Its climate is bleak and Arctic, although rapid changes like bright sunshine and powerful blizzards are common. Average January and July temperatures in the south are 21°F (-6°C) and 45°F (7°C). In the north, average January and July temperatures are -31°F (-35°C) and 39°F (4°C). Average monthly precipitation decreases from 9 inches (24 cm) in the south to about half an inch (1.5 cm) in the north. Although summer rainfall is concentrated in the southwest, snow can fall in any month. Summers can be rather pleasant on the southwest coast, but the inland ice is uniformly cold, with a July average of 10°F (-12°C) and a February mean of -53°F (-47°C).
Recent medical and dental exams should ensure that the traveler is in good health. Carry appropriate health and accident insurance documents and copies of any important medical records. Bring an adequate supply of all prescription and other medications as well as any necessary personal hygiene items, including a spare pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses if necessary.
Denmark, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands US Consular Information Sheet
August 15, 2006
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Denmark is a highly developed stable democracy with a modern economy. Greenland is a self-governing dependency of Denmark. The Faroe Islands are a self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Denmark
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Passport and visa regulations are similar for Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroes. A valid passport is required. U.S. citizen tourist and business travelers do not need visas for visits of up to 90 days. That period begins when entering any of the following countries which are parties to the Schengen agreement: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. See our Foreign Entry Requirements
Note: Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passports upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function. If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passports may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.
Find more information about Entry and Exit Requirements
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Denmark remains largely free of terrorist incidents, however the country shares, with the rest of Western Europe, an increased threat of Islamic terrorism. Like other countries in the Schengen area, Denmark's open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering and exiting the country with anonymity. Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.
Public demonstrations occasionally occur in Copenhagen and other Danish cities and are generally peaceful events. Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations, and police oversight is routinely provided to ensure adequate security for participants and passers-by. Nonetheless, as with any large crowd comprised of diverse groups, situations may develop which could pose a threat to public safety. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid areas where public demonstrations are taking place.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's web site
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States 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: Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroes all have very low violent crime rates, however, non-violent crimes of opportunity have slightly increased over the last few years, especially in Copenhagen and other major Danish cities, where tourists can become targets for pickpockets and sophisticated thieves. Criminals frequent airports, train stations, and cruise ship quays to take advantage of weary, luggage-burdened travelers. Thieves also operate at popular tourist attractions, shopping streets, and restaurants. In hotel lobbies and breakfast areas, thieves take advantage of even a brief lapse in attention to snatch jackets, purses, and backpacks. Women's purses placed either on the backs of chairs or on the floor are typical targets for thieves. Car and home break-ins are also on the rise.
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, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Denmark has a program to provide financial compensation to victims who suffer serious criminal injuries. According to existing regulations, the victim must report the incident to the police within 24 hours. Danish police routinely inform victims of serious crime of their rights to seek compensation. The relevant forms can be obtained from the police or the Danish Victims' Compensation Board: Civilstyrelsen, Erstatningsnaevnet, Gyldenløvesgade 11, 1600 Copenhagen V, TEL: (45) 33-92- 3334; FAX: (45) 39-20-45-05; www.erstatningsnaevnet.dk
See our information for Victims of Crime
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Excellent medical facilities are widely available in Denmark. In Greenland and the Faroe Islands, medical facilities are limited and evacuation is required for serious illness or injury. Although emergency medical treatment is free of charge, the patient is charged for follow-up care.
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 (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's website at
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department 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 Denmark is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
A valid U.S. driver's license may be used while visiting Denmark, but the driver must be at least 18 years old. Driving in Denmark is on the right side of the road. Road signs use standard international symbols. Many urban streets have traffic lanes reserved for public transport only. Unless otherwise noted on traffic signs, the speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on open roads, and 130 km/h on expressways.
Use of seat belts is mandatory for drivers and all passengers. Children under three years of age must be secured with approved safety equipment appropriate to the child's age, size, and weight. Children from three to six years of age may use approved child or booster seats instead of seat belts.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is considered a very serious offense. The rules are stringently enforced, and violations can result in stiff fines and possible jail sentences.
Copenhagen, the capital and largest city in Denmark, has an extensive and efficient public transportation system. Trains and buses connect Copenhagen with other major cities in Denmark and to Norway, Sweden, and Germany. Bicycles are also a common mode of transportation in Denmark. Passengers exiting public or tourist buses, as well as tourists driving rental cars, should watch for bicycles on their designated paths, which are usually located between the pedestrian sidewalks and the traffic lanes.
Danish expressways, highways, and secondary roads are of high quality and connect all areas of the country. It is possible to drive from the northern tip of Denmark to the German border in the south in just four hours. Greenland has no established road system, and domestic travel is performed by foot, boat, or by air. The majority of the Faroe Islands are connected by bridges or serviced by boat. Although the largest islands have roads, most domestic travel is done on foot, horseback, boat, or by air.
The emergency telephone number for police/fire/ambulance in Denmark and the Faroe Islands is 112. In Greenland contact the local police.
Please refer to our Road Safety
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Denmark's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Denmark's air carrier operations. This rating applies to Greenland and the Faroe Islands as well. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet website at www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The official unit of currency in Denmark is the Danish krone. ATM machines are widely available throughout Denmark. Please see our information on customs regulations
For information concerning the importation of pets into Denmark, please visit the following website:
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 protection 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 Denmark's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Denmark 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
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Denmark are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 10, 2006, to update the section on Entry Requirements and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Tom LITTLE
Kulusuk, Denmark, Oct 17, 2019 (AFP) - Kayaking past blue-white icebergs drifting along near a pristine harbour, wandering around colourful houses or trekking in the snow-capped wilderness: July and August are high season for tourists in eastern Greenland. Many of the 85,000 tourists who visit each year head to the west coast, but eastern Greenland, with its glaciers, wilderness and wildlife starring whales and polar bears, is also drawing visitors.
Sarah Bovet, a 29-year-old Swiss artist, said it's hard to know what to expect. "Thinking you're going to be surprised, you are even more so in reality," she said standing outside a hostel in the tiny village of Kulusuk. Bovet was on an artistic residency in Greenland when she visited Kulusuk and its 250 souls. Although she had imagined a small village before arriving, its stunning views and bright colours still came as a surprise. With just one supermarket, an airport built in the 1950s by the US military to serve a Cold War radar base, and a harbour surrounded by brightly painted wooden houses, most of the villagers appreciate the extra revenue from tourism.
Justus Atuaq, a young hunter in Kulusuk, takes tourists out on sled tours in March and April -- the spring high season -- earning money that helps him feed and care for the dogs he uses for racing and hunting. "Now I can take dogsleds for hunting, and sometimes tourists coming from other countries also want to dogsled," he said outside his wooden house. Tourists also take boat trips during the summer high season from July to August. Arrivals to the island grew 10 percent year-on-year from 2014 to 2017, and three percent in 2018, according to the tourist board, Visit Greenland. Many adventure seekers and nature lovers arrive by plane, but cruise ships also bring admirers, hugging the picture perfect coastline.
- Growing strategic importance -
But they are not alone in taking an interest in the world's largest island. The Danish territory's rich natural resources and growing strategic importance as the Arctic ice sheet melts have attracted the attention of US President Donald Trump. The Arctic region has untapped reserves of oil, gas and minerals, as well as abundant stocks of fish and shrimp. In August, Trump offered to buy Greenland, then called off a visit to Copenhagen over its refusal to sell.
Denmark colonised Greenland in the 1700s, granting it autonomy in 1979. Today, many Greenlandic political parties advocate full independence. The territory still receives an annual subsidy from Copenhagen, which was 4.3 billion Danish kroner (576 million euros) in 2017, and tourism could help it to become economically self-reliant. Like many parts of Greenland, Kulusuk has no tarmac roads and visitors must travel by plane or boat. The growth in tourism could put a strain on the village's infrastructure, and the sector faces unique challenges given Greenland's location, weather and the cost of travelling there.
Day tours of Kulusuk with flights from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik are 97,000 Icelandic kronur ($780, 700 euros). Jakob Ipsen, a 48-year-old who grew up between Denmark and Greenland's west coast, runs Kulusuk's sole hotel. The 32-room hotel stands beside a fjord, and from its dining room, guests can watch icebergs drift by during the summer. But the region's isolation can be problematic, Ipsen admits. "We have to get all our supplies in with the first ship for the whole summer season, and for the winter season when everything is frozen over, we have to get all our supplies in with the last ship for the whole winter," he said.
- 'They go back as different people' -
Greenland must tackle its infrastructure challenges if it wants to develop tourism, Visit Greenland says. Government-funded work is under way to extend runways at the capital Nuuk and Ilulissat, both on the west coast, and a new airport is planned in the south. The tourist body said it would weigh the environmental impact of boosting infrastructure, both on the environment and on local communities. Ipsen worries about the effects of uncontrolled tourism to the region. "We want to try to maintain it as it is, so it's not exploding," he said.
Already, said Johanna Bjork Sveinbjornsdottir, who runs tours in Kulusuk for an Iceland-based company, the rise in visitor numbers is making itself felt. "In the campsites here out in nature where you used to be alone, there's two, three groups at a time," she said. Like Ipsen, she is also concerned about the effect that rising visitor numbers could have on the wilderness around the village. "If you want nature to survive that, you have to build up the infrastructure," she said, pointing to the lack of officially designated campsites around Kulusuk, with no rubbish bins or toilets for travellers outdoors and no one supervising the sites. Despite the concerns, Sveinbjornsdottir hopes visitors will keep coming. "They go back as different people," she said. "Everything is beyond what you ever imagined."
Copenhagen, Nov 16, 2018 (AFP) - Greenland's parliament has adopted a plan to upgrade or build airports to serve the massive North Atlantic island, keen to attract more tourists to its pristine Arctic wilderness. Two airports -- in the capital Nuuk and in the tourism centre Ilulissat -- will be substantially upgraded, making it possible to fly directly to Greenland from Europe and North America.
A new national airport will be built in Qaqortoq in the south. Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory. The plans have been controversial because of Copenhagen's direct financial involvement. The project is estimated to cost at least 3.6 billion kroner (482 millions euros, $546 million). Almost 20 percent of the financing will be provided by Denmark, which contributes 3.6 billion kroner to the island's annual budget. Parliament adopted the proposal late Thursday with 18 out of 29 votes.
In September, the project plunged Greenland into a three-week political crisis, with an independent supporting party quitting the government coalition in protest against Denmark's involvement. The social democratic Siumut party, which has dominated Greenland politics for four decades, was ultimately able to cling to power with a new, narrower majority. "We are creating lots of opportunities for Greenland's future. We are not selling out," Prime Minister Kim Kielsen insisted in parliament's debate, local television KNR reported. The three airports will serve the main population centres of the island, which is home to 55,000 people spread out across an area more than four times the size of France.
Smaller communities have meanwhile complained they will remain isolated. In addition, "other risks have also been raised, like the reaffirmed presence of the US military, which not everyone sees as a positive thing, and the environmental risks brought on by better international connections," Mikaa Mered, a professor of Arctic geopolitics at the ILERI School of International Relations in Paris, told AFP.
Since 2009, Greenland has been largely independent when it comes to its economic policy but foreign and defense issues remain under Copenhagen's control. "The big winner in this affair is Copenhagen. Both on the political, economic and geopolitical levels, Copenhagen is strengthening its positions across the board, vis-a-vis China and the triangular alliance with Washington," Mered said, referring to Beijig's eagerness to invest in the Arctic which has raised concern in the US. Construction of the airports is scheduled to be completed by 2023.
Stockholm, July 13, 2018 (AFP) - A massive iceberg drifting near the coast of Greenland has triggered fears of flooding if it breaks up, leading the authorities to evacuate a high-risk zone. The authorities have urged residents of the Innarsuit island settlement with houses on a promontory to move away from the shore over fears that the iceberg, which was spotted on Thursday, could swamp the area. "We fear the iceberg could calve and send a flood towards the village," Lina Davidsen, a security chief at the Greenland police, told Danish news agency Ritzau on Friday.
The settlement in northwestern Greenland has 169 inhabitants, but only those living closest to the iceberg have been evacuated, Ritzau reported. "The iceberg is still near the village and the police are now discussing what do to next," Kunuk Frediksen, a police chief in the Danish autonomous territory, told AFP. The incident comes weeks after scientists at New York University shot and released a video of a massive iceberg breaking free from a glacier in eastern Greenland in June. Last year, four people died and 11 were injured after an earthquake sparked a tsunami off another island settlement called Nuugaatsiaq, sending several houses crashing into the sea.
Stockholm, Aug 14, 2017 (AFP) - Police in Greenland warned people to stay away from western areas of the island as wildfires scorched swathes of scrubland. In a statement, the police said it "still discourages all traffic -- including hiking and hunting -- in two areas around Nassuttooq and Amitsorsuaq." "The fires are not expected to end within the next few days," the statement added. Some of the blazes have been burning since July 31.
Denmark's meteorological service BMI said the island registered its hottest-ever temperature of 24.8 degrees (77 Fahrenheit) on August 10. Last year was Greenland's hottest on record. The Danish territory has lost about 4,000 gigatons of ice since 1995, British researchers said in June, making ice melt on the huge island the biggest single contributor to rising sea levels.
Stockholm, June 18, 2017 (AFP) - Four people were listed as missing Sunday after an earthquake sparked a tsunami off Greenland and forced some residents to be evacuated. "Four people are missing," local broadcaster KNR quoted local police chief Bjorn Tegner Bay as telling a news conference in the autonomous Danish territory. There were no confirmed fatalities, but Bay said 11 houses had been swept away after a magnitude 4 overnight quake off Uummannaq, a small island well above the Arctic Circle. "The huge waves risk breaking over Upernavik and its environs. The residents of Nuugaatsiaq are going to be evacuated," police said on Facebook, referring to nearby hamlets.
Some residents posted images to social media showing huge waves breaking over buildings in the town. "A good explanation is that the quake created a fault at the origin of a tsunami," meteorologist Trine Dahl Jensen told Danish news agency Ritzau, warning of potential aftershocks. "It's not normal, such a large quake in Greenland," she said. KNR quoted Ole Dorph, mayor of Qaasuisup, a municipality in the area affected, as lamenting "a serious and tragic natural catastrophe which has affected the whole region." Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen tweeted news of what he termed a "terrible natural catastrophe at Nuugaatsiaq." The world's largest island situated between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, Greenland, population 55,000, has an ice sheet particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b
During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.
Safety & Security:
The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.
Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.
Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.
River Boat Travel:
Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.
Altitude Sickness in Tibet:
Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.
Insect Bites and Malaria:
During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.
The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.
Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.
AIDS risk in China:
Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.
Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.
There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.
China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing. Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed. "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster". A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!" Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.
The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car. She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her. Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case. Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave". The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release. East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said. The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings. Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties. The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea. In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties. Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far. "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.
An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt. Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku. Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
October 02, 2008
Pakistan is a parliamentary federal republic in South Asia, with a population of nearly 170 million people. Following successful elections in February 2008, Pak
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ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens traveling to Pakistan for any purpose are required to have valid U.S. passports and Pakistani-issued visas. Further information on entry requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Pakistan at 3517 International Court Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone: 202-243-6500; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; web site: http://www.pakistan-embassy.org/.
Travelers may also contact one of the Consulates General of Pakistan in:
Boston: 20 Chestnut Street, Needham, MA 02492; telephone: (781) 455-8000; fax: (617) 266-6666; email: email@example.com
Chicago: 333 North Michigan Ave., Suite 728, Chicago, IL, 60601; telephone: (312) 781-1831; fax: (312) 781-1839; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Houston: 11850 Jones Road, Houston, TX, 77070; telephone: (281) 890-2223; fax: (281) 890-1433; email: email@example.com
Los Angeles: 10850 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1100, Los Angeles, CA 90024; telephone: (310) 441-5114; fax: (310) 441-9256; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
New York: 12 East 65th St., New York, NY 10021; telephone: (212) 879-5800; fax: (212) 517-6987; web site: www.pakistanconsulateny.org
If a traveler plans to stay longer than the time listed on the visa, he or she must extend the stay with the local passport office of the Ministry of Interior. Visit the Embassy of Pakistan web site at http://www.pakistan-embassy.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:
A number of extremist groups within Pakistan continue to target American and other Western interests and high-level Pakistani government officials. Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated willingness and capability to attack targets where Americans are known to congregate or visit. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombing -- including vehicle-borne explosives and improvised explosive devices -- assassinations, carjacking, assault or kidnapping. U.S. Government personnel are not permitted to stay at or frequent major hotels in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.
Government personnel have also been advised to restrict the number and frequency of trips to public markets, and to avoid public restaurants in Islamabad, Karachi, and Peshawar.
In September 2008, over fifty people, including three Americans, were killed and hundreds were injured when a suicide bomber set off a truck filled with explosives outside a major international hotel in Islamabad. In August 2008 gunmen stopped and shot at the vehicle of an American diplomat in Peshawar. In March 2008, a restaurant frequented by westerners in Islamabad was bombed, killing one patron and seriously injuring several others, including four American diplomats. On March 2, 2006, an American diplomat, his locally employed driver, and three others were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi. Fifty-two others were wounded in the attack.
Sectarian and extremist violence has resulted in fatal bomb attacks in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore, and other Pakistani cities since 2006. Since 2007, over 1,000 bombings have killed more than 1,000 people throughout Pakistan and injured many more. Rallies, demonstrations, and processions occur from time to time throughout Pakistan on very short notice and have often taken on an anti-American or anti-Western character. Because of the possibility of violence, Americans are urged to avoid all public places of worship and areas where Westerners are known to congregate.
During the Islamic (Shi’a) religious observance of Moharram, rivalries and hostilities often increase.
In 2007 and 2008, several American citizens throughout Pakistan were kidnapped for ransom or for personal reasons. Kidnappings for ransom are particularly common in some parts of Pakistan, such as the Northwest Frontier Province and Sindh Province.
It is best to avoid public transportation. For security reasons, U.S. Mission personnel are prohibited from using taxis or buses. (See the Traffic Safety and Road Conditions section below.)
Women are advised to dress conservatively, with arms and legs covered, and avoid walking around alone. It is unwise for anyone to travel on the streets late at night. Visitors to Pakistan should attempt to maintain a low profile, blend in, be aware of their surroundings, and seek security with their family or sponsoring organization.
Northern Areas – While we continue to discourage non-essential travel to Pakistan, we advise Americans wishing to trek in Gilgit, Hunza or Chitral to use only licensed guides and tourist agencies. While overall crime is low, there have been occasional assaults on foreign visitors.
Northwest Frontier Province - The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border, and certain areas within the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), are designated as tribal areas and are not subject to normal government jurisdiction. The Government of Pakistan requires all citizens of countries other than Pakistan and Afghanistan to obtain permission from the Home and Tribal Affairs Department prior to visiting these locations. The permit may stipulate that an armed escort must accompany the visitor. Even in the settled areas of the NWFP there is occasional ethnic, sectarian, and political violence. There have been dozens of bombings in Peshawar of varying sophistication since September 2006. Members of the Taliban and Al-Qaida are known to be in the FATA, and may also be in the settled areas.
Kashmir - While direct military hostilities between India and Pakistan across the Line of Control (LOC) are infrequent, militant groups engaged in a long-running insurgency on the Indian side of the LOC are reported to have bases and supporters operating from the Pakistani side. Most of these groups are anti-American, and some have attacked Americans and other Westerners. The Government of Pakistan restricts access to many parts of this region and requires that visitors obtain a permit from the Ministry of Interior before traveling.
Punjab Province - Violence has increased in Punjab Province. Since September 2007, several suicide operations have taken place, including attacks in Rawalpindi and Lahore. As a precaution against these possible dangers, U.S. citizens are cautioned to avoid public transportation and crowded areas. The Wagah border crossing into India near Lahore remains open daily (from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) for travel to and from India if the passport holder has a valid visa for both countries. Visitors are advised to confirm the current status of the border crossing prior to commencing travel.
Sindh Province - In Karachi and Hyderabad, there has been recurring violence characterized by bombings, violent demonstrations and shootings. An October 2007 suicide attack on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto killed more than 130 and injured approximately 375 people in Karachi. In the aftermath of her December 2007 death, rioting in Karachi led to multiple deaths and injuries, as well as widespread property damage. In May 2008, clashing groups of lawyers burned buildings and vehicles in several areas of the city, resulting in at least 11 fatalities. Americans and other westerners continue to be a particular target of hostility and occasional anti-Western mob violence. The Consulate General in particular has been the target of several major terrorist attacks or plots in recent years, including the deadly March 2006 suicide attack described above. Non-essential travel to these cities is strongly discouraged. In rural Sindh Province, the security situation is hazardous, especially for those engaged in overland travel. The Government of Pakistan recommends that travelers limit their movements in Sindh Province.
Balochistan Province - The Province of Balochistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan, is notorious for narcotics and other forms of cross-border smuggling. Members of the Taliban and Al-Qaida are also believed to be present there. Tribal unrest sometimes turns violent. Because provincial police presence is limited, travelers wishing to visit the interior of Balochistan should consult with the province’s Home Secretary. Advance permission from provincial authorities is required for travel into many areas. Local authorities have detained travelers who lacked proper permission. Quetta, the provincial capital, has experienced an increase in bombings, occasional gun battles in the streets, and the imposition of curfews. Terrorist attacks against Pakistani government installations and infrastructure have been reported throughout 2005 and 2006.
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, including the Travel Warning for Pakistan, 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 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: Crime is a serious concern for foreigners throughout Pakistan. Carjacking, armed robberies, house invasions, and other violent crimes occur in many major urban areas. Petty crime, especially theft of personal property, is common. American travelers to Pakistan are strongly advised to avoid traveling by taxi and other forms of public transportation, and have members of their host organizations or families meet them at the airport.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm
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.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Pakistan is: 15
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Adequate basic non-emergency medical care is available in major Pakistani cities, but is limited in rural areas. Facilities in the cities vary in level and range of services, resources, and cleanliness, and Americans may find them below U.S. standards; facilities in rural areas are consistently below U.S. standards. Medical facilities require prepayment and do not accept credit cards.
Water is not potable anywhere in Pakistan and sanitation in many restaurants is inadequate. Stomach illnesses are common.
Effective emergency response to personal injury and illness is virtually non-existent in Pakistan. Ambulances are few and are not necessarily staffed by medical personnel. Any emergency case should be transported immediately to a recommended emergency receiving room. Many American-brand medications are not widely available, but generic brands from well-known pharmaceuticals usually are. The quality of the locally-produced medications is uneven.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Pakistan.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. As noted above, emergency medical care in Pakistan is very limited. Medical evacuations from Pakistan may cost in excess of $45,000 for uninsured travelers requiring emergency assistance. 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 Pakistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic in Pakistan moves on the left, opposite of U.S. traffic. In addition to this source of potential confusion, travel by road in Pakistan has a variety of other risks. Roads are crowded, drivers are often aggressive and poorly trained, and many vehicles, particularly large trucks and buses, are badly maintained. Donkeys, cattle, horse carts, and even the occasional camel can pose roadside hazards in some areas. Roads, including most major highways, also suffer from poor maintenance and often have numerous potholes, sharp drop-offs and barriers that are not sign-posted. Drivers should exercise extreme caution when traveling at night by road, as many vehicles do not have proper illumination or dimmers nor are most roads properly illuminated or signed. Driving without experienced local drivers or guides is not recommended.
It is best to avoid public transportation. For security reasons, U.S. Mission personnel are prohibited from using taxis or buses. (See Safety and Security section above.)
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Pakistan’s national tourist office at http://www.tourism.gov.pk/ and the national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.nha.gov.pk/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Pakistan’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.
Pakistan is largely a cash economy. Personal checks are not commonly accepted. Most Pakistanis do not use checking accounts for routine transactions. Outside major cities, even credit cards and travelers’ checks are generally not accepted, and there have been numerous reports of credit card fraud. There are bank branches as well as registered moneychangers in all international airports. ATMs can also be found in major airports. English is widely spoken by professional-level airport staff.
Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Pakistani laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Pakistan 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.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: 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 Pakistan 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 Pakistan. 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 in Islamabad is located at Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5; telephone: (92-51) 208-0000; Consular Section telephone: (92-51) 208-2700; fax: (92-51) 282-2632; website: http://islamabad.usembassy.gov/
The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, located at 8 Abdullah Haroon Road, closed its public operations indefinitely due to security concerns. U.S. citizens requiring emergency assistance should call the Consular Section in Karachi; telephone: (92-21) 520-4200; fax: (92-21) 568-0496; web site: http://karachi.usconsulate.gov/
The U.S. Consulate in Lahore is located on 50 Sharah-E-Abdul Hamid Bin Badees (Old Empress Road), near Shimla Hill Rotary; telephone: (92-42) 603-4000; fax: (92-42) 603-4200; web site: http://lahore.usconsulate.gov/; email: email@example.com
The U.S. Consulate in Peshawar is located at 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, Peshawar; telephone: (92-91) 526-8800; fax: (92-91) 528-4171; web site: http://peshawar.usconsulate.gov/
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated August 7, 2008 to update the section on Safety and Security.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Islamabad, May 7, 2020 (AFP) - Pakistan will begin easing its nationwide lockdown over the weekend, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Thursday, citing the economic havoc the measures have wreaked, even as increased testing shows a rise in new coronavirus cases.
Khan called on the public to continue following social distancing guidelines as businesses start to reopen in phases, saying another lockdown would be imposed if cases spiked again. "We need to discipline ourselves," said Khan in a televised address announcing the easing of the lockdown would begin on Saturday. "We can't send the police to make raids. In an independent society this doesn't happen." Schools will remain closed until mid-July, while there were no plans to restart public transportation or domestic flights just yet.
The easing of the lockdown comes with many across the country already openly flouting its restrictions and gathering in public, especially during the evenings as people celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. Last month, authorities buckled under pressure from religious groups ahead of Ramadan and allowed mosques to hold daily prayers and evening congregations after clerics promised to instruct religious leaders to clean their facilities regularly.
Thousands of shoppers have also thronged popular markets, including many without wearing protective gear, to buy food for the evening iftar meal that celebrates the end of each day's fasting. Infections have been rising steadily as testing has increased, with over 23,000 cases recorded in the nation of over 210 million. The death toll in Pakistan however remains low, at 564, according to government figures.
Lahore, Pakistan, March 13, 2020 (AFP) - Hundreds of thousands of Islamic worshippers gathered in eastern Pakistan this week amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, ignoring government warnings that such events could propagate the disease. Organisers late Thursday curtailed the annual Tablighi Ijtema congregation, which had drawn people from across the country, but cited rainy weather as the cause.
The early closure came after about 250,000 people had already congregated in camps near Lahore since Wednesday for the five day festival. "Most of the people have returned to their homes but still tens of thousands of people are here. They will return today," one of the event's organisers Ehsanullah, who goes by one name, told AFP on Friday. Pakistan has only recorded 21 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and no deaths, but officials have tested fewer than 500 potential cases in the country of about 215 million, where health care is frequently inadequate.
Many countries are advising against large gatherings in a bid to slow the spread of the highly communicable virus. Some nations -- like France and Italy -- have banned them altogether. The federal government has yet to enforce nationwide measures to contain a possible outbreak, leaving provinces to act independently. Organisers of the Tablighi Ijtema were free to ignore government advice to postpone. "The government asked us to cancel the gathering because of the coronavirus, but our elders and organisers decided that the gathering will proceed as planned," Ehsanullah said.
The movement was founded by religious scholars more than five decades ago and focuses exclusively on preaching Islam. It usually sees hundreds of camps and sub-camps set up on a dusty site outside Lahore to accommodate people from across Pakistan, giving the gathering a festival feel. Schools in three of Pakistan's four provinces are closed for March and authorities are conducting basic screenings of passengers arriving by air from overseas. Prime Minister Imran Khan was set to meet with his national security team later Friday to discuss the global coronavirus crisis.
By Kaneez Fatima
Pipli Pahar, Pakistan, March 4, 2020 (AFP) - Pakistan's farmers are struggling to combat the worst locust plague in nearly three decades as insect swarms decimate entire harvests in the country's agricultural heartlands and send food prices soaring. Heavy rains and cyclones sparked "unprecedented" breeding and the explosive growth of locust populations on the Arabian peninsula early last year, according to the United Nations.
The insects have since fanned out and wreaked havoc on farms from East Africa to India before making their way into Pakistan from the desert on the country's southwestern border with Iran. The crisis is so severe that the government has declared a nationwide emergency and urgently appealed for help from the international community.
Officials in southern Sindh province fear the infestation will devastate the supply of cotton, the local cash crop, ahead of its harvest in the coming months. Local surveys of the damage are continuing, but the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture says nearly half of all crops have been destroyed near the port city of Karachi. "I have not seen an infestation like this one in my career," said Shehbaz Akhtar, an agricultural official charged with locust eradication efforts in the village of Pipli Pahar in central Punjab province.
- 'Combat operation' -
Local authorities had "launched a combat operation" to clear the area of infestation with pesticide sprays, he said. Clouds of the noxious gas envelop the nearby fields each morning, where villagers gather the husks of dead insects for an official bounty of 20 rupees (13 cents) per kilogramme bag. "We spray twice a day here," says Fayyaz Azeem, clad in a face mask and thick industrial gloves on top of a tractor discharging pesticide into rows of crops. But the process is slow and time-consuming, and by the time locusts are killed off in one field they have often already destroyed the next. The pesticides used by officials are also dangerous for consumption, so even when the locusts are dead the remaining crops have to be discarded. Some farmers have been forced to opt for more desperate solutions while waiting for their fields to be sprayed and have attempted to scare off the swarms by shouting and banging pots.
A team of Chinese experts has arrived in Pakistan to survey the crisis, food security ministry chief Muhammad Hashim Popalzai told AFP. Beijing could also offer aerial spraying -- a much faster and more efficient method of pest control -- and Pakistan may also import pesticides from China. Earlier reports circulating online suggested China was planning to send thousands of ducks to Pakistan to devour the scourge. Pakistani officials said no such plans were being considered. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has also set up meetings between India and Pakistan to prevent the swarms from spreading, Popalzai said.
- 'What can I do?' -
Agriculture accounts for 20 percent of Pakistan's GDP but the sector has already struggled for years in the face of drought and dwindling water supplies. The country is also experiencing 12-year inflation highs, with the cost of sugar nearly doubling and flour prices jumping 15 percent in the past year. Years without a locust attack meant the government "had become complacent" about the risks of a new infestation, said Pakistan Farmers Bureau president Zafar Hayyat.
Though he applauded the steps being taken to fight the plague, Hayyat warned of the risk that swarms would return mid-year after the next locust breeding season. For many farmers in Pipli Pahar, the extermination campaign has already come too late. Sitting in the corner of a wheat field with her cow, Rafiya Bibi watches the flurry of pesticide spraying around her. The locusts have already destroyed her crops of canola, sunflower, chili and tobacco, which she had bought after borrowing 45,000 rupees from the government. With no harvest, she has no way to repay the loan. "What can I do?" she said. "All I can do is cry, what else can I do?"
World Travel News Headlines
Dublin, May 19, 2020 (AFP) - This year's Dublin marathon scheduled for October 25 was cancelled on Tuesday despite Ireland's move to lift coronavirus lockdown measures, indicating potential long-term disruption caused by the outbreak. Ireland plans to have fully lifted restrictions well before October, in a staggered process that began on Monday. But organisers indicated the race -- which had 22,500 entrants last year -- would still not go ahead because of safety fears. "We made the difficult decision in the best interest of the health and well-being of all those involved in making our events such a success from runners, supporters, volunteers, sponsors, to suppliers," said race director Jim Aughney. "We explored many alternatives for running the events safely but ultimately none were viable." Ireland's five-stage "roadmap" to reopen the nation is due to be completed in August, when the current ban on mass gatherings of more than 5,000 people is set to expire. The cancellation suggests coronavirus fallout may last longer than suggested by official plans and could hit similar events.
The London Marathon, which attracts tens of thousands of runners, has been postponed until October 4. "We need to be aware that we will continue to be in the acute emergency phase of this crisis for some time with further waves an ever present danger," the health department Secretary-General Jim Breslin told a special parliamentary committee on the crisis. "This is not a one, a two or even a three-day storm, after which we move to a recovery phase. The acute phase of this crisis will definitely be measured in months and most probably in years." Ireland has suffered 1,547 deaths from COVID-19, according to the department of health. On Monday the number of daily deaths had fallen from a peak of 77 to just four. "We have suppressed the virus and limited its impact on public health," said chief medical officer Tony Holohan on Monday. "We need to sustain this in the weeks and phases ahead."
Paris, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Air France said Monday it hoped to double the number of cities it serves, including over 40 European destinations, by the end of June as nations begin to lift coronavirus travel restrictions. "Between now and the end of June and subject to travel restrictions being lifted, Air France plans to gradually resume its flights," the airline said. Like other airlines, Air France grounded most of its planes as governments imposed stay-at-home orders and demand for travel evaporated.
Air France said it was currently operating between three and five percent of its usual schedule and serving 43 destinations for essential passenger traffic as well as cargo. The airline, which received a 7-billion-euro rescue package from the French government, listed more than 90 destinations it hopes to serve by the end of June. That would be equivalent to 15 percent of its normal schedule, and use 75 of its fleet of 224 aircraft.
Abuja, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Nigeria's government on Monday extended a coronavirus lockdown on the northern region of Kano after it became a hotspot for new infections. The head of the country's coronavirus taskforce, Boss Mustapha, said the lockdown on the economic hub -- which includes Nigeria's second biggest city -- would be prolonged for two weeks. The authorities will also start to impose "precision" lockdowns in any other areas that report a "rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises", he said. The outbreak in Kano has become a major cause of concern after medics and residents last month began reporting a spike in deaths.
Regional officials at first put the "unexplained" fatalities down to other ailments, but government investigators later said coronavirus was suspected in most cases. Neighbouring states to Kano have also begun reporting suspicious surges in death tolls that authorities are scrambling to investigate. Nigeria has confirmed 5,959 infections and 182 deaths from the novel coronavirus across the country. Kano is the second hardest hit region with 825 confirmed cases and 36 fatalities. The region has already been under lockdown for a month but enforcement has been lax and measures have been eased sporadically for people to buy food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Testing has been a key problem across Nigeria and only 35,345 samples have so far been screened in Africa's most populous nation of 200 million people. Mustapha insisted there had been a slowdown in the transmission rate of the virus, "elongating the doubling time" from seven to 11 days. But he announced that measures would remain in place limiting businesses and restricting crowds across the rest of the country despite earlier plans to gradually roll them back. "Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority," he said. The government has also imposed a night-time curfew and made mask wearing mandatory in all regions. Mustapha complained that "non-compliance was rampant" with social distancing measures. "The fight against COVID-19 is long-term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon," he said.
Stockholm, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Sweden, whose softer approach to the new coronavirus pandemic has garnered worldwide attention, recorded its deadliest month in almost three decades in April, according to statistics released on Monday. Sweden has stopped short of introducing the restrictive lockdowns seen elsewhere in Europe, instead opting for an approach based on the "principle of responsibility".
The Scandinavian country has kept schools open for children under the age of 16, along with cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses, and urged people to respect social distancing guidelines. A total of 10,458 deaths were recorded in the country of 10.3 million inhabitants in April, Statistics Sweden said. "We have to go back to December 1993 to find more dead during a single month," Tomas Johansson, population statistician at Statistics Sweden, said in a statement.
In total, 97,008 deaths were recorded in Sweden during the whole of 1993, which in turn was the deadliest year since 1918, when the Spanish flu pandemic ravaged the country. Johansson told AFP there was no official breakdown explaining the high death toll in December 1993 but said there was a flu epidemic at the time. According to preliminary data, the number of deaths has been on the decline since the end of April, including in Stockholm -- the epicentre of the Swedish epidemic -- where the highest number of deaths were recorded in early April.
The Swedish approach to the novel coronavisrus has come under criticism both at home and abroad, particularly as the number of deaths has far exceeded those in neighbouring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures. On Monday, Sweden reported a total of 30,377 confirmed cased of the new coronavirus and 3,698 deaths.
Helsinki, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Finland's national airline will restart routes between Europe and Asia in July once countries begin to lift coronavirus restrictions on travel, the company announced on Monday. Beijing and Shanghai will be the first long-haul destinations to reopen, alongside Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok and three Japanese routes, Finnair said in a statement.
Flights to Delhi and New York will follow in August. The move makes Finnair one of the first European carriers to restart intercontinental flights, after the Lufthansa Group announced on Friday it would resume 19 long-haul routes by early June. "We expect aviation to recover gradually, starting in July," Finnair chief commercial officer Ole Orver said in a statement, adding that the company intends to bring its operations back to one-third of normal capacity.
Finnair cut 90 percent of its flights on April 1 and issued a profit warning as coronavirus restrictions brought international passenger travel almost to a standstill. Facemasks will be mandatory on all Finnair flights "until at least the end of August," Finnair spokeswoman Paivyt Tallqvist told AFP. "We have also taken a number of steps to avoid unnecessary movement on board," Tallqvist said, including having passengers disembark in smaller groups, and limiting capacity of shuttle bus transport between aircraft and the terminal to 50 percent.
Flights along the so-called "shorter northern route" between Helsinki and Asia, bypassing the Middle East, have been a key part of the Finnish carrier's growth strategy in recent years, with passenger numbers on its Asian routes doubling between 2010 and 2018. On Monday, Finnair also announced it would restart 26 European routes in July, including to Brussels, Moscow, Prague and Paris. Destinations including Rome, Madrid and Warsaw would be added in August, the firm said. Finnair said it would open further routes on a monthly basis depending on demand and how travel restrictions change over the summer.
Dublin, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Ireland launched the first tentative step in its plan to lift coronavirus lockdown on Monday, with staff returning to outdoor workplaces as some shops resumed trade and sports facilities unlocked their doors. The modest tweaks to the restrictions in place since 28 March start a staggered process set to stretch until August.
"I'm both pleased and nervous," health minister Simon Harris told state broadcaster RTE. "I'm pleased that we've gotten to this point because of the incredible efforts of the Irish people in suppressing this virus." "I'm nervous because the virus hasn't gone away, there still isn't a vaccine, there's still people in our country getting very sick, and there's still people dying every day."
Shops such as garden centres, hardware stores and farmers markets were permitted to open their doors whilst outdoor staff such as builders and gardeners returned to workplaces. Football pitches, tennis courts and golf courses were also allowed to resume business whilst maintaining strict social distancing.
Meanwhile citizens were permitted to meet in small gatherings outside of people from different households. But Harris urged caution as the republic took its first step in trying "to live successfully and safely alongside the virus". "Just because somewhere is open doesn't mean we need to go," he said. There have been 1,543 deaths from COVID-19 in Ireland according to the department for health.
Reported daily deaths peaked at 77 on 20 April, but by Sunday the figure had fallen to just 10. As with other nations officials remain fearful a second wave of infections could inundate the healthcare system. But Prime minister Leo Varadkar confirmed on Friday that Ireland would press ahead to the first of its five step plan to reopen the nation. "This gives us reason to hope, but it is not a cause for celebration. We have a long way to go yet," Varadkar said in a statement.
The fallout of the lockdown changes will be monitored for three weeks before the government decides whether to move to the next stage in the "roadmap" to reopening. "Coronavirus is an inferno that is raging around the world", said Varadkar. "In Ireland it is now a fire in retreat but it's not defeated -- we must extinguish every spark."
By Román ORTEGA, Iván DUARTE y Germán CAMPOS
Puebla, Mexico, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Scores of Mexicans are dying from drinking adulterated liquor, a consequence of the shortage of mainstream alcoholic beverages during the coronavirus pandemic, authorities say. The first of at least 121 deaths in recent weeks occurred at the end of April in the western state of Jalisco, almost exactly a month after the government declared a health emergency over the spread of COVID-19. Much of Mexico has run out of beer after factories producing liquor and beer were shut down, along with other non-essential firms.
Beer stocks were practically depleted within a month, and in some areas the prices of what was left doubled, according to industry sources. Many of the 53 deaths in central Puebla province have been linked to a wake where people drank moonshine containing methanol -- a wood alcohol that in non-lethal doses can cause blindness and liver damage. Twenty-three people died in the hours following the gathering in the town of Chiconcuautla, according to authorities. The town's mayor said the popular "refino" drink, made from sugarcane, had been adulterated.
German Hernandez said his father died after being poisoned by drink known locally as "tejon" -- a blend of brandy with tejocote fruit (a type of hawthorn), in the Puebla town of Cacaloxuchitl. "They sell it in the stores, and you can buy it and take it out. My father began trembling and feeling weak. He told us he felt bad, and we took him to the hospital," Hernandez told AFP. "This has never happened before." Deaths have also been recorded in the central state of Morelos and Yucatan and Veracruz in the east.
- Mafia trade -
Gangs specializing in bootleg booze are trying to take advantage of the lack of alternative alcohol sources during the shutdown. "They usually have very well-structured mafias, and some escape the surveillance of the authorities," Ricardo Cardenas of the Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks told AFP. "We presume that, as a result of this shortage and demand being very high, some people are offering or trying to sell methanol instead of ethyl alcohol," said Denis de Santiago, head of Sanitary Risks in Jalisco.
Methanol is used in fuel, solvents and antifreeze. The country's largest beer producers, Grupo Modelo -- which makes the popular Corona beer -- and Heineken, which makes Sol, halted production in early April. Alcohol sales have been banned in some states, including Yucatan. In others, alcoholic beverages can only be purchased at certain times. Some drinks companies have switched production to antibacterial gel that they are donating to the federal government and health workers.
- 'Who would have thought?' -
In Yucatan, where 38 people have died so far, victims unknowingly drank methanol in their usual "pajaretes" -- a common cocktail that includes milk, coffee, vanilla and brand-name sugarcane alcohol. Humberto Macias, 36, said he saw three of his relatives die within days of each other after drinking a pajarete cocktail, made using a trusted brand of alcohol. "We had always drunk it, including myself, many people. Who would have thought it was like this?" Macias said.
In the Yucatan peninsula town of Acanceh, seven people have died from alcohol poisoning. "It's the first time I've heard of a case like this. I don't remember anything similar," the town's mayor Felipe Medina told AFP. In Veracruz, Morelos and Yucatan, investigators are still trying to determine what drinks the victims consumed.
By Gregory WALTON
Doha, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Qatar on Sunday began enforcing the world's toughest penalties of up to three years' in prison for failing to wear masks in public, in a country with one of the highest coronavirus infection rates. More than 32,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country -- 1.2 percent of the 2.75 million population -- although just 15 people have died. Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican have had higher per-capita infection rates, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Violators of Qatar's new rules will face up to hree years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000.
Drivers alone in their vehicles are exempt from the requirement, but police erected checkpoints across the capital Doha on Sunday evening to check compliance by motorists. Most customers gathered outside money lenders on Banks Street wore masks, while others produced a face covering when asked. "From today it's very strict," said Majeed, a taxi driver waiting for business in the busy pedestrian area, who wore a black mask. Heloisa, an expat resident, saw the steep penalties as "a bit of a scare tactic". Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.
Authorities in Chad have made it an offence to be unmasked in public, on pain of 15 days in prison. In Morocco, similar rules can see violators jailed for three months and fined up to 1,300 dirhams ($130). Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan may have increased infections. Abdullatif al-Khal, co-chair of Qatar's National Pandemic Preparedness Committee, said Thursday that there was "a huge risk in gatherings of families" for Ramadan meals. "(They) led to a significant increase in the number of infections among Qataris," he said. Neighbouring Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month to fight the coronavirus.
- Labourers at risk -
Mosques, along with schools, malls, and restaurants remain closed in Qatar to prevent the disease's spread. But construction sites remain open as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, although foremen and government inspectors are attempting to enforce social distancing rules. Officials have said workers at three stadiums have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus. Masks have been compulsory for construction workers since April 26. A 12-strong team of masked labourers kept their distance from one another as they worked under baking sun on a road project in Doha's blue-collar Msheireb district on Sunday.
Tens of thousands of migrant workers were quarantined in Doha's gritty Industrial Area after a number of infections were confirmed there in mid-March, but authorities have begun to ease restrictions. Khal said that most new cases were among migrant workers, although there has been a jump in infections among Qataris. He said the country had not yet reached the peak of its contagion. Rights groups have warned that Gulf labourers' cramped living conditions, communal food preparation areas and shared bathrooms could undermine social distancing efforts and speed up the spread of the virus.
Tehran, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Iran said Friday it had recorded nearly 7,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, warning of infection clusters in new regions after it partially eased lockdown measures. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the COVID-19 illness had claimed a further 51 lives over 24 hours into Sunday. The ministry raised the overall death toll to 6,988 since Iran announced its first fatalities in the Shiite pilgrimage city of Qom in February. Jahanpour warned that cases were rising "in the province of Lorestan, and to some extent in Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan". "Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation," he added.
The southwestern province has become Iran's new coronavirus focal point, with the most critical "red" ranking on the country's colour-coded risk scale. It is the only region so far where authorities have reimposed business lockdowns after a country-wide relaxation in April. Iran stopped publishing provincial figures for the coronavirus last month, but the health ministry's latest report said there is a "rising trend or the beginning of a peak" in eight provinces, including Khuzestan. The country on Friday reported its highest number of new infections in more than a month. A virus taskforce official said Sunday that the increase was due to a surge in testing, not just of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.
Early in the outbreak "our focus was on severe cases that had to be hospitalised, but as we started to manage the disease we looked at those infected and not hospitalised," said Ali Akbar Haghdoost, head of the taskforce's epidemiology committee. "It is possible that the reported number of infections have gone up, but this in no way means more have been infected with COVID-19," he told ISNA news agency. According to Jahanpour, 1,806 new cases had been confirmed across Iran in the past day, bringing the total to 120,198. Over 1,460 of the new cases were "outpatients, including those who had been in close contact with the infected," he said.
The ministry said 94,464 people hospitalised with the virus have recovered and been discharged. Experts both at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran's official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher. Iran also cancelled rallies held annually in solidarity with the Palestinians, set for Friday next week. President Hassan Rouhani had said Saturday that the Qods (Jerusalem) Day parades would go ahead with some measures against the virus. But organisers said Sunday the event could not be held "decently" and would be scrapped apart from a televised speech by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Antananarivo, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Madagascar on Sunday reported the first death of a patient suffering from novel coronavirus nearly two months after it was first detected in the country, official statistics showed. The Indian ocean island which has reported 304 cases has hit the headlines over a home-grown herbal concoction that President Andry Rajoelina claims can cure people infected with the virus.
Several African countries have ordered or expressed interest in the purported remedy, which is known as Covid-Organics. The tonic drink is derived from artemisia -- a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment -- and other indigenous herbs. But the World Health Organization has warned against "adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy".