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Mauritius

General:
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Mauritius is a Republic island nation situated in the southwestern Indian ocean towards Madagascar. There are excellent tourist facilities and English is well understood throughout the country. The c
imate is subtropical and quite humid. This is particularly the case between December to March each year and cyclones occasionally occur at this time also.
Security Situation:
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The security situation within the country is very
good but petty crime can be a problem against tourists. At night, it is probably unwise to venture alone outside the grounds of your hotel. The central market place in Port Louis is known to be a site for pickpockets so remember to take care. Grand Baie and Flic en Flac are also known concerns for petty crime. Those having a self-catering holiday should be aware that house breaking is becoming more common and so make sure any valuables are well hidden away and not left out on view.
Health Facilities:
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Generally the level of health care is reasonable throughout the main tourist areas and hospital care may be provided free of charge. However, many tourists choose to obtain private medical care while in Mauritius. Make sure your travel and health insurance is up to date before you leave home.
Food & Water Facilities:
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In the main hotels the level of food hygiene is good and with care tourists should be well able to stay perfectly healthy during their time in the country. However, like many other destinations, it is wise to maintain certain commonsense rules regarding what you eat and drink. All food should be freshly prepared and it is much wiser to avoid bivalve shellfish altogether. These include mussels, oysters and clams. Fried prawns are usually okay and boiled crab and lobster should be fine. Cold unprepared vegetables such as lettuce is best avoided. Tap water should be checked for a smell of chlorine and if it is not present that it should not be used for either drinking or brushing your teeth. Brucellosis is a small risk so avoid any unpasteurized milk products.

Insects Bites & Malaria Risks:
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The risk of malaria throughout Mauritius is extremely small and currently (2001) the World Health Organisation does not recommend routine prophylaxis for tourists. However, there is a small amount of transmission in the northern part of the country away from the normal tourist routes. Rodrigues Island is free of this disease. Nevertheless, mosquitoes do occur and can transmit other conditions such as Dengue Fever apart from their rather unpleasant bite. Thus avoid mosquito bites is excellent advice and should be followed at all times.
The mosquitoes mainly bite in the evening out of doors and so at these times wear sensible pale coloured clothing to cover your exposed arms and legs,
don't use perfumes and after shaves and apply plenty of good insect repellent. Ones containing high concentrations of DEET are usually recommended.
The risk of Rabies:
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Mauritius is currently regarded as being free of Rabies but tourists are strongly advised to avoid all contact with warm-blooded animals such as dogs, cats and monkeys. Any close contact (bite, lick, scratch) should be immediately reported to see if treatment may be recommended.
Swimming in Mauritius:
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There have been a number of reports of those swimming in the sea being hit by speedboats while close to the hotel beaches. Take care to swim in recognised safe zones and remember to watch out for warning signs of strong currents etc. The risk from sharks etc is small but never swim alone or far out from the shore. Listen to the local advice and stay safe. If swimming in some of the rivers and lakes throughout the country there is a risk of a fresh water disease known as Schistosomiasis. This disease is mainly found in Port Louis, Pamplemousses and Grand Port.
If you have been at risk remember to contact your travel health advisor on return to talk this through.
Sun Exposure:
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The level of sunshine in Mauritius can be significant so take care not to get over exposed. The main strength of the sun will be between 11am to 4pm and it is probably unwise to sunbathe during these times.
Road Safety:
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In Mauritius they drive on the left side of the road and the conditions are quite variable throughout the country. Hiring cars or motorbikes abroad is one of the most significant risk factors for tourists and generally should be avoided. Hiring a cab to drive you to your destination is usually a safer option but always pick a good quality car and fix your price before leaving.
Local Laws and Customs:
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Always carry photocopies of your passport and other essential travel documents. These may be required by customs and so you can then keep the originals in a safe location. The carrying of pharmaceutical drugs into Mauritius can cause difficulties. In certain cases the customs officials have been known to confiscate drugs which tourists are using for their own personal health. Under these circumstances it is wise to carry any medications in their original packing and also to have a letter from the prescribing doctor outlining your requirements for the medication in question. This is mainly a problem with some of the higher dose painkillers and general asthma, diabetes, blood pressure or heart medication should not present difficulties. The importation of spear-fishing equipment into Mauritius is prohibited.
Vaccinations for Mauritius:
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Providing you are not arriving into Mauritius from a destination in Africa there will be no vaccines required for entry/exit purposes. However, for your own protection it is usually wise to consider cover against the following;
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Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
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Tetanus (childhood booster)
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Typhoid (food and water borne disease)
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Hepatitis A (food and water borne disease)
For those undertaking a longer more rural trip other vaccines may need to be considered including Hepatitis B.
Summary:
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Staying healthy and enjoying your time in Mauritius is perfectly possible so long as some commonsense rules are followed at all times. Further information is available through the Tropical Medical Bureau

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed, 13 May 2020 19:02:10 +0200 (METDST)

Port Louis, Mauritius, May 13, 2020 (AFP) - Mauritius on Wednesday declared wary victory in its first battle with coronavirus, saying it had "zero" active patients and had not documented a single new case in 17 days.   The Indian Ocean island nation initially surged ahead of other eastern African countries in terms of caseload, hitting a peak of 332 just shy of six weeks into its outbreak. Ten people died.

It imposed one of the first and strictest lockdowns in Africa, going so far as to initially shut supermarkets for 10 days, a measure that has been extended until June 1.   "Today we are at 17 days without a new case. Mauritius now has zero active cases," Health Minister Kailesh Jagutpal said in an address on national television.   "We have won the battle thanks to the cooperation of the public, who understood that the government needed to take extreme measures, including complete confinement, and the closure of supermarkets and our borders. But we have not yet won the war. Let's remain vigilant."

From May 15, a limited selection of essential stores such as bakeries, butcheries and fishmongers will be allowed to re-open, but most businesses, bars, shopping centres and markets will stay shut.   Schools will remain closed until August 1, the island's famed beaches will remain off limits and no more than 10 people will be allowed to attend weddings and funerals.   Independent epidemiologist Deoraj Caussy told AFP Mauritius needed to remain on alert.   "It is imperative to use random sampling and continue to test... Zero active cases does not mean that it is over and life is returning to normal."

Meanwhile the government is busy debating two pieces of legislation, the Covid Bill and the Quarantine Bill, which will legislate aspects of the eventual lifting of the lockdown and planned return to normal of all activity from June 2.  However the laws have come under fire from unions and civil society who say they weaken individual freedoms and workers rights.

Among the changes made will be those allowing employers to fire workers with one month salary and on short notice, while another change will allow police to enter a home without a warrant.   A statement from a collective of unions in the country warned that social discontent was currently confined but "could erupt like a social volcano at any moment".   "We still need to make sacrifices to return to a semblance of normalcy. We are counting on the understanding of the population to not let their guard down," said Justice Minister Maneesh Gobin.
Date: Fri, 1 May 2020 18:34:44 +0200 (METDST)

Port Louis, Mauritius, May 1, 2020 (AFP) - Mauritius on Friday announced the extension of its lockdown until June 1, even as coronavirus cases appeared to plateau in the island nation where the number of victims has not changed in five days.   Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth asked the population of the Indian ocean Island for "a little more patience, to avoid any risk of a second wave" as he extended confinement measures that have been in place since March 20 -- among the first in Africa.

Mauritius -- a popular tourist hotspot -- initially had the highest number of infections in East Africa, but a swift lockdown which went as far as to initially shut supermarkets for 10 days, appears to have been successful with the total number of cases steady at 332 for five days.   Ten people died, while 312 patients recovered, meaning only 10 people remain ill.   While most businesses, bars, shopping centres and markets will stay shut, from May 15 a limited selection of essential stores such as bakeries, butcheries and fishmongers will be allowed to re-open.

Meanwhile supermarkets and banks will continue to allow customers in on an alphabetical basis.   In his televised address to the nation, Jugnauth announced that schools will remain shut until August 1, the island's famed beaches will remain off limits and no more than 10 people will be allowed to attend weddings and funerals.   The National Assembly will get back to work on May 5 to introduce and debate a Covid-19 Bill which will legislate aspects of the eventual lifting of the lockdown and planned return to normal of all activity from June 2.
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 17:06:55 +0200 (METDST)

Port Louis, Mauritius, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Residents of the Indian Ocean island nation Mauritius rushed to supermarkets on Thursday after they had been shut for 10 days under a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.   Mauritius, usually a paradise holiday destination known for pristine beaches and coral reefs, has the most cases in eastern Africa with 169 infected and seven deaths -- including a 20-year-old woman with no prior health issues who died on Thursday.   The country was one of the first in Africa to impose a lockdown on March 20 -- when cases still stood at seven -- going so far as to shut supermarkets, bakeries and other shops often kept open in other nations.

Aware that people's stocks were starting to run low, the government decided to re-open under strict rules which divide people into three alphabetical groups to decide on which days they are allowed to shop.   Prakash Beeharry, a primary school teacher, told AFP he was lucky his surname starts with a 'B'.   "My neighbour, Mr Jayen Veerasamy, has to wait two more days before he can access the supermarket," he said.   Like many other mask-wearing shoppers, Beeharry stood in line from 6am to 10am before he was allowed in the supermarket.   "We only had 30 minutes to get all the groceries. Quite a challenge. I'm 45 years old and I've never experienced this... I hope things don't get worse."

Snaking long lines spread out from different supermarkets on the island, where shoppers kept a safe distance from each other and had their temperatures taken as they entered the stores.   "I feel relieved now that I have some supplies," said retired citizen Joseph who was one of the first at the Intermart in central Curepipe.   Other rules put in place allow only one member of a family in the store at a time, and masks are obligatory. The purchase of basics such as rice, flour, milk or oil are subject to restrictions.   Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth had initially shut the supermarkets because the situation was "extremely serious" and he saw the move as "the only way to stop the spread of the virus".

The decision was widely criticised, as while the middle and upper classes were able to prepare and stock food, the poor were not -- and many had yet to receive their salaries.   Tourism Minister Joe Lesjongard explained Tuesday that the government was "aware the population is starting to lack supplies".   "We should never have shut the supermarkets," said former prime minister and prominent opposition leader Paul Berenger.   In a bid to assist the poorest members of society, the government has distributed basic necessities to some 30,000 people.

A solidarity fund has also been created by government officials, with all lawmakers donating ten percent of their annual salaries.   Hotels on the island are now mostly empty, aside from a handful used as quarantine centres, while the renowned smiles of tourism staff have been replaced by the exhausted, defeated expressions of health workers.
12th May 2019

Mauritius - National.
22 Apr 2019. In total, there are 75 people infected with the dengue virus. During the weekend, a 1st case of dengue fever type 2 was recorded in a 3-year-old child. He is currently hospitalized in a Plaines-Wilhems clinic. "We have not yet done any analysis to find out how this type 2 dengue case happened in Mauritius. It will be done in the coming days," says the Ministry of Health.

What is certain, however, is that of the 75 cases identified, at least 4 cases were imported. At the Ministry of Health, it is said to be certain that these people were infected in India and Reunion. "Moreover, the dengue virus type 2 is prevalent in Reunion," says one.

- National. 29 Apr 2019. Port Louis 37 cases with 29 of those in Roche-Bois. Cases rise to 115.

- National. 9 May 2019. Mauritius passes 127 cases, including one in Grand Bay and one in Trou aux Biches
Mauritius - Residence La Cure. 12 Apr 2019

A 3rd case of dengue was detected this Friday [12 Apr 2019] at Residence La Cure. The 3 victims are from the same family. According to a source from the Ministry of Health, this family was visited by infected people of Vallee-des-Pretres some time ago.
[in French, trans. Corr.SB]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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