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Fiji

Fiji - US Consular Information Sheet
October 24, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Fiji is a South Pacific island nation consisting of over 350 islands and islets, of which approximately 100 are inhabited. The capital is Suva. On December 5, 2006,
in the fourth coup since 1987, the Commander of Fiji’s military force deposed the lawfully elected government of Fiji. There is currently an unelected interim government in place established by the military. The coup has had a negative effect on Fiji’s economy. Tourist facilities are available. The Fiji Visitors Bureau, which has a wide range of information of interest to travelers, can be contacted via the Internet at http://www.bulafiji.com/. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Fiji for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport valid for at least three months beyond the intended date of departure from Fiji, proof of sufficient funds and an onward/return ticket are required for entry to Fiji. A visa is not required for tourist stays up to four months. Yachts wishing to call at the Lau group of islands need special permission granted at the first port of entry into Fiji. For further information on entry/exit requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Fiji, 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, No. 240, Washington, DC 20007; telephone (202) 337-8320, or the Fiji Mission to the United Nations in New York. This is particularly important for travelers planning to enter Fiji by sailing vessel.

Information about dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
While a state of emergency is no longer in effect, some basic rights remain uncertain. The independence of Fiji’s law enforcement and judicial systems appears compromised, putting into question protections ordinarily afforded by the rule of law. The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel to the Republic of Fiji at this time. While Fiji’s country situation appears calm on the surface, political, economic, and security uncertainties continue. It is possible that the security situation, especially in Suva, could deteriorate rapidly. American citizens in Fiji should remain vigilant, particularly in public places and near military activities in the greater Suva area, and should avoid demonstrations and large crowds. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful could turn confrontational and escalate into violence unexpectedly.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and 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. and Canada or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Urban areas experience a higher incidence of crime than do other areas. Travelers should protect their valuables and be aware that theft from hotel rooms and purse snatching or pick-pocketing are the most common crimes against tourists. Offenses against persons do occur, and visitors should remain attentive to their personal safety. Tourists should be cautious about sharing too much personal information about their country of origin or lodging. Americans not familiar with their environs should ask hotel staff about areas to avoid at night. Visitors are advised not to walk alone after dark and not to walk alone in isolated areas at any time. Due to crime directed against taxi drivers, travelers should not allow taxis to pick up other passengers while en route and should not enter a taxi that already carries other passengers.
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 U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji at (679) 331-4466 (ask for American Citizen Services). If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney, if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Fiji is 911.

See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Health-care facilities in Fiji are adequate for routine medical problems. Emergency response is extremely limited, and the few ambulances available are poorly equipped and staffed. Two major hospitals, the Lautoka Hospital in the western city of Lautoka, and the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva, provide limited emergency and outpatient services. A private hospital in Suva provides Western-style medical care, and maintains the Fiji Recompression Chamber for the benefit of scuba divers. Other hospitals and clinics provide only a limited range of health services. Medical emergencies may be referred to Australia, New Zealand, or the United States. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States or elsewhere can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Fiji may impose HIV/AIDS travel restrictions on some visa applicants for work permits. Applicants must obtain a medical clearance, and the work permit committee will make the decision to grant the permit on a case-by-case basis. Before traveling, please inquire directly with the Embassy of the Republic of Fiji, 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, No. 240, Washington, DC 20007; telephone (202) 337-8320, or the Fiji Mission to the United Nations in New York.

Fiji is currently experiencing an increased number of Dengue fever cases, with almost 1,000 cases confirmed (but no deaths) since September 1, 2008. Dengue fever is a common disease caused by a virus that humans get by being bitten by infected mosquitoes (usually Aedes aegypti). For more information about Dengue fever, see the CDC website below.

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 if 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 Fiji is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic moves on the left in Fiji. While most roads in urban areas are paved, they are poorly maintained. Roads outside the city are usually not paved. In the city, driving after dark requires heightened attentiveness; outside the city, it is discouraged, except in emergency or exceptional circumstances. Stray animals, unwary pedestrians, and potholes make driving dangerous and particularly hazardous at night.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of Fiji’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.bulafiji.com
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Fiji’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Fiji's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Water Sports: Many visitors to Fiji participate in water sports, including scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, and operating jet-skis. The Embassy strongly recommends that anyone interested in scuba diving and snorkeling while in Fiji check the references, licenses, and equipment of tour operators before agreeing to or paying for a tour. Visitors should rent equipment only from reputable operators and should insist on sufficient training before using the equipment. Rental diving equipment may not always be properly maintained or inspected, and some local dive masters may fail to consider the skill levels of individual tourists when organizing dives. Deaths and serious mishaps have occurred in the past as a result of lack of attention to basic safety measures during diving and snorkeling trips. Surfing on Fiji’s numerous reef breaks can be highly dangerous. Safety precautions and emergency response capabilities may not be up to U.S. standards. Fiji has only one decompression chamber, which is located in Suva, far from most resorts.

Trekking: Terrain in the Fiji islands can be hazardous. Please consult with local guides and/or your place of lodging before undertaking a trek. Americans are also advised to hike with a companion and not to stray from marked or well-worn paths.
Customs: Fiji's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into, or export from, Fiji of items such as alcohol or tobacco products. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Fiji in Washington, DC at (202) 337-8320 for specific information regarding customs requirements. Importation of animals is strictly controlled. Pets may be imported only from designated, rabies-free locales. Those wishing to bring pets to Fiji should contact the Ministry of Agriculture in Suva as much as six months in advance for particulars.

Purchase of Real Estate: U.S. citizens should be aware of the risks inherent in purchasing real estate in Fiji, and should exercise caution before entering into any form of commitment to invest in property there. Investors must recognize the need to obtain authoritative information and to hire competent Fijian legal counsel when contemplating any real estate investment. Fijian law and practices regarding real estate differ substantially from those in the United States.
Notification of Arrest: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so, that if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. According to Fijian law, a criminal detainee may be held for a maximum of 48 hours before being charged. Police authorities normally advise the U.S. Embassy of the detention or arrest of a U.S. citizen within 24 hours of the incident. Nevertheless, U.S. citizens who are detained are encouraged to request that a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Suva be notified.
Natural Disasters: Fiji is located in an area of high seismic activity. Although the probability of a major earthquake occurring during a particular trip is remote, earthquakes can and do occur. The cyclone season is November through April. The Fiji Meteorological Service maintains a Tropical Cyclone Warning Center (TCWC) in Nadi serving the Southwest Pacific Region. General information regarding disaster preparedness is available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site, and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) home page at http://www.fema.gov/
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Fijian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Fiji are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on international adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Fiji are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Suva through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Fiji. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the U.S. embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 31 Loftus Street in Fiji’s capital city of Suva. The telephone number is (679) 331-4466; the fax number is (679) 330-2267. Information may also be obtained by visiting the U.S. Embassy’s home page at http://suva.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated February 5, 2008, to update the sections on Information for Victims of Crime, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2020 04:44:41 +0100 (MET)

Suva, Fiji, Jan 17, 2020 (AFP) - Fiji opened evacuation centres and warned of "destructive force winds" Friday as a cyclone bore down on the Pacific island nation for the second time in three weeks.   Two people were missing after attempting to swim across a swollen river late Thursday when heavy rain fell ahead of the advancing Cyclone Tino, police said.   On the outer islands, locals prepared to go to emergency shelters while many tourists fled beach resorts and made their way to the capital Suva before regional flights and inter-island ferry services were suspended.

The Fiji Meteorological Service said Tino was strengthening as it headed for Fiji's second-largest island, Vanua Levu, warning of wind gusts of up to 130 kilometres per hour (80 mph), heavy rain, coastal flooding and flash flooding in low lying areas.    "I'm preparing to go to an evacuation centre soon with my family and wait for the cyclone to pass," Nischal Prasad, who lost his home in northern Vanua Legu when Cyclone Sarai struck just after Christmas, told AFP.   "Sarai destroyed my house and almost left my family homeless. My daughters had to hide under their bed from the strong winds. It was a scary experience," he said.

Russian tourist Inna Kostromina, 35, said she sought safety in Suva after being told her island resort was in the path of the cyclone.   "We didn't want to get stuck in there and with the authorities warning of coastal flooding, anything can happen. So we decided to move to Suva for now. I think we will be much safer here."    Police said a man and his daughter, believed to be aged nine or 10, were attempting to swim across a flooded river when they were caught in the strong currents.    The incident happened on Thursday before the storm developed into a tropical cyclone, but a police spokesman linked the tragedy to "heavy rain brought about by the current weather system (which) raised the river level".   Although the Pacific islands are popular tourist destinations in summer it is also the cyclone season, and Fiji is being targeted for the second time in three weeks.

In late December, Tropical Cyclone Sarai left two people dead and more than 2,500 needing emergency shelter as it damaged houses, crops and trees and cut electricity supplies.    On its present track, Tino would hit Tongatapu, the main island of neighbouring Tonga, on the weekend.    Two years ago, Tongatapu was hit by Cyclone Gina, with two people killed and nearly 200 houses destroyed.
Date: Wed 25 Dec 2019
Source: Fiji Sun [abridged, edited]

People above the age of 39 can get vaccinated after Boxing Day [26 Dec 2019], Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete said. Previously, target groups were from the ages of 19-39. Dr. Waqainabete said they had extra vaccines available, and this age-group could visit any health centre.

He had spent a day visiting health centres, villages and the Savusavu Sub-divisional Hospital in Vanua Levu, where the measles immunisation campaign was held on Monday [23 Dec 2019]. He complimented the efforts put in by doctors and nurses in making sure they reached out to the target groups since the outbreak was declared on 7 Nov 2019.

"I am confident that we will complete the vaccination of target groups by end of Christmas Eve [24 Dec 2019]," Dr. Waqainabete said. "Target groups are all children aged 6 months to 5 years, people born between 1980 and 2000, children who haven't received 2 doses of measles according to the national immunisation schedule, health workers, airport and port entry workers and hotel staff, and any person in Fiji traveling to overseas."

He said their advisory for measles against mass gather[ing]s continued. "Christmas and Boxing Day holidays are an opportune time for families to spend some quiet time together," he said. "I am confident that once we complete this immunisation campaign for the highest risk groups, we will be okay as a nation for the new year."  There are now 24 confirmed cases of measles in Fiji. [Byline: Shratika Naidu]
Date: Wed 11 Dec 2019
Source: KHON2 [abridged, edited]

Fiji's Ministry of Health and Medical Services has confirmed at least 19 cases of measles. The latest case is a 9-month-old [from Rewa], who is reported to be in stable condition.

The government issued a statement on its Facebook page.

Response teams have been investigating the outbreak. Quarantines and vaccinations in at-risk communities have been implemented, and non-essential travel is discouraged.

Fiji is about 800 mi [1287 km] away from Samoa, which is also experiencing a measles outbreak.
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[Population in Fiji, 2018 estimate: 912 241

Also see Fiji Ministry of Health & Medical Services' Measles media release 14, 11 Dec 2019 (<http://www.health.gov.fj/?p=7842>).

Latest confirmed case is a 9-month-old from Davuilevu in Rewa, who stayed at Saumakia Settlement in Naitasiri, and the Korovou Prison Compound in Suva. This child is currently admitted in a stable condition under isolation in the CWM Hospital. The outbreak response teams are conducting investigations in the respective locations listed, with quarantine and vaccination of contacts and at-risk communities as appropriate.

The 19 cases to date are from the following areas in the Central division: 12 cases from the Serua/Namosi subdivision (Wailali, Wainadoi, Navunikabi, and Makosoi Deuba); 4 cases from Suva subdivision (Samabula, Vatuwaqa, Tacirua, Wailekutu); and 3 cases from Rewa subdivision (Koronivia, Nasilai Village Nakelo, Davuilevu).

In Central division, over 85 000 people in the target groups have been vaccinated since the 2nd phase of the measles mass immunisation campaign that began on 4 Dec [2019]. This is in addition to the approximately 100 000 people who were vaccinated nationwide since the outbreak was declared on 7 Nov [2019]. For Serua/Namosi, 97% of the targeted population has been vaccinated.  [Byline: Sunil Chandra]
Date: Sun, 1 Sep 2019 18:46:32 +0200 (METDST)

Sydney, Sept 1, 2019 (AFP) - A strong earthquake struck the Pacific Ocean between Fiji and Tonga early Monday, but there was no tsunami warning, the United States Geological Survey said.   The quake, at a depth of 616 kilometres (382 miles), struck 30 kilometres northeast of Ndoi island and about 400 kilometres from the Fijian capital Suva, USGS said.   "Some areas may have experienced moderate shaking," the US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said, adding there was no tsunami threat.
21 Aug 2019

Fiji has recorded 1894 dengue cases in the 1st 4 months of this year [2019], which is predicted to go down as the dengue-preventing program goes forward, according to the Ministry of Health on Tuesday [20 Aug 2019]. Last year [2018], the island nation reported 9 deaths and 4000 cases of dengue fever.
HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Fiji:
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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: