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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
By Eugenia LOGIURATTO
Recife, Brazil, Nov 4, 2019 (AFP) - Months after thick oil began turning idyllic beaches in Brazil into "black carpets," workers and volunteers wearing rubber gloves race against time to scrape off the remaining fragments ahead of the country's peak tourism season. Paiva, Itapuama and Enseada dos Corais in the northeastern state of Pernambuco are among hundreds of beaches fouled by an oil spill that began to appear in early September and has affected more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) of Atlantic coastline.
As ocean currents brought large globs of crude to shore near the capital Recife in recent weeks, locals rushed to the normally picturesque beaches and used their bare hands to remove the toxic material coating sand, rocks and wildlife. "I was shocked, there were people entering the water without gloves, without safety equipment, in the middle of the oil," coconut seller Glaucia Dias de Lima, 35, told AFP as she picked up chunks of crude from Itapuama beach.
Thousands of military personnel have been dispatched to help clean up the oil that has killed dozens of animals, including turtles, and reached a humpback whale sanctuary off Bahia state that has some of the country's richest biodiversity. It is the third major environmental disaster to strike Brazil this year. In recent months fires ravaged the Amazon rainforest and in January a mine dam collapsed in the southeast, spewing millions of tons of toxic waste across the countryside. Wildfires are still raging across the Pantanal tropical wetlands.
While thousands of tons of crude waste have been recovered so far, the space agency INPE said Friday there might still be oil at sea being pushed by currents. It could reach as far south as Rio de Janeiro state, the agency said. President Jair Bolsonaro warned Sunday that "the worst is yet to come," saying only a fraction of the spilled crude had been collected so far. The government on Friday named a Greek-flagged tanker as the prime suspect for being the source of the oil slicks. The ship Bouboulina took on oil in Venezuela and was headed for Singapore, it said. The tanker's operators have denied the vessel was to blame.
- Fishing paralyzed -
As the southern hemisphere's summer approaches, people dependent on the fishing and tourism industries are nervously waiting for test results to show if the water is safe to swim in and eat from. Northeastern Brazil is a popular tourist destination all year round, but visitor numbers usually explode in the hotter months.
Eco-tourism guide Giovana Eulina said the disaster would affect the sector and she called for a campaign to "encourage people to come here." Fishing in the region also has been largely paralyzed by the oil spill, even in areas where crude has not been detected. "We still don't have a concrete answer from a scientist who says that (the water) is really contaminated," said Sandra Lima, head of a local fishing association. Edileuza Nascimento, 63, stands in muddy water near Recife and extracts shellfish that she will sanitize at home, freeze and then sell. It was already a struggle for fishermen to make a living, she said. But the oil slick has been "too much." "It has come to finish off the fishing families."
Sao Paulo, Oct 31, 2019 (AFP) - Wildfires are raging across the Pantanal tropical wetlands in southern Brazil, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world and a major tourist destination, regional authorities said Thursday. The governor's office in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul said the fires were "bigger than anything seen before" in the region. So far, more than 50,000 hectares (nearly 125,000 acres) have been affected. The blazes follow other wildfires that environmental groups say ravaged millions of hectares in the Amazon rainforest in August.
The statement from the governor's office said the situation was "critical," with blazes ravaging three towns in the Pantanal, a popular eco-tourism spot. "Intense flames and reddish smoke have disrupted traffic" on the highways, the statement said. The coordinator of the National Risk Management Center, Paulo Barbosa de Souza, said the blaze -- fed by wind and dry vegetation -- was causing "logistical difficulties." Satellite images from the INPE space institute showed there were nearly 8,500 fires in the Pantanal area between January and October this year. That was the worst record since 2007.
World Travel News Headlines
Moscow, Dec 6, 2019 (AFP) - More than 50 polar bears have gathered on the edge of a village in Russia's far north, environmentalists and residents said, as weak Arctic ice leaves them unable to roam. The Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund said climate change was to blame, as unusually warm temperatures prevented coastal ice from forming. The WWF said 56 polar bears had gathered in a one-square-kilometre (0.4-square-mile) area near the village of Ryrkaipy in Chukotka on the north-eastern tip of Russia.
There were concerns they could enter the village, home to fewer than 1,000 people, and patrols had been set up to monitor their movements. "The number of human and predator encounters in the Arctic is increasing," the WWF said in statement. "The main reason is the decline of sea ice area due to the changing climate. In the absence of ice cover, animals are forced to go ashore in search of food."
Residents had gathered walrus carcasses in the area to try to keep the bears from wandering into the village. "We have created a feeding point with walrus carcasses that we gathered along the coast," Tatyana Minenko of the local "Bear Patrol" told news agency RIA Novosti. "As long as there is no big freeze, the sea ice will not form and the bears will stay on the coast," she said.
Russia's weather service said temperatures in the region should fall from Saturday and that coastal ice should freeze by December 11. Polar bears regularly visit areas inhabited by humans in Arctic Russia to search for food, often in rubbish tips. But the number of visits has been growing as the melting of Arctic ice from climate change forces the bears to spend more time on land where they compete for food.
By Joseph Schmid
Paris, Dec 6, 2019 (AFP) - Travellers across France endured a second day of chaos on Friday as unions vowed to keep up their strike until President Emmanuel Macron backs down on controversial pension overhauls. Rail operator SNCF said 90 percent of high-speed TGV trains were again cancelled, and several airlines dropped flights including Air France, EasyJet and Ryanair.
Nine of the capital's 16 metro lines were shut and most others severely disrupted, sparking some 350 kilometres (220 miles) of traffic jams in the Paris region, well above the usual 200 km, the traffic website Sytadin reported. Many employees were unable to get to work and several schools again provided only daycare, though fewer teachers were on strike compared with Thursday when some 800,000 people demonstrated across the country according to the interior ministry. Bike paths were crowded with bikes and electric scooters, with metro operator RATP sponsoring special deals for commuters with a range of ride-hailing companies and other transportation alternatives.
The walkout is the latest test for Macron after months of protests from teachers, hospital workers, police and firefighters as well as the "yellow vest" movement demanding improved living standards. Unions say his "universal" pension system, which would eliminate dozens of separate plans for public workers, forces millions of people in both public and private sectors to work well beyond the legal retirement age of 62. Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said Friday that the government had "heard" the protesters' anger and would meet with union leaders to discuss the reform on Monday. The government has yet to lay out the details of its plan, and Buzyn told Europe 1 radio that "there is indeed a discussion going on about who will be affected, what age it kicks in, which generations will be concerned -- all that is still on the table".
- Macron 'determined' -
Yves Veyrier, head of the hardline FO union, warned Thursday the strike could last at least until Monday if the government did not take the right action. But it remains to be seen if the protests will match the magnitude of the 1995 strikes against pension overhauls, when France was paralysed for three weeks from November to December in an action that forced the government to back down.
Macron, a former investment banker, has largely succeeded in pushing through a series of controversial reforms, including loosening labour laws and tightening access to unemployment benefits. But this is the first time the various disgruntled groups have come together in protest. So far Macron has not spoken publicly on the stoppages though a presidential official, who asked not to be named, said Thursday that the president was "calm" and "determined to carry out this reform" in a mood of "listening and consultation".
While most of Thursday's rallies were peaceful, police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of black-clad protesters smashing windows and throwing stones during the Paris march, with one construction trailer set on fire. Sporadic clashes were also reported in some other cities. Many people were bracing for further disruptions over the weekend, including the prospect of fuel shortages as unions blocked most of the country's eight oil refineries.
The minimum pension age in France is 62, one of the lowest among developed countries, but there are 42 "special regimes" for railway workers, lawyers, opera employees and others offering earlier retirements and other benefits. The government says a single system will be fairer for everyone while ensuring its financial viability while acknowledging that people will gradually have to work longer.
Sydney, Dec 6, 2019 (AFP) - Three hundred animals have been evacuated from a wildlife park north of Sydney as massive bushfires encircled Australia's largest city and foreign firefighters arrived to relieve beleaguered local forces. Walkabout Wildlife Park said it had shipped out lizards, dingoes, peacocks and marsupials, as firefighters battled more than 100 fires up and down the eastern seaboard. "This fire has been doing some crazy things, so we have to be prepared," general manager Tassin Barnard told AFP.
Prolonged drought has left much of eastern Australia tinder dry and spot fires have raged every day for the past three months, leaving firefighters struggling to cope. New South Wales rural fire chief Shane Fitzsimmons said Friday that some US and Canadian firefighters had arrived to help out, easing the strain on the exhausted largely volunteer Australian force.
The incident-management and aviation specialists will help ease "fatigue and crew rotations" he said. "We are not only appreciative of their presence here today, but of their sacrifice," said Fitzsimmons -- who has become a fixture on Australian television screens for weeks, updating the public on blazes in towns, national parks and backwaters. "They are volunteering to sacrifice time from loved ones, from families, to give up that special time of the year around Christmas and New Year to come down here and lend us a hand," he said.
More than 600 homes have been destroyed and six people have died since the crisis began in September. That is many fewer than Australia's deadliest recent fire season in 2009 when almost 200 people died, but 2019's toll belies the scale of devastation. Millions of hectares have burned -- the size of some small countries -- across a region spanning hundreds of kilometres (miles). Bushfires are common in Australia but scientists say this year's season has come earlier and with more intensity due to a prolonged drought and climatic conditions fuelled by global warming.
The fires have taken a toll in Sydney and other major cities, which have been blanketed in toxic smoke for weeks and occasionally sprinkled with snow-like embers. Fitzsimmons said he could not "overstate the effect that this profound drought is having" as he warned of a long, painful summer ahead. "There is an absolute lack of moisture in the soil, a lack of moisture in the vegetation... you are seeing fires started very easily and they are spreading extremely quickly, and they are burning ridiculously intensely."
By Pierre-Henry DESHAYES
Half Moon Island, Antarctica, Dec 6, 2019 (AFP) - The swimsuit-clad tourists leap into the icy water, gasping at the shock, and startling a gaggle of penguins. They are spectators at the end of the world, luxury visitors experiencing a vulnerable ecosystem close-up. And their very presence might accelerate its demise. Antarctica, a vast territory belonging to no one nation, is a continent of extremes: the coldest place on Earth, the windiest, the driest, the most desolate and the most inhospitable. Now, it's also a choice destination for tourists.
All around Half Moon Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula, blocks of ice of all sizes float by on a calm sea, their varying forms resembling weightless origami shapes. On this strip of land, that juts out of the Antarctic Polar and towards South America, visitors can see wildlife normally only viewed in zoos or nature documentaries along with spectacular icy landscapes. The ethereal shades of white that play across the pillowy peaks change with the light, acquiring pastel hues at dawn and dusk. "Purity, grandeur, a scale that's out of this world," says Helene Brunet, an awestruck 63-year-old French pensioner, enjoying the scene. "It's unbelievable, totally unbelievable. It's amazing just to be here, like a small speck of dust."
AFP joined the 430 passengers on board the Roald Amundsen, the world's first hybrid electric cruise ship, on its maiden voyage in the Southern Ocean. "It's not your typical beach, but it's awesome to do it," says a numb Even Carlsen, 58, from Norway, emerging from his polar plunge in the three-degree C (37.4 F) water. When tourists go ashore, bundled up in neon-coloured windbreakers and slathered in SPF50 sunscreen, they have to follow strict rules: clean your personal effects so you don't introduce invasive species, keep a respectful distance from wildlife to avoid distressing them, don't stray from the marked paths and don't pick up anything. "We mucked up the rest of the world. We don't want to muck up Antarctica too," says an English tourist, as she vacuums cat hair off her clothes before going ashore.
- 'Heart of the Earth' -
The Antarctic peninsula is one of the regions on Earth that is warming the fastest, by almost three degrees Celsius in the past 50 years, according to the World Meteorological Organization -- three times faster than the global average. In March 2015, an Argentinian research station registered a balmy 17.5 degrees Celsius, a record. "Every year you can observe and record the melting of glaciers, the disappearance of sea ice... (and) in areas without ice, the recolonisation of plants and other organisms that were not present in Antarctica before," said Marcelo Leppe, director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute.
Antarctica is "like the heart of the Earth," he added, saying that it expands and contracts like a heart beating, while the mighty current which revolves around the continent is like a circulatory system as it absorbs warm currents from other oceans and redistributes cold water. The Antarctic Treaty, signed 60 years ago by 12 countries -- it now has 54 signatories -- declared the area a continent dedicated to peace and science, but tourism has gradually increased, with a sharp rise in the past few years. Tourism is the only commercial activity allowed, apart from fishing -- the subject of international disputes over marine sanctuaries -- and is concentrated mainly around the peninsula, which has a milder climate than the rest of the continent and is easier to access.
Cruise ships have roamed the region for around 50 years, but their numbers only started to increase from 1990, as Soviet ice-breakers found new purposes in the post-Cold War era. Some 78,500 people are expected to visit the region between November and March, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). That's a 40-percent increase from last year, due in part to short visits by a few new cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers, too many to disembark under IAATO regulations. "Some might say 'Well, 80,000 people, that doesn't even fill a national stadium'... (and that it) is nothing like Galapagos which welcomes 275,000 a year," says IAATO spokeswoman Amanda Lynnes. "But Antarctica is a special place and you need to manage it accordingly."
- 'Leave Antarctica to the penguins' -
It is Antarctica's very vulnerability that is attracting more and more visitors. "We want to see this fantastic nature in Antarctica before it's gone," Guido Hofken, a 52-year-old IT sales director travelling with his wife Martina, says. They said they had paid a supplement to climate compensate for their flight from Germany.
But some question whether tourists should be going to the region at all. "The continent probably would be better off being left to penguins and researchers, but the reality is, that is probably never going to happen," said Michael Hall, professor and expert on polar regions at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. "Vicarious appreciation never seems to be enough for humans. So with that being the case, it needs to be made as low risk to the Antarctic environment and as low carbon as possible," said Hall. "However, when the average tourist trip to Antarctica is over five tonnes of CO2 emissions per passenger (including flights), that is a serious ask."
Soot or black carbon in the exhaust gases of the scientific and cruise ships going to the region is also of concern, said Soenke Diesener, transport policy officer at German conservation NGO Nabu. "These particles will deposit on snow and ice surfaces and accelerate the melting of the ice because the ice gets darker and will absorb the heat from the sun and will melt much faster," he told AFP. "So the people who go there to observe or preserve the landscape are bringing danger to the area, and leave it less pristine than it was," he added.
- Responsible tourism -
Antarctic tour operators insist they are promoting responsible tourism. The trend is for more intimate, so-called expedition cruises, in contrast to popular giant cruise liners elsewhere which are criticised for being invasive and polluting. With greener ships -- heavy fuel, the most commonly used for marine vessels, has been banned in Antarctica since 2011 -- cruise companies have sought to make environmental awareness a selling point, occasionally earning them accusations of greenwashing.
Global warming, pollution and microplastics are the result of human activities on other, faraway continents, say tour operators. Here, their motto is "Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, keep nothing but memories". But before they've even set foot on the cruise ships departing from South America -- the most common itinerary -- visitors to Antarctica will already have flown across the world, causing emissions that harm the very nature they have come so far to admire.
Most visitors hail from the Northern Hemisphere, and almost half are from the United States and China, IAATO says. "I'm a tourist who feels a little guilty about taking a flight to come here," admits Francoise Lapeyre, a 58-year-old globetrotter om France. "But then again, there are priorities. There are some trips I just won't take, because they leave a big footprint and they're not worth it. "Crisscrossing the planet to go to a beach for example," she says.
- Don't mention climate change -
Like other expedition cruises where accessible science is part of their trademark, the Roald Amundsen, owned by the Hurtigruten company, has no dance floor or casino. Instead, there are microscopes, science events and lectures about whales and explorers like Charles Darwin. But they steer clear of climate change, which is only mentioned indirectly. That's a deliberate decision as the subject has proven "quite controversial", said Verena Meraldi, Hurtigruten's science coordinator. "We held several lectures dedicated specifically to climate change but it leads to conflicts. There are people who accept it as a fact, others who don't," she said. Onboard, "passengers" are referred to as "guests" and "explorers" rather than "cruisers". "Explorers" are typically older, well-heeled, often highly travelled pensioners who are handed walking sticks as they step ashore. "My 107th country," says a Dane, stepping ashore onto Antarctica.
The Roald Amundsen "guests" choose between three restaurants, from street food to fine dining -- a far cry from the conditions endured by the Norwegian adventurer for whom the ship is named, who had to eat his sled dogs to survive his quest to reach the South Pole in 1911. They have paid at least 7,000 euros ($7,700) each for an 18-day cruise in a standard cabin, and up to 25,000 euros ($27,500) for a suite with a balcony and private jacuzzi. Other cruises are banking on ultra-luxury, with James Bond-like ships equipped with helicopters and submarines, suites of more than 200 square metres (2,153 square feet) and butler services. With a seaplane to boot, the mega-yacht SeaDream Innovation will offer 88-day cruises "from Pole to Pole" starting in 2021. The two most expensive suites, with a price tag of 135,000 euros per person, are already booked.
Outside, in the deafening silence, wildlife abounds. All around are penguins, as awkward on land as they are agile in water. Massive and majestic whales slip through the waves, and sea lions and seals laze in the sun. On Half Moon Island, chinstrap penguins -- so called because of a black stripe on their chin -- strut about in this spring breeding season, raising their beaks and screeching from their rocky nests. "This is to tell other males 'This is my space' and also, maybe, 'This is my female'," ornithologist Rebecca Hodgkiss, a member of the Hurtigruten's scientific team, explains, as a group of tourists stroll around ashore. The colony of 2,500 penguins has been gradually declining over the years, but it's not known if that is man's fault or they have just moved away, according to Karin Strand, Hurtigruten's vice president for expeditions. Invisible to the naked eye, traces of humankind are however to be found in the pristine landscape. Not a single piece of rubbish is in sight but microplastics are everywhere, swept in on ocean currents. "We've detected them in the eggs of penguins for example," Leppe told AFP.
- Venice under water -
The Antarctic, which holds the world's largest reserve of freshwater, is a ticking time bomb, warn experts and studies. They say that the future of millions of people and species in coastal areas around the world depends on what is happening here. As a result of global warming, the melting ice sheet -- especially in the western part of the continent -- will increasingly contribute to rising sea levels, radically re-drawing the map of the world, says climate scientist Anders Levermann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. This meltwater will contribute 50 centimetres (almost 20 inches) to the global sea level rise by 2100, and much more after that, he said. "For every degree of warming, we get 2.5 metres of sea level rise. Not in this century, but in the long run," he said.
Even if the international community meets its obligations under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to under two degrees Celsius, sea levels will still rise by at least five metres. "Which means that Venice is under water, Hamburg is under water, New York, Shanghai, Calcutta," he said. It's impossible to predict when, but the scenario appears unavoidable, says Levermann. In the same way that a cruise ship powering ahead at full speed can't immediately stop, sea levels will continue to rise even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to cease immediately, a study has said.
- Changing the world? -
The tourism industry says it hopes to make "ambassadors" out of Antarctica visitors. "It's good for the animal life and for the protection of Antarctica that people see how beautiful this area is, because you cherish what you know and understand," said Hurtigruten chief executive Daniel Skjeldam. Texan tourist Mark Halvorson, 72, says he is convinced. "Having seen it, I am that much more committed to having a very high priority in my politics, in my own inner core convictions to being as environmentally friendly in my life as I can," he said. So, do Guido and Martina Hofken see themselves as future "ambassadors of Antarctica"? "Just a little bit, probably. But I don't think I will change the world," Guido Hofken concedes. "The best thing would be for nobody to travel to Antarctica."
Paris, Dec 5, 2019 (AFP) - French rail operator SNCF said Thursday that it had cancelled 90 percent of all high-speed TGV trains and 70 percent of regional trains for Friday due to a strike over the government's pension reforms. SNCF said that services would "still be very disrupted" on the second day of the biggest transport strike in the country in years, with the Eurostar service to Britain and the Thalys service to northern Europe set to be "very heavily disrupted". In Paris, where only two of 16 metro lines were operating normally Thursday, public transport workers voted to remain on strike until Monday.
France's civil aviation authority meanwhile told airlines to cut 20 percent of their flights in and out of airports in Paris, Beauvais, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux on Friday, the same proportion as on Thursday. Striking transport workers, air traffic controllers, teachers, fire fighters, lawyers and other groups all fear they will have to work longer or receive reduced pensions under the government's proposal to scrap 42 special pension schemes and replace them with a single plan. Anticipating the worst travel chaos in years, many employees opted to work from home on Thursday. Those who did venture out travelled mainly by car, bicycle, electric scooter or on foot.
By Sofia CHRISTENSEN
Johannesburg, Dec 5, 2019 (AFP) - South African Airways was placed under a state-approved rescue plan on Thursday to avoid the embattled airline's collapse following a costly week-long strike last month. Thousands of South African Airways (SAA) staff walked out on November 15 after the flag carrier failed to meet a string of demands, including higher wages and job in-sourcing. The strike was called off the following week after SAA management and unions eventually clinched a deal.
But the walkout dealt a severe blow to the debt-ridden airline, which has failed to make a profit since 2011 and survives on government bailouts. "The Board of SAA has adopted a resolution to place the company into business rescue," said a statement by South Africa's Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, adding that the decision was also supported by the government. "It must be clear that this is not a bailout," said Gordhan. "This is the provision of financial assistance in order to facilitate a radical restructure of the airline." The business rescue process will be directed by an independent practitioner. It is meant to prevent a "disorderly collapse of the airline", he added. Gordhan said the government would provide 2 billion rand ($136 million) to SAA in "a fiscally neutral manner". Existing lenders will also provide a 2 billion rand loan guaranteed by the government.
- 'Financial challenges' -
South Africa is struggling to get state-owned companies back on track after nine years of corruption and mismanagement under former president Jacob Zuma. Its national airline -- which employs more than 5,000 workers and is Africa's second largest airline after Ethiopian Airlines -- had been losing 52 million rand ($3.5 million) a day during the strike. SAA's board said the business rescue, scheduled to start immediately, was decided after consultations with shareholders and the public enterprises department "to find a solution to our company's well-documented financial challenges".
"The considered and unanimous conclusion has been to place the company into business rescue in order to create a better return for the company's creditors and shareholders," said the SAA board of directors in a statement. The rescue plan will include a "new provisional timetable" and ensure "selected activities... continue operating successfully". With a fleet of more than 50 aircraft, SAA flies to over 35 domestic and international destinations. "SAA understand that this decision presents many challenges and uncertainties for its staff," said the board. "The company will engage in targeted communication and support for all its employee groups at this difficult time.
- 'Lesser evil' -
Unions told AFP they would comment later on Thursday. They have agreed to a 5.9-percent wage increase backdated to April, but which would only start to be paid out next March depending on funding. SAA had initially refused any pay rise. The cash-strapped airline needs two billion rand ($136 million) to fund operations through the end of March. But it was unable to cover all of its staff salaries last month. "Business rescue allows for the airline to continue to operate while it is being restructured, as opposed to liquidation," analyst Daniel Silke told AFP. He said the rescue was a "lesser evil for SAA" and would save more jobs than a "shutdown".
But Silke still expected jobs to be cut as SAA attempted to reduce costs. "Various divisions that make of SAA could be privatised," he said. "There will be a review of SAA aircraft and routes covered by SAA." Unions had already demanded a three-year guarantee of job security following an announcement last month that almost 1,000 SAA employees could lose their jobs as part of another restructuring plan. SAA pledged to defer that process to the end of January as part of the deal that ended the strike.
Source: Cordoba Epidemiology Report and Los Tiempos news article [in Spanish, trans., edited]
Los Tiempos, Bolivia, 2 Dec 2019 Confirmation of the 1st case of the year (2019) of human rabies in Cochabamba After confirming the death of rabies of a 7-year-old girl in the southern area of Cochabamba, the Departmental Health Service (SEDES) and the Zoonosis Unit of the Mayor's Office intensified prevention actions to prevent the proliferation of the virus. This would be the 1st case confirmed so far this year .
The head of the Epidemiology Unit of SEDES, Arturo Fernando Quiaones Lapez, reported that in the last rabies vaccination campaign for dogs more 1000 doses were given. "We suspected rabies in the case of this minor. She tested positive by laboratory both in cerebrospinal fluid as well as in brain tissue," according to lab results obtained on 2 Dec 2019. The victim died on 26 Nov 2019 after being hospitalized in intensive care of the Children's Hospital for 2 days with signs of rabies," said Dr Manuel Ascencio Villarroel.
The patient's relatives reported the girl had contact with a puppy which died a month ago. The dog did not receive rabies vaccines and belonged to someone the family knows. QuiÃ±ones mentioned the family members of the girl and the owners of the animal are receiving preventive treatment. Meanwhile, the head of Zoonosis of the Mayor's Office, Javier Humberto Rodraguez Herrera, stated on 2 Dec 2019 a "massive focus blockade" will be held with the participation of 8 health centers to prevent the circulation of the virus in the area.
He commented that, to date, 11 cases of canine rabies have been recorded in the municipality. In more than 11 months of 2019, SEDES identified 25 positive cases of canine rabies, the majority in the metropolitan region. Quiaones asked the population to report the death of their pets with signs of rabies at health centers for follow-up to fight the disease. Meanwhile, from the City Hall, the owners of dogs were urged to have their dogs vaccinated. Javier Rodraguez added another risk factor is when animals are collected from the street and they are not vaccinated.
[The rabies virus attacks the nervous system in animals. When a rabid animal bites a human being, it can transfer the virus, contained in saliva, to that individual. "After inoculation, rabies virus may enter the peripheral nervous system directly and migrates to the brain or may replicate in muscle tissue, remaining sequestered at or near the entry site during incubation, prior to central nervous system invasion and replication. It then spreads centrifugally to numerous other organs. The case-fatality ratio approaches unity [100%], but exact pathogenic mechanisms are not fully understood. "Susceptibility to lethal infection is related to the animal species, viral variant, inoculum concentration, location and severity of exposure, and host immune status.
Both virus-neutralizing antibodies and cell-mediated immunity are important in host defense. "Early diagnosis is difficult. Rabies should be suspected in human cases of unexplained viral encephalitis with a history of animal bite. Unvaccinated persons are often negative for virus-neutralizing antibodies until late in the course of disease. Virus isolation from saliva, positive immunofluorescent skin biopsies or virus neutralizing antibody (from cerebrospinal fluid, or serum of a non-vaccinated patient), establish a diagnosis. "Five general stages of rabies are recognized in humans: incubation, prodrome, acute neurologic period, coma, and death (or, very rarely, recovery).
No specific anti-rabies agents are useful once clinical signs or symptoms develop. The incubation period in rabies, usually 30 to 90 days but ranging from as few as 5 days to longer than 2 years after initial exposure, is more variable than in any other acute infection. Incubation periods may be somewhat shorter in children and in individuals bitten close to the central nervous system (such as the head).
Clinical symptoms are first noted during the prodromal period, which usually lasts from 2 to 10 days. These symptoms are often nonspecific (general malaise, fever, and fatigue) or suggest involvement of the respiratory system (sore throat, cough, and dyspnoea), gastrointestinal system (anorexia, dysphagia, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea), or central nervous systems (headache, vertigo, anxiety, apprehension, irritability, and nervousness).
More remarkable abnormalities (agitation, photophobia, priapism, increased libido, insomnia, nightmares, and depression) may also occur, suggesting encephalitis, psychiatric disturbances, or brain conditions. Pain or paraesthesia at the site of virus inoculation, combined with a history of recent animal bite, should suggest a consideration of rabies. "The acute neurologic period begins with objective signs of central nervous system dysfunction.
The disease may be classified as furious rabies if hyperactivity (that is, hydrophobia) predominates and as dumb rabies if paralysis dominates the clinical picture. Fever, paraesthesia, nuchal rigidity, muscle fasciculations, focal and generalized convulsions, hyperventilation, and hypersalivation may occur in both forms of the disease. "At the end of the acute neurologic phase, periods of rapid, irregular breathing may begin; paralysis and coma soon follow. Respiratory arrest may occur thereafter, unless the patient is receiving ventilatory assistance, which may prolong survival for days, weeks, or longer, with death due to other complications.
"Although life support measures can prolong the clinical course of rabies, rarely will they affect the outcome of disease. The possibility of recovery, however, must be recognized, and when resources permit, every effort should be made to support the patient. At least 7 cases of human "recovery" have been documented." (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8618/>)
A very sad situation which could have been prevented if the animal had been vaccinated. Responsible owners vaccinate their animals. Condolences to the family. - ProMED Mod.TG]
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Bolivia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/55162>]