October 02, 2008
Latvia is a stable democracy with a developing economy. Most tourist facilities found in a western European city are available in the capital city of Riga. However,
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Latvia is a party to the Schengen agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter Latvia for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our fact sheet. Travelers remaining in Latvia for more than 90 days, including 180 day periods that cross over two half-calendar years, must apply for temporary residence. All travelers must have a valid insurance policy, covering medical expenses while in Latvia. Repatriation costs, including funeral and disposition of remains costs also have to be covered by the policy. In addition, upon entering or exiting the country, travelers must declare cash in excess of 10,000 euros to Latvian customs. For more information, travelers may contact the Latvian Embassy, at 2306 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202)328-2840, fax (202) 328-2860. For further information, visit http://www.latvia-usa.org. Within Latvia, contact the Ministry of Interiors Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs at Ciekurkalna 1, linija 1,k,3,Riga, LV 1026. Tel. (371)67219645, (371)67219679, (371)80007657, fax (371)67219654, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web site http://www.ocma.gov.
Any traveler to Russia, even in transit, is advised to obtain a visa prior to entry into Latvia. The process of obtaining a visa at the Russian Embassy in Riga can be lengthy, and involve surrender of the passport for an undetermined period of time. Visit the Embassy of Latvia web site at http://www.latvia-usa.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.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Civil unrest is not a problem in Riga. Nonetheless, in the past, Riga has seen large, peaceful demonstrations related to internal political issues. While demonstrations have been peaceful, American citizens are nevertheless cautioned to avoid any large public demonstrations. There have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests. Incidents of anti-Americanism are rare. However, instances of racially motivated verbal harassment, and on occasion, physical assaults on non-Caucasian foreigners, have occurred in Riga. There have also been reports of non-Caucasian foreigners being subjected to extra scrutiny by security guards in shops and malls in Riga. Additionally, individuals displaying alternative lifestyles have experienced harassment.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s notice A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Crime in Riga is generally non-violent. The majority of non-violent crime tends toward acts of pickpocketing, identity theft, and personal scams. However, there have been instances of serious violent assaults and robberies. Street crime is a serious problem, particularly for tourists. In addition to pickpockets in all public areas, there are numerous scam artists targeting foreigners in the tourist pubs and restaurants. There have been a number of reports recently of foreign tourists being charged xorbitant prices for drinks in bars. Some have then been assaulted or forced to withdraw money from an ATM to pay the bill. You can avoid situations like this by ensuring that you check the price of drinks before ordering, pay for one round at a time and seek recommendations for bars from trustworthy sources. There have also been a few cases of tourists and residents being drugged in bars and restaurants and then taken outside or to their residences and robbed. In any public area, one should always be alert, particularly to being surrounded by two or more people at once. It is not uncommon for groups of pickpockets to attempt to overwhelm their victim. Gangs of professional pickpockets are specifically targeting foreigners, particularly those carrying backpacks. In addition, Riga has one of the highest rates of car theft in the world.
Internet crime is a growing concern in Latvia. Common fraudulent schemes involve both Internet auction sites and Internet job search sites. In the first scam, criminals offer valuable items for sale at low prices on Internet auctions and request that payments be sent by wire transfer to a bank in Latvia or through a fraudulent escrow site that they have created themselves. In this scheme, the money passes through a bank in Latvia and is quickly withdrawn by ATM or transferred to a bank in another country. It is very difficult in these cases to discover the identities of the account holders or recover the funds.
The second common scam involves identity theft through false job offers. In this scheme, a company claiming to be located in Latvia, but which has a non-existent address, offers the victim employment as a U.S. – based agent or freight forwarder. When the victim responds to the job offer, commonly posted on one of several popular Internet job sites, a Social Security Number and other identifying information needed for the identity theft is required under the guise of conducting a background check.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy or Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. For more information, see Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in Latvia is steadily improving, but remains limited in several important respects. There are a few private clinics with medical supplies and services, including disposable needles and basic modern diagnostics, which are nearly equal to Western Europe or U.S. standards. However, because of the lack of equipment and resources, most major invasive procedures or surgeries in Latvia are not recommended. Hospital services have shown good progress but are still not equal to Western standards. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Most, but not all, antibiotics and prescription medications are available but as they are generally produced in Europe or Latvia, they often have different names and instructions are usually not printed in English. Diphtheria, hepatitis and tick-borne encephalitis are present. According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis is a significant problem in Latvia, with 9% of all cases being multi-drug resistant. For further information, please consult the CDC’s Travel notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx. State ambulance service for emergencies is available by dialing 112 anywhere in Latvia. However, response time is poor in rural areas. Air ambulance service is available for medical evacuations. In general, private air ambulance services are very expensive and require advance payment before the patient is transported.
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
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. 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 Latvia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Foreign visitors to Latvia planning to operate a motor vehicle are required to obtain an International Driving Permit. These may be obtained through the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance for a small fee. A U.S. state driver’s license is not sufficient. These requirements apply to those operating rental cars as well, whether or not the rental company chooses to enforce the requirement as a condition of rental. Individuals driving without an International Driving Permit may have their vehicle confiscated by the police. Americans resident in Latvia for more than six months are required to apply for a Latvian driver’s license. Upon receipt of a Latvian driver’s license, American citizens are required to surrender their US driver’s license to the Latvian authorities. The licenses are then returned to their respective states of issuance. For more information, visit the Latvian Road and Traffic Safety Department at http://www.csdd.lv
Latvia has one of the highest rates of automobile accidents and fatalities in Europe. While recent reports show a decrease in the number of traffic accident fatalities, there are still a number of hazards to watch out for. Drivers should be alert for pedestrians and slow moving vehicles in traffic. Additionally, violation of traffic rules is common, and it is not unusual to be overtaken by other automobiles traveling at high speeds, even in crowed urban areas. Drivers do not always yield to pedestrians, even at marked intersections. During winter, most major roads are cleared of snow. However, drivers should be alert for fog, snow, and ice while driving. Driving while intoxicated is a very serous offense and carries heavy penalties. Local authorities use roadblocks and Breathalyzer tests as enforcement tools. Drivers and pedestrians should be alert to the possibility of drunk drivers and drunken pedestrians wandering on the road. Drivers must use their headlights at all times. Speed limits are usually 50 km/hr in the city and 90 km/hr on the highways. Public transportation is generally considered safe, but travelers are encouraged to select well-marked taxis. Emergency services are fair but improving (See section on Medical Facilities above); response time may be especially slow in traffic or in rural settings. Dial 112 for ambulance service.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for information. Visit the website of Latvia’s national tourist office at http://latviatourism.lv/info.php and the national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.csdd.lv/
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Latvia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Latvia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
Banks and currency exchange counters may refuse to accept U.S. currency that is crumpled, torn, discolored or defaced (even small pen stokes, hand written numbers and letters are considered defacing). If such notes are accepted for exchange, an additional processing fee, based on the size of the transaction, may be charged. ATMs are widely available in Riga and in major towns. For security purposes, it is recommended that visitors use ATMs located inside major hotels or shopping malls, versus those located on the street, in high-volume tourist areas. Telephone connections with the United States are reliable. However, 1-800 numbers cannot be accessed from Latvia. Please check with your long distance carrier before departure to see if they offer service in Latvia. Local Internet cafés offer computer access, and fax machines are widely available.
Latvian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Latvia of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, drugs, etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Latvia in Washington or one of the Latvian consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements at http://www.latvia-usa.org.
Please see our information on 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 Latvian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Latvia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit 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 web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living or traveling in Latvia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy of Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/ and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Latvia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 7 Raina Blvd. Riga, LV-1510, and may be reached by dialing +371-703-6200. The fax number for the Consular American Citizen Services section is+371-781-4088. You can find the ACS section online at http://riga.usembassy.gov/
* * * * * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated March 12, 2008 with updated information on Entry Requirements.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Riga, Nov 7, 2019 (AFP) - Thousands of doctors and nurses rallied Thursday in front of the Latvian parliament in Riga calling for better pay in what was the Baltic state's largest protest in over a decade. Police said more than 5,000 people, including patients, turned out for the protest, which featured coffins and signs with slogans such as "United for health", "I only want to work one job" and "Patients supporting doctors and nurses". The LVSADA medical labour union organised the rally to condemn lawmakers for planning to increase their own salaries next year while reneging on a promise to boost wages in the chronically underfunded medical profession. "We won't allow the healthcare system to be starved again," LVSADA chief Valdis Keris said at the rally, which state hospital employees attended by taking a day of unpaid leave.
Some doctors also participated in the protest by only performing emergency surgery and tending to emergency patients on Thursday while rescheduling everything else. "The average monthly wage for a doctor at a Latvian public hospital is only between 1,000-3,000 euros ($1,100-$3,300)," protester and doctor Roberts Furmanis said in a statement sent to media. "I work my daily shift at one hospital, at night I also work overtime driving around in an ambulance, plus sometimes I lecture at medical schools on my rare days off," he added. "I get less than 3,000 euros a month for those jobs combined. How am I supposed to support my family?" Last year, lawmakers voted to raise wages for almost all employees of the government-run healthcare system, but now say that they are unable to find the necessary funds in the 2020 state budget. "I express deep regret for last year's promise, which we cannot carry out," speaker of parliament Inara Murniece told the rally.
Those protesting, however, point out that the 2020 state budget exceeds 10 billion euros for the first time ever in the country of just 1.9 million people -- or 700 million more euros than this year. Medical workers are upset that while there is no room for better healthcare wages in the new budget, the country's lawmakers and ministers plan to increase their own salaries next year and have also earmarked taxpayer money for their respective political parties. Thursday's rally was Latvia's largest since some 10,000 people attended a January 2009 protest against government cuts, which grew violent and resulted in dozens of arrests.
Source: Food Safety News [edited]
Officials in Latvia are investigating 40 _Salmonella_ and Shiga toxin-producing _E. coli_ illnesses with mostly children affected. A total of 36 children and 4 employees of educational institutions are ill, according to the Latvian Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC). Salmonellosis has been laboratory confirmed in 9 children with symptoms of acute intestinal infection thought to have occurred from [9 to 11 Sep 2019]. Patients have been recorded at Levina and Tornisi kindergartens. Shiga toxin-producing also called enterotoxigenic _E. coli_ (EHEC) infections have been linked to schools identified as Levina, Saulite and Piladzitis in Sigulda, a town in the country.
At least 4 children aged 3 to 6 years old have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after EHEC infection from early September 2019 in Sigulda. HUS is a type of kidney failure associated with EHEC infection. It can occur in people of any age but is most common in children under 5 years old. The SPKC has surveyed parents of sick children, visited preschools to obtain information on absent children and staff and the cause, analysed food menus and possible risk factors. A total of 19 infections at 3 other pre-school facilities in Ikskile, Garkalne and Ogre are not thought to be related to those ill in Sigulda.
The Latvian Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) has been investigating catering units at the 3 sites linked to _E. coli_ infection where catering comes from one company. Initial suspicions pointed to contaminated watermelons. Inspections at the catering units did not reveal violations of hygiene requirements that could contribute to the spread of infection. The sites also underwent cleaning and disinfection. PVD suspended operations of a vegetable processing firm called "Jelgavas AugÄ¼i" due to violations of hygiene requirements, product traceability and inadequate storage temperature for pre-packed vegetables that were stored at 13 deg. C [approx. 55 deg. F] instead of the required 6 deg. C [approx. 42 deg. F].
The company, through Baltic Restaurants Latvia, supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to Sigulda educational institutions but a connection to the outbreak has not been established. Testing at the firm so far has not found _E. coli_. Other results are pending but the company will be allowed to resume operations if they are negative and when it corrects the deficiencies identified by authorities. Authorities have also found issues with transportation of food by the company "Point to Point" Ltd between educational institutions.
[These are two outbreaks of enteric pathogens that appear to be related to food supplied to schools. The EHEC outbreak has been possibly linked to watermelon. With 9 cases of EHEC and 4 of them developing HUS, it is possible that the strain is a hyperproducer of Shiga toxin but most likely related to use of antimicrobials early in the infection which increases the risk of HUS. - ProMED Mod.LL]
[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Latvia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/119>]
Riga, May 15, 2019 (AFP) - A second Albanian soldier has died of his injuries from a World War II landmine blast last week during a NATO exercise in Latvia, the Baltic state's defence minister said Wednesday. Klodian Tanushi, who held the rank of major, died following surgery at a Riga hospital over the weekend, days after the landmine explosion that also killed another soldier. "I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the soldiers' relatives and friends, to their fellow service members and to the people of Albania," Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks told AFP. "Latvia is very grateful to our ally Albania for contributing to NATO's expanded presence in Latvia."
In 2016, NATO deployed four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states to guard against possible Russian adventurism. The defence group's rotating battalion in Latvia is led by Canada and also includes soldiers from Albania, the Czech Republic, Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Tanushi, a father-of-three, was the commanding officer of the Albanian contingent stationed at the NATO base in the central village of Adazi. Both world wars left Latvia littered with many unexploded sea and landmines as well as artillery shells, which continue to be found on a daily basis. Clearing areas of such explosives is a frequent focus of NATO military exercises in the region.
Riga, July 22, 2018 (AFP) - Fires raging for five days have destroyed more than 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of western Latvia, authorities said Sunday, with continuing extreme temperatures hampering firefighters' efforts. Satellite images showed the fires have wiped out 170 acres of forest, 257 hectares of scrubland and nearly 400 hectares of peatland.
A peat fire in the Courland region broke out last Tuesday and spread eastwards, with the smoke noticeable in the resort town of Jurmala, more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) away in the neighbouring Riga region. "Peatland fires burn downward, but when there's wind, which brings oxygen, the fires can erupt into flames," Latvian fire services spokesman Inta Palkavniece told reporters. "The main goal is to prevent the fires from spreading," he added. The fire services said on its website that firefighting efforts would be "long and troublesome". "The weather is unfavourable to firefighting and will remain so over the next days," it said.
The Courland region is sparsely populated, with few roads and many areas inaccessible because of its vast marshes. Residents of Stikli, a village that was evacuated because of the fire, began to return home after the wind changed "of their own accord", the mayor of its municipality Ventspils, Aivars Mucenieks, told reporters. Pupils of a school for disabled children in Stikli will not return until the situation is fully under control, he added.
Meteorologists warned that the high temperatures are persisting and no rain is expected for the next two weeks. Latvia has experienced severe drought over the last few months, prompting authorities to declare a natural catastrophe in the agricultural sector. The Baltic country has not yet asked for help from other European countries and has no proposals to do so for the time being. But other countries in Europe have been in the grip of an unusually long heatwave for recent weeks with little prospect of rain for the time being.
In Sweden, where temperatures are the highest for a century, farmers are even sending their animals to slaughter because there is no hay left to feed them. It has asked for help from other European countries, because of the lack of manpower and capacity to tackle such natural catastrophes. Poland has asked the EU for financial aid after more than 91,000 farms were affected by an unusual spring drought, according to the agriculture ministry. In Germany, which suffered a drought in May and June, agricultural producers warned the harvest this year will be down by between 20 and 50 percent.
Saint Kitts and Nevis
April 02, 2008
St. Kitts and Nevis is a developing Caribbean nation consisting of two islands.
Tourist facilities are widely available.
Read the Department
All Americans traveling by air outside the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States.
This requirement will be extended to sea travel (except closed loop cruises), including ferry service, by the summer of 2009.
Until then, U.S. citizens traveling by sea must have government-issued photo identification and a document showing their U.S. citizenship (for example, a birth certificate or certificate of nationalization), or other WHTI compliant document such as a passport card for entry or re-entry to the U.S.
Sea travelers should also check with their cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements.
Applications for the new U.S. Passport Card are now being accepted.
We expect cards will be available and mailed to applicants in spring 2008.
The card may not be used to travel by air and is available only to U.S. citizens. Further information on the Passport Card is available at http://travel.state.gov/passport/ppt_card/ppt_card_3926.html and upcoming changes to U.S. passport policy can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html.
We strongly encourage all American citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel.
American citizens can visit travel.state.gov or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.
Visitors may be asked to present an onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds to cover the cost of their visit.
Stays of up to three months are granted at immigration.
Anyone requiring an extension must apply to the Ministry of National Security.
There is an airport departure tax and environmental levy charged when leaving the country.
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:
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 Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts 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.
Petty street crime occurs in St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as the occasional burglary; visitors and residents should take common-sense precautions.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and use hotel safety deposit facilities to safeguard valuables and travel documents.
Do not leave valuables unattended on the beach or in cars.
Exercise caution when walking alone at night.
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:
Medical care is limited.
The main hospitals are Joseph N. France General Hospital (telephone (869) 465-2551) on St. Kitts and Alexandria Hospital (telephone (869) 469-5473) on Nevis.
St. Kitts has two additional hospitals and both islands have several health clinics.
Neither island has a hyperbaric chamber.
Divers suffering from decompression illness are transported to the island of Saba, in the Netherlands Antilles.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost thousands of dollars.
Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning St. Kitts and Nevis is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic in St. Kitts and Nevis moves on the left-hand side of the road.
Roads are reasonably well paved but narrow and sometimes poorly marked.
Drivers often stop on the side of or in the middle of the road to visit with other drivers, blocking one lane of traffic.
Honking one's horn is a common form of greeting, not a warning.
Travelers are required to obtain a visitor's drivers license, which may be obtained from the Traffic Department or the Fire Station for a small fee on presentation of a valid home or international license.
Public Transportation consists of mini-buses and taxis.
Established fares are available from airport dispatchers and local hotels.
Complaints regarding taxi or minibus services may be lodged with The Department of Tourism or with your hotel.
More detailed information on roads and traffic safety can be obtained from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Environment, Bay Road, Pelican Mall, P.O. Box 132, Basseterre, St. Kitts, telephone (869) 465-4040.
For specific information concerning St. Kitts and Nevis driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the St. Kitts and Nevis national tourist organization via the Internet at http://www.stkitts-tourism.com/index.asp.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of St. Kitts and Nevis’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.
There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in St. Kitts and Nevis.
The U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados, is responsible for American citizen services in these islands.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports or other proof of citizenship with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.
All Caribbean countries can be affected by hurricanes.
The hurricane season normally runs from June to the end of November, but there have been hurricanes in December in recent years.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
Please see Customs Information.
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating St. Kitts and Nevis laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in St. Kitts and Nevis 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 information on Criminal Penalties.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in St. Kitts and Nevis are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within St. Kitts and Nevis.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located in Barbados in the Wildey Business Park, Wildey, St. Michael, telephone 1-246-436-4950, web site http://barbados.usembassy.gov/.
The Consular Section telephone number is 1-246-431-0225. The Consular Section fax number is 1-246-431-0179. Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday, except Barbados and U.S. holidays.
In certain circumstances, the U.S. Consular Agency in Antigua can be of assistance.
Persons seeking assistance should call the Consular Agent, Rebecca Simon, at 1-268-463-6531 to schedule an appointment.
This replaces the Country Specific Information for St. Kitts and Nevis dated June 6, 2006, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
[Fogging will provide only temporary vector mosquito control. Elimination or treatment of breeding sites is necessary for significant vector mosquito population reduction. This same report was also sent in by Roland Hubner.
<http://healthmap.org/r/1E3K>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
WASHINGTON, Feb 14, 2012 (AFP) - US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was robbed at his Caribbean island vacation home last week by a masked, machete-wielding bandit, a court spokeswoman said Tuesday. The incident took place February 9 at the justice's home in Nevis, with about $1,000 cash taken, the spokeswoman said. "No one was hurt," said the official, noting that the 73-year-old Breyer was "robbed by an armed intruder" and that "the individual was armed with a machete." Breyer was on vacation during a break from the schedule of the top US court, which resumes hearings Friday.
St Kitts and Nevis
|Still current at: 30 November 2011|
Updated: 29 November 2011
This advice has been reviewed and reissued, with an amendment to the Entry Requirements - Passport Validity section (updated). The overall level of the advice has not changed; there are no travel restrictions in place in this travel advice for St Kitts and Nevis.
(see travel advice legal disclaimer)
- There is no British High Commission in St Kitts and Nevis. British nationals requiring emergency consular assistance may contact the British Honorary Consul, Sarah Percival, on +1 (869) 764 4677 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +1 (869) 764 4677 end_of_the_skype_highlighting. If the Honorary Consul is not available and for all other non-consular related matters please contact the British HighCommission in Bridgetown, Barbados.
- Around 4,700 British nationals visited St Kitts and Nevis in 2008 (Source: Ministry of Tourism). Most visits to St Kitts and Nevis are trouble-free. The main type of incidents for which British nationals required consular assistance in St Kitts and Nevis in 2008 were replacing lost and stolen passports and dealing with hospitalisations. Over the past year, there has been an overall increase in crime in St Kitts, including gun crimes although these tend to occur within the local community.
- There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
- The hurricane season in St Kitts and Nevis normally runs from June to November. See the Natural Disasters section of this Travel Advice.
- You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General - Insurance.
Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. For more general information see our Terrorism Abroad page.
Safety and Security - Crime
Around 5,000 British nationals visit St Kitts and Nevis each year (Source: Ministry of Tourism) and the vast majority of visits are trouble-free. St Kitts and Nevis is a friendly and welcoming country but incidents of violent crime including murder do occur. Gun crime is increasingly problematic; there have been more than 25 murders in 2011, the majority as a result of shootings. Although these tend to occur within the local community, there have been a number of recent incidents involving British nationals in the Half Moon Court area, including a double murder and violent attack.
You should maintain vigilance at all times even when staying with family or friends. Avoid walking alone in isolated areas, including beaches, after dark. Do not carry large amounts of cash or jewellery. Valuables and travel documents should be left, where possible, in safety deposit boxes and hotel safes.
For more general information see our Victims of Crime Abroad page.
Safety and Security - Local Travel
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel
In order to be able to drive a car in St Kitts and Nevis you must purchase a local driving licence, usually from the car hire company, at a cost of EC$ 100. You must show your current driving licence to obtain this. Motorists drive on the left in St Kitts and Nevis. Main roads are generally well maintained but many follow winding routes so careful driving is necessary. Roads are not well lit at night. You must be alert for stray livestock and speed bumps in some areas that are not well marked. Hiring of scooters is popular amongst visitors but safety equipment is not included in the hire price; despite the additional cost this is highly recommended for your own protection. You should be cautious when driving a scooter, as other road users do not always give them due consideration.
For more general information see our Driving Abroad page.
Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel
You will have to pay a departure tax when leaving St Kitts and Nevis. Departure tax is EC$58 (per adult) and EC$25 (child under 12).
Safety and Security - Political Situation
St Kitts and Nevis Country Profile
You should note that there are severe penalties for all drug offences. Pack all luggage yourself and do not carry anything through customs for anyone else. You should be aware that it is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing. Certain homosexual acts are illegal under the laws of St Kitts and Nevis. For more general information for different types of travellers see our Your Trip page.
Entry requirements - Visas
British Passport holders do not require visas to visit St Kitts and Nevis. On entry you are granted a one month stay. If you wish to stay longer you must apply and pay for an extension of stay through the St Kitts and Nevis Immigration Department. It is an offence to overstay the entry period granted or to work without a work permit.
Entry requirements may change from time to time and should be checked with the High Commission of St Kitts and Nevis in London.
Entry requirements - Passport validity
You must hold a valid passport to enter St Kitts & Nevis. Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into St Kitts & Nevis.
The medical facilities on the islands are limited to one hospital, which can deal only with routine medical cases. More serious cases will need to be dealt with in Puerto Rico, USA once the patient is in a stable condition.
Dengue fever is common across the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. Dengue is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause a feverish illness associated with headache, muscle aches and pains, and rash. Some cases of dengue are severe. Dengue can be prevented by avoiding being bitten by the disease-carrying mosquitoes that feed predominately during daylight hours. For more information on prevention, see the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. For more general information on how to do this see our HIV and AIDS page.
You should seek medical advice before travelling to St Kitts & Nevis and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
For more general health information see our Travel Health and Swine Flu page.
The hurricane season in St Kitts and Nevis normally runs from June to November. You can also access the World Meteorological Organisation for updates and the US National Hurricane Centre. For more general information see our Tropical cyclones page.
General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance, which includes medical evacuation, before travelling. Check for any exclusions and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. Be especially careful about cover for recurring illnesses as they may not be include in all insurance policies. For more general information see our Travel Insurance page.
If things do go wrong when you are oversees see our When Things Go Wrong page.
General - Registration
Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency. More information about registering with LOCATE can be found here.
General - Package Holidays
If you are on a package holiday, you must travel on the specified return date. If you fail to do so it is likely that you will have to pay for a return ticket yourself.
General - Passports
Keep a copy of the photo page of your passport and relevant entry stamp in case your documents are stolen.
The passport service for British nationals in St Kitts and Nevis has now moved from Barbados to the UK Passport Service Centre for the Americas and Caribbean in Washington D.C. (http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk/passports).
If you are applying for a renewal of your UK passport and you are in St Kitts and Nevis your application, with the appropriate passport fee plus a return courier fee of US $21, should be sent direct to:
The UK Passport Service for the Americas and Caribbean
19 Observatory Circle, NW
Washington, DC 20008
The British High Commission in Bridgetown will continue to issue Emergency Passports for people who have lost their passports and who have an urgent need to travel to the UK.
Surveillance of cases clinically suggestive of dengue
After reaching very high values between mid-Nov and mid-Dec , the number of cases clinically suggestive of dengue fever has abruptly decreased in week 2009-52 without, however, running below the epidemic threshold. Since then, there has been a gradual increase in new cases, with an estimated 40 cases in the 1st week of Jan . The number of suggestive [dengue] cases has been well above the epidemic threshold for the past 2 months. It is estimated that during this period, 340 cases suggestive of dengue were seen by general practitioners on the island, averaging over 40 per week. The number of cases clinically suggestive of dengue fever is an estimate for the entire population of the island, based on the number of people who consulted a general practitioner for a clinical syndrome suggestive of dengue. This estimation is performed using data collected from the network of sentinel physicians.
Monitoring of laboratory confirmed cases
The number of laboratory confirmed cases of dengue fever follows a dynamic similar to that of suggestive cases. After a sharp decline in week 2009-52, there was a further increase in the number of confirmed cases during the last week of Dec (2009-53), then an equally high number of laboratory confirmations during the past week (2010-01). Since the 3rd week of Nov (2009-47), 239 laboratory confirmed cases were recorded, and the number of weekly cases has far exceeded the epidemic threshold.
Positivity rate of requests for laboratory confirmation and circulating [dengue virus, DENV] serotypes
As in the previous week, the positivity rate has been very high in the week 2010-01, since 26 of the 41 samples analyzed have been positive (66 per cent). This is the 2nd consecutive week for this rate, so it is increasing during the upswing of the epidemic. Since mid-Nov 2009 (week 2009-47), DENV-1 has constituted the vast majority [of isolates], accounting for 95 per cent of viruses isolated (73 of 77 samples analyzed). DENV-2 has also been identified but only 4 times.
Since early Dec , no new confirmed cases of dengue have been hospitalized for more than 24 hours. The number of laboratory confirmed hospitalized cases has been constant since October 2009, with 2 hospitalizations occurring each month.
The geographical distribution of laboratory confirmed cases indicates their presence on all sectors of the island, indicating that there still is widespread circulation of the virus.
At Saint Barthelemy, the epidemic continues. Virus circulation is still important and widespread on the island. The number of hospitalized cases remains very low. The epidemiological situation is still in Phase 3 of PSAG of the Northern Islands as an epidemic phase.
[A map of Saint Barthelemy (St. Barts) in the Caribbean can be accessed at
<http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/namerica/caribb/stbarts.htm>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
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".