23rd September 2008
Ghana is a developing country on the West Coast of Africa. The capital is Accra. Facilities for tourism are available in the population centers of the greater Accra regio
A passport and visa are required, as is evidence of a yellow fever vaccination. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of Ghana, 3512 International Drive NW, Washington, DC
20008; telephone (202) 686-4520. Consular services are also available at the Ghana Permanent Mission to the UN at 19 East 47th Street, New York, NY
10017, telephone (212) 832-1300, and the Honorary Consulate of Ghana, 3434 Locke Lane, Houston, TX, telephone (713) 960-8806. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Ghanaian embassy or consulate. Visit the Embassy of Ghana web site at www.ghanaembassy.org for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Due to the potential for violence, U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. There will be frequent political rallies across Ghana in the run-up to the presidential and parliamentary elections on December 7, 2008.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for other callers, 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.
Pick-pocketing, purse snatching, and various types of scams are the most common forms of crime confronting visitors. U.S. travelers have reported these types of theft at crowded markets, beaches, parks, and tourist attractions. Incidences of violent crime, such as armed robbery, are on the rise, including reports of armed robberies in expatriate residential areas. Victims who resist attackers run a high risk of serious physical injury. Take security measures, such as traveling in groups and avoiding travel at night. Avoid travel in communal taxis. Travelers who limit their display of jewelry and handle their cash discreetly reduce their vulnerability to crime. Travelers are advised to carry limited amounts of cash and only photocopies of key documents.
Use of credit cards in Ghana should be avoided if possible, as a growing number of travelers have been victims of credit card fraud.
In recent years, U.S. citizens have reported substantial financial losses from questionable transactions involving gold and other precious metals. The Government of Ghana maintains strict regulations on these natural resources. All agents must be licensed and all transactions must be certified. (See Special Circumstances below).
Perpetrators of business fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. Such fraud schemes are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Ghana.
Please refer to the Country Commercial Guide for Ghana at http://www.buyusa.gov/ghana/en/doing_business_in_ghana.html, for further information.
American citizens frequently consult the Embassy regarding questionable business offers sent by people in Ghana. These are scams and typically begin with an unsolicited communication (usually by e-mail) from an unknown individual who describes a situation that promises quick financial gain, often by assisting in the transfer of a large sum of money or valuables out of the country.
A series of “advance fees” must be paid in order to conclude the transaction, such as fees to open a bank account or to pay certain taxes.
In fact, the final payoff does not exist; the purpose of the scams is simply to collect money from the victim.
The Embassy has also received reports of fraudulent charities soliciting contributions through the Internet or direct mail. If you receive such business offers or charity requests, carefully check them out before you commit any funds, provide any goods or services, or undertake any travel. Check with the U.S. Embassy in Ghana at telephone (233-21) 741-100 for an assessment of the offer’s credibility.
Another type of fraud is committed by persons claiming to live in Ghana or who claim to be traveling to Ghana on business, and who profess friendship or romantic interest over the Internet. Once a relationship has been established, the correspondent typically asks the American to send money for living expenses, travel expenses, or visa costs. Sometimes a “hospital” or “doctor” telephones to say that the friend has suffered an “accident” and needs immediate financial assistance to cover medical bills. There are other variations of this scam, but the common goal is to fraudulently obtain as much money as possible from the victim.
Americans have reported losing thousands of dollars through such scams. The anonymity of the Internet means that the victim cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality, or even gender of the correspondent. In most cases reported to the Embassy, the correspondent turned out to be a fictitious persona created to lure Americans into sending money.
Visitors to Ghana should also be wary of overly-friendly locals offering tours, discounted lodging or other services that seem too good to be true.
Tourists are often targeted by touts and scam artists.
Some Americans have been the victims of false criminal accusations and have found themselves separated from time, money and trust as they seek to resolve these difficult situations.
For additional information, please see the Department of State brochure International Financial Scams.
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/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.
Ghana maintains a specialized Domestic Violence Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU) within the Ghana Police Service to assist victims of domestic violence, especially women and children. In addition to its law enforcement responsibilities, the Unit can refer victims to medical providers and counselors, as well as to community support services. Further information is available by following the DOVVSU link at www.ghanapolice.org
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Ghana is: 191
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in Ghana are limited, particularly outside Accra, the capital. Travelers should carry adequate supplies of any needed prescription medicines, along with copies of their prescriptions, the generic name of the drugs, and a supply of preferred over-the-counter medications. For information on avian influenza (bird flu), please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.
Documentation of Yellow fever vaccination is required upon arrival from all countries.
There are no HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ghana.
Motor vehicle accidents, drownings and water-related accidents due to Ghana’s rough surf, muggings and other violent attacks, and the development of sexually transmitted diseases—including HIV—are
health and safety concerns that have been reported by U.S. citizens and can be at least partially mitigated by using common-sense safety precautions.
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
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Ghana is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Primary roads are generally paved and well maintained. However, some side roads within major cities and roads outside of major cities are in poor condition. The road from Accra to the central region tourist area of Cape Coast continues to be the site of many accidents. Travel in darkness, particularly outside the major cities, is extremely hazardous, due to poor street lighting and the unpredictable behavior of pedestrians, bicyclists and farm animals, particularly goats and sheep. Aggressive drivers, poorly maintained vehicles and overloaded vehicles pose serious threats to road safety.
The safety standards of the small private buses that transit roads and highways are uncertain. Travelers are encouraged to consider this when making travel arrangements.
Travelers are routinely stopped at police checkpoints throughout Ghana, and vehicles and passengers may be searched. Drivers must possess an international driver’s license (available from AAA and the American Automobile Touring Alliance). Foreign nationals should carry documentation of their status, such as a passport and visa.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Ghana’s national tourist office at http://www.touringghana.com/default.asp and the national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.mrt.gov.gh/
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ghana’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Ghana’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Service provided by a number of regional air carriers is reported to be unreliable. The airlines may alter scheduled stops, cancel or postpone flights on short notice, and regularly overbook flights. Travelers may experience unexpected delays even after checking in. Passengers should get the required seat reconfirmation stamped on the ticket, have enough emergency funds for food and lodging in case of unexpected delays, and arrive at the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure time.
Effective July 1, 2007, the Government of Ghana redenominated the local currency, the cedi, introducing new banknotes (Ghana Cedi) and coins (Ghana Pesewa). 10,000 cedis = 1 Ghana Cedi = 100 Ghana Pesewas. The old cedi was taken out of circulation on December 31, 2007, and as of January 1, 2008, can be converted only at commercial banks or the Bank of Ghana. Travelers should be alert to persons who may try to defraud them with the old and new bills. The Government of Ghana established a web site in 2007, www.ghanacedi.gov.gh, to inform the public about the redenomination exercise. The web site includes a useful currency converter.
Visitors arriving or departing Ghana with more than $5,000 in cash are required to declare the amount at the border. Currency exchange is available at most banks and at licensed foreign exchange bureaus, but currency transactions with private citizens are illegal. The Government of Ghana also prohibits departing travelers from carrying more than 5,000,000 cedis (500 Ghana Cedis) out of the country. Ghanaian currency must either be spent or exchanged before departure, or it will be confiscated.
Strict customs regulations govern temporary importation into or export from Ghana of items such as gold, diamonds and precious natural resources. Only agents licensed by the Precious Metals and Mining Commission, telephone (233-21) 664-635 or 664-579, may handle import-export transactions of these natural resources. Any transaction without the commission’s endorsement is illegal and/or fraudulent. All transactions must be completed through the commission at the price set daily by the London exchange. Any transaction that discounts this price, or includes a previously negotiated price, is either illegal or fraudulent. Export of gold dust is rare as it encourages dangerous and environmentally destructive practices, and transactions involving the export of gold dust are probably fraudulent. Attempts to evade regulations are punishable by imprisonment. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Ghana in Washington, DC, or one of the Ghanaian consulates in the United States, for specific information regarding customs requirements.
In rare instances, visitors arriving in Ghana with sophisticated electronic equipment (video cameras and laptop computers) may have to deposit 17.5 per cent of the item's value with the Customs and Excise office at the airport. To get the deposit refunded, visitors must apply to the Customs and Excise Office in central Accra 48 hours before departure.
Taking pictures near sensitive installations, including military sites and some government buildings, is prohibited. These sites are not always clearly marked and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation. Permission may be obtained from Ghanaian security personnel. Permission should also be obtained before photographing anyone in uniform (e.g., police officers and military officers). In some cases, film and cameras have been confiscated. For security reasons, taking photographs of the U.S. Embassy is also prohibited.
It is strictly prohibited to wear any military apparel such as camouflage jackets or trousers, or any clothing or items that may appear military in nature.
Please see our Customs Information.
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 Ghana laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ghana are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long 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.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Ghana are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Ghana. 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. The U.S. Embassy is located at No. 24 Fourth Circular Road, Cantonments, Accra; telephone (233-21)741-000. The public entrance to the Consular Section is No. 19 Fifth Link Road, Cantonments, Accra; telephone (233-21) 741-100; fax (233-21) 741-362 or 741-426; after-hours (233-21) 741-775.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Ghana dated February 21, 2008, to update sections on safety and security, crime, information for victims of crime, and medical facilities and health information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Accra, Oct 18, 2019 (AFP) - Floods caused by eight days of torrential downpours in north-eastern Ghana have left 28 people dead and displaced hundreds, officials said Friday. "At the moment the death toll is 28. About 640 people in some six communities have been displaced and we are providing shelters for them," George Ayisi, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Organisation, told AFP. "We've counted about 286 collapsed houses during this disaster and that is making life difficult for the people."
Relief items were being transported 800 kilometres (500 miles) by road from the capital Accra to the affected region on the border with Burkina Faso as meteorologists warned the rains could last into November. "We have to just prepare for anything," Ayisi said. So far this year 46 people have been killed in floods in the West African nation, the disaster relief agency said. Flooding in northern and other parts of Ghana happens each year during the rainy season. Last year, 34 people died in northern Ghana during flooding caused by heavy rains and waters spilling from a dam in Burkina Faso.
Received from HPSC (Ireland)
HPSC website: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/vaccinepreventable/polio/
HPSC has received an alert through IHR regarding a recent case of cVDPV2 in a 2 year old female in Ghana who presented with AFP. Hence the cVDPV2 outbreak originating in Jigawa state, Nigeria, continues to spread in West Africa. Given cross-border population movements with Nigeria and across West Africa, subnational immunity and surveillance gaps, Ghana is considered at high-risk for further transmission of the isolated cVDPV2. In Ghana, the last wild poliovirus was reported in 2008 and this is the first ever cVDPV2 outbreak reported in the country. [Authorities in] G
cVDPV2 outbreak originating in Jigawa state, Nigeria, continues to spread in West Africa. In Ghana, cVDPV2 was isolated from an acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) case in Ando-Nyamanu, Chereponi district, Northern Region, bordering Togo. The case is a two-year and eight-month old girl who had onset of paralysis on 27 July 2019. Stool samples were taken on 27 and 28 July 2019 and were sent to the National Polio Laboratory at Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research for laboratory investigations. The sample tested positive for cVDPV2 as per result received on 17 August 2019. The sequencing information of the AFP case revealed 25 nucleotide differences compared to the reference Sabin 2 and 6 nucleotides with the closest matching sequence of the AFP case from Kwara State of Nigeria in 2018. Earlier, a related cVDPV2 had been isolated from an environmental sample, collected on 11 June 2019, from Northern Region in Ghana. Both isolated viruses are linked to an outbreak originating in Jigawa, Nigeria, in 2018. This same strain has already spread within Nigeria, and internationally to the Republic of Niger, Benin and Cameroon. On 25 August 2019, the Polio Laboratory reported the isolation of polio virus type 2 in an environmental surveillance (ES) site at Agbogbloshie in Accra, Greater Accra Region, from routine surveillance. This was confirmed as cVDPV2 on 26 August. An emergency meeting with key stakeholders and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was held on the 19 August 2019, to discuss response measures in response to this, the Ministry of Health / Ghana Health Service has taken these immediate actions: 1. A national team made up of the Ghana Health Service and the WHO has been deployed to support the regional and district teams carry out detailed investigations and response measures
The Ministry of Health has declared detection of this virus to be a national public health emergency, in line with temporary recommendations issued by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the international spread of poliovirus. The Ministry of Health and its Partners are working tirelessly to contain the situation and to prevent the spread of the disease.
2. A full epidemiological and field investigation is ongoing, active surveillance is being strengthened, subnational population immunity levels are being analysed and outbreak response actions are being planned
3. Areas at risk are mapped conduction of reactive vaccination campaign in the affected and adjoining high risk districts and planned following approval from the Polio Advisory Group for monovalent Oral Polio Vaccine Type 2 (mOPV2)
Given cross-border population movements with Nigeria and across West Africa, subnational immunity and surveillance gaps, Ghana is considered at high-risk for further transmission of the isolated cVDPV2. As the current detected case is in a district sharing international land border with Togo where there is a very low population immunity against type 2 poliovirus (IPV coverage of 20% in 2018), there is an increased risk of further international spread of this outbreak. As this outbreak, originating in Jigawa Nigeria has already spread to Niger, Cameroon and Benin the risk of further international spread across West Africa associated with this virus, remains high.
It is important that all countries, in particular those with frequent travel and contacts with polio-affected countries and areas, strengthen surveillance for AFP cases in order to rapidly detect any new virus importation and to facilitate a rapid response. Countries, territories and areas should also maintain uniformly high routine immunization coverage at the district level to minimize the consequences of any new virus introduction.
<< < P <<>Polio is a highly infectious disease and can cause permanent paralysis or death. The risk of paralytic polio due to exposure to cVDPV2 remains high due to the low population immunity against polio type-2 virus, after the global switch from trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent OPV (bOPV). The national immunization coverage for Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV) in Ghana was 55% for 2018 (WHO/UNICEF estimation). Poliovirus is a pathogen slated for global eradication. In July 2019, cVDPV2 has been confirmed in Ghana in an environmental sample and the last wild poliovirus was reported in 2008. Any detected Poliovirus subtype either in humans or the environment after the global synchronized withdrawal of tOPV in April 2016 is unusual and unexpected and remains to be of a huge cause of concern. Poliovirus spreads easily and across large distances. There is evidence of genetic linkage of polio virus isolated from Ghana with polio viruses originating in, Nigeria which has already spread to Niger, Cameroon and Benin. The Chereponi district from where the case is reported also shares an international border with Togo that has low population immunity to type 2 Polio (IPV coverage was 20% for 2018). The risk of further spread to Togo cannot be ruled out.
WHO does not recommend any restriction on travel and/or trade to Ghana based on the information available for the current polio outbreak.
cVDPV2 outbreak originating in Jigawa state, Nigeria, continues to spread in West Africa. In Ghana, cVDPV2 was isolated from an acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) case in Ando-Nyamanu, Chereponi district, Northern Region, bordering Togo. The case is a two-year and eight-month old girl who had onset of paralysis on 27 July 2019. Stool samples were taken on 27 and 28 July 2019 and were sent to the National Polio Laboratory at Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research for laboratory investigations. The sample tested positive for cVDPV2 as per result received on 17 August 2019. The sequencing information of the AFP case revealed 25 nucleotide differences compared to the reference Sabin 2 and 6 nucleotides with the closest matching sequence of the AFP case from Kwara State of Nigeria in 2018. Earlier, a related cVDPV2 had been isolated from an environmental sample, collected on 11 June 2019, from Northern Region in Ghana. Both isolated viruses are linked to an outbreak originating in Jigawa, Nigeria, in 2018. This same strain has already spread within Nigeria, and internationally to the Republic of Niger, Benin and Cameroon.
On 25 August 2019, the Polio Laboratory reported the isolation of polio virus type 2 in an environmental surveillance (ES) site at Agbogbloshie in Accra, Greater Accra Region, from routine surveillance. This was confirmed as cVDPV2 on 26 August.
An emergency meeting with key stakeholders and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was held on the 19 August 2019, to discuss response measures in response to this, the Ministry of Health / Ghana Health Service has taken these immediate actions:
1. A national team made up of the Ghana Health Service and the WHO has been deployed to support the regional and district teams carry out detailed investigations and response measures
By Stacey KNOTT
Cape Coast, Ghana, April 30, 2019 (AFP) - Ghana on Tuesday rolled out the world's only proven malaria vaccine for infants as part of a landmark campaign against the deadly mosquito-borne disease, one week after Malawi became the first country to do so. Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, mainly in Africa, and it is hoped a vaccine will bring down the toll. Children are especially at risk, and babies were Ghana's first vaccine recipients Tuesday in the town of Cape Coast, 150 kilometres (90 miles) west of the capital Accra. "I hope this will help us to be able to eliminate malaria, so Ghana can be a malaria-free country," said Justice Arthur, the doctor running the clinic.
The vaccines will be given to children between the ages of six months and two years, in a project run by Ghana's health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO). "I am really hopeful that the vaccine is going to help me and my family," said Abigail Aguanyi, a woman waiting to get her child, Blessing, vaccinated. Many of her family members had previously been stricken. The vaccine, known by its lab initials RTS,S, has passed lengthy scientific trials which found it to be safe and effective at preventing about four in ten cases of malaria in infants -- the best ever recorded. To achieve this level of partial protection, four successive doses must be administered on a strict timetable -- a challenge for rural Africa.
- 'Exciting' -
The rollout in Ghana, Malawi, and soon also Kenya, will seek to evaluate the vaccine's effectiveness as a complementary tool, augmenting -- but not replacing -- measures such as insecticide-treated bed nets and the use of sprays. It will also test the feasibility of administering the four required doses in children in areas of the world with limited access to healthcare. Data from the programme will inform a WHO policy on the broader use of RTS,S. Malaria is spread to people by mosquitoes, which transfer the parasite while sucking blood from humans. RTS,S is effective against the Plasmodium falciparum parasite most prevalent in Africa. In Ghana alone, there were 5.5 million confirmed cases of malaria last year, and many more suspected.
Worldwide, the WHO says malaria killed 435,000 people worldwide in 2017. The number of cases climbed to 219 million in 2017, two million more than in 2016. Over 90 percent of cases occurred in Africa. "This is an exciting and long-awaited step forward to fight malaria and its devastating effects on the most vulnerable," said WHO boss in Ghana, Owen Kaluwa.
World Travel News Headlines
By Su Xinqi, Jerome TAYLOR
Hong Kong, Jan 25, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong on Saturday declared a new coronavirus outbreak as an "emergency" -- the city's highest warning tier -- as authorities ramped up measures to reduce the risk of further infections. The announcement came as city leader Carrie Lam faced criticism in some quarters over her administration's response to the crisis.
Of the five people who have tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong so far, four arrived via a newly built high-speed train terminal which connects with the mainland. That led to calls from some medical experts and politicians to limit, or even halt, arrivals from China, the epicentre of the outbreak with 41 people dead.
Lam held emergency meetings with health officials on Saturday morning after returning from Davos. "Today I declare the lifting of the response level to emergency," she told reporters. Schools and universities, which are currently on a Lunar New Year break, would remain closed until 17 February, Lam said. All mainland arrivals to Hong Kong will now need to sign health declaration forms, she added, while public events including a new year gala and next month's marathon, would also be called off. "We haven't seen serious and widespread infections (in Hong Kong), but we are taking this seriously and we hope to be ahead of the epidemic," Lam said.
- Tragic past -
Hong Kong has a recent experience of deadly viral outbreaks. Nearly 300 people were killed by SARS in 2003, a tragedy that left a profound psychological impact on one of the most densely populated places on earth. The city's ability to combat the crisis was hampered by moves in mainland China to cover up and play down the outbreak, leaving a lasting legacy of distrust among many Hong Kongers. Animosity towards the mainland has intensified in recent years as Beijing tightens political control over the semi-autonomous territory.
The outbreak also comes at a sensitive time for Lam, who currently boasts record low approval ratings after seven months of pro-democracy protests. "We must stand united so that we can prevent and control the disease," she said, in a nod to the political unrest. The often violent protests have battered Hong Kong's reputation for stability and helped tip it into recession, with the recent virus outbreak compounding the city's economic woes.
Hospitals are already struggling with the winter flu season, but officials are isolating anyone with a history of travel to central China and those exhibiting respiratory tract infections that look similar to the virus. So far some 300 people have been tested and monitored for the virus. Quarantine centres have been set up in remote holiday parks for anyone found to have come into close contact with people who tested positive. On Saturday, officials announced a newly built but still-empty public housing block would be used for medical staff on the frontline who did not want to risk returning to their families.
Elazig, Turkey, Jan 25, 2020 (AFP) - A powerful earthquake has killed at least 20 people and injured more than 1,000 in eastern Turkey, as rescue teams searched through the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors on Saturday. At least 30 people were missing following the magnitude 6.8 quake on Friday night, which had its epicentre in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in the eastern province of Elazig. "It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside," 47-year-old Melahat Can, who lives in the provincial capital of Elazig, told AFP. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to aid people affected by the quake, which caused widespread fear. "We stand by our people," Erdogan said on Twitter.
The Turkish government's disaster and emergency management agency (AFAD) said the quake hit Sivrice at around 8.55 pm (1755 GMT). Turkey lies on major faultlines and is prone to frequent earthquakes. Turkish television showed images of people rushing outside in panic, as well as a fire on the roof of a building. Interior, environment and health ministers, who were in the quake zone, said the casulties were in Elazig province and in the neighbouring province of Malatya, which lies to the southwest.
At least 20 people died and 1,015 others were wounded, according to AFAD. "There is nobody trapped under the rubble in Malatya but in Elazig search and rescue efforts are currently under way to find 30 citizens," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Friday. Rescue teams were searching for survivors trapped in a five-storey collapsed building in a village some 30 kilometres from Elazig, according to AFP journalists at the scene. One person was pulled alive from the rubble. Emergency staff and people waiting at the scene lit fires in the streets to stay warm in freezing temperatures. Sports centres, schools and guest houses had been opened to accommodate quake victims in Malatya.
- 'Everybody is in the street' -
Sivrice -- a town with a population of about 4,000 people -- is situated south of Elazig city on the shores of Hazar lake -- one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris river. The lake is home to a "Sunken City", with archaeological traces dating back 4,000 years in its waters.
The tremor was felt in several parts of eastern Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, the Turkish broadcaster NTV reported, adding that neighbouring cities had mobilised rescue teams for the quake area. "Everybody is in the street, it was very powerful, very scary," said Zekeriya Gunes, 68, from Elazig city, after the quakes caused a building to collapse on her street. "It lasted quite long, maybe 30 seconds," added Ferda, 39. "I panicked and was undecided whether to go out in this cold or remain inside."
The US Geological Survey assessed the magnitude as 6.7, slightly lower than AFAD, adding that it struck near the East Anatolian Fault in an area that has suffered no documented large ruptures since an earthquake in 1875. "My wholehearted sympathy to President @RTErdogan and the Turkish people following the devastating earthquake that has hit Turkey. Our search and rescue teams stand ready to assist," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter. In Athens, the Greek premier's office said later that Mitsotakis had spoken by phone to Erdogan. "The Turkish president... said Turkish teams had the situation under control for now and that it would be re-evaluated in the morning," his office added.
In 1999, a devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Izmit in western Turkey, leaving more than 17,000 people dead including about 1,000 in the country's largest city Istanbul. In September last year, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Istanbul, causing residents to flee buildings in the economic capital. Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate the city of 15 million people, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.
By Albert Kambale with Samir Tounsi in Kinshasa
Masisi, DR Congo, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - In eastern DR Congo, thousands have fled violence to camps in the remote mountain forests where they battle cholera, hunger and misery in a forgotten humanitarian disaster. Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has long struggled with violence from several militia groups, a legacy of the 1990s Congo wars that dragged in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. The region is now also the epicentre of the latest Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 2,200 people since August 2018.
Away from the Ebola headlines, tens of thousands of people are scattered in squalid camps across the mountains around Masisi, where they have fled, traumatised by violence, starving and with no chance to return home. "I fled my village after clashes broke out," said Gentille, a 26-year-old Hutu Congolese. "We could no longer go to the fields. Many people died because clashes broke out in the middle of the village, very early one morning."
That fighting broke out in November and December involving one of the so-called Mai-Mai militia, the Nduma Defense of the Congo-Renove (NDC-R) and a coalition of other armed rivals, according to UN experts. Now Gentille, a mother of five lives in a camp of 8,000 displaced people. Along with the unsanitary conditions, a lack of clean water and food, since late last year, a cholera and measles outbreak has worsened life in the camps. Several anti-cholera treatment units have been opened by Doctors without Borders (MSF), which reports 520 cases and two deaths. "Three of my children got cholera. One died," says Gentille. "Here in the camp, we do not have enough toilets. More than 180 people use the same toilet. Since it is always busy, the children defecate outside and all around."
Around 685,000 displaced people survive in the mountainous areas, estimates MSF, a figure the aid group hopes will draw attention of the donors. A year after coming to power, President Felix Tshisekedi has promised far-reaching reforms and a crackdown on corruption. But militia violence and ethnic clashes still undermine security of populations in the east.
Kathmandu, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - Health authorities in Nepal on Friday confirmed that a student who returned from Wuhan, China tested positive for the new coronavirus, becoming the first South Asian country to report the deadly disease. The 32-year-old student arrived in Nepal on January 9, and entered the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Kathmandu four days later after running a fever and reporting trouble breathing, hospital spokesperson Anup Bastola told AFP.
The health ministry confirmed the case in a statement. "The results of a sample, sent to Hong Kong, have returned positive," Bastola told AFP. "He was discharged after recovery. We are monitoring the patient and he and his family members are healthy. So are all the health workers in the hospital," Bastola said.
Nepal's health ministry also said in a statement that surveillance has been increased at the airport, "and suspicious patients entering Nepal are being monitored with correct manpower and equipment". At least 26 people have been killed by the previously unknown SARS-like coronavirus. Cases have been reported in half a dozen countries, including the United States.
Antananarivo, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - At least 26 people have died in Madagascar after almost a week of heavy rain in the north-west of the island, the government said on Friday. The tropical Indian Ocean nation is in the midst of an intense six-month rainy season that often results in casualties and widespread damage. Flooding in the districts of Mitsinjo and Maevatanana has claimed at least 26 lives since Sunday, and 15 more people are still missing and thousands have been displaced, the National Bureau of Disaster Risk Management (BNGRC) announced on Friday. Strips of road were swept away by the rains and access to affected areas has been cut off.
The BNGRC warned that flooding in lowland and rice-growing areas also posed a risk of "food insecurity and malnutrition". A disruption in the supply of basic goods could also lead to surge in prices, it added. Prime Minister Christian Ntsay declared the situation a "national loss". "The government is calling on national figures and international partners to help the Malagasy people with emergency aid, early recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction," spokeswoman Lalatiana Andriatongarivo said in a statement. The rainy season usually stretches from October to April in Madagascar, a former French colony off Africa's south-eastern coast.
Global warming has increased the risk and intensity of flooding, as the atmosphere holds more water and rainfall patterns are disrupted. Built-up urban areas with poor drainage systems are especially vulnerable to heavy downpours, scientists say. Nine people were killed in January 2019 after heavy rains caused a building to collapse in the capital Antananarivo. During this period, the country is also often hit by cyclones and other tropical storms. Cyclone Belna landed in the northwest last month, killing at least two people and displacing hundreds.
Beijing, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - China has quarantined cities and shut major tourist attractions from Disneyland to the Forbidden City and a section of the Great Wall as it scrambles to stop a deadly SARS-like virus from spreading further. The drastic moves come as hundreds of millions of people criss-crossed the country in recent days to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, which officially started Friday and is typically a joyous time of gatherings and public celebration. Here is a rundown of the measures taken so far in an unprecedented quarantine effort:
- Cities under lockdown -
Public transport has been stopped in 13 cities in central Hubei province, with train stations shut, events cancelled and theatres, libraries and karaoke bars closed in some locations. The epicentre of the outbreak is provincial capital Wuhan, the biggest city on lockdown, where the government has halted all travel out of the Yangtze River metropolis of 11 million. Wuhan residents have been told to stay home and authorities are limiting the number of taxis allowed on roads. There are few flights available to the city, deepening the isolation. Similar quarantine measures are being taken in the other, smaller cities. These include strict controls on weddings and funerals, temperature screening of people as they arrive and the suspension of online taxi services. More than 41 million people in total are affected by the city shutdowns.
- Festivities cancelled -
Wuhan and Beijing have cancelled public events that usually attract hundreds of thousands of people to temples during the New Year holiday. Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has asked China's 1.4 billion citizens to forego New Year gatherings and confine themselves at home until all is clear. To discourage nationwide travel, the government also said all tickets for rail, air, road, or water transport could be refunded.
- Attractions closed -
The historic Forbidden City, a sprawling imperial palace in Beijing that is one of the country's most revered cultural sites, will temporarily close from Saturday. Other famous landmarks including a section of the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs and Yinshan Pagoda are also not open to visitors. Shanghai Disneyland said it would shut for an indefinite period "to ensure the health and safety of our guests and cast". Women's Olympics football qualifiers scheduled for February 3-9 in Wuhan have been moved to the eastern city of Nanjing.
- Temperature checks -
Staff in full body protective suits were seen checking the temperatures of people entering a subway station in Beijing on Friday. The country has ordered sterilisation and ventilation at airports and bus stations, as well as inside planes and trains, while travellers are being screened for fever. Health authorities are urging people to wash their hands regularly, avoid crowded places, get plenty of fresh air and wear a mask if they have a cough. In Wuhan, city authorities have made it mandatory to wear a mask in public places. In response to skyrocketing demand for masks -- starting to sell out at pharmacies and on some popular websites -- China's industry and information technology ministry said it would "spare no effort in increasing supply".
- A new hospital -
In Wuhan, authorities are rushing to build a new hospital in a staggering 10 days as a rising number of patients are infected by the new coronavirus. The facility is expected to be in use by February 3 and will have a capacity of 1,000 beds spread over 25,000 square metres, according to state media. Dozens of excavators and trucks were filmed working on the site by state broadcaster CCTV. Its construction began after reports surfaced of bed shortages in hospitals designated as dealing with the outbreak, which has now infected 830 people across China.
Beijing, Jan 24, 2020 (AFP) - China announced Friday it will close a section of the Great Wall and other famous Beijing landmarks to control the spread of a deadly virus that has infected hundreds of people across the country. A range of Lunar New Year festivities have been cancelled to try to contain the virus, and Beijing's Forbidden City and Shanghai's Disneyland have also been closed temporarily.
The Ming Tombs and Yinshan Pagoda will also be closed from Saturday, the authority that oversees the sites said, while the Bird's Nest stadium -- the site of the 2008 Olympic Games -- was shuttered from Friday. The Great Wall attracts around 10 million tourists a year and is a popular destination for visitors during the New Year holiday. The Juyongguan section will close, while the Great Wall temple fair was cancelled at the Simatai section of the famous landmark.
Tourists at the Gubei water town by the Simatai section will have their temperature tested, the authority said in a statement on the WeChat social media app. The Bird's Nest will be closed until January 30 in order to "prevent and control" the spread of the virus, authorities said. An ice and snow show taking place on the pitch will be closed. The measures in the capital are the latest to try and control the outbreak of the new coronavirus, after authorities rapidly expanded a mammoth
The previously unknown virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. Although there have only been 29 confirmed cases in Beijing, city authorities have cancelled large-scaled Lunar New Year events this week. The city government said it would call off events including two popular temple fairs, which have attracted massive crowds of tourists in past years. Beijing's Forbidden City -- which saw 19 million visitors last year -- is usually packed with tourists during the Lunar New Year festival, when hundreds of millions of people travel across China.