in late 2017-2018, Brazil's largest human epidemic since mass vaccinations began in the 1940s. The mosquito borne disease, normally found in remote reaches of the Amazon, spread to the populous southern states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, killing hundreds of people and infecting thousands more.

Scientists, alerted by the 1st yellow fever casualties in 2018 among the golden lion tamarin, were astonished to see the species decline by 32% due to the disease, a terrible setback for an animal already classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN).

Compounding the crisis was a misinformed reaction to the yellow fever outbreak by local people who made a spurt of attacks on all monkeys, apparently based on the false belief that tamarins, rather than mosquitoes, were capable of directly transmitting the disease to humans. Some primates were illegally killed by poisoning and others shot dead with rifles.

More bad news: Research published by Strier and colleagues in 2018 found that muriqui (woolly spider monkey) numbers also suffered "catastrophic" declines in the Atlantic Forest's Reserva Particular do Patrimonio Natural due to yellow fever, declining 10% and 26% for 2 separate populations.

"The impact of yellow fever has been absolutely devastating" on these primates, especially the tamarins, says Dr Ruiz. "It could set us back 30 years of conservation efforts." He does report some good news: Charity service volunteers are now continuously monitoring the surviving tamarin populations, aiding local health officials to ensure near 100% vaccination of people in stricken areas, and the regular exchange of information with government bodies to help prevent further significant outbreaks.

Yellow fever is believed to have originated in Africa and spread to Brazil as a result of the transatlantic slave trade. The disease first appeared in Recife, north east Brazil, in 1685, according to historical records. However, yellow fever is not endemic to the majority of the country, and therefore most monkeys have not developed resistance [or tolerance] to it, leaving them particularly vulnerable, according to the Brazilian Society of Primatology.

How, or whether, tamarin populations will bounce back after such significant losses remains unknown. "The biggest problem is how these species then recover from crashes," says Karen Strier, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin who has studied Atlantic Forest monkeys since the 1980s. "Either they must reproduce within the surviving group...or they must look to recruit from other populations. But the more fragmented the landscape, the more difficult [recruiting] is." The trouble with reproducing within just one group is that "if the population is small that may not work, and it also produces low genetic diversity."

Ominously, primate experts now fear that yellow fever outbreaks could become a regular occurrence in the Atlantic Forest biome, and that disease could be a looming new threat to the golden lion tamarin, even as illegal trafficking remains a serious concern. "From time to time, [yellow fever] reemerges...and may affect regions beyond the Amazon, if it has viability of transmission," says a spokesperson for the Brazilian Society of Primatology. "But it could become an endemic disease also of the Atlantic Forest."

A combination of climate change and deforestation in areas that serve as buffer zones between tropical forest and urban areas has allowed yellow fever to spread, the society representative added. Logging and charcoal production, agriculture and urbanization have devastated the tamarin's habitat, reducing it to only 2% of its original area in the Atlantic Forest, home to 22 of Brazil's 77 primate species.

Hope is now focused on a newly developed vaccine for non-human primates that could immunize species like the golden lion tamarin and perhaps save them from disease and help them evade extinction. Marcos Freire, a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, who previously worked on a team producing a human yellow fever vaccine, has been seeking an alternative for primates since 2017, and thinks he now has one that could work. "We would like to vaccinate some of these animals and then transport them back to areas where there have been mortalities," he says. "But nobody has ever vaccinated a species of monkey before and so there are a lot of challenges." Freire says that he is currently applying to the nation's Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture for permission to capture and immunize wild populations of tamarins. "In Brazil, there have not yet been any licenses to administer vaccines for non-human primates," he says. "Dogs, cats and cows, yes -- but not primates."

The vaccine, which he initially hopes to use on 500 primates, is based on a dilution of the yellow fever vaccine administered to humans and uses a similar process and formula. "We applied different quantities of dosage to species in our primate center in Rio de Janeiro, and the results have been effective," he reveals. But practical challenges remain: How, for example, "would you test it on animals that are critically endangered?" asks Strier, who supports the vaccine's development. "And how do you administer it to animals in the wild in a cost-effective way? And what about the fact that there are humans that still haven't been vaccinated?"

Even if these hurdles are overcome, vaccination won't entirely eliminate the disease because some female mosquitoes pass the virus directly to their eggs. Meanwhile, other solutions offer promise, such as neutralizing mosquitoes by means of genetic modification, as explored in the case of the Zika virus, or using mathematical models to anticipate the arrival of the virus in various locales in order to immediately combat it.

The vaccine, should it prove efficacious, could offer important relief to these endangered primates, even as other human disruptions put heightened pressure on ecosystems in south eastern Brazil. No matter what the results, ongoing vaccine research will offer "a good opportunity to learn what happens," concludes Freire. "Do the [tamarins] survive because they are immune, or not infected? Any kind of [observed] result will be important. Because if every year we get another episode [of yellow fever and lack an effective response], then we'll have to go back to captive reproduction."  [byline: Peter Yeung]
====================
[The current expansion of yellow fever in South America raises concern for public health and also about potential conservation problems for susceptible non-human primate species in the continent. The virus is endemic in much of central and northern South America and makes sporadic incursions to southern areas of the continent, like the states of Santa Catarina, Parana and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, Misiones in Argentina, or Paraguay.

The yellow fever virus was introduced into the Americas approximately 400 years ago, yet the complex interactions that were established after its introduction are far from being elucidated. There is need for more research on the eco-epidemiology of the disease in the continent, specifically on the role of each non-human primate species, and especially in the presence of the persistent anthropogenic global environmental change.
Developing a vaccine to be used in golden lion tamarins can be a powerful tool, but there are some issues that need to be considered. First, applying the vaccine to 500 wild tamarins may be risky, as it involves capturing and restraining wild animals, so this should be fine-tuned to minimize the probability of seriously injuring the tamarins in the process. Using an effective vaccine in 500 individuals would preserve those individuals during an outbreak, but yellow fever is not a transient problem for South American non-human primates of the Atlantic rainforest, so in parallel non-vaccinated tamarins should be monitored to evaluate the evolution of resistance or tolerance, or otherwise they will be dependent on vaccination in aeternum.

For a picture of a golden lion tamarin, go to

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Brazil:
Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2020 17:36:17 +0100 (MET)

Brasília, March 19, 2020 (AFP) - Brazil on Thursday announced it was closing its land borders for 15 days to nearly all its neighbours to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.   A ministerial decree said it was blocking entry "by road or land" from all neighbouring countries with the exception of Uruguay to the south.   It shut its border with Venezuela on Tuesday.
Date: Tue, 3 Mar 2020 22:38:28 +0100 (MET)

Sao Paulo, March 3, 2020 (AFP) - At least 21 people have been killed in torrential rain that hit the Brazilian states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, triggering flash floods and destroying homes, authorities said Tuesday.   Another 32 people are missing in Sao Paulo, raising fears the toll could rise further.   Violent storms in recent days have dumped a month's worth of rain on some areas in a matter of hours, devastating the southern coast of Sao Paulo state and poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, the country's second most populous city.

At least 16 people were killed early Tuesday in Sao Paulo state after floods and landslides hit the coastal cities of Santos, Sao Vicente and Guaruja, authorities said.   One of the victims was a rescue worker who was killed by a landslide.   "I express my solidarity with those who are suffering from these heavy rains," Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria wrote on Twitter.   Several highways were blocked by fallen trees and landslides, including some linking Santos, the biggest port in South America, to Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city and economic capital.

In Rio de Janeiro, authorities said the death toll had risen to at least five after three days of violent rain that destroyed houses, swept away cars, and left some communities covered in water or mud.   The victims were electrocuted, buried in landslides or drowned, emergency officials said.   The disaster turned political in Rio when the city's Mayor Marcelo Crivella, a far-right evangelical Christian bishop, blamed residents for the flooding.   During a visit to an affected community, he complained to journalists that "people can't be throwing trash on hillsides, in storm drains and in the street."

In the middle of the press conference someone pelted Crivella in the face with a mud ball -- which was captured in a video that went viral online.   "The water knocked my granddaughter and I and off the sofa. Dirty water came flooding into my kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, everything. I lost everything," Ivone Cardoso, 65, a resident of Rio's Realengo neighbourhood, told AFP as she swept mud and water out of her house.   Brazil is having an especially intense rainy season this summer.   In January, more than 50 people were killed in Minas Gerais state, which neighbors Sao Paulo, in several days of violent rain.
Date: Thu 20 Feb 2020
Source: G1 [in Portuguese, trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

The Office of Epidemiological Surveillance (DIVE-SC) confirmed another human yellow fever case this year [2020] in the state. The patient, a resident of Pomerode in the Vale do Itajai, is 45 years old and has not been vaccinated. As of this Thursday (20 [Feb 2020]) he was interned in the intensive care unit of the Nereu Ramos Hospital in Florianopolis. He was in stable condition as of this afternoon. He was sent to the [state] capital the same day since the Nereu Ramos Hospital is the reference facility for infectious diseases.

The other confirmed human yellow fever cases are in Blumenau, also in Vale do Itajai, and 2 other cases are in the north of the state, in Jaragua do Sul and Sao Bento do Sul. In 2019, there were 2 cases, and both died.

Vaccination
Everyone from 9 months of age and above needs to receive a dose of the vaccine that protects for life against the disease. A dose of the vaccine is free of charge and is available in health units in the entire state.

Yellow fever
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a virus that can lead to death in a week if not treated rapidly. It is transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes. In the forest, the vectors are insects of the _Haemagogus_ and _Sabethe_ genera. In the city it is _Aedes aegypti_.

The symptoms of the disease are
- initially, a rapid rise in fever
- chills and fever
- intense headache
- back and body pain
- nausea and vomiting
- weakness and fatigue
- abdominal pain
- yellow skin

Monkeys
In addition to humans, monkeys in the state also have yellow fever. There were 2 cases in Blumenau, another 2 in Pomerode, and one each in the following municipalities: Timbo, Gaspar and Indaial in the Vale do Itajai, and Jaragua do Sul, according to the most recent DIVE-SC bulletin issued on Monday [17 Feb 2020]. All were found dead.

Monkeys do not transmit the disease [directly] to people but are indicators that yellow fever virus is circulating in the region.
=====================
[In 2019, 2 cases of yellow fever [YF] were the 1st since almost one year ago. There were several yellow fever epizootics confirmed in non-human primates in 2020. In other words, it is more than predictable that, without effective and timely preventive actions, cases of yellow fever in humans would reoccur: no surprise. As we have mentioned numerous times, for yellow fever, in the current epidemiological scenario of sylvan transmission, as (or more) important as prioritizing goals of high rates of vaccination coverage in the general population in the short term is vaccinating the right people in the right places at the right time, that is, susceptible individuals residing or visiting the areas at greatest risk. Not infrequently, this is only feasible with differentiated strategies, including active searches. The question: Have the 4 confirmed cases so far not been vaccinated due to refusal, misinformation, or difficult access? - ProMED Mod.RNA]

[The human cases this year (2020) are due to YF virus spill-over from the sylvan (forest) transmission cycle. The dead monkeys indicate that the virus has been circulating in the state for over a year. It is important that the human population YF vaccination coverage reach the 95% goal set by the Ministry of Health. Vaccination is the only way to avoid these sylvan cases, since elimination of the forest YF virus transmission cycle is not feasible. Without prevention of these human sylvan cases, there is the risk that YF virus could be introduced by them into the urban cycle of virus transmitted by _Aedes aegypti_ and spread quickly. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Santa Catarina, Brazil: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/2975>]
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World Travel News Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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