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Croatia

Croatia US Consular Information Sheet
January 16, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Croatia is an increasingly well-developed nation in the process of accession to the EU. Facilities for tourism are available throughout the country, and the Adriat
c coast is an increasingly popular tourist destination. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Croatia for additional information or go to http://www.hr/english.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required for travel to Croatia. A visa is not required for U.S. passport holders for tourist or business trips of fewer than 90 days within a six-month period. All foreign citizens must register with the local police within 24 hours of arrival and inform the office about any change in their address. Registration of foreign visitors staying in hotels or accommodations rented through an accommodation company is done automatically by the hotelier or accommodation company. Failure to register is a misdemeanor offense; some Americans have been fined as a result of their failure to register. U.S. citizens already in Croatia who wish to remain in Croatia for more than 90 days must obtain a temporary residence permit from the local police having jurisdiction over their place of residence in Croatia. With their residency application, applicants will need to provide a copy of their birth and marriage certificates (obtained within 90 days before application) and a police report authenticated for use abroad from their state of residence in the U.S. or from the country where they permanently reside. All documents should have an “apostille” stamp certifying their authenticity. Information regarding apostilles and authentication of documents is available at http://travel.state.gov/law/info/judicial/judicial_701.html.

For information on obtaining FBI or local police reports, please see http://travel.state.gov/tips/emergencies/emergencies_1201.html.
If an extension of the approved temporary stay is needed, the request should be submitted no later than 30 days in advance of the last day of authorized stay. For more information on obtaining residence or work permits, please see http://www.usembassy.hr/acs/entry.htm.

For further information on entry requirements for Croatia, including information regarding requirements for residency and work permits, travelers may contact the Embassy of Croatia at 2343 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 588-5899, the Croatian Consulates in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles or the Croatian Ministry of Internal Affairs/Office for Foreigners, tel. (385) (1) 4563-111 or http://www.mup.hr and http://www.mvpei.hr/MVP.asp?pcpid=1123. Visit the Embassy of Croatia web site at www.croatiaemb.org for the most current 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 or visit www.carina.hr for specific information about Croatian customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Although hostilities in all parts of the country ended in 1995, de-mining of areas along former confrontation lines is not complete. It is estimated that de-mining operations will continue at least until 2010. Mine-affected areas are well-marked with the Croatian-language warning signs using the international symbol for mines. Travelers in former conflict areas, including Eastern Slavonija, Brodsko-Posavska county, Karlovac county, areas around Zadar, and in more remote areas of the Plitvice Lakes National Park should exercise caution and not stray from known safe roads and areas.
Mine clearance work may lead to the closure of roads in former conflict areas. For more information about mine-affected areas and de-mining operations in Croatia, please see the Croatian Mine Action Center’s web site at www.hcr.hr/en/minskaSituacija.asp.

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., 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:
Croatia has a relatively low crime rate, and violent crime is rare. Foreigners do not appear to be singled out. However, in tandem with increased numbers of American tourists visiting Croatia, the Embassy is receiving increased reports of thefts. Travelers are advised to safeguard their belongings in public areas, especially in bus or railroad stations, airports and on public transportation. As in many countries, outward displays of wealth may increase a traveler’s chances of being targeted by thieves.

While violent crime is rare, there have been isolated attacks targeted at specific persons or property, which may have been racially motivated or prompted by lingering ethnic tensions from Croatia’s war for independence.

Additionally, American citizens are cautioned to be mindful that Croatia is predominantly Catholic and, in some regions, quite conservative. Behavior that may be generally acceptable by American standards may offend local sensitivities and be met with hostility and, in a few cases, even violence.

American citizens are urged to be cautious when frequenting so called "gentlemen's clubs." A few such establishments have presented foreign patrons with grossly inflated bar bills, sometimes in the thousands of dollars, and threatened those customers who refuse to pay.

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.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Health facilities in Croatia, although generally of western caliber, are under severe budgetary strains. Some medicines are in short supply in public hospitals and clinics. The number of private medical and dental practitioners is substantial, and private pharmacies stock a variety of medicines not readily available through public health facilities. Croatian health care facilities, doctors and hospitals may expect immediate cash payment for health services and generally will not accept credit cards. Tick-borne encephalitis, a disease preventable with a three-shot vaccination series, is found throughout inland Croatia but is not prevalent along the coast. Travelers to Croatia may obtain a list of English-speaking physicians and dentists at the Embassy’s web site at www.usembassy.hr/acs/medical.htm or by calling: (385) (1) 661-2376 during working hours, or (385) (1) 661-2400 after working hours. Ambulance services can be reached by dialing 94. Ambulance services are effective; however, response times may be longer to more isolated areas.

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. Americans who plan to stay in Croatia for more than 90 days may be required by Croatian authorities to pay into the Croatian health insurance system for the period of their stay in Croatia, regardless of whether they hold private American insurance or not.

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 Croatia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road conditions and maintenance in Croatia vary widely. Two modern highways linking Zagreb with Rijeka and Split opened in 2004. Construction is complete between Zagreb and Split and Zagreb and Rijeka, but work is still ongoing between Split and Dubrovnik; This work may cause delays and road closures. Additionally, there are stretches of highway, with average travel speeds up to 130km/hour, which are still only one lane in each direction. Opposing traffic may not be separated by a divider. Highway tolls are higher than in the United States. Primary roads, including roads along the coast, are generally adequate, but most have only one lane in each direction. Coastal roads are narrow and congested, and tend to be slippery when wet. Rock slides are also possible on roads along the coast as well as through the mountain regions of Lika and Gorski Kotar. There is heavy congestion on major routes on weekends (towards the coast, for example) and in major cities during rush hours. Congestion on coastal routes, at border crossings and at tunnels is especially heavy in the summer months. Drivers should be prepared for sudden slowdowns when approaching tunnels at any time of year. Drivers tend to be aggressive in Croatia. Passing on curves or in oncoming lanes is common on highways and poses a higher risk of accidents. Drivers traveling though former conflict areas should stay on paved roads to reduce the risk of encountering unmarked mines and unexploded ordnance left over from the 1991-1995 war. In Zagreb, motorists and pedestrians alike should also pay special attention to trams (streetcars), which in downtown areas may travel at a high rate of speed through the narrow, congested streets.

Right turns on red lights are strictly forbidden in Croatia, unless an additional green light (in the shape of an arrow) allows it. At unmarked intersections, right of way is always to the vehicle entering from the right. The use of front seat belts is obligatory and passengers in vehicles equipped with rear seat belts are required to use them. Special seats are required for infants, and children under age 12 may not sit in the front seat of an automobile. The use of a cellular phone while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited unless the driver is using a hands-free device. Cars must have headlights on while in operation.

Croatia has adopted a policy of zero tolerance to driving under the influence of alcohol. It is illegal for a driver to have blood alcohol level greater than 0.00. Police routinely spot-check motorists for drinking and driving and will administer breath-analyzer tests at even the most minor accident. Drivers who refuse to submit to a breath-analyzer are automatically presumed to have admitted to driving while intoxicated. In case of accidents resulting in death or serious injury, Croatian law requires police to take blood samples to test blood alcohol levels.

Within Croatia, emergency road help and information may be reached by dialing 987, a service of the Croatian Automobile Association (HAK), staffed by English speaking operators. The police can be reached by dialing 92 and the ambulance service by dialing 94. Additional road condition and safety information may be obtained from HAK at tel. (385-1) 464-0800 ext. 0 (English speaking operators available 24 hours), or (385-1) 455-4433 or (385-1) 661-1999, or via their web site, www.hak.hr. During the tourist season, traffic information in English is also available at 98.5 FM on Croatian radio thirty minutes past the hour between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

According to Croatian law, U.S. citizens in Croatia for tourism or business may use a U.S. driver’s license for up to three months. U.S. citizens in Croatia with an approved extended tourist visa or permit for permanent residence may continue to use a U.S. driver’s license for up to twelve months, after which a Croatian driver’s license must be obtained. Please see http://www.usembassy.hr/acs/driver_license.htm for more information on obtaining a Croatian driver’s license. For specific information concerning Croatian driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Croatian National Tourist Office, 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 4003, New York, NY 10118; phone 1-800-829-4416 or 212-278-8672; fax 212-279-8683.

In cases of traffic accidents involving a foreign-registered vehicle, the investigating police officer on the scene is required to issue a vehicle damage certificate to the owner of the foreign-registered vehicle. This certificate is necessary to cross the state border. Upon written request, the police station in the area where the accident occurred will issue a Traffic Accident Investigation Record. For further information, please visit http://www.mup.hr/1266.aspx.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

For travelers arriving by private marine craft, please refer to the nautical information and regulations available at www.mmtpr.hr.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by Croatian carriers, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Government of Croatia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Croatia’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.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
With numerous automated teller machines and ever-wider acceptance of credit cards in Croatia, traveler’s checks are accepted less frequently or exchanged at an unfavorable rate. Western Union money transfer is available. For information on money transfers, call (385)(1) 4839-166 or fax (385)(1) 4839-122.

Recreational Boating:
The Government of Croatia adopted a law (effective January 1, 2006) requiring all recreational skippers chartering Croatian flagged vessels to have a certificate of competence. Under the law, the Ministry of Sea, Tourism and Transport will only recognize licenses issued by national authorities of other states. As no such national licensing regime exists in the U.S., Americans wishing to charter and pilot a Croatian-flagged vessel may be required to pass a certification test at the Ministry in Zagreb or a designated harbormaster's office on the coast.

Tourists can be certified in Croatia at harbormasters' offices in Pula, Rijeka, Senj, Zadar, Sibenik, Split, Ploce and Dubrovnik, as well as at the Ministry in Zagreb. Candidates need to contact the harbormaster's office or the Ministry to schedule the test. Please note that the test will be administered only to groups, so individuals may need to wait until a sufficient number of interested applicants apply. The certification costs 850 kuna (roughly $165) and is valid indefinitely. A study guide is available and the test can be taken in Croatian, English, German, and Italian.

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 Croatian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Croatia 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 also 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 Croatia are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Croatia.Americans withoutInternet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Zagreb is located at ul. Thomasa Jeffersona 2, 10010 Zagreb, tel. (385) (1) 661-2200. The Embassy is located in the southern outskirts of Zagreb near the airport. For emergencies on weekends, holidays and after hours, an embassy duty officer can be reached at tel. (385) (1) 661-2400 or (385) (91) 455-2247.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated July 6, 2007, to update sections on Traffic and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2020 16:41:47 +0200 (METDST)

Zagreb, April 23, 2020 (AFP) - Croatia will gradually start loosening its coronavirus lockdown next week after signs infection rates are slowing, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday.   Since reporting its first case of the virus in late February, the EU member state has detected 1,981 infections and some 50 deaths from the respiratory disease among its population of 4.2 million.

With daily infection rates on a largely downward trend for the past two weeks, the "epidemiological situation is for now under control," Plenkovic told a cabinet session.   A gradual relaxation of restrictions will start Monday when libraries, museums and shops -- except for malls or stores that involve close contact with clients -- will be free to open, the prime minister said.

Public transport will also resume while top athletes will be able to train.  If the health situation remains stable, more measures will be relaxed in early May, such as a return to school for younger students and the re-opening of outdoor cafes.    Social distancing and other hygiene measures will be enforced throughout, Plenkovic stressed.   "Our task is to enable functioning of economy in changed circumstances," he said, warning measures may be tightened again if the country sees another surge of infections.

The country entered lockdown in March when all businesses aside from the essentials were shuttered and travel was restricted.   Croatia's economy could shrink by between five and nine percent this year, according to forecasts, as the virus hits its vital tourism sector, which accounts for some 20 percent of GDP.   Plenkovic told reporters he was in talks with his Austrian, Hungarian and Slovenian counterparts on finding a way to open borders safely for tourists.
Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2020 09:43:49 +0100 (MET)

Zagreb, Croatia, March 22, 2020 (AFP) - A 15-year-old boy was crushed to death by a 5.3-magnitude earthquake that rocked Croatia on Sunday, state media reported.   "We got a call about a collapsed building... Teams went to the spot and found a seriously injured child who did not show signs of life", Zarko Rasic, the head of Zagreb's emergency unit told state-run HINA news agency, adding the boy's age was 15.
Date: Fri 21 Feb 2020
Source: Eurosurveillance [abridged, edited]
Selection from Eurosurveillance for week 08 [2020]
Citation: Tomlijenovic M, Lakic M, Vilibic-Cavlek T, et al.: Measles outbreak in Dubrovnik-Neretva County, Croatia, May to June 2018. Euro Surveill. 2020; 25(7): pii: 1900434. DOI:

Abstract
------
In May 2018, measles was introduced in the Dubrovnik region by an adult who recently travelled to Kosovo*. Control measures and an outbreak investigation were implemented: 15 epidemiologically linked cases met the outbreak case definition of a visitor/resident of Dubrovnik-Neretva County with laboratory-confirmed measles and symptom onset beginning on 19 May [2018]. New cases were identified through hospitals and primary care physicians. Throat swabs, urine, and/or serum samples were collected from outbreak cases. RT-PCR detection of viral RNA and IgM/IgG was used to confirm infection. The median age of cases was 33 years, with one 8-month-old infant. Vaccination status was unknown for 9 cases, 3 were unvaccinated, one case had a history of one dose, and 2 cases reported receiving 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine.

There were 11 hospitalisations, and one person developed pneumonia.

Control teams undertook an extensive search of contacts and implemented a range of control measures. Despite the outbreak occurring at the beginning of the summer tourism season, it was contained and did not spread to neighbouring regions. With continuing measles transmission in Europe, even small outbreaks create a burden on the health system in countries that have eliminated measles and illustrate the importance of maintaining high immunisation coverage.
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2019 10:44:51 +0200

Zagreb, July 16, 2019 (AFP) - Some 10,000 tourists were evacuated from a popular party beach on a Croatian island after a forest fire erupted early Tuesday, police said.

Police ordered visitors to night clubs on Zrce beach on the northern island of Pag to leave after the blaze erupted in a pine forest at around 1:00 am (2300 GMT Monday), a police statement said.   No one was injured in the fire which was brought under control, the mayor of the nearby town of Novalja, Ante Dabo, told national radio.  The cause was not immediately known.   Three firefighting planes were rushed to the scene to help extinguish the blaze which spread to a local road that had to be closed.

The island of Pag and its Zrce beach are popular with young tourists, notably British, who party there.  Tourism is a pillar of Croatia's economy, with visitors flocking to hundreds of islands and islets along its stunning Adriatic coast.   Last year the country of 4.2 million people welcomed more than 19 million tourists.
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2018 19:50:04 +0200

Zagreb, Sept 25, 2018 (AFP) - A forest fire erupted Tuesday in Croatia's southern Peljesac peninsula, prompting the evacuation of dozens of villagers and tourists and destroying four houses, officials said.   The blaze broke out near the town of Orebic. It threatened the hamlet of Mokalo whose 40 inhabitants were evacuated, the national rescue and protection directorate (DZUS) said.   Tourists from two nearby camps were also evacuated, it added.

Meanwhile, strong winds hampered firefighting efforts and prevented the use of two water-bombing planes, they said.   "The situation in the Orebic area is pretty serious," national firefighting commander Slavko Tucakovic told state-run television.   "Unfortunately four houses were burned down but there are no casualties," he said.   This summer Croatia did not see major forest fires which mainly namely threaten its Adriatic coast.   But in 2017, summer fires were among the worst in several years, with 83,000 hectares (205,000) of forests damaged.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 26 May 2020 09:15:57 +0200 (METDST)

Riyadh, May 26, 2020 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia will end its nationwide coronavirus curfew from June 21, except in the holy city of Mecca, the interior ministry said Tuesday, after more than two months of stringent curbs.   Prayers will also be allowed to resume in all mosques outside Mecca from May 31, the ministry said in a series of measures announced on the official Saudi Press Agency.   The kingdom, which has reported the highest number of virus cases in the Gulf, imposed a full nationwide curfew during Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The ministry said it will begin easing restrictions in a phased manner this week, with the curfew relaxed between 6 am and 3 pm between Thursday and Saturday.   From Sunday until June 20, the curfew will be further eased until 8 pm, the ministry added.   The kingdom will lift the lockdown entirely from June 21.   "Starting from Thursday, the kingdom will enter a new phase (in dealing with the pandemic) and will gradually return to normal based on the rules of social distancing," Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said on Monday.   Saudi Arabia has reported around 75,000 coronavirus infections and some 400 deaths from COVID-19.

In March, Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round "umrah" pilgrimage over fears of the disease spreading in Islam's holiest cities.   That suspension will remain in place, the interior ministry said.   Authorities are yet to announce whether they will proceed with this year's hajj -- scheduled for late July -- but they have urged Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual pilgrimage.   Last year, some 2.5 million faithful travelled to Saudi Arabia from around the world to participate in the hajj, which Muslims are obliged to perform at least once during their lifetime.
Date: Tue, 26 May 2020 05:52:24 +0200 (METDST)

Santiago, May 26, 2020 (AFP) - Chile registered a new high for coronavirus cases on Monday, with nearly 5,000 infections in 24 hours, including two ministers in President Sebastian Pinera's government.   Health authorities announced 4,895 new infections in the South American country and 43 deaths.

Public Works Minister Alfredo Moreno and Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobet said they were among those with the disease.   "I have been informed that the COVID-19 test I had a few days ago was positive," Moreno said on Twitter, adding that he had no symptoms so far.   The 63-year-old minister had placed himself in quarantine after one of his staff tested positive.  Jobet also tested positive after starting to quarantine preventatively on Saturday, "when he experienced mild symptoms, which could be associated with the disease," a statement from the Energy Ministry said.

The 44-year-old minister "has had no direct contact with President Sebastian Pinera or other cabinet members in recent days," the statement said, without specifying how he became infected.   Three other ministers, who had self-quarantined after being in contact with infected people, all tested negative and resumed work.

Chile suffered a surge in infections last week, prompting the government to order the lockdown of Santiago.   The capital is the main focus of the pandemic in Chile, with 90 percent of the country's 74,000 cases.   Last week, the Senate was closed after three senators tested positive for the coronavirus. Sessions were held by video conference.
Date: Tue, 26 May 2020 01:15:01 +0200 (METDST)

Quito, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Demonstrators defied coronavirus restrictions to march in cities across Ecuador on Monday in protest against President Lenin Moreno's drastic economic measures to tackle the crisis.   Moreno last week announced public spending cuts including the closure of state companies and embassies around the world, but trade unions Monday said workers were paying a disproportionate price compared to Ecuador's elite.   "This protest is because the government is firing workers to avoid making the rich pay," Mecias Tatamuez, head of the county's largest union, the Unitary Front of Workers (FUT), told reporters at a march in Quito.

Around 2,000 people marched in the capital, waving flags and banners and shouting anti-government slogans.   The protesters wore masks and respected distancing measures recommended against the spread of the coronavirus that has caused at least 3,200 deaths in the country, making it South America's worst hit nation per capita. Authorities say more than 2,000 further deaths are likely linked to the virus.

Demonstrations took place in several other cities, including Guayaquil, the epicentre of Ecuador's health crisis, where union leaders said hundreds marched through the city.   Moreno ordered the closure of Ecuadoran embassies, a reduction in diplomatic staff and scrapped seven state companies as part of measures designed to save some $4 billion.    He also announced the liquidation of the TAME airline, which has lost more than $400 million over the last five years.

The government says the pandemic has so far cost the economy at least $8 billion.   Public sector working hours have been cut by 25 percent, with an accompanying 16 percent pay cut.   Moreno said on Sunday that 150,000 people had lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.   Ecuador was struggling economically before the pandemic hit, due to high debt and its dependence on oil.   The IMF predicts that the economy will shrink by 6.3 percent this year, the sharpest drop of any country in South America.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 22:20:46 +0200 (METDST)

Dublin, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Ireland recorded no new deaths from the coronavirus on Monday for the first time since March 21.   Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called it a "significant milestone", adding on Twitter: "This is a day of hope. We will prevail."

The announcement came one week after Ireland, which has suffered 1,606 deaths from 24,698 infections, began to ease lockdown measures that had been in place for nearly two months.   Ireland entered lockdown in late March, recording a peak of 77 deaths on a single day on April 20.   "In the last 24 hours we didn't have any deaths notified to us," chief medical officer Tony Holohan said at a daily press briefing.   He warned that the zero figure could be a result of a lag in reporting of deaths over the weekend, but he added: "It's part of the continued trend that we've seen in (the) reduction in the total number of deaths."

Ireland has announced a five-step plan to reopen the nation by August and took the first steps last Monday -- allowing outdoor employees to return to work, some shops to reopen and the resumption of  activities such as golf and tennis.   While the news of no fresh deaths was greeted as progress, officials remain concerned there will be a "second wave" as the lockdown is loosened.   "The number of new cases and reported deaths over the past week indicates that we have suppressed COVID-19 as a country," Holohan added in a statement.   "It will take another week to see any effect on disease incidence that might arise from the easing of measures."
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 21:59:40 +0200 (METDST)

Luxembourg, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Luxembourg will ease its coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, reopening cafes and restaurants and allowing civil and religious ceremonies under strict conditions, the government announced.   The tiny country has so far registered only 3,993 COVID-19 cases, of which 110 have been fatal. Four people are in intensive care and shops were closed on March 18 to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told a news conference on Monday that eateries could reopen terraces with a maximum of four people at a single table.   Indoor dining in cafes and restaurants will resume on Friday, he said, with social distancing of 1.5 metres (five feet) between groups.   Marriages and funerals will also be allowed if the attendees wore face masks and kept two metres distance from each other.   Bettel however said cafes and restaurants would have to close at midnight.

Francois Koepp, the general secretary of the Horeca federation grouping hotels, restaurants and cafes, welcomed the announcement, saying the sector had "greatly suffered from the confinement".   He said it provided employment to some 21,000 people in this nation of 620,000 inhabitants.   Cinema theatres and gyms will open at the end of the week but children's parks will remain closed.   The government has pledged to give every citizen over 16 a voucher worth 50 euros ( $54) to spend in hotels to provide a boost to the sector.   The vouchers will also be given to some 200,000 cross border workers from Belgium, France and Germany.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 20:36:16 +0200 (METDST)

Prague, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - The Czech Republic and Slovakia will reopen their border this week for those travelling to the other country for up to 48 hours, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Monday.   "This will be possible without tests or quarantine" starting Wednesday, he added in a message posted on Twitter.   The Czech Republic and Slovakia formed a single country until 1993. Babis himself was born in the Slovak capital of Bratislava.

Both countries have fared well in the current pandemic, with Slovakia posting the lowest death toll per capita in the EU and the Czech Republic keeping its COVID-19 figures down as well.   The Czech government will also open border crossings with Austria and Germany on Tuesday but will still require negative COVID-19 tests from those entering the country.   "We have negotiated similar conditions on the other side of the border with our German and Austrian colleagues," Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said.   The interior ministry said blanket border checks would be replaced by random ones and added it would still not allow tourists into the country.

Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech said the government was working on other measures to ease the travel restrictions adopted in mid-March.   "We would like to introduce them next week," he added.   Vojtech said EU citizens could now come to the Czech Republic "on business or to visit their family for a maximum of 72 hours if they submit a negative coronavirus test."

The country is also accessible to non-EU citizens who do seasonal jobs there, on condition they have tested negative.   Czech restaurants, bars, hotels, castles, zoos and swimming pools have been open since Monday, when the government lifted many anti-virus measures.   Czechs also no longer have to wear face masks outside their homes, except in shops and on public transport.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 17:45:38 +0200 (METDST)
By Shafiqul ALAM

Dhaka, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Some 15,000 Rohingya refugees are now under coronavirus quarantine in Bangladesh's vast camps, officials said Monday, as the number of confirmed infections rose to 29.   Health experts have long warned that the virus could race through the cramped settlements, housing almost a million Muslims who fled violence in Myanmar, and officials had restricted movement to the area in April.

Despite this, the first cases in the camps were detected in mid-May.   "None of the infections are critical. Most hardly show any symptoms. Still we have brought them in isolation centres and quarantined their families," Toha Bhuiyan, a senior health official in the surrounding Cox's Bazar area told AFP.   He said narrow roads to three districts of the camps -- where the majority of the infections were detected -- have been blocked off by authorities.

The 15,000 Rohingya inside these so-called blocks faced further restrictions on their movement, he said.   It comes as charity workers expressed fears over being infected in the camps as they worked without adequate protection.   Two of the areas under isolation are in Kutupalong camp, home to roughly 600,000 Rohingya.   "We are trying to scale up testing as fast as possible to make sure that we can trace out all the infected people and their contacts," Bhuiyan said.

Seven isolation centres with the capacity to treat more than 700 COVID-19 patients have been prepared, he said.   Officials hope to have just under 2,000 ready by the end of May, he added.   Mahbubur Rahman, the chief health official of Cox's Bazar, said authorities hoped this week they would double the number of tests being performed daily from 188.   He said further entry restrictions have been imposed on the camp, with a 14 day quarantine in place for anyone visiting from Dhaka.   "We are very worried because the Rohingya camps are very densely populated. We suspect community transmission (of the virus) has already begun," Rahman told AFP.

- 'Very little awareness' -
Bangladesh on Monday notched up a record single-day spike in coronavirus cases, with 1,975 new infections, taking the toll to 35,585 cases and 501 deaths.   In early April authorities imposed a complete lockdown on Cox's Bazar district -- home to 3.4 million people including the refugees -- after a number of infections.

But a charity worker with one of the many aid organisations active in the camps said Monday he and many others were "very worried".   "Fear and panic has gripped aid workers because many of us were forced to work without much protection," he told AFP without wishing to be named.   "Social distancing is almost impossible in the camps. There is very little awareness about COVID-19 disease among the refugees, despite efforts by aid agencies."

The lack of information is exacerbated by local authorities having cut off access to the internet in September to combat, they said, drug traffickers and other criminals.   More than 740,000 Rohingya fled a brutal 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar to Cox's Bazar, where around 200,000 refugees were already living.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 15:25:38 +0200 (METDST)

Antananarivo, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Madagascar's government has announced it will dispatch troops and doctors to an eastern town after several bodies were found in the streets and where two people died from the novel coronavirus.   Madagascar's cabinet held a special meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation in Toamasina, the country's second largest city.   The Indian Ocean island nation has registered 527 infections and two deaths, both in Toamasina.

Since Thursday, more than 120 new cases were confirmed, and several bodies were found in the city's streets though the cause of death was not clear.   "Doctors must carry out thorough examinations to see if these deaths are caused by another illness (...) or if they are really due to severe acute respiratory problems which is the critical form of COVID-19," Professor Hanta Marie Danielle Vololontiana, spokesperson for the government's virus taskforce, said in a national broadcast on Sunday.   The government will send 150 soldiers to reinforce Toamasina, maintain order and enforce measures against the coronavirus such as mask wearing and social distancing.

The cabinet also fired Toamasina's prefect without providing any explanation.    A team was also ordered to distribute a drink based on artemisia, a plant recognised as a treatment against malaria, which the Malagasy authorities claim cures COVID-19.    The potential benefits of this herbal tea, called Covid-Organics, have not been validated by any scientific study.    The cabinet has also announced an investigation into the death of a doctor in Toamasina. According to local press, the victim was hospitalised after contracting COVID-19 and was found dead hanged in his room on Sunday morning.
Date: Mon, 25 May 2020 09:20:17 +0200 (METDST)
By Bhuvan Bagga with Indranil Mukherjee in Mumbai

New Delhi, May 25, 2020 (AFP) - Domestic flights resumed in India on Monday even as coronavirus cases surge, while confusion about quarantine rules prompted jitters among passengers and the cancellation of dozens of planes.   India had halted all flights within the country, and departing and leaving for abroad, in late March as it sought to stop the spread of coronavirus with the world's largest lockdown.   But desperate to get Asia's third-largest economy moving again, the government announced last week that around 1,050 daily flights -- a third of the usual capacity -- would resume on Monday.

Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said strict rules would include mandatory mask-wearing and thermal screenings, although middle seats on the aircraft would not be kept empty.   The announcement reportedly caught airlines and state authorities off-guard, with several local governments announcing that passengers would have to go into quarantine for two weeks on arrival.   Maharashtra, the Indian state with the highest number of coronavirus cases, capped at 50 the number of departures and arrivals in and out of its capital Mumbai.

Airlines scrapped dozens of flights on Monday while hundreds of passengers cancelled their bookings, reports said.   The NDTV news channel said 82 flights to and from New Delhi had been cancelled and nine at Bangalore airport.   Other flights from cities including infection hotspots Mumbai and Chennai were struck off, many at short notice, reports said.   At Mumbai airport social distancing was forgotten as irate passengers harangued staff after their flights were cancelled at the last minute.

- 'Really scary' -
At New Delhi airport, hundreds of people anxious to get home but apprehensive about the risks queued from before dawn -- all wearing masks and standing at least one metre (three feet) apart.   Security personnel behind plastic screens verified check-in documents and that passengers had the government contact tracing app, Aarogya Setu, on their phones.

"While I'm looking forward (to flying home), the idea of flying is really scary," student Gladia Laipubam told AFP as she stood in line.   "Anything can happen. It's very risky. I don't really know when I'll be able to come back to Delhi now. There is no clarity from the university too at this time."   One female airline employee wearing gloves, a mask and a protective face shield said she and many other colleagues felt "very nervous" about starting work again.   "Dealing with so many people at this time is so risky. I must have interacted with at least 200 people since this morning," she told AFP, not wishing to be named.

Cabin crew on the planes had to wear full protective suits with masks, plastic visors and blue rubber gloves, and many were also confused about the rules, the Press Trust of India reported.   "There is no clarity on whether I need to go into home quarantine for 14 days after returning to my base or show up for duty on Monday," one pilot told PTI.   New coronavirus cases in India crossed 6,000 for the third consecutive day on Sunday, surging to a record single-day spike of 6,767 infections.   The country has recorded almost 140,000 cases and over 4,000 deaths.   Singh has said that international flights could resume in June, although dozens of special flights have in recent weeks brought back some of the hundreds of thousands of Indians stuck abroad.
Date: Fri, 22 May 2020 11:02:28 +0200 (METDST)

Suva, Fiji, May 22, 2020 (AFP) - A huge fire at one of Suva's largest markets blanketed the Fijian capital in thick smoke before it was brought under control Friday, firefighters said.   The blaze engulfed the Suva Flea Market, a major tourist attraction near the waterfront, sending plumes of acrid black smoke into the air.   The National Fire Authority said an adjoining shop was also badly damaged but there were no reports of injuries.   "It's been stopped now and no one was injured but that's all we can say at the moment," a spokesman told AFP.   The said the cause of the fire was being investigated.