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Czech Republic

Czech Republic US Consular Information Sheet
May 31, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
The Czech Republic is located in the heart of Europe. Tourist facilities in Prague are at the level of those found in most European capitals, while travelers ca
expect lower standards outside of Prague. Travelers are encouraged to be vigilant as pick-pocketing and petty theft occurs often in crowded tourist areas, restaurants and on public transportation. More information can be found in the section on crime. Please read the Department of State Background Notes on the Czech Republic for additional information.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required and must be valid for 3 months beyond the intended stay. Visas are not required for U.S. citizens for tourist, short study or business visits of up to 90 days. Visas are required for longer stays and for any gainful activity. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on the Czech Republic and other countries.
Visit the Embassy of the Czech Republic’s website at http://www.mzv.cz/washington for the most current visa information.
The Czech Government requires that proof of finances to pay for your stay and for you to have travel/health insurance and is requiring proof of medical insurance for travelers to the Czech Republic. Minimum coverage of the insurance has to be at least $35,000.

According to the Czech Government, a health insurance card or an internationally recognized credit card with health insurance included will generally be accepted as proof of insurance to enter the Republic.

The health insurance requirement does not apply to those who have visas permitting them to work.
See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.
Please refer to our Customs Information
to learn more about customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Civil disorder is rare in the Czech Republic, although strikes and demonstrations may occur. U.S. citizens should be vigilant in protecting their security, bearing in mind that even demonstrations meant to be peaceful may turn violent. Americans are advised to avoid street demonstrations.

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

Up to date information on 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:
The Czech Republic generally has a low rate of crime. However, street crime-particularly pick-pocketing and occasional mugging-is a problem, especially in major tourist areas in Prague. Travelers are encouraged to be especially vigilant in Prague’s restaurants, train stations, and on public transportation around the city center.
Incidents of pick pocketing were reported in significant numbers during 2006. Incidents of violent crime, while still relatively infrequent, are becoming more common in Prague. Travelers should be aware of the reported use of rohypnol, and other “date rape” drugs in the Czech Republic. Caution should be used when accepting open drinks at bars or clubs. Travelers should be very careful while riding trains, trams or metro, where most crime occurs. Travelers should keep a copy of their passport in a safe place separate from the passport itself; this copy can help you to apply for a new passport if yours is lost or stolen. Visitors should be alert to the potential for substantial overcharging by taxis, particularly in areas frequented by tourists. Radio-dispatched taxis are often much more reliable. It is also advisable to set the price in advance.

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 or Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to 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 for Victim’s of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Prague has good Western-style medical clinics with English-speaking doctors and dentists. However, staff members at the majority of Czech medical facilities do not speak English. Doctors and hospitals often expect cash payment for health services, though some facilities do accept credit cards. Hospitalization in the Czech Republic is much more liberal that in the United States; conditions that would be treated on an outpatient basis in the United States are often treated on an inpatient basis in the Czech Republic.
Ambulance services are not on a par with U.S. standards. Response time can sometimes be slow, and different ambulances are dispatched depending on the perceived severity of the patient’s condition.
Many ambulance companies expect payment at the time of delivery. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more.
Please note that because euthanasia is not permitted under Czech law, U.S. living wills providing for no exceptional interventions to prolong life cannot be honored in the Czech Republic.

People traveling from April through October who plan to participate in camping or hiking in long grass or woodlands run the risk of both tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease. All travelers should take precautions to prevent tick bites. There is a vaccine for the former, but not for Lyme disease.

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-TRTP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

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

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

Travelers should note that road fatalities are occurring at an increasing rate in the Czech Republic, placing it amongst the most lethal places to drive in Europe. First-class roads in the Czech Republic generally meet European standards. However, on side roads, drivers should be prepared to encounter uneven surfaces, irregular lane markings and sign placements that are not clear. Streets in towns are not always in good condition. U.S. drivers should pay special attention to driving on cobblestone and among streetcars in historic city centers. Traffic lights are placed before the intersection and not after as in the United States. Speed limits are 50 km/h in towns, 90 km/h outside of towns and 130 km/h on highways. An International Driving Permit (IDP), available from AAA (in the United States only), must accompany a U.S. driver’s license; failure to have the IDP with a valid license may result in denial of an insurance claim after an accident.

Persons driving into the Czech Republic should be aware that a road usage tax sticker is required to drive legally on major highways. Signs stating this requirement are posted near the border, but they are easy to miss. The stickers are available at gasoline stations. The fine for failing to display a motorways toll sticker is assessed on the spot.

For specific information concerning Czech requirements for driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Czech Tourist Authority offices in New York by telephone at (212)288-0830 or via email at infor@czechcenter.com.

Visit the websites of the Czech Republic’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.turistik.cz and http://www.mdcr.cz .

Please refer to our Road Safety page for information.

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

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Czech customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Czech Republic of items such as firearms, antiquities, medications, business equipment, etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, D.C, or the Consulates General of the Czech Republic in New York and Los Angeles for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

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

Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS:
Americans living in the Czech Republic are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Czech Republic.
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 in Prague is located at Trziste 15, 118 01 Prague, Czech Republic; telephone (420)257 530 663; for after-hours emergencies only, telephone (420 257 532 716; Consular Section’s fax (420) 257 534 028; webpage: www.usembassy.cz.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 31, 2006, to update information in the Crime section.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 7 Apr 2020 18:05:38 +0200 (METDST)

Prague, April 7, 2020 (AFP) - Czech lawmakers on Tuesday gave the green light to extend the state of emergency until April 30, in order to maintain the steps taken against the spread of coronavirus.    The government had asked for an extension until May 11 but failed as 90 of 101 lawmakers present wanted a shorter term.

The state of emergency allows the government to take restrictive steps to combat the coronavirus or buy medical material without declaring a tender.   "I don't want to restrict freedoms a second longer than absolutely necessary," Prime Minister Andrej Babis told lawmakers.   "Unfortunately, the situation is serious and I can't promise that this will be the last time I stand here with this request."

The vote means that all pubs and many shops will remain closed and free movement will be restricted until April 30 in the EU member of 10.7 million people, which has registered 4,944 cases of the virus including 88 deaths.   The cabinet can declare a state of emergency only once for 30 days, which it did on March 12. For an extension, it needs the go-ahead from the parliament.
Date: Mon, 6 Apr 2020 22:42:16 +0200 (METDST)

Prague, April 6, 2020 (AFP) - The Czech government said Monday it would ease its tough anti-virus measures ahead of Easter, while neighbouring Slovakia announced it would double down on restrictions for the holiday.    From Tuesday, runners and cyclists in remote Czech areas will not have to wear a face mask -- an exception to a rule issued last month, said deputy prime minister Karel Havlicek.

The government has also allowed hobby markets, hardware and building supply stores and bicycle shops to open as of Thursday, ahead of the four-day weekend which many Czechs are likely to spend at their weekend homes.   "We are aware Easter is coming up so we have eased the measures regarding sports, recreation and leisure time," Havlicek told reporters.   He added however that stores will now have to offer disinfectants and single-use gloves while shoppers will have to observe social distancing rules.   The Czech Republic has reported 4,735 cases of the virus, including 78 deaths. Last month, the EU member closed its borders and limited most public gatherings to two people.

Neighbouring Slovakia, which has 534 confirmed cases including 2 deaths, for its part adopted a resolution Monday banning mass gatherings during Easter.    Between April 9 and 13, Slovaks will only be able to leave their homes for work or a relative's funeral, to visit a doctor or spend time in nearby nature or to care for family or help a neighbour, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said.    "It is a very serious decision... But if we slacken now, we could ruin everything," Prime Minister Igor Matovic told reporters.
Date: Fri, 13 Mar 2020 12:25:39 +0100 (MET)

Prague, March 13, 2020 (AFP) - The Czech government said Friday it would ban all foreign travellers from entering and all Czechs from leaving the country as of March 16 in a bid to stem the coronavirus spread.   "As of midnight Sunday-Monday, we ban all foreigners from entering the Czech Republic and, at the same time, all Czech citizens from leaving the Czech territory," Interior Minister Jan Hamacek told reporters in the EU member with 117 confirmed cases of the virus.
Date: Fri 24 May 2019
Source: Radio Praha [edited]

The Czech Republic recorded the highest number of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) cases in the EU last year [2018]. In the whole of Europe, only Russia recorded more cases of the potentially deadly disease.

There were 712 recorded TBE cases in the country last year [2018], the highest number since 2011, a Czech member of the International Scientific Working Group on TBE (ISW-TBE) said in a press release on Thursday [23 May 2019].

Only about one-quarter of inhabitants of the Czech Republic are vaccinated against TBE, a low percentage compared to other EU countries. Within the bloc, the 2nd-highest number of TBE cases was recorded in Germany, which has a population 8 times larger.

Encephalitis patients suffer from fever, headache, aching joints, and muscles. It can develop into meningitis.  [Byline: Brian Kenety]
========================
[Given the large number of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus infection in the Czech Republic last year (2018), it seems curious that the above report makes no mention of preventive measures such as vaccination and avoidance to tick bites that could be taken currently to avoid infection. The TBE virus transmission season is beginning at this time. TBE virus is endemic in the Czech Republic, and cases occur there annually. A 2016 ProMED-mail post indicated that although Central and Eastern Europe countries are endemic for the European subtype of TBE virus and cases occur there yearly, cases have declined significantly in Austria and remain low in Germany, Poland, and Slovakia, while remaining high in recent years in the Czech Republic [see Tick-borne encephalitis - Czech Republic (02): background http://promedmail.org/post/20160210.4009410].

WHO has stated that "Approximately 10 000-12 000 clinical cases of tick-borne encephalitis are reported each year, but this figure is believed to be significantly lower than the actual total. Immunization offers the most effective protection. Currently, there are 4 widely used vaccines of assured quality: FSME-Immun and Encepur, manufactured in Austria and Germany, respectively, and based on European strains of the virus; and TBE-Moscow and EnceVir, manufactured in the Russian Federation and based on Far-Eastern strains. The 4 vaccines are considered to be safe and efficacious" (<https://www.who.int/immunization/diseases/tick_encephalitis/en/>).

TBE is a virus infection caused by one of 3 TBE virus subtypes belonging to the Flaviviridae family: Central European, Siberian, and Far Eastern (formerly known as Russian spring-summer encephalitis). It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected _Ixodes_ ticks. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Sat 27 Apr 2019
Source: Food Safety News [edited]

_Salmonella_ in chicken has been linked to over 70 cases in the Czech Republic. Health authorities in the city of Zlin reported the outbreak in the middle of March 2019 at Tomase Bati Regional Hospital. A total of 68 people, of whom 38 were patients and 30 staff, were found to be connected with the salmonellosis outbreak. In addition, 4 people -- 1 staff member and 3 other patients -- were hospitalized in the town of Uherske Hradiste.

A common vehicle of infection was a chicken and rice dish served for lunch on 14 Mar 2019. An epidemiological survey found that all patients consumed this lunch. The alarm was raised on 15 Mar 2019 by the hospital in a message to health authorities. The next day, _Salmonella_ Enteritidis was detected in faecal samples. Samples of raw materials and swabs from the kitchen and storage areas were taken. Sanitation and disinfection of all kitchen and storage areas were ordered. The chicken used in the meals was also destroyed.

Symptoms of _Salmonella_ infection usually appear 12 to 72 hours after infection and include fever, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea and sometimes vomiting. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. The laboratory analysis at the Institute of Public Health in Ostrava and in the State Veterinary Institute in Olomouc did not confirm _Salmonella_ in any sample of frozen chicken available during the investigation. Clinical material from patients was sent to the lab of the Veterinary Research Institute in Brno.

In an updated statement concluding the investigation, health authorities in Zlin reported that _ S._ Enteritidis, identical to the strain grown from clinical cases, was confirmed in a chicken and rice sample.

In a statement, officials from the hospital said they had introduced strict measures for food after the _Salmonella_ infection, including strengthening controls on the defrosting and cooking of meat so procedures are monitored consistently. Officials said while the hospital cannot influence the incidence of _Salmonella_ in raw materials supplied to the hospital, they want to focus consistently on the correct procedures for processing. The hospital is also considering buying cameras and putting them in areas where hospital food is being prepared so human error can be detected in time and eliminated in the future.
=======================
[Hospital food remains a particular problematic source for foodborne pathogens given the cohort of individuals who may consume it and their comorbidities. Minimizing salmonellosis spread from fowl requires adequate cooking and appropriate kitchen hygiene. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Zlin District, Czech Republic: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/62211>]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 9 Apr 2020 07:30:18 +0200 (METDST)
By Mary Lyn Fonua

Nuku'alofa, Tonga, April 9, 2020 (AFP) - A resurgent Tropical Cyclone Harold flattened tourist resorts in Tonga Thursday, extending a week-long trail of destruction across four South Pacific island nations that has claimed more than two dozen lives.   The cyclone gathered pace as it bore down on the tiny island kingdom, which declared a state of emergency, warning residents to seek shelter from destructive winds and massive sea surges.

By early Thursday it had again become a scale-topping Category Five superstorm -- surprising meteorologists after signs earlier in the week that its intensity was dropping.   Packing winds of up to 260 kilometres per hour (160 miles per hour), it cut power in parts of the country and police said at least three tourist resorts north of the capital Nuku'alofa had been reduced to rubble.

The cyclone killed 27 people in the Solomons late last week before barrelling southeast to directly hit Vanuatu as a Category Five, obliterating entire towns in the northern provinces.   There have been no reports of deaths in Vanuatu, Fiji or Tonga, with emergency workers saying residents in the hardest hit areas took shelter early.   "It appears that many buildings and crops have been destroyed and some people in the most affected areas have lost everything," Red Cross Vanuatu secretary general Jacqueline de Gaillande said.

Harold weakened slightly to a still-formidable Category Four as it lashed Fiji on Wednesday but hopes the storm was dissipating were dashed as it regathered momentum heading towards Tonga.   "It's been a tricky one to predict," meteorologist Bill Singh from New Zealand's Metservice told AFP.   "We knew the track it was going to take but initially everyone thought it was just going to be Cat 3 or 4, but as it progressed over open warm waters it deepened."

- Closed borders -
The storm is expected to head away from Tonga onto the open ocean late Thursday but WeatherWatch.co.nz head forecaster Philip Duncan said there were no certainties.   "It's almost unheard of to see a cyclone tracking south away from the equator, weakening, then suddenly returning back to Cat 5 so far south," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated disaster relief efforts, with Vanuatu reluctant to open its international borders as it seeks to remain one of the few countries without any confirmed virus cases.   "No foreign personnel are being brought to Vanuatu for response efforts at the present time, this will be an internally run operation," Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office said.

Fiji has 15 virus cases and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the virus and cyclone meant "our economy and our people have been dealt two body blows to start the year".   "This storm must not compromise our coronavirus containment efforts, lest we risk damage far more painful than the aftermath of any cyclone," he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said an air force plane carrying essential supplies such as tents and water containers was on its way to Vanuatu, while assistance had also been offered to other impacted nations.   "We are acutely conscious that this comes on top of the impact and difficulties created by COVID-19 for those countries," she said.   Vanuatu said any supplies that came into the country would be handled with protective equipment and the air crews delivering them would be isolated in transit areas.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 18:07:06 +0200 (METDST)

London, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Britain on Wednesday reported a record 938 new COVID-19 deaths in its daily update, 152 more than its previous highest toll, as the total number of deaths passed 7,000.    "As of 5pm on 7 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 7,097 have sadly died," the health ministry tweeted, up from 6,159 on Tuesday.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 16:50:53 +0200 (METDST)
By Sofia CHRISTENSEN

Johannesburg, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - A pride of lions flops lazily across a track at a South African game reserve, enjoying newfound tranquility since last month's closure of all national parks to support an anti-coronavirus lockdown.   Rather than the usual Land Rover, a lone elephant rumbles down the road, causing the felines to scatter into the surrounding bush.   A vehicle stands in the background, live streaming the scene for thousands of people watching the animals from the comfort of their homes.   "Since the lockdown occurred we have seen an amazing explosion in our audience," said Graham Wallington, head of a live safari broadcaster called WildEarth.

As the number of viewers tripled over the last days of March, Wallington noted that the audience -- typically American -- was increasingly from South Africa.   "It just happened overnight because all these kids at home with their families are watching these live safaris," he told AFP.   South Africa is almost two weeks into a 21-day lockdown meant to halt the spread of COVID-19.   The country is the worst-affected in Africa, with more than 1,700 infections recorded so far, including 13 deaths.

WildEarth operates from two vehicles in two private game reserves bordering the internationally famous Kruger National Park.   Guides take viewers along for a virtual game drive, finding wildlife and sharing facts about animals encountered along the way.   The cameras are positioned at the back of the vehicles, where passengers would usually be seated, in order to create a real-life experience.   "There it is," guide James Hendry whispered excitedly to the camera after stumbling across a mother hyena and her newborn cubs.   "Tell me, have you ever seen anything that cute in your life before?"   Participants can also send questions to the guides as they go along.

- Rare species emerge -
"You want to know how much water an elephant drinks in a day?" asked ranger Trishala Naidoo, as she drove along a bumpy bush track.   "Around 100 litres if not more," she answered, before pulling over to show viewers a leopard tortoise crossing the road.   Aside from providing entertainment, Wallington believes virtual safaris are an opportunity to observe how wildlife behave in the absence of tourists.   "It's kind of an interesting time where the animals are being left alone," Wallington said, adding that rare species such as the endangered African wild dogs had started venturing into his areas.   "Wild dogs coming in and hunting almost every day... is unheard of," he exclaimed.    "It's because there is no one else there and they've got the run of the place for themselves."
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 16:44:56 +0200 (METDST)

Monrovia, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Liberian President George Weah declared a state of emergency in the West African country on Wednesday, with the capital Monrovia set to go into lockdown in a bid to curb coronavirus.    In a televised statement, the president said that all movement between Liberia's 15 counties would be banned from 11:59 pm on Friday, and that all non-essential businesses and government offices would close.

Residents of four counties -- including Monrovia's, which is home to about 1 million people -- must also stay at home for two weeks, he said.    Authorities in those counties will allow people to leave their homes only to buy food or for health reasons.     "We have to ask ourselves why we should abide by these measures. The answer is simple: to save lives," Weah said.

Wednesday's announcement escalates earlier health measures which banned large gatherings as well as flights to and from virus-stricken countries.   As with other poor countries in the region, there are fears that Liberia is ill prepared to handle a large outbreak.

The nation of some 4.8 million has recorded 13 coronavirus cases to date, with three deaths.  But Liberia was badly hit during the West Africa's 2014-16 Ebola crisis, which killed more than 4,800 people in the country.    Weah warned that the coronavirus was the greatest threat facing Liberia since Ebola.    "The horrific scenarios that are beginning to emerge should serve as sufficient warning for every one of us to spring into action," he said.   Coronavirus "has already arrived in Liberia, and confirmed cases are now on the rise," Weah added.   Decimated after back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, Liberia also suffers economic woes including rampant inflation and fuel shortages.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 16:42:52 +0200 (METDST)

Cairo, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Egypt will extend a nationwide night-time curfew by a further two weeks in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said on Wednesday.   He told a news conference the measure would be enforced from 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) to 6:00 am and run until April 23.   The curfew would start an hour later, he said, to avoid overcrowding in public transport.   Schools and universities, as well as restaurants and cafes would also remain closed until then, while food outlets would be allowed to offer delivery services only.   To stem the spread of the coronavirus, authorities have also halted air traffic until the end of the month and closed tourist and religious sites.

Penalties against violators including fines of up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds (just over $250) and even prison, the prime minister said.  Madbouli also announced that cabinet members will take a 20 percent salary cut for three months, and allocate that sum to underprivileged Egyptians.   Egypt's health ministry has so far declared 94 fatalities out of 1,450 confirmed cases of COVID-19.   Authorities have in recent weeks carried out sweeping disinfection operations at archaeological sites, museums and other sites across the country.   In tandem, strict social distancing measures were imposed to reduce the risk of contagion among the country's 100 million inhabitants.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 15:46:57 +0200 (METDST)

Beirut, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Millions in Lebanon risk food insecurity due to a coronavirus lockdown unless the government provides urgent assistance, Human Rights Watch warned Wednesday.   Lebanon in mid-March ordered residents to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close to halt the spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected 575 people and killed 19 nationwide.   Before the pandemic erupted, Lebanon was struggling with its worst economic crisis in decades, with 45 percent of the population facing poverty according to official estimates.   Lockdown measures to slow the spread of the virus have made matters worse with "millions of Lebanon's residents... at risk of going hungry", HRW said in a statement.

Lebanon is home to 4.5 million people, and also hosts around 1.5 million Syrians who have fled the nine-year war next door, most of whom rely on aid to survive.   "The lockdown... has compounded the poverty and economic hardship rampant in Lebanon before the virus arrived," said HRW senior researcher Lena Simet.    "Many people who had an income have lost it, and if the government does not step in, more than half the population may not be able to afford food and basic necessities."

The economic crisis since last year had already caused many people to lose their jobs or take salary cuts, and stay-at-home measures to counter the virus have now prevented even more from earning a wage.   Media has carried reports of a taxi driver who set his car on fire after security forces fined him for breaking the lockdown rules.   And an unemployed Lebanese construction worker unable to afford rent offered to sell his kidney, in an image widely shared online.   HRW Lebanon researcher Aya Majzoub said many families are struggling due to a lack of savings.

The government has said it will pay out 400,000 Lebanese pounds (less than $150 at the market rate) to the most vulnerable.   HRW said the government should also consider suspending rent and mortgage payments throughout the lockdown.   Majzoub said Syrian refugees were also affected.   "Many of them were seasonal workers -- they worked in agriculture, they worked in the service industry -- and they're not able to do that anymore," she said.   But their ability to cope will depend largely on international aid, as before the pandemic.

The World Bank last week said it had re-allocated $40 million from its support to Lebanon's health sector to fight the virus, including for tests and ventilators.   And it has also been discussing "assistance to help mitigate the impact of the economic and financial crisis on the poor through emergency social safety nets", World Bank spokeswoman Zeina El-Khalil told AFP in March.    On Monday, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun urged the international community to provide financial assistance to back economic reforms.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 15:13:03 +0200 (METDST)

Dublin, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Irish police set up nationwide traffic checkpoints on Wednesday, armed with new powers to enforce a lockdown designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.   Emergency legislation passed in the Irish parliament two weeks ago allows the government to curb non-essential travel during the crisis.

People violating the ban risk a fine of up to 2,500 euros ($2,700) and/or six months in prison.   "The regulations now are in effect," Garda -- Irish police -- commissioner Drew Harris said at a press conference.   "People only should be moving if they have an essential reason to move throughout country. What we'll be doing is making sure that movement is essential."

Over 2,500 officers will be involved in the operation at any one time as it runs from noon Wednesday until midnight on Sunday, with an extension possible.   "It will involve thousands of checkpoints every day," police said in a statement. The roadblocks have been put in place ahead of Easter holidays, traditionally used as an occasion for travel in Ireland.

Harris said nationwide compliance with the ban on movement -- which allows for exercise within two kilometres of home -- had been strong.   But there is a "small minority and perhaps... an increasing number" in breach of the government order.   There have been 210 COVID-19 related deaths and 5,709 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland according to health department figures released Tuesday.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 13:24:23 +0200 (METDST)

Tehran, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Iran on Wednesday reported 121 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing its overall number of fatalities to 3,993.   In the past 24 hours, 1,997 new cases of COVID-19 infection were detected in Iran, state news agency IRNA quoted health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour as saying.   That put the number of confirmed cases at 64,586, he added.

Iran, which announced its first COVID-19 cases on February 19, is by far the worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East, according to official tolls.   But there has been speculation abroad that the real number of deaths and infections in the country could be higher.   Jahanpour said that while 3,956 patients were in critical condition, those who recovered had reached 29,812.   The spokesman added that Iran had carried out 220,975 COVID-19 tests to date, according to IRNA.   In a bid to halt COVID-19, Iran has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses and imposed inter-city travel bans, while refraining from a lockdown.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said a "second wave" of the fight against the coronavirus would start from Saturday, and that it would be more difficult.   "Low-risk" businesses would be allowed to reopen from Saturday, he said, because "we want to continue economic activities as much as possible while fighting coronavirus at the same time".   The decision to reopen businesses has drawn criticism from health experts and even some government officials.   But Rouhani said "there is no other way".
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 13:14:26 +0200 (METDST)
By Robbie COREY-BOULET

Addis Ababa, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Ethiopia on Wednesday declared a state of emergency to fight the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far infected 55 people and resulted in two deaths there.    It is the first state of emergency announced under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018 and won last year's Nobel Peace Prize in part for expanding political freedoms in the authoritarian nation.    "Because the coronavirus pandemic is getting worse, the Ethiopian government has decided to declare a state of emergency under Article 93 of the constitution," Abiy said in a statement.     "I call upon everybody to stand in line with government bodies and others that are trying to overcome this problem," he added, warning of "grave legal measures" against anyone who undermines the fight against the pandemic.

It was not immediately clear how the state of emergency would affect day-to-day life in Ethiopia.   The government has so far refrained from imposing a lockdown similar to those in effect elsewhere in the region, including in Rwanda, Uganda and Mauritius.

According to the country's constitution, under a state of emergency the Council of Ministers has "all necessary power to protect the country's peace and sovereignty" and can suspend some "political and democratic rights".    The constitution also says lawmakers need to approve a state of emergency, which can last for six months and be extended every four months after that.

Wednesday's decree is likely to "beef up security operations with a greater role for the ederal government, including the military," said William Davison, Ethiopia analyst for the International Crisis Group, a conflict-prevention organisation.    "While this approach is understandable given the situation, it is critical that there is transparency over the government's extra powers and that there is adequate monitoring of implementation," Davison said.

-Opposition challenges move-
Since reporting its first COVID-19 case on March 13, Ethiopia has closed land borders and schools, freed thousands of prisoners to ease overcrowding, sprayed main streets in the capital with disinfectant, and discouraged large gatherings.    But Abiy said over the weekend that a harsher lockdown would be unrealistic given that there are "many citizens who don't have homes" and "even those who have homes have to make ends meet daily."    Jawar Mohammed, a leading opposition politician, said Wednesday this called into question why a state of emergency was necessary.   "Officials have been saying the country is too poor to stop population movement. So why do you need a state of emergency if you are not planning to impose stricter rules?" Jawar told AFP.

During consultations with Abiy earlier this week, the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) voiced worries that a state of emergency would lead to human rights abuses -- a well-documented problem under previous states of emergency imposed during several years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power.    "We explained our concern that the state of emergency has been initiated several times and it has been abused to violate the rights of citizens and other political activists," OLF chairman Dawud Ibsa told AFP.   It's also unclear how the state of emergency might affect planning for hotly-anticipated general elections in Ethiopia.

The country's electoral board announced last week that voting planned for August would need to be postponed because of the pandemic.    It did not provide a timeline for when the elections would ultimately be held, and lawmakers' constitutional mandates expire in October.   Davison, with the International Crisis Group, said the state of emergency could be used "to formally postpone elections" past that deadline, though such a move risks sparking opposition backlash.    "It is therefore essential that the government works with opposition parties on managing this constitutionally sensitive period and making new electoral arrangements," Davison said.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 13:08:25 +0200 (METDST)

Madrid, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Spain recorded Wednesday a second successive daily rise in coronavirus-related deaths with 757 fatalities, lifting the total toll in Europe's second-hardest-hit country after Italy by 5.5 percent to 14,555.   The number of new infections rose by 4.4 percent to 146,690, the health ministry said, as Spain has ramped up its testing for the disease.   The number of daily deaths, which peaked on Thursday at 950, rose for the first time on Tuesday after falling for four straight days.

But the rate of increase in both deaths and new infections on Wednesday was largely in line with that recorded the previous day, and half of what was recorded just a week ago.   "We have consolidated the slowdown in the spread of the virus," Health Minister Salvador Illa tweeted after the latest figures were published.   The Spanish government on March 14 imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe to curb the spread of the virus, with people allowed out of their homes only to work, buy food and seek medical care.

The pandemic has stretched the country's public healthcare system close to breaking point, with a shortage of intensive care beds and equipments, but in recent days hospitals have said the situation has improved.   "We have observed a de-escalation at this hospital in particular, and I believe at all hospitals," the spokesman for the Hospital Severo Ochoa in Leganes near Madrid, Jorge Rivera, told AFP.   "We can't let down our guard, emergency services are now working below their full capacity and are working well, they are not saturated and overcrowded but it does not mean that we can relax and go to the emergency ward because you have an ailment."