WORLD NEWS

Getting countries ...
Select countries and read reports below or

Germany

Germany US Consular Information Sheet
December 08, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Germany is a modern and stable democracy. Tourist facilities are highly developed. In larger towns, many people can communicate in English.
Read the Departme
t of State Background Notes on Germany for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Germany is a party to the Schengen Agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter Germany for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our fact sheet. Further information on entry, visa and passport requirements may be obtained from the German Embassy at 4645 Reservoir Road N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone (202) 298-4000, web site: http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/Startseite.html, or the German Consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or San Francisco. Passengers transiting Germany en route to other countries should ensure that they are aware of and in compliance with the entry requirements for their final destinations as individuals not presenting appropriate documentation for their destination may be denied boarding on connecting flights.

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

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
German authorities remain vigilant in combating the threat posed by foreign and resident extremists. Specific threats have been uncovered and persecutions undertaken, though Germany itself has been largely free of terror incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Germany’s open borders with its European neighbors allow the possibility of dangerous individuals entering/exiting the country with anonymity. Germany regularly experiences demonstrations on a variety of political and economic themes. Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations, and police oversight is routinely provided for participants and passersby. Nonetheless, these demonstrations can attract counter-demonstrators and have the potential to turn violent. In addition, hooligans, most often young intoxicated “skinheads” have been known to harass or even attack people whom they believe to be foreigners or members of rival groups. On occasion, American have reported that they were assaulted for racial reasons or because they appeared “foreign.” All Americans are cautioned to avoid the area around protests and demonstrations and to check local media for updates on the situation.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution, 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 A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:
Violent crime is rare in Germany- but can occur, especially in larger cities or high-risk areas such as train stations. Most incidents of street crime consist of theft of unattended items and pick-pocketing. There have been a few reports of aggravated assault against U.S. citizens in higher-risk urban areas. American travelers are advised to take the same precautions against becoming crime victims as they would in any American city.

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. For more information on possible U.S. sources of assistance, see our information on Victims of Crime.

The local equivalent to the 911 emergency line in Germany is 112.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Good medical care is widely available. Doctors and hospitals may expect immediate payment in cash for health services from tourists and persons with no permanent address in Germany. Most doctors, hospitals and pharmacies do not accept credit .

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
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. U.S. military facilities in Germany will not provide treatment to private American citizens who are not affiliated with the Department of Defense.

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 Germany is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Individuals holding U.S. driver’s licenses may drive in Germany for up to six months without acquiring a German driver’s license.

Road conditions in general are excellent, although caution should be exercised while traveling on older roads in eastern Germany. The high speed permitted on the German autobahn, weather, and unfamiliar road markings can pose significant hazards, and driver error is a leading cause of accidents involving American motorists in Germany. Rules on right-of-way differ significantly from the U.S.
Notice should be taken that it is generally illegal in Germany to pass vehicles from the right and that the threshold for determining whether a person has been driving under the influence of alcohol is lower than in some U.S. states.

Many German streets and sidewalks have dedicated bike lanes for use by bicyclists. Pedestrians should be aware that bicycles have priority use of these lanes and should be careful to observe whether any bicyclist is approaching before crossing or stepping into the bike lane. Bicyclists also have priority over cars turning onto side streets, and motorists should always confirm whether a bicyclist is approaching from either direction before attempting to enter side streets, even when the light is in their favor. Motorists turning into a side street who hit a bicyclist who is using a marked bike lane will be held responsible for any injury or damage caused.
The use of cell phones while driving is prohibited in Germany. For specific information on travel within Germany contact the German National Tourist Board Office in New York at (212) 661-7200, fax (212) 661-7174 or via the Internet at http://www.germany-tourism.de/
Travelers should also note that railroad crossings are marked differently in Germany than in the U.S. There have been several accidents involving Americans in recent years at railroad crossings. In addition to the standard crossbuck (X-shaped) sign, railroad crossings are often marked by signal lights. Signal lights at a railroad crossing means that a train is approaching and that all vehicles should stop.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.germany-tourism.de/
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Germany’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Germany’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Germany’s customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Germany of certain items such as firearms, military artifacts (particularly those pertaining to the Second World War), antiques, medications/pharmaceuticals and business equipment. Under German law it is also illegal to bring into or take out of Germany literature, music CDs, or other paraphernalia that glorifies fascism, the Nazi past of the former “Third Reich.” It is advisable to contact the German Embassy in Washington or one of the German consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are widely available throughout Germany. They utilize many of the same account networks that are found in the U.S., so it is possible in most cases to get euros directly from your U.S. bank while you are in Germany without paying any inordinate fees for currency exchange. Credit cards are not accepted as widely as in the United States. Please see our Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating German laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Germany 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:
American citizen parents have at times encountered difficulties having visitation orders enforced in Germany. For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS:
Americans living or traveling in Germany are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy of Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, https://travelregistration.state.gov/, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Germany.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

U.S. Consular Sections are located at:
Berlin: Clayallee 170;
Tel: (49) (30)832-9233; Fax: (49) (30) 8305-1215
American Citizen Services Email: ACSBerlin@state.gov
Frankfurt: Giessner Str. 30,
Tel. (49) (69) 75350; Fax: (49) (69) 7535-2304.
American Citizen Services Email:GermanyACS@state.gov
Passport Inquiries Email: FrankfurtPassports@state.gov
Leipzig: Wilhelm-Seyfferth-Strasse 4,
Tel. (49) (341) 213-8418; Fax: (49) (341) 2138417 (emergency service only).

Munich: Koenigstrasse 5,
Tel. (49) (89) 2888-0; Fax: (49) (89) 280-9998.
American Citizen Services Email: ConsMunich@state.gov
There is also a U.S. consular agency in Bremen at Bremen World Trade Center,
Birkenstrasse 15,
Tel: (49) (421) 301-5860; Fax: (49) (421) 301-5861.

When calling another city from within Germany, dial a zero before the city code (for example, when calling Berlin from Munich, the city code for Berlin is 030).
*
*
*
*
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 23, 2008 to update information on Entry Requirements, Safety and Security and Medical Insurance.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2020 09:41:54 +0100 (MET)

Frankfurt am Main, Feb 10, 2020 (AFP) - Three people were seriously injured as Storm Ciara battered Germany on Sunday and Monday, lashing the country with high winds that forced the rail operator to suspend intercity trains.   Two women were badly hurt by a falling tree in Saarbruecken on the French border, with one of them receiving life-threatening injuries, police said overnight.   Further north in Paderborn, a 16-year-old boy was hit on the head by a falling branch.

Weather forecasters said winds of up to 170 kilometres per hour (105 miles per hour) had hit mountainous areas.   State-owned rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) shut down intercity trains on Sunday evening and warned there would be more disruption as the storm heads south.   "Several hundred" travellers slept overnight in trains set up for those stranded in stations, DB said.   Hundreds of flights were cancelled at the largest airports, including 190 in Frankfurt and 420 in Munich, news agency DPA reported.

In the financial capital Frankfurt, police said a construction crane had struck the roof of the cathedral, but could not immediately detail the extent of the damage.   Storm Ciara mostly struck northern and western Germany as it swept Europe with powerful winds overnight between Sunday and Monday.   On Monday, the German Weather Service (DWD) declared the second-highest storm warning in effect across southern Germany, with parts of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg states even labelled with the highest.
Date: Mon, 30 Dec 2019 10:48:29 +0100 (MET)

Frankfurt am Main, Dec 30, 2019 (AFP) - Cabin crew at Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings began a planned three-day strike Monday with their union warning the industrial dispute could last longer.   Daniel Flohr, deputy head of air stewards' union UFO, told public broadcaster ZDF "we could prolong it at short notice", failing concessions from bosses, although "we don't want that".

A live list on the carrier's website showed 182 flights between major German cities like Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Munich were slashed as UFO called members off the job.   Some connections to neighbouring Austria and Switzerland, including Zurich and Vienna, were also cut.   Set to be folded into Eurowings over the long term, Germanwings operates flights on behalf of the larger Lufthansa subsidiary.   Around 15 percent of Eurowings flights over the three-day period were affected by the walkout, a company spokesman told AFP.

The situation at major airports was "calm" with "no queues," he said, as many passengers had been able to book on trains or other Lufthansa group airlines.   "People were well informed" about the strike, the spokesman added. "We hope things stay this stable."   Frankfurt airport -- Germany's largest -- also said on its website Monday was a "normal day" with "occasional short waits at security checks".

Germanwings bosses judge the strike over rules governing part-time work unjustified.   The dispute has already seen a brief "warning strike" at four Lufthansa subsidiaries, while the group's flagship airline suffered a two-day walkout affecting 1,500 flights and 200,000 passengers in November.
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2019 20:21:08 +0100 (MET)

Frankfurt am Main, Dec 27, 2019 (AFP) - A German cabin crew union on Friday called a three-day strike at Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings, plunging passengers into turmoil over the busy end-of-year holiday as it ramps up a bitter row over pay and conditions.   The UFO union said Germanwings employees would strike from 2300 GMT on Sunday until 2300 GMT on Wednesday as talks with bosses remain deadlocked.   The strike period covers New Year's Eve and the January 1 public holiday.   "We are deliberately announcing the strike early so Germanwings passengers have a chance to book flights with other airlines or make alternative travel plans," said UFO vice-chairman Daniel Flohr in a video message.

The union stopped short of announcing a fresh stoppage at flagship carrier Lufthansa itself, but warned that more strike calls could follow from January 2.   Flohr said UFO took stoppages at this time of year -- when many people are travelling to meet friends and family -- "very seriously".   But Germanwings management had "given its employees no clear options for the future," he argued.   A Lufthansa spokesman had earlier condemned the union's latest strike threats, saying "this is no way to resolve the conflict".   Board member Detlef Kayser said in a statement that "UFO has refused for weeks to put concrete demands in writing."

- Increasingly bitter -
Lufthansa and UFO have for months been locked in an increasingly bitter dispute that has triggered repeated walkouts.   A 48-hour stoppage at the main Lufthansa brand led to 1,500 cancellations at German airports in November, affecting 200,000 passengers.   A one-day warning strike in October prompted several dozen flight cancellations at Lufthansa subsidiaries Eurowings, Germanwings, SunExpress and Lufthansa CityLine.   As well as demanding higher wages, especially for entry-level jobs, the UFO union is seeking better benefits and easier routes into long-term contracts.    Lufthansa for a long time refused to discuss the demands, claiming the union no longer had the right to represent its 22,000 cabin crew employees owing to an internal leadership struggle.   The company even challenged UFO's legal status in court.

But the group changed its stance during November's massive strike, agreeing to arbitration with UFO leaders and two mediators.   The UFO union on Sunday said those talks "had failed".   Both sides have agreed to keep details of the talks confidential but German media reported they could not even agree on which topics should be covered by the arbitration.   Aside from pushing its demands for better pay, UFO is reportedly also seeking assurances that certain staff members will not face disciplinary action over the strikes.   Lufthansa said it was putting its hopes in a fresh round of talks proposed by the mediators for January, but UFO denied a new date had been agreed.
Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2019 19:14:14 +0100 (MET)

Frankfurt am Main, Dec 22, 2019 (AFP) - A German cabin crew union on Sunday threatened Lufthansa with fresh walkouts after Christmas as discussions to resolve a bitter dispute over pay and conditions failed to make progress.   Speaking after the latest round of arbitration talks, the UFO union said efforts to come up with a "credible and legally secure" resolution with the help of independent mediators had failed.

While there would be no walkouts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day, "we could now announce a strike at any time," vice-chairman Daniel Flohr told reporters at Frankfurt airport.   Lufthansa flight attendants staged a massive 48-hour strike last month that led to 1,500 flight cancellations at German airports, affecting some 200,000 passengers.   As well as demanding higher wages, especially for entry-level jobs, the union is seeking better benefits and easier routes into long-term contracts.

Lufthansa for a long time refused to discuss the demands, claiming the union no longer rightfully represented staff after an internal leadership struggle. It even challenged UFO's legal status in court.   But Germany's flagship carrier changed its stance during November's stoppage, agreeing to arbitration with UFO leaders and two independent mediators.   Lufthansa on Sunday said it continued to expect that through arbitration "good solutions can be found" for its 22,000 cabin crew employees.   The mediators have proposed fresh talks in early January, according to DPA news agency.

Neither side gave details about the discussions, but German media have reported that UFO is seeking guarantees that flight attendants won't face disciplinary action over the strikes.   Four of the Lufthansa group's smaller, subsidiary airlines have also walked out in the long-running battle for better wages.   A one-day warning strike in October led to several dozen flight cancellations at Eurowings, Germanwings, SunExpress and Lufthansa CityLine.
Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2019 15:13:02 +0100 (MET)
By Michelle FITZPATRICK

Frankfurt am Main, Nov 7, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of Lufthansa passengers faced disruptions Thursday as cabin crew in Germany staged a "massive" 48-hour walkout in the biggest escalation yet of a bitter row over pay and conditions.   The strike called by Germany's UFO flight attendants' union started at 2300 GMT on Wednesday and was to last until 2300 GMT on Friday.

Lufthansa said it had scrapped 700 flights on Thursday and some 600 the following day, warning that "around 180,000 passengers will be affected" across Germany.   The UFO union argued that the stoppage was necessary because negotiations with Lufthansa bosses were deadlocked.   But it accepted a surprise olive branch offered by Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr on Thursday, and agreed to preliminary talks over the weekend.    The current strike would carry on as planned "but would not for now be expanded", UFO said on its website.   Lufthansa said it regretted the inconvenience to passengers and stressed that it was working "to minimise the impact of this massive strike on our customers".

The carrier was running an alternative flight schedule where possible, and said passengers could rebook their journeys for free or swap their flights for train tickets.  Knut Kress, a passenger at a quieter than usual Munich airport, voiced support for the flight attendants.   "It's good that there are still unions defending something," he told AFP. But 48 hours "is a long time", he added.   Fellow traveller Birgit Kellner complained about the lack of notice for passengers.   "They should inform passengers a little earlier, not just two days before."   The walkout is UFO's biggest call to action since a week-long strike in 2015 hit Lufthansa with mass cancellations.   It is also seen as a test of strength for the union, weakened by months of infighting that have left Lufthansa questioning its right to speak for cabin crew.

- Internal disputes -
Lufthansa's finance chief Ulrik Svensson declined to put a price tag on the strike but said such stoppages typically cost "between 10 and 20 million" euros per day.   The union already staged a day-long warning strike last month at four Lufthansa subsidiary airlines, causing several dozen flights to be axed at Eurowings, Germanwings, SunExpress and Lufthansa CityLine.

But the flagship Lufthansa brand was spared the upheaval after management offered an unexpected two-percent pay rise to avert the strike.   Since then, however, UFO vice-president Daniel Flohr said no progress had been made in talks.   As well as higher pay for cabin crew across the Lufthansa group, UFO is demanding more benefits and easier routes into long-term contracts for temporary workers.

Lufthansa, however, has long argued that UFO no longer has the right to represent its staff following an internal leadership tussle, and has challenged the union's legal status in court.   But CEO Spohr hinted at a shift in position when he told reporters Thursday Lufthansa wanted to try to resolve the existing legal issues with UFO in the weekend meeting, hoping to then start formal arbitration talks.

UFO's internal disputes have cost it support among the Lufthansa group's 21,000 flight attendants, with some members switching to rival unions.   Separately on Thursday, Lufthansa reported a jump in third-quarter net profits but said it was slashing over 700 jobs at its Austrian Airlines subsidiary as the group seeks to trim costs in the face of fierce competition.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2020 11:20:59 +0100 (MET)

Dhaka, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Bangladesh on Wednesday kicked off a drive to vaccinate more than a million people against cholera, which infects tens of thousands a year, as part of an international campaign to eliminate transmission by 2030.   The delta nation has sought to reduce the impact of the disease -- which causes acute diarrhoea and spreads through contaminated food and water -- through vaccines and by setting up a dedicated treatment hospital.   "We have brought down the mortality rate in cholera to almost zero in Bangladesh," said senior scientist Firdausi Qadri at the Dhaka-based International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.   But she admitted that the number of infections was still very high.   According to the World Health Organisation, cholera infects about 1.3 to five million people every year, and kills an estimated 21,000 to 143,000.

Bangladesh has an estimated 100,000 cases a year, according to authorities, but plans to immunise half its 168 million people in the next decade.   Daisy Akter, who lost two sisters and a brother to cholera in the 1970s, was one of the first recipients of the oral vaccine at a Dhaka neighbourhood on Wednesday.   "No villager came to offer funeral prayers for them fearing they might get the disease," she told AFP.   "We had to bury them in the front yard of our home."   UN agencies and Bangladesh authorities have already carried out a massive cholera vaccination drive in the country's southeast, where nearly one million Rohingya refugees have lived in overcrowded camps since 2017.   Some 800,000 Rohingya and 600,000 locals were vaccinated in that campaign.
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2020 17:16:35 +0100 (MET)

Juba, Feb 18, 2020 (AFP) - Swarms of locusts which are wreaking havoc across East Africa have now arrived in South Sudan, the government said Tuesday, threatening more misery in one of the world's most vulnerable nations.   Billions of desert locusts, some in swarms the size of Moscow, have already chomped their way through Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda.   Their breeding has been spurred by one of the wettest rainy seasons in the region in four decades.

Experts have warned the main March-to-May cropping season is at risk. Eggs laid along the locusts' path are due to hatch and create a second wave of the insects in key agricultural areas.    The arrival of the locusts could be catastrophic in South Sudan, where war  followed by drought and floods has already left six million people -- 60 percent of the population -- facing severe hunger.   Agriculture Minister Onyoti Adigo Nyikiwec said the locusts had crossed the eastern border with Uganda on Monday.   "The report came that these are matured. As you know locusts are like human beings, they send their reconnaissance ahead of time to make sure that whether there is food or not and if the area is good for breeding."

Meshack Malo, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in South Sudan, said about 2,000 locusts had been spotted so far, and if not controlled quickly, could have a devastating impact.   "These are deep yellow which means that they will be here mostly looking at areas in which they will lay eggs."    He said the FAO was training locals and acquiring sprayers and chemicals to try and combat the locusts. It is the first locust invasion in 70 years in the country.   Other countries have employed aircraft to spray the swarms, while desperate locals have employed tactics like banging pots and pans or shooting at them.    Nyikiwec said the government had prepared a contingency plan.   "We are training people who will be involved in spraying and also we need chemicals for spraying and also sprayers. You will also need cars to move while spraying and then later if it becomes worse, we will need aircraft."

Earlier this month Somalia declared a national emergency over the invasion.   The FAO says the current invasion is known as an "upsurge," the term for when an entire region is affected.   However, if the invasion cannot be rolled back and spreads, it becomes known as a "plague" of locusts.   There have been six major desert locust plagues in the 1900s, the last of which was in 1987-89. The last major upsurge was in 2003-05.
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2020 15:26:41 +0100 (MET)
By Ismail BELLAOUALI

AIT-BEN-HADDOU, Morocco, Feb 18, 2020 (AFP) - Millions worldwide may have seen the desert fortress in the hit fantasy series "Game of Thrones", but fewer know they can visit the Moroccan village of Ait-Ben-Haddou.   The fortified old settlement at the foot of the majestic Atlas mountains enchanted audiences in the HBO series and also served as a dusty backdrop in Ridley Scott's epic swords-and-sandals film "Gladiator".

But unlike other famous locations from movie and television history, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has so far missed out on a mass influx of tourism -- something some of its inhabitants are eager to change.    "Several people have told me that they came here to see the filming location of 'Game of Thrones'," said Ahmed Baabouz, a local tour guide. "There is tourism linked to cinema here but frankly we have not developed it to the extent it could be."   Ait-Ben-Haddou is southern Morocco's most famous fortress. Time seems to have stopped at the site overlooking a valley some 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) from the town of Ouarzazate.

After passing through the imposing entrance way, visitors navigate a labyrinth of winding alleys that eventually lead onto a public square where the settlement's inhabitants once gathered.    There is a mosque and two cemeteries -- one for Muslims and one for Jews. Most inhabitants have long since departed though, with a few homes converted into stalls selling handicrafts.    The fortress is an ideal film setting, located a short distance from the studios of Ouarzazate, the "Mecca" of Moroccan cinema. Productions ranging from "Lawrence of Arabia" to "The Mummy" have been filmed here.

More recently, scenes from the cult series "Game of Thrones" were shot at Ait-Ben-Haddou, with the site standing in for the fictional Yellow City of Yunkai which is conquered by Daenerys Targaryen, a key character in the "GOT" universe.   Hammadi, 61, is a privileged witness to the location's cinematic history.   "All of these productions have contributed to the reputation of the region," he said, grinning widely.    Hammadi himself has appeared as an extra in a number of films. And while like most people he lives in a more modern home in a village on the other side of the valley, he continues to return to Ait-Ben-Haddou to welcome tourists.

-'House of the Dragon' -
On a wall at the entrance to Hammadi's former home, photos bear witness to the projects he has worked on.    One shows him dressed as an ancient Roman with director Ridley Scott on the set of "Gladiator".    "We have a very rich cinematic heritage that we hope to use to attract tourists," said tour guide Baabouz, who is 29.   But "nothing indicates that 'Game of Thrones' was shot here," he added.    On Morocco's Atlantic coast, the city of Essaouira also formed the backdrop to scenes from the series.    But there too, Moroccan tourism promoters are yet to capitalise on the connection.

In comparison, Northern Ireland, Malta and Dubrovnik in Croatia have attracted hordes of fans from around the world, drawn by their links to the franchise.    To remedy this, Baabouz and other young people in the village are pooling their limited resources towards an ambitious project: a museum in the fortress, gathering photography from the productions that have been filmed here.    US channel HBO has commissioned a prequel to "GOT", called "House of the Dragon". George R.R. Martin, the author of the books on which the series is based, wrote on his blog that shooting would also take place in Morocco.
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2020 09:44:12 +0100 (MET)

Macau, Feb 18, 2020 (AFP) - Macau's casinos will reopen Thursday after authorities lifted a city-wide two-week closure aimed at stopping the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.    The resumption of the lynchpin industry comes after the city reported no new infections in the last two weeks, with the number confirmed cases at just ten people.

The former Portuguese colony took the unprecedented step of shutting down almost all of its lucrative entertainment sector earlier in the month, including casinos, nightclubs and many bars.   The vast majority of Macau's tourists are mainland Chinese travellers, drawn to the city's casinos.

As the only place in China where casinos are allowed, Macau's gambling houses account for about 80 percent of government revenue.   But arrivals tanked as the epidemic spread.   Authorities said casinos that don't want to reopen because of low tourist numbers could apply to extend the closure, but they must be up and running within 30 days.

Macau's government has been keen to ensure the casinos keep employing staff through the downturn and are trying to avoid lay-offs.   Officials said all gamblers and casino staff must wear face masks.   First found in the city of Wuhan in central China, the new coronavirus has infected over 72,000 people on the mainland and 60 in Hong Kong.    It has also taken over 1,800 lives on the mainland and one in Hong Kong.
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2020 09:07:42 +0100 (MET)

Athens, Feb 18, 2020 (AFP) - Greece was hit with a 24-hour strike Tuesday over a pension reform encouraging people to stay longer in the workforce.   The labour action paralysed public transport in Athens, intercity trains and ferry ship services.   Civil servants are also walking off the job and journalists will stage a three-hour work stoppage against the pension reform.   "This bill is practically the continuation of (austerity) laws introduced in 2010-2019," civil servants' union ADEDY said.

Unions will hold street protests in Athens, Thessaloniki and other major cities later in the day.   The new conservative government says the reform, to be voted by Friday, will make the troubled Greek pension system viable to 2070.   The labour ministry says the overhaul -- the third major revamp in a decade -- will contain pension increases and reduce penalties for pensioners still working.

Successive governments have attempted to reform the pension system, whose previously generous handouts are seen as one of the causes of the decade-long Greek debt crisis.   Chronic overspending and the inaccurate reporting of the budget deficit spooked creditors in 2010, and required three successive bailouts by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to avert a Greek bankruptcy.   In return for billions of euros in rescue funds, Greece had to adopt unpopular austerity reforms and pension cuts.
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2020 08:50:55 +0100 (MET)

Peshawar, Pakistan, Feb 18, 2020 (AFP) - A policeman was killed and two others wounded Tuesday by a roadside bomb aimed at polio vaccination workers in Pakistan's restive northwest, officials said.    The attack came a day after Islamabad launched a nationwide anti-polio drive, aiming to immunise tens of millions of children in Pakistan -- one of only three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where the crippling disease remains endemic.

Opposition to inoculations grew after the CIA organised a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda's former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.   According to Captain Wahid Mehmood, a district police chief, a police van monitoring the polio team was hit on the outskirts of the north-western city of Dera Ismail Khan.   "It was an IED (improvised explosive device) explosion in which one of our policemen got martyred while two others were wounded", Mehmood told AFP.   Sadaqat Khan, a local police official, confirmed the toll.   There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban and other militants have targeted polio vaccinators in the past.

The nationwide polio vaccination campaign aims to vaccinate some 39 million children.  Tuesday's attack follows a devastating year in Pakistan's long fight against polio, with at least 17 cases reported in 2020 so far.   In 2019, the number of polio cases jumped to 144 from just 12 in 2018.

Even as Pakistan has tried to eliminate polio, a new challenge has emerged in the form of a growing global movement against vaccinations.   The phenomenon has attracted adherents worldwide, fuelled by medically baseless claims and proliferated on social media resulting in a resurgence of once-eradicated, highly contagious diseases.
Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2020 21:19:05 +0100 (MET)
By Joe JACKSON

London, Feb 17, 2020 (AFP) - Britain on Monday battled the fallout from Storm Dennis after the second severe storm in seven days left one woman dead over the weekend.   Winds of more than 90 miles (140 kilometres) an hour, along with more than a month's worth of rain in 48 hours in some places, led officials to issue rare "danger to life" warnings.   A 55-year-old woman was found dead after being swept away by near the flood-prone town of Tenbury Wells in western England.   "We are all devastated," her family said in a statement after a body was discovered.

James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, which is responsible for flood protection, said more than 400 homes in England had been flooded while at least 1,000 agency staff were working "to protect and support those communities which have been hit".   "This is not yet over," he told BBC radio.   "We still have many flood warnings in force and we may still see significant flooding in the middle of this week from larger rivers."   The storm also pummelled much of France, with some 20,000 people without electricity on Monday after suffering power cuts in the northwest.

- 'More extreme' -
In Britain, more than 600 warnings and alerts -- a record number -- were issued on Sunday, extending from the River Tweed on the border of England and Scotland to Cornwall in the southwest.   After a day of torrential rain, major flooding incidents were declared in south Wales and parts of west central England.  In northern England, the defence ministry deployed troops in West Yorkshire, which had also been hit by flooding from last weekend's Storm Ciara.   There were fears that rivers there could burst their banks.

Newly appointed environment secretary George Eustice said the government had done "everything that we can do with a significant sum of money" to combat increased flooding.    "We'll never be able to protect every single household just because of the nature of climate change and the fact that these weather events are becoming more extreme," he said.   Youth climate activists gathering for a national conference in Staffordshire, west central England, were forced to cancel the event because of the storm.   "There's a bleak irony in our being beaten back by climate change," 15-year-old attendee Sophia said in a statement released by organisers.

- 'Supercomputer' announced -
Two rivers in south Wales burst their banks on Sunday, prompting rescue workers to launch operations to evacuate hundreds of people and their pets trapped in their homes.   Police said a man in his 60s died after entering the River Tawe, north of the Welsh city of Swansea, but later clarified that the death was not "linked to the adverse weather".

Meanwhile the bodies of two men were pulled from rough seas off the south coast of England on Saturday as the storm barrelled in.   Britain's Coastguard said it had sent a helicopter and rescue team to join navy and other search vessels after receiving reports of a man overboard in the sea near Margate, Kent.   "After many hours of searching, a body was sadly found in the water... and was brought to shore," it added.

Around the same time in nearby Herne Bay, emergency responders discovered another dead man following reports a person had been pulled from the sea, according to Kent police.   In a timely announcement the Met Office, Britain's national weather service, said Monday it would invest £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) in a state-of-the-art supercomputer to improve forecasting.   The government claims it is the world's "most powerful weather and climate supercomputer".
Date: Sun 16 Feb 2020, 5:00 PM
Source: WHO, Weekly Bulletin on Outbreaks and Other Emergencies, page 9 [abridged, edited]

During week 4 [week ending 26 Jan 2020], a total of 73 suspected cases including one death were reported across the country, compared to 46 suspected cases and no deaths in the previous week. The majority of cases in week 4 were reported from Sankuru province (78%).

In the past 4 weeks (weeks 1 to 4 of 2020) a total of 222 suspected cases with 4 deaths (CFR: 1.8%) were notified in the country, with the majority of cases being reported from the provinces of Sankuru (31%), Bas-Uele (18%), Equateur (15%) and Mai-Ndombe (9%). There has been an increase in the weekly case incidence since week 2 of 2020.

Between weeks 1 and 52 of 2019 a cumulative total of 5288 monkeypox cases, including 107 deaths (CFR 2%) were reported from 133 health zones in 19 provinces.
======================
[Monkeypox (MPX) virus is endemic and widespread geographically in the DR Congo, with cases occurring sporadically in several provinces. January 2020 is off to a similar start with 222 suspected cases and 4 deaths reported in 4 provinces. The 2% CFR is relatively low for the clade of MPX that occurs in the DRC, which can reach 10% or more. The 222 cases are suspected, and there is the possibility that without laboratory confirmation some of them may be varicella cases misdiagnosed as MPX. There is no additional information about the circumstances under which these cases acquired their infection. Monkeys are not the reservoirs of the virus, despite the name that the virus has received. Studies of prevalence of MPX virus in populations of rodent hosts are not mentioned in this or previous reports. The main reservoirs of MPX virus are suspected to be rodents, including rope squirrels (_Funisciurus_ spp., an arboreal rodent) and terrestrial rodents in the genera _Cricetomys_ and _Graphiurus_. Halting the bushmeat trade and consumption of wild animals to halt MPX virus exposure will be culturally and economically difficult, so continued occurrence of cases can be expected. MPX virus can be transmitted between people but not readily. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Fri 31 Jan 2020
Source: Nigeria CDC Situation report, yellow fever [edited]

Highlights
----------
In this reporting period:
- A total of 139 suspected cases were reported in 90 LGAs across 27 states
- All 139 suspected cases had blood samples collected
- 2 presumptive positive and 1 inconclusive case were reported; the inconclusive case was reported from Katsina State
- No confirmed case was recorded from Institute Pasteur Dakar
- No death was recorded from all the cases reported

Yellow fever response activities are being coordinated by the multi-agency yellow fever Technical Working Group (YF TWG).

Off-site support is being provided to all states.

Yellow fever preventive mass vaccination (PMVC) campaigns are planned for implementation in Oyo, Delta, Benue, Osun, Bauchi and Borno in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

Graphs and a map accessible at the above URL;
Figure 1 [graph]: Epidemic Curve of All Cases of Yellow Fever in Nigeria from Week 1 - Week 5, 31 Jan 2020
Figure 2 [graph]: Trends of Confirmed Cases in Nigeria - 2018, 2019 and January 2020
Figure 3 [graph]: Yellow fever Attack rate by State in Nigeria from Week 1 - Week 5, 31 Jan 2020
Figure 4: Map of Nigeria Showing States with Suspected and Presumptive confirmed Cases from Week 1 - Week 5, 31 Jan 2020
====================
[This report is not clear about the number of confirmed yellow fever (YF) cases that there have been in Nigeria this year (2020). The above report indicates that there are 139 suspected cases and all have had blood samples taken but does not state if all samples have been tested for YF by the Institute Pasteur in Dakar. The report does state that no confirmed case was recorded by the Institute Pasteur Dakar. The report states that 2 cases are presumptive and 1 is inconclusive. The graph in Figure 2 shows no confirmed cases in 2020.

It is curious that a 19 Jan 2020 report indicated that there were 141 suspected yellow fever cases in Jos North, Wase, Bassa, Kanam and Riyom Local Governments of Plateau State, of which 25 cases had been confirmed (see Yellow fever - Africa (02): Nigeria (PL) http://promedmail.org/post/20200121.6903167). A 29 Dec 2019 The World Health Organization (WHO) report confirmed 13 cases of yellow fever (YF), with 3 deaths in 4 local government areas of Plateau State (see Yellow fever - Africa (01): Nigeria (PL) http://promedmail.org/post/20200101.6862783). It is possible that all of these Plateau state cases occurred in 2019 and, hence, are not included in the above 2020 report which does not mention any cases in Plateau state. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Sat 15 Feb 2020 2:34:10 PM AFT
Source: MENAFN, Afghanistan Times News report [edited]

At least 35 people including women and children have died in the past few weeks due to pneumonia outbreak in Badakhshan Province in the north-western mountainous area, the provincial health department confirmed.

Dr Noor Khawari, head of the provincial public health department, said [Sat 15 Feb 2020] that the people had died in the Wakhan district, a remote area surrounded by high and impassable mountains.

He said that 15 of the dead were children, calling malnutrition and cold weather as the main reasons for the fatalities. A medical team had been dispatched to Wakhan to prevent further outbreak of the disease, according to Dr Khawari.

The provincial council had earlier said that at least 10 people had lost their lives since an unknown disease had broken out in the Yomgan district [Badakhshan Province].

The report caused panic and concerns among the residents as coronavirus [infection, COVID-19] in China that borders Badakhshan takes the lives of people every day.

But the ministry of public health denied outbreak of any unknown disease in Badakhshan, saying that the recent deaths happened only due to pneumonia and pertussis (whooping cough) as well as malnutrition. Badakhshan is one of the provinces where seasonal diseases like pneumonia and whooping cough break out during winter. The diseases claim the lives of people in the remote areas behind high mountains as the roads connecting them to the provincial capital are blocked by heavy snowfalls.

The provincial health department has deployed medical teams to the borders with China and Tajikistan to examine those entering from the neighbouring states and to prevent coronavirus [infection, COVID-9].
===========================
[We are told in the news report above that at least 35 people, including 15 children, died in the past few weeks due to a "pneumonia" outbreak in Wakhan district, a remote area surrounded by high and impassable mountains, with a population of about 14 000 residents. Wakhan is a narrow strip about 350 km (220 mi) long and 13-65 km (8-40 mi) wide that extends from Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan in the west to Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China in the east, separating the Pamir Mountains and Tajikistan to the north and the Karakoram Mountains and Pakistan to the south  (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wakhan_Corridor>).

A trade route through this valley has been used by travellers since antiquity
(<https://caravanistan.com/afghanistan/wakhan-corridor/>).

A map of this region can be found at

The local residents are concerned that the novel coronavirus infection, COVID-19, may be the cause of the outbreak of pneumonia in Wakhan district. There are about 70 500 total cases of COVID-19 in China, mainly concentrated in Hubei Province in Central China.

Although Xinjiang in Western China has reportedly 75 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1 death (assessed 16 Feb 2020 at 9:43 PM EST) (<https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6>), spread of COVID-19 to this very remote region in Afghanistan, that is easily cut off from the rest of the world especially in winter, seems unlikely. Also, 43% of deaths (15/35) occurred in children, which would be unusual for COVID-19. However, we are not told the clinical presentation of the illness, nor how a diagnosis of "pneumonia" was made in this undeveloped region. Other diagnoses, such as influenza, are also possible. More information from knowledgeable sources would be appreciated. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[Maps of Afghanistan: