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Macau

Macau SAR US Consular Information Sheet
April 29, 2008
DESCRIPTION:
Macau, formerly a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration, became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on December 20, 1
99.
The SAR maintains a high degree of autonomy, except in the areas of defense and foreign policy.
Macau retains its own currency, laws, and border controls.
Facilities for tourism are well developed and continue to expand rapidly. Gambling and tourism dominate the local economy, with textile and apparel manufacturing playing important secondary roles.
With a population of approximately 508,500, Macau covers a 28.2 square-kilometer area including the peninsula of Macau, connected to the PRC, and the two islands of Taipa and Coloane linked by a highway 2.2 km long.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Macau for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
Valid passports are required.
Passports should be valid for 30 days beyond the intended period of stay in Macau.
Because many neighboring areas require six months validity remaining on the passport, U.S. citizens planning travel beyond Macau should ensure that their passports are valid for at least six months from the date of their proposed entry into such areas.
A visa is not required for tourist visits of up to 30 days.

For further information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the People's Republic of China at Room 110, 2201 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington DC 20007; telephone (202) 338-6688; fax (202) 588-9760; e-mail chinaembassy_us@fmprc.gov.cn, web site at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng or the Consulates General of the PRC in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Houston. Travelers may also consult the Macau Tourist Information Bureau's U.S. representative office at 5757 West Century Boulevard, Suite 660, Los Angeles, CA 90045-6407, telephone (310) 568-0009 or fax (310) 338-0708, web site http://www.macautourism.gov.mo/en/index.php.
Please see the Macau SAR government home page at http://www.gov.mo/egi/Portal/index.htm for the latest, up to date entry and exit requirements.

Holders of a Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card or a Hong Kong Re-entry Permit may use either document to enter Macau for a maximum stay of up to one (1) year.
All visitors must present their passport or other valid travel document upon arrival.
Visit the Embassy of the People's Republic of China web site for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for 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:
Petty street crime, including pick-pocketing, occurs in tourist areas in Macau, including in and around casinos and at the airport. Travelers should take caution with their personal belongings and travel documents at all times.
Tourists can dial 112 to report crimes directly related to travel, such as petty theft.

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 and the U.S. Consulate Hong Kong web site for Macau-specific guidance and information at http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov/.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
The two major hospitals in Macau, Kiang Wu, and the Peak, have adequate medical facilities, including 24-hour full-service emergency rooms. Travelers should know that 999 is the telephone number to call in case of an emergency in Macau.
Highly developed medical facilities and trained personnel are available in Hong Kong, which is about an hour by jetfoil and ten minutes by helicopter from Macau.

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, or further health information, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/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.
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 Macau is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic moves on the left in Macau and roads are narrow and winding.
Traffic is generally congested throughout the day. Due to the rapid growth of the tourism industry, taxis can be very hard to find; public buses are inexpensive and frequent.

For specific information concerning Macau driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Macau Tourist Information Bureau's U.S. representative office at 5757 W. Century Boulevard, Suite 660, Los Angeles, California 90045-6407; telephone (310) 568-0009; fax (310) 338-0708), or the Macau Transport Department (Comissariado de Transito de Macau), Ave Sidonio Pais, Macau; telephone (853) 374-214; fax (853) 522-966, web site http://www.iacm.gov.mo/.
(Please Note: Web site is available only in Chinese and Portuguese).
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the web site of Macau’s tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.iacm.gov.mo/.
(Please Note: Web site is available only in Chinese and Portuguese).
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in the Macau SAR, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Macau’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 http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs%5Finitiatives/oversight/iasa/.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Language: The official languages in the Macau SAR are Chinese and Portuguese.
English, however, is spoken in tourist areas.

Currency: There are no currency restrictions for tourists in Macau.
Although the pataca is the official currency in Macau, Hong Kong currency is commonly used and widely accepted in transactions, especially in tourist areas.
Travelers visiting Macau from Hong Kong may wish to bring sufficient Hong Kong dollars to cover their expenses.
Credit cards and ATM network debit cards are widely accepted in Macau.
Banks and major hotels accept traveler's checks.

Customs Regulations:
Macau customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Macau of items such as firearms, ivory, certain categories of medications, and other goods.
There is a 5% duty levied on electrical appliances and equipment imported into Macau.
For specific information regarding customs requirements, it is advisable to contact the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Washington D.C. or one of the PRC's Consulates in the United States at the addresses noted above, or the Macau Customs Service, Rua S. Tiago da Barra, Doca D. Carlos I, SW, Barra-Macau, telephone (853) 559-944 or fax (853) 371-136.
The web site is http://www.customs.gov.mo/en/index1.htm. Please see our Customs Information.

Dual Nationality: Under the nationality law of the PRC, persons of Chinese descent who were born in the PRC, including Macau, are PRC citizens.
However, under an agreement between the United States and the People's Republic of China, all U.S. citizens entering Macau on their U.S. passports, including such persons as may be considered PRC nationals by the PRC authorities, are considered U.S. citizens by the Macau SAR authorities for purposes of ensuring U.S. consular access and protection during their initial legal stay of up to 30 days in Macau.

Dual national residents or former residents of Macau who wish to ensure U.S. consular access and protection after the initial 30-day period of visa-free admission into Macau should declare their U.S. nationality to the Macau Immigration Department upon arrival.
Dual-national residents of Macau who enter Macau on travel documents other than their U.S. passports and who desire U.S. consular protection should declare their U.S. nationality as soon as possible after entry.
This “declaration of change of nationality” will ensure U.S. consular protection.
It may also result in loss of one's PRC nationality (but not necessarily one's right of abode).
Whereas failure to declare U.S. nationality may jeopardize U.S. consular protection, such failure will not jeopardize one's U.S. citizenship.

Dual nationals contemplating onward travel into mainland China should be attentive to use of their U.S. passports.
Dual nationals who enter or depart mainland China using a U.S. passport and a valid PRC visa retain the right of U.S. consular access and protection under the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention. The ability of the U.S. Embassy or Consulates General to provide normal consular services would be extremely limited should a dual national enter mainland China on a Macau SAR or other non-U.S. passport.

In addition to being subject to all Macau SAR laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to laws of Macau that impose special obligations on Macau citizens.

Typhoons: During the storm season (July through September), the Macau Observatory (Direccao dos Servicos Meteorologicos e Geofisicos) issues typhoon warnings on an average of six times a year.
The Macau Observatory has a good notification and monitoring system in place.
Please consult the Macau Observatory's web site at http://www.smg.gov.mo/ for further information.
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 our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Macau’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Macau are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long 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 Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / CONSULATE LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Macau are encouraged to register with the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong or through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Macau.
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.

There is no U.S. diplomatic or consular presence in Macau. Consular assistance for U.S. citizens is provided by the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, 26 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong; telephone (852) 2523-9011 or (852) 2841-2211; fax (852) 2845-4845;web site at http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov/, e-mail at questions@hongkongacs.com.
Further information on emergency American citizen services in Macau is available at http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov/acs_macau_wardens.html.
The mailing address (from the U.S.) of the Consulate General in Hong Kong is PSC 461, Box 5, FPO AP 96521-0006. U.S. citizens living in or visiting Macau are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong and obtain updated information on travel and security within Macau.
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This replaces the Specific Information for Macau dated October 17, 2007, to update sections on Description, Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2020 09:44:12 +0100 (MET)

Macau, Feb 18, 2020 (AFP) - Macau's casinos will reopen Thursday after authorities lifted a city-wide two-week closure aimed at stopping the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.    The resumption of the lynchpin industry comes after the city reported no new infections in the last two weeks, with the number confirmed cases at just ten people.

The former Portuguese colony took the unprecedented step of shutting down almost all of its lucrative entertainment sector earlier in the month, including casinos, nightclubs and many bars.   The vast majority of Macau's tourists are mainland Chinese travellers, drawn to the city's casinos.

As the only place in China where casinos are allowed, Macau's gambling houses account for about 80 percent of government revenue.   But arrivals tanked as the epidemic spread.   Authorities said casinos that don't want to reopen because of low tourist numbers could apply to extend the closure, but they must be up and running within 30 days.

Macau's government has been keen to ensure the casinos keep employing staff through the downturn and are trying to avoid lay-offs.   Officials said all gamblers and casino staff must wear face masks.   First found in the city of Wuhan in central China, the new coronavirus has infected over 72,000 people on the mainland and 60 in Hong Kong.    It has also taken over 1,800 lives on the mainland and one in Hong Kong.
Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2020 07:31:52 +0100 (MET)

Macau, Feb 4, 2020 (AFP) - Macau said Tuesday it will temporarily close all casinos as the gambling hub battles the deadly coronavirus, cutting off the lifeblood of the city's economy.   The move came as the former Portuguese colony confirmed its tenth case of the virus, which has killed more than 400 people in China, infected tens of thousands, and spread to more than 20 countries.   Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng, a pro-Beijing appointee who took office in December, said the gambling industry would close for two weeks, but warned that could be extended if the virus continues to spread.    "This is a difficult decision, but we have to do it for the health of our Macau residents," he told reporters.    He said he would meet gaming industry representatives on Tuesday afternoon and announce precise timings soon after.

Gaming stocks plunged after the announcement, with Sands China down 2.4 percent, Galaxy Entertainment down four percent and Wynn Macau down 1.9 percent in afternoon trading.   The only other time Macau has closed its casinos was in 2018, when the city was hit directly by a typhoon.   On Tuesday, health authorities announced two fresh infections -- one a woman who worked in the gaming industry.   As the only place in China where gambling is allowed, Macau's casinos account for about 80 percent of government revenue.    Some 35 million people visited the densely crowded city of just 632,000 people last year -- the vast majority mainland Chinese heading to casinos which rake in each week what Las Vegas takes in a month.

The virus has hammered the industry over what would usually be one of its busiest periods -- the Lunar New Year holidays.   The number of visitors plunged 80 percent in the past week.   Ho had previously said he was willing to close casinos because of the virus outbreak and establishments have been monitoring the temperatures of punters walking through their doors in recent days.   He, who wore a face mask for his news conference, said he had no plans yet to close the border with mainland China, but would consider shutting certain checkpoints -- a step neighbouring Hong Kong has already taken.   He also called on residents to reduce trips outdoors.   "Don't go on the streets if not necessary. I hope everyone will wear a mask no matter where you go, supermarkets or wet arkets. Don't be careless. Don't take it lightly," he said.
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 2020 04:55:57 +0100 (MET)

Hong Kong, Jan 22, 2020 (AFP) - Macau on Wednesday reported its first confirmed case of the new SARS-like coronavirus as authorities announced all staff in the city's bustling casinos had been ordered to wear face masks.   The former Portuguese colony is a huge draw for mainland tourists as the only place in China that allows gambling.

With the Lunar New Year approaching this weekend, a huge influx of mainland tourists is expected in the city.   Asian countries have ramped up measures to block the spread of the new virus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has so far killed at least nine people.

On Wednesday, Macau announced its first confirmed case -- a 52-year-old businesswoman from Wuhan who arrived in the city by high-speed rail on Sunday, via the neighbouring city of Zhuhai.    "A series of tests found that she was positive for the coronavirus and had symptoms of pneumonia," Lei Chin-lon, the head of Macau's health bureau, told reporters.    The woman had been staying at the New Orient Landmark Hotel with two friends who were being monitored since her admission to hospital on Tuesday.

Ao Ieong Iu, Macau's Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, said staff in all casinos would be required to wear masks while anyone arriving at entry ports along the city's border with the mainland would need to fill out health declaration forms.    "We have not banned tourism groups from Wuhan but we are not encouraging them," Ao Ieong said.    "We will stay in close contact with tourism agencies and require them to notify us of all groups going to and coming from Wuhan," she added.
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2019 04:11:12 +0100
By Yan Zhao with Jerome Taylor in Hong Kong

Macau, March 10, 2019 (AFP) - The trade war may have sent ripples of uncertainty through the world's second-largest economy but one corner of China has so far remained steadfastly buoyant -- the gambling enclave of Macau.   The city's fortunes depend almost solely on its gambling industry, which in a single week rakes in more gaming revenue than Las Vegas makes in a month.   The trade tensions between Washington and Beijing -- and the general slowing down of China's economy -- has hit businesses hard across the region.   But in the past few weeks Macau's four casino giants -- SJM, Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment and Wynn -- have all reported a bumper year of gaming revenues and profits.

Chen Jinjun, a 46-year-old car garage owner from eastern Zhejiang province, says he has little interest in seeing much of the former Portuguese colony during his five day visit with friends.   "I mainly come for playing at the casinos, not sightseeing," he tells AFP, saying he expects to drop around 50,000 yuan ($7,450).    "Apart from food and hotel, the rest will all be for gambling. And if I win some money, then I'll buy some luxuries like handbags and clothes."   Players like Chen are the oil that keep Macau's economic engine ticking -- even in the midst of a trade war.   "The Macau market actually had a very good 2018," Grant Govertson, an expert on the industry at Union Gaming told AFP.   "The good news... is that the mass-market segment continues to exhibit solid growth and is the market segment that drives operating profits for the industry."

- VIPs and high rollers -
There was once a time when the casino giants paid little attention to the mass-market players like Chen. Instead they hungrily courted the VIPs and high rollers to fill their coffers.   But a widespread corruption crackdown by Chinese President Xi Jinping saw a dramatic decline in VIP fortunes from 2014 as wealthy mainland gamblers -- many of them officials with suitcases of illicit cash -- tried to avoid attracting attention.   The VIP market has returned in the past two years although analysts noted a drying up in the latter half of 2018 as the trade war bit.    But the mass-market gamblers keep coming and up until January Macau reported 29 consecutive months of gaming revenue growth.

That contraction in January suggests Macau is far from invulnerable to the trade war, especially if the conflict deepens.   Ben Lee, a managing partner at IGamiX, a gaming consultancy in Macau, said casinos in the city may have hit "the peak of this current cycle".   All eyes, he said, will be focused on whether the US and China can find a way to avoid a new round of tariffs in their ongoing trade talks.   "If the second tier of tariffs come in that will increase the magnitude of impact on the industry, particularly in the VIP segment," he told AFP.   Govertson was more optimistic.    "We still maintain a somewhat bullish outlook and expect the market to grow in the mid-single digits, which includes high single-digit mass growth and flattish VIP," he said.

- Record visitors -
Partly in response to the jitters caused by the corruption crackdown, Macau's authorities have tried to make the city less exclusively reliant on the gambling sector, pushing it instead as a food and family tourism destination.   The drive appears to have paid off in terms of visitor numbers.   The semi-autonomous city of just 620,000 people said 35.8 million people visited in 2018, a 10 percent jump on the year before, fuelled in part by the opening of a massive sea bridge linking Macau to the nearby cities of Zhuhai and Hong Kong.   The figures show Macau is still overwhelmingly reliant on visitors from Hong Kong and the mainland who made up 32.6 million arrivals.

Chen, a 40-year-old wine business owner from Hubei province, is one of those gamblers who has ventured beyond the casinos during his stay in Macau.   "I went to see the ruins of St Paul's cathedral, the usual tourist attractions," he told AFP as he took photos in a square outside the Venetian casino, a huge complex owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson's Sands Corporation that features an artificial canal complete with gondolas.   He said he tends to visit twice a year, spending around 30,000 yuan each time.   "For gambling I've visited several of the casinos to try my luck. I won a bit of money and bought myself new shoes and clothes," he added.    But Xiao, a 40-year-old restaurant owner from nearby Guangzhou, was less fortunate.    "I've lost more than 30,000 yuan," she told AFP as she left the Wynn casino.    "I want to go home now".
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2018 04:42:46 +0200

Hong Kong, Sept 16, 2018 (AFP) - Macau shut down all its casinos in a historic first as Typhoon Mangkhut approached Sunday, with authorities warning the gambling enclave would be hit by severe flooding.   The Macau government was heavily criticised by residents last year for failing to prepare the city ahead of Typhoon Hato, which left widespread damage and 12 people dead.

A statement from authorities late Saturday said the decision to shut Macau's 42 casinos was approved by the city leader and agreed by gaming bosses.   "The suspension of gaming operations is for the safety of casino employees, visitors to the city and residents," the government statement said.

Casino staff told AFP that venues would be shut until further notice as the city raised its second highest storm warning.   Macau's weather bureau said the storm warning would be raised to the highest T10 level later Sunday with the worst rain and winds expected around midday local time (0400 GMT).       Shops and businesses were boarded up and protected by sandbags across the city and its streets, usually crowded with tourists, were deserted.

Macau, a semi-autonomous southern Chinese city, had to turn to troops from mainland China's People's Liberation Army stationed in the enclave to help with the massive clear-up after Hato.   The city's weather chief resigned after the storm, which was the worst to hit Macau in over 50 years, and the government was forced to apologise for failing to prepare sufficiently in advance.
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 16:20:39 +0100 (MET)

Damascus, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - A bomb explosion wounded two people in Damascus Thursday, the state news agency reported, the latest of several such attacks in the Syrian capital.   "An explosive device planted on a pickup truck went off in the Marjeh area" in central Damascus, SANA said, adding that two civilians were wounded by the blast.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the device was a "sticky bomb" planted on a military vehicle, although it was not immediately clear what the target was.   There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, nor for a similar explosion that wounded five people in another neighbourhood of Damascus on Tuesday. The Syrian capital was routinely targeted by major car bomb attacks in the course of the nine-year-old conflict but blasts have been less frequent since regime forces reclaimed full control of the Damascus region in 2018.
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 15:40:35 +0100 (MET)
By Laurent Thomet, with Miwa Suzuki in Tokyo

Beijing, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - China on Thursday touted a big drop in new virus infections as proof its epidemic control efforts are working, but the toll grew abroad with deaths in Japan and South Korea.   Fatalities in China hit 2,118 as 114 more people died, but health officials reported the lowest number of new cases in nearly a month, including in hardest-hit Hubei province.

More than 74,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus in China, and hundreds more in over 25 countries.   The number of deaths outside mainland China climbed to 11.   Japan's toll rose to three as a man and a woman in their 80s who had been aboard a quarantined cruise ship died, while fears there mounted about other passengers who disembarked the Diamond Princess after testing negative.

South Korea reported its first death, and the number of infections in the country nearly doubled Thursday to 104 -- including 15 at a hospital in Cheongdo county.   The mayor of Daegu -- South Korea's fourth-largest, with 2.5 million people -- advised residents to stay indoors, while commanders at a major US military base in the area restricted access.   Iran reported two deaths on Wednesday, the first in the Middle East. Deaths have previously been confirmed in France, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Chinese officials say their drastic containment efforts, including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in cities nationwide, have started to pay off.   "Results show that our control efforts are working," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a special meeting on the virus with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos, citing the latest data.   Wang said the situation was "significantly improving" in Hubei and Wuhan, but an official in a central government team dealing with the epidemic said it was still "very severe".

- 'Not turning point' -
Although more than 600 new infections were reported in Hubei's capital Wuhan, it was the lowest daily tally since late January and well down from the 1,749 new cases the day before.   The national figure has now fallen for three straight days.   Chinese authorities placed the city of 11 million under quarantine on January 23 and quickly locked down the rest of the province in the days that followed.

Wuhan authorities this week carried out a three-day, door-to-door check on residents, with the local Communist Party chief warning that officials would be "held accountable" if any infections were missed.   Cities far from the epicentre have limited the number of people who can leave their homes for groceries, while rural villages have sealed off access to outsiders.   Richard Brennan, a World Health Organization official, said in Cairo that China was making "tremendous progress" and "trends are very encouraging, but we are not at a turning point yet".

- 'Chaotic' cruise quarantine -
While China has boasted progress in its fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, Japan's government has been criticised for the quarantine measures it placed on the Diamond Princess.   The huge vessel moored in Yokohama is easily the biggest coronavirus cluster outside the Chinese epicentre, with 634 cases confirmed among passengers and crew.   Another 13 people on board the ship were diagnosed with the virus Thursday, Japan's health ministry said.   Still, passengers were disembarking after negative tests and having completed a 14-day quarantine period -- packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports.

Questions were asked over the wisdom of allowing them to mingle in Japan's crowded cities.   "Is it really safe to get off?" screamed a headline in the Nikkan Sports tabloid.   The paper quoted one passenger who said he was tested on February 15, but only left four days later.   "I thought I could be infected during the four days. I thought 'Is it really OK'?"

A specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University slammed as "completely chaotic" the quarantine procedures on board in rare criticism from a Japanese academic.   "The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of infection control," said Kentaro Iwata in videos he has since deleted.

South Korea, meanwhile, announced 51 new cases, with more than 40 in a cluster centred on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, an entity often accused of being a cult.  The infections apparently came from a 61-year-old woman who first developed a fever on February 10 and attended at least four services before being diagnosed.   Local media said she had twice refused to be tested for the coronavirus on the grounds she had not recently travelled abroad.   Authorities were investigating whether she might have visited the hospital where a long-term patient contracted the virus and later died.

Some 15 other patients have now been found to have the virus.   Shincheonji claims its founder, Lee Man-hee, has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to heaven on the day of judgement.   A man in his 60s tested positive for the coronavirus after dying Wednesday following symptoms of pneumonia, South Korean authorities said.
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 10:28:16 +0100 (MET)

Lagos, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - An outbreak of Lassa in Nigeria has killed 103 people this year, health authorities said, as the first confirmed case was reported in the economic hub Lagos.    "Cumulatively from week 1 to week 07, 2020, 103 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate of 17.6%," said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its latest statistics on the virus released on Wednesday.    The overall number of confirmed cases rose by 115 last week to a total of 586 across the country.

Separately, health authorities in Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city with 20 million inhabitants, said an infected person was diagnosed there on February 17 and being treated in isolation in hospital.    "Sixty-three people that may have been in contact with the patient and who may have been infected in the process have been identified and are being monitored," the state government wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Endemic to Nigeria, Lassa fever belongs to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, but is much less deadly.   The disease is spread by contact with rat faeces or urine or the bodily fluids of an infected person.    The majority of those infected do not show symptoms but the disease can go on to cause severe bleeding and organ failure in about 20 percent of cases.

An outbreak of Lassa fever killed some 170 people around Nigeria last year.     The number of cases usually climbs around the start of the year linked to the dry season.   While the overall number of confirmed cases and deaths is up this year on the same period in 2019, the mortality rate is lower.    Twenty health workers across the country have been confirmed as contracting the disease so far in 2020.    The virus takes its name from the town of Lassa in northern Nigeria, where it was first identified in 1969.
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 09:58:17 +0100 (MET)
By Nicolas DELAUNAY

Les Mamelles, Seychelles, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - On a plain suburban street in Seychelles, far from the idyllic coastline and luxury resorts pampering honeymooners and paradise-seekers, heroin addicts queue anxiously for their daily dose of methadone.   It is a scene few outsiders would associate with the tropical nirvana adrift in the Indian Ocean, and one rarely, if ever, glimpsed by tourists as they shuttle from the airport to five-star luxury on white-sand beaches.

But life for many Seychellois is far from picture perfect: the tiny archipelago nation is battling what officials say are the world's highest rates of heroin addiction.   Nearly 5,000 people are hooked, government figures show, equivalent to nearly 0 percent of the national workforce -- a statistic that has startled the government into action.

In comparison, 0.4 percent of the global population consumed opioids in 2016, half of them in Asia, according to a United Nations report that puts Seychelles among the top consumers alongside producing countries such as Afghanistan.   The Seychelles' heroin boom, which took off over the past decade, gripped young and old alike and cut across class lines.   Among those queueing in the town of Les Mamelles for methadone -- a substitute narcotic used to wean users off heroin -- are parents with young children, an old man leaning on a cane and a taxi driver between shifts.

Graham Moustache, a 29-year-old father of two, described how the arrival of affordable and high-quality heroin in Seychelles swept up his entire family.   "I have four brothers and two sisters, and we have all been heroin addicts at one point," he told AFP, tracing his fingers over the needle scars on his arms.   "I've been to prison twice," he said, adding his mother had turned him in as "she didn't know what to do any more".   "Sometimes, I didn't have enough to eat and I had to choose between eating and buying heroin. I chose heroin."

- Soaring addiction -
The rise of new trafficking routes through East Africa in the late 2000s, coupled with porous borders and relatively high purchasing power among Seychellois, flooded the paradisal islands with heroin.   The average salary in the archipelago is $420 (390) -- high compared to other African nations.   The World Bank considers the Seychelles the only high-income country on the continent, thanks to the growing tourism industry.    But around 40 percent of the population still lives in poverty.

By 2011, around 1,200 people were addicted, prompting a punitive crackdown.   "We did not make a difference between the victim and the trafficker," said Patrick Herminie, director of the state-run Agency for Drug Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation (APDAR).   By 2017, addiction had risen four-fold, placing Seychelles among the world's most drug-dependent nations.   The government, realising its war on drugs had failed, changed tack and declared a public health emergency.   "The magnitude of the problem is simply because we reacted a bit late," Herminie said.

Money has poured into combating the scourge, with state funds for drug prevention and rehabilitation programmes soaring to 75 million Seychelles rupees ($5.5 million) in 2020 -- almost 10 times the 2016 budget.    APDAR, a specialist drug agency created in 2017 to tackle the problem, employs four times as many staff as the body that preceded it.   A state-run methadone programme has reached 2,500 people, with medical follow-ups helping to track their progress.    But the free availability of methadone has also prompted drug dealers to lower their prices.

Mobile clinics drive around offering methadone to addicts and providing free health checks and advice.    "I've been clean for more than a year. I found a job as a fisherman, and I can see my two kids," said Moustache proudly, as he queued at the white methadone van staffed with healthcare workers.   Others have struggled to stay the course.   "Methadone helps me a lot, but it's difficult not to take heroin at all," said Gisele Moumou, an emaciated 32-year-old addict, drawing ragged breaths and sweating as she waits for her small cup of methadone.

- Stopping the scourge  -
Schoolchildren are being taught about the damage done by drugs through awareness campaigns and billboards in classrooms.    But there is much work to be done, especially among children from families affected by drug use, says Noellie Gonthier from CARE, a local harm-reduction charity.   "Sometimes, four- or five-year-olds at school mimic injecting heroin," she said.   "Our challenge is to make them understand that what they consider normal -- because of their family context -- actually isn't at all."   On Mahe, a small, mountainous island with lush vegetation, most of the population lives near the water. Life is quiet here, without traffic, and the streets are mostly clean.

Poverty is largely hidden, concentrated in a few neighbourhoods behind faded walls or in the hills.   So why do so many Seychellois take drugs? The authorities admit they haven't quite figured it out, but say it appears that while poverty does not quite allow people to live well, it allows them enough money to buy drugs to forget their woes.   "The root of the cause, we're still working on it," said Herminie.   Early studies show that health and social problems associated with heroin use have declined since the government switched its response from punishment to prevention, officials say.

Crime has nearly halved and annual cases of new hepatitis C infections have fallen 60 percent.    Youth unemployment, meanwhile, has shrunk from 6.5 percent to 2.1 percent in recent years.   One recovering addict, a taxi driver who did not want to be named, offered a bleak assessment as he waited for his daily methadone in an empty car park in Les Mamelles.    "We're a small island in the middle of the ocean. What else is there to do here?" he said.
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2020 16:12:54 +0100 (MET)
By Michael O'HAGAN

Otuke, Uganda, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Under a warm morning sun scores of weary soldiers stare as millions of yellow locusts rise into the northern Ugandan sky, despite hours spent spraying vegetation with chemicals in an attempt to kill them.   From the tops of shea trees, fields of pea plants and tall grass savanna, the insects rise in a hypnotic murmuration, disappearing quickly to wreak devastation elsewhere.   The soldiers and agricultural officers will now have to hunt the elusive fast-moving swarms -- a sign of the challenge facing nine east African countries now battling huge swarms of hungry desert locusts.

They arrived in conflict-torn South Sudan this week, with concerns already high of a humanitarian crisis in a region where 12 million are going hungry, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).    "One swarm of 40 to 80 million can consume food" for over 35,000 people in a day, Priya Gujadhur, a senior FAO official in Uganda, told AFP.

In Atira -- a remote village of grass-thatched huts in northern Uganda -- some 160 soldiers wearing protective plastic overalls, masks and goggles sprayed trees and plants with pesticide from before dawn in a bid to kill the resting insects.   But even after hours of work they were mostly able to reach only lower parts of the vegetation.   Major General Kavuma sits in the shade of a Neem Tree alongside civilian officials as locusts sprayed with pesticide earlier that morning fall around them, convulsing as they die.   An intense chemical smell hangs in the air.

- 'They surrounded me' -
Zakaria Sagal, a 73-year-old subsistence farmer was weeding his field in Lopei village some 120 kilometres (75 miles) away, preparing to plant maize and sorghum, when without warning a swarm of locusts descended around him.   "From this side and this side and this side, they surrounded me," Sagal said, waving his arms in every direction.    "We have not yet planted our crops but if they return at harvest time they will destroy everything. We are not at all prepared."

East Africa's regional expert group, the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), warned Tuesday that eggs laid across the migratory path will hatch in the next two months, and will continue breeding as the rainy season arrives in the region.   This will coincide with the main cropping season and could cause "significant crop losses... and could potentially worsen the food security situation", ICPAC said in a statement.

- 'Panic mode' -
Since 2018 a long period of dry weather followed by a series of cyclones that dumped water on the region created "excessively ideal conditions" for locusts to breed, says Gujadhur.    Nevertheless, governments in East Africa have been caught off guard and are currently in "panic mode" Gujadhur said.   The locusts arrived in South Sudan this week after hitting Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda.   Desert locusts take over on a dizzying scale.

One swarm in Kenya reached around 2,400 square kilometres (about 930 square miles) -- an area almost the size of Moscow -- meaning it could contain up to 200 billion locusts.   "A swarm that size can consume food for 85 million people per day," said Gujadhur.   Ugandan authorities are aware that subsequent waves of locusts may pose problems in the weeks to come, but in the meantime they are attempting to control the current generation.

Gujadhur is quick to praise the "quite strong and very quick" response from the Ugandan government but is concerned that while the army can provide valuable personnel, a military-led response may not be as effective as is necessary.    "It needs to be the scientists and (agriculture officials) who take the lead about where the control operations need to be and how and when and what time," she said.

- 'They eat anything green' -
The soldiers have been working non-stop for two days, criss-crossing the plains on the few navigable roads, trying to keep up with the unpredictable swarms.    Major General Kavuma recognises that the biggest threat is from the eggs which are yet to hatch but is confident the army will be able to control this enemy.   "We have the chemicals to spray them, all we need is to map the places they have been landing and sleeping," he said.   "In two weeks time we will come back and by that time they will have hatched and that will be the time to destroy them by praying."

Back in Lopei village, Elizabeth Namoe, 40, a shopkeeper in nearby Moroto had been visiting family when the swarm arrived.   "When the locusts settle they eat anything green, the animals will die because they have nothing to feed on, then even the people (will suffer)," she said.   "The children will be affected by hunger and famine since all life comes from all that is green. I fear so much."
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2020 12:55:06 +0100 (MET)

Beijing, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - China's President Xi Jinping called Wednesday for greater protection of medical staff fighting the new coronavirus after the deaths of prominent doctors sparked national anger at the government's handling of the outbreak.   At least seven medical workers have died from the virus, while 1,716 have been confirmed as infected, most at the epicentre of the epidemic in central Hubei province where hospitals have dealt with a huge influx of patients.

Staff have faced shortages of masks and protective bodysuits, with some even wearing makeshift suits and continuing to work despite showing respiratory symptoms, health workers have told AFP.   Xi said China must "strengthen efforts to relieve the stress of medical workers, provide them with daily necessities, arrange time for their rest and give them encouragement", the official Xinhua news agency reported.   Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Hubei's capital Wuhan, died Tuesday, more than a week after the death of whistleblowing ophthalmologist Li Wenliang in the same city prompted nationwide mourning and calls for political reforms.

- 'Majestic spirit' -
A paper published by China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention said an additional 1,300 health workers may have been infected but have yet to receive a diagnosis.   Xi said China must ensure medical teams in Hubei and Wuhan "carry out work in a safe, orderly, coordinated, effective and swift manner", Xinhua reported.   The deaths of frontline medical workers "reflected doctors' humane and majestic spirit", Xi said.   The death toll from the virus jumped past 2,000 on Wednesday, while 74,185 cases of infection have been confirmed in mainland China.
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2020 12:19:59 +0100 (MET)

Tehran, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Two people in Iran tested positive Wednesday for the deadly new coronavirus, the health ministry said, in the Islamic republic's first cases of the disease.   Kianoush Jahanpour, a ministry spokesman, said the cases were detected in the holy city of Qom, south of the Iranian capital.   "In the past two days, some suspect cases of the new coronavirus were observed in Qom city," he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

"Teams were dispatched after receiving the reports, and based on the existing protocols the suspect cases were isolated and tested," said Jahanpour.   "Out of the samples sent, a laboratory tested two of them as positive for coronavirus just minutes ago and some of the other samples were type B influenza."

The health ministry spokesman said additional tests were being done on the two cases and final results would be announced "as soon as possible".   The new coronavirus epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000. It has spread to at least two dozen countries.   The United Arab Emirates was the first country in the Middle East to report cases of coronavirus last month.
Date: Tue 18 Feb 2020
Source: CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy) News [edited]

The WHO's African regional office said that both Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) are in the midst of measles outbreaks, with both countries reporting increasing case counts since [1 Jan 2020].

In Chad, 1276 cases, including 14 deaths have been reported since 1 Jan 2020, with 352 suspected measles cases and 4 deaths reported in the week ending on 9 Feb 2020.  "Most, 78%, of the investigated cases never received any vaccination against measles," the WHO said. "60% of the investigated cases were under 5 years of age while 19% were between 5 and 14 years and 14% were 15 years and above."

In CAR, a total of 1498 suspected measles cases, including 15 deaths, have been recorded since [1 Jan 2020]. The outbreak has been ongoing since early 2019. From 1 Jan 2019, through 9 Feb 2020, a total of 5724 suspected measles cases, including 83 deaths (case fatality rate, 1.45%) have been reported in 13 health districts.  Almost 3/4 of the cases (72%) are in children under the age of 5.
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps
Central African Republic: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/6>]
Date: Wed 19 Feb 2020
Source: Circular/News, Veterinary Services, Israel's Ministry of Agriculture [in Hebrew, trans. Mod.AS, edited]

Rabies, Case No. 6 for 2020, dog, Ramot Naftali, Upper Galilee. Reference: Kimron Vet Institute [KVI] Laboratory Test No. A00373420, dated 19 Feb 2020
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On 17 Feb 2020, a dead dog was brought for examination to the KVI [at Beit-Dagan]. The dog died while being transported to a rabies observation kennel since, as reported, it had attacked grazing cattle and attempted to attack people.  It was also reported that the dog had bitten itself. The tested animal has been diagnosed rabies positive.  [Byline: Dr. Avi Wasserman Head, Field Veterinary Services (acting)]
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[The above and 5 earlier rabies cases in Israel since 1 Jan 2020 are located within a small region along the Lebanese border, facing Lebanon's governorate A-Nabatieh. See the rabies map (2020) at <https://moag.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a6d8aae5cbc04c958d5efefd2724318f>.

The 2019 map, presenting a total of 17 cases, is available at

The 6 cases during 2020 are: 3 jackals, 2 dogs, 1 cow. Most likely, rabies is currently circulating within the Lebanese side of the border.

It would be interesting to note whether the rabid dog was owned and, in case affirmative, whether and when this dog was last vaccinated against rabies, as prescribed by law. Israel's owned dogs are included in the national dog registry, currently counting more than 400,000 dogs. - ProMED Mod.AS]
Date: Tue 18 Feb 2020
Source: Qatari Ministry of Public Health [edited]

The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) declared that a case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) has been confirmed. The case is a male citizen aged 65 years who has been suffering from several chronic diseases. The patient has been admitted to the hospital to receive the necessary medical care in accordance with the national protocol to deal with confirmed or suspected cases of the disease.

The Ministry of Public Health, in cooperation with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, is taking all necessary preventive and precautionary measures to control the disease and prevent it from spreading.

MERS is a viral respiratory disease that is caused by one of the coronaviruses (MERS-CoV), but it differs from the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, which has recently spread in several countries. Both viruses differ in terms of the source of infection, mode of transmission, and the disease severity. The Ministry of Public Health confirms that no cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed in Qatar so far.

Only 3 cases of MERS-CoV were registered in Qatar during the past 2 years. The Ministry of Public Health calls on all members of public, and especially people with chronic diseases or those with immunodeficiency disorders, to adhere to public hygiene measures. This includes washing the hands regularly with water and soap, using hand sanitizers, as well as avoiding close contact with camels and seeking medical advice when experiencing symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath.

The Rapid Response Team of the Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control is available round-the-clock to receive notifications or inquiries related to communicable diseases on its hotline numbers 66740948 or 66740951.
======================
[In early December 2019, Qatar reported 3 cases of MERS-CoV infection, a fatal case and 2 asymptomatic contacts of the fatal case. The fatal case denied a history of contact with camels or recent travel. She did have a history of underlying medical conditions (which may have led to contact with the health sector in the 2 weeks prior to onset of illness). Prior to these cases, the most recent report of a case of MERS-CoV infection in Qatar was in 2017 when there were 3 cases reported (see prior ProMED-mail posts listed below.)

The location of residence of this patient was not available, nor were other epidemiological variables, including possible high risk exposures.

The HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Qatar is available at