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Namibia

Namibia US Consular Information Sheet
August 16, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Namibia is a southern African country with a moderately developed economy.
Facilities for tourism are good and generally increasing in quality.
The capital is
indhoek.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Namibia for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are normally required.
Bearers of U.S. passports who plan to visit Namibia for tourism for less than 90 days can obtain visas at the port of entry and do not need visas prior to entering the country.
Travelers coming for work or study, whether paid or voluntary, must obtain a work or study permit prior to entering Namibia.

All travelers traveling to or from Namibia via South Africa are strongly encouraged to have several unstamped visa pages left in their passports.
South Africa requires two unstamped visa pages, and Namibia usually also requires an unstamped page to stamp a visa upon arrival.
Visitors who do not have enough free visa pages in their passport risk being denied entry and returned to the U.S. at their own expense.

Travelers should obtain the latest information from the Embassy of Namibia located at 1605 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone (202) 986-0540 or from the Permanent Mission of Namibia to the U.N. at 135 E. 36th St., New York, NY 10016, telephone (212) 685-2003, fax (212) 685-1561.
Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Namibian embassy.
See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Namibia and other countries.
Visit the Embassy of Namibia's website at http://www.namibianembassyusa.org/ for the most current visa information.
See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.
Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
American citizens wishing to cross into Angola from Namibia should do so only at official border crossing areas and should consult the State Department's Consular Information Sheet for Angola.
American citizens should avoid street demonstrations.
However, such events are rare in Namibia.
American citizens traveling in Namibia are urged to contact the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek for the latest safety and security information.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Crime is a serious concern in Namibia, but visitors who employ common-sense preventive measures normally enjoy an incident-free stay.
Incidents of violent crime directed specifically against Americans or other foreigners are rare, but the number of overall incidents continues to increase.
The most common crimes are property-motivated crimes of opportunity, including pick pocketing, purse snatching, vehicle theft, and vehicle break-ins.
Taxi drivers have robbed several American passengers; if taxis must be used, radio taxis that display the NABTA logo (Namibia Bus and Taxi Association) are the most reliable.
Violent crimes are less frequent than non-violent incidents.
Common sense measures such as being alert to one's surroundings, avoiding isolated areas of town, not leaving valuables in parked cars, keeping car doors locked and windows up while driving, safeguarding purses, wallets and especially cellular phones are the best deterrents against becoming a victim.
Drivers should exercise caution at rest stops outside of towns or away from gasoline stations.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Windhoek has a small number of private medical hospitals and clinics capable of providing emergency care and performing many routine procedures.
Doctors, both general practitioners and specialists, as well as dentists, generally have training and facilities that are comparable with U.S. standards.
Facilities outside the capital vary widely.
Several large towns have well-equipped facilities similar to those available in Windhoek, while smaller towns generally do not.
Malaria is prevalent only in the north of the country.
Malaria prophylaxis is not required in Windhoek but is suggested for travel to the north.
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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website 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 Namibia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
In Namibia, driving is done on the left-hand side of the road.
Many of Namibia's rural roads are gravel.
Although these roads are generally well maintained, controlling a vehicle on gravel is significantly more difficult than on pavement.
Drivers should not drive in excess of 80km per hour (45 mph) on gravel roads, should reduce speed significantly for curves or turns, and should heed all warning signs.
Hitting a sand patch or driving around a curve too fast can easily result in a rollover or spinout.
Many accidents on gravel roads occur when tourists exceed safe speeds on corners or in areas recently damaged by rains.
Visitors are reminded that motor vehicle accidents are one of the primary causes of injury and death in Namibia, and drivers are therefore strongly urged to drive with caution.

For those driving outside of the capital, distances between cities can be considerable, and often gasoline is only available at a few service stations along a route.
Fuel availability can be impacted by power outages as well.
All travelers are encouraged to plan their route to ensure a sufficient supply of fuel, and are recommended to bring five liters of water per person when traveling on dirt roads to guard against dehydration if an accident should occur.
Turning on a red traffic light is not permitted in Namibia.
Seat belts are required for all vehicle occupants.
Motorcyclists are required by law to wear protective helmets.
While child car seats are not required, they are recommended.
To drive legally while in Namibia, visitors staying more than a few weeks need an international driving permit.
International driving permits must be obtained prior to leaving the U.S. and are available from either the American Automobile Association or the American Automobile Touring Alliance.
Short-term visitors do not need an international driving permit; a valid U.S. driver's license is sufficient.
Roads in Namibia are generally well maintained.
However, few have shoulders or “pull-off” lanes for broken vehicles.
Wildlife wandering on roads is a special driving hazard in Namibia, especially at night.
An encounter at high speeds with antelope or cattle can be fatal.
The salt-surfaced roads at the coast can also be deceptively dangerous, especially when they have been made slick by morning or evening mist.
Robbery has occurred at roadside "rest stops" and motorists are advised to take rest breaks in towns and/or at gasoline stations.
Most major roads are undivided with one lane in each direction.
Drivers should remain alert for passing vehicles and exercise caution when passing slow moving vehicles.
Accidents involving drunk drivers are an increasing problem on major roads where there are high speed limits.
Driving under the influence is illegal in Namibia.
A charge of culpable homicide can be made against a driver involved in an accident resulting in death.
Roadside assistance and emergency medical services outside of Windhoek may be unreliable or non-existent.
Assistance on main roads that link Namibia's larger towns, however, is generally good due to quality cell phone networks.
Emergency services contact numbers vary from town to town.
The Namibian telephone directory has a list of emergency contact numbers at the beginning of each town listing.
It is recommended that Americans maintain a list of contact numbers for the area in which they plan to drive.
Telephone numbers may change, and 24-hour availability of these numbers is not guaranteed.
Public transportation is not widely available outside of the capital.
Taxis and municipal buses are the only forms of public transportation in Windhoek.
Schedules and routes are limited.
Car rentals or radio taxis are generally the best means of transport but may be relatively expensive.
The Embassy has received reports of foreign citizens being robbed by drivers of taxis hailed on the streets of Windhoek.
The Embassy has not received any such reports regarding radio taxis.
Flashing of high beams and similar signals could mean anything from a friendly greeting to a warning.
When encountering a motorcade, motorists are encouraged to make way immediately and follow promptly any instructions given by the officials present.
Because of the possibility of intoxicated and/or reckless drivers, the poor mechanical condition of some motor vehicles, and the high incidence of single-vehicle rollover accidents, Americans are urged to avoid hitchhiking in Namibia.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of the country's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety: http://www.met.gov.na/default.htm
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Namibia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Namibia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Wild animals may pose some danger.
Travelers are advised that, even in the most serene settings, animals are wild and can pose a threat to life and safety.
Travelers are cautioned to observe all local or park regulations and heed all instructions given by tour guides.
In addition, tourists are advised that potentially dangerous areas sometimes lack fences and warning signs.
Appropriate caution should be used in all unfamiliar surroundings.

Namibia does not recognize dual citizenship for adults over the age of 18.
Therefore, despite the fact that these individuals possess U.S. citizenship, they must enter and exit Namibia bearing a Namibian passport.
Namibia recognizes dual citizenship up until the age of 18; however, such children must enter Namibia on their Namibian passport and may face questioning by an immigration officer before being permitted entry.
Please see our information on customs regulations.

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 offences.
Persons violating Namibian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Namibia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
Americans should avoid purchasing diamonds and other protected resources outside of licensed retail establishments.
The penalty for illegal dealing in diamonds in Namibia is stiff -- up to U.S. $20,000 in fines or five years in prison -- and the courts generally impose the maximum sentence.
The purchase and exportation of other protected resources, such as elephant ivory, may also be prohibited by Namibian, international, and/or U.S. law.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Namibia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Namibia.
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 14 Lossen Street, Ausspannplatz, Windhoek, telephone (264-61) 295-8500, fax (264-61) 295-8603.
You can reach the Consular Section at extension 8551; i.e., (264-61) 295-8551 or via e-mail consularwindho@state.gov.
The mailing address for the Embassy is Private Bag 12029, Windhoek, Namibia.
The U.S. Embassy Windhoek website is http://windhoek.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated August 1, 2006, to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions and Special Circumstances.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sat 28 Mar 2020
Source: CGTN Africa [edited]

The number of reported hepatitis E cases in Namibia are on the decrease, statistics released by the Ministry of Health on Saturday [28 Mar 2020] show. A total of 74 hepatitis E (HEV) cases were reported countrywide between 24 Feb and 8 Mar 2020, compared with 102 cases reported during the previous 2 weeks.

The Ministry of Health declared an outbreak of hepatitis E on 14 Dec 2017 in the capital, Windhoek. The outbreak then spread to other regions around April 2018, eventually involving a total of 10 regions. Cases have been reported mainly from informal settlements such as Havana and Goreangab in Windhoek, DRC [Democratic Resettlement Community] in Swakopmund and similar settings in other regions where access to potable water, sanitation, and hygiene is limited.

A total of 7457 hepatitis E cases have been reported since the outbreak began with 65 deaths reported nationally, representing a case fatality rate of 0.9 per cent.

"There is a decrease in the number of HEV cases during the reporting period. (However) the outbreak continues to be protracted and cases are still being detected in areas where water and toilet facilities are limited, particularly in Khomas and in Erongo regions," a report from the health ministry said.
=====================
[Hepatitis E is found worldwide, and different genotypes of the hepatitis E virus determine differences in epidemiology. For example, genotype 1 is usually seen in developing countries and causes community-level outbreaks, whereas genotype 3 is usually seen in developed countries and does not cause outbreaks. Acute epidemic hepatitis E is attributable to infection with hepatitis E virus genotypes 1 and 2. Many of the deaths are in pregnant women, characteristic of genotype 1.

The highest seroprevalence rates (number of persons in a population who test positive for the disease) are observed in regions where low standards of sanitation increase the risk for transmission of the virus. - ProMed Mod.LL]

[Maps of Namibia:
Date: Fri 31 Jan 2020
Source: The New Era [edited]

Agonising back pain, fatigue, jaundice, nausea and loss of appetite are some of the symptoms that a 27 year old had to endure last year [2019] before he was diagnosed with hepatitis E.

The disease, which is commoner in areas with poor hand washing and lack of clean water, has been described as an epidemic, as more cases are reported to the authorities. The man is among 4000 Namibian men, mostly from Windhoek's informal settlements, battling the virus.

"I could not sleep at night, as my body was in intense pain. And you cannot sleep on one side for long, as the body aches. I could also not sit, as my lower back was in pain," he narrated to New Era from his home at Ehambo dhaNehale close to the Havana informal settlement. "I went to Black Chain clinic, and a nurse drew my blood and gave me feedback that I tested positive for hepatitis E virus. They injected me and gave me tablets that I took 3 times a day for a week." [There is no specific treatment for HEV. - ProMED Mod.LL]. Like many local people, he has expressed grave concern over the outbreak of the epidemic, which has since spread to other regions, including Omusati.

The outbreak of hepatitis E in the country, according to the latest report issued in December 2019, indicated that a majority of the cases are males, with 4167 men testing positive, compared with 2896 women. The least affected are children under one year, representing 0.11%. The report also shows that most of those affected are between the ages of 20 and 39. "Males are more likely to eat food from street vendors than females. Males are also less likely to wash their hands before eating," read the report.

Cumulatively, up to 29 Dec 2019, a total of 7063 hepatitis E virus cases were reported since the outbreak began. This includes 1731 laboratory confirmed, 4345 epi-linked, and 987 suspected cases. A total of 59 deaths have been reported nationally, and among those are 24 maternal deaths. The virus cases have been reported mainly from informal settlements such as Havana, Goreangab in Windhoek, DRC in Swakopmund and similar settings in other regions where access to potable water, sanitation and hygiene is a serious challenge.

Meanwhile, the latest official report on the outbreak indicated that during the period of 16-29 Dec 2019, a total of 82 hepatitis E virus cases were reported countrywide, compared to 63 cases reported during 2-15 Dec 2019. "The outbreak has become protracted and continues to spread to other regions with ongoing active transmission of the virus. Inadequate washing intervention in some informal settlements still persists." The health ministry declared the virus outbreak on 14 Dec 2017 in Khomas, and it spread to other regions around April 2018.  [byline: Selma Ikela]
================
[Hepatitis E is found worldwide, and different genotypes of the hepatitis E virus determine differences in epidemiology. For example, genotype 1 is usually seen in developing countries and causes community-level outbreaks, whereas genotype 3 is usually seen in developed countries and does not cause outbreaks. Acute epidemic hepatitis E is attributable to infection with hepatitis E virus genotypes 1 and 2. Many of the deaths are in pregnant women, characteristic of genotype 1.

The highest seroprevalence rates (number of persons in a population who test positive for the disease) are observed in regions where low standards of sanitation increase the risk for transmission of the virus. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Thu 5 Nov 2019
Source: Namibia Press Agency [edited]

The Ministry of Health and Social Services and other stakeholders at Gobabis are working around the clock to curb the spread of hepatitis E in the region. Since the 1st case in the Omaheke region was reported in December 2017, about 137 other cases have been confirmed between March and November 2019. Out of the notified cases, one death has been recorded. Most of the reported cases in the region are from Gobabis, mainly from the Kanaan C informal settlement, where 123 cases were reported. This is as a result of a lack of clean drinking water, lack of sanitation facilities, and open-air defecation in the settlement.

Responding to questions emailed to him by Nampa [Namibia Press Agency], Omaheke health director Jeremiah Shikulo said regional and district health emergency committees have been activated and are in full operation, leading and coordinating the outbreak response process with other line ministries.

"The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has provided 4 water tanks to the community of Kanaan, which the Gobabis municipality are refilling on a regular basis. Water purification tablets are also being distributed to households on a daily basis by community health workers," he added. The municipality has likewise given Kanaan C informal residents permission to build their own affordable temporary toilets.

Among other attempts to combat hepatitis E in the region, campaigns on how to properly clean water containers, screening pregnant women for the virus, and health education through community health workers have been conducted at Kanaan C. Five clean-up campaigns have also been held at the informal settlement, with another one set for tomorrow [6 Dec 2019].

Hepatitis E is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis E virus, usually as a result of poor sanitation. The disease was declared an outbreak on [14 Dec 2017] by the health ministry.  [Byline: Elvi Haihambo]
====================
[Hepatitis E is found worldwide, and different genotypes of the hepatitis E virus determine differences in epidemiology. For example, genotype 1 is usually seen in developing countries and causes community-level outbreaks, whereas genotype 3 is usually seen in developed countries and does not cause outbreaks. Acute epidemic hepatitis E is attributable to infection with hepatitis E virus genotypes 1 and 2. Many of the deaths are in pregnant women, characteristic of genotype 1.

The highest seroprevalence rates (number of persons in a population who test positive for the disease) are observed in regions where low standards of sanitation increase the risk for transmission of the virus. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Mon 14 Oct 2019
Source: The Namibian [edited]

A total of 115 cases of anthrax in humans have been reported in the northern regions of the country, after they allegedly came into contact with, or consumed meat of suspected anthrax-infected carcasses.

Only 3 people have however been admitted [to hospital] with regard to the suspected anthrax outbreak, while no deaths were reported.

A joint press statement issued by agriculture ministry executive director Percy Misika and his counterpart in the health ministry, Ben Nangombe, detailed the effects of the suspected anthrax disease breakout in the Kunene and Zambezi regions.

The statement details that 104 suspected cases of human anthrax were reported at the Otjitanga village in the Kunene region after the village community had consumed and had close contact with anthrax-contaminated meat.

In the Zambezi region, the Katima Mulilo district reported suspected cases after 11 people developed lesions on different parts of their bodies after consuming meat from a hippo that died of an unknown cause, according to the statement.

A total of 68 small stock and 39 hippos have been reported dead. "Livestock deaths suspected to be caused by anthrax were detected at Otjitanga village in the Kunene region since [25 Sep 2019]," the statement said. "While in the Zambezi region, deaths of hippos at the lake of Liambezi were detected on the [29 Aug 2019].

Anthrax is a serious infectious disease that affects both animals and humans, and the bacteria can be found naturally in soil.  [Byline: Arlana Shikongo]
====================
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Namibia:
Kunene is in the NW corner of Namibia; see: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunene_Region> while the Zambezi Region (previously Caprivi) is at the eastern end of the Caprivi Strip; see <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zambezi_Region>

Hippo die-offs from anthrax are never minor. And if people will not listen, we will see more statistics on human cases and possible deaths. - ProMED Mod.MHJ]
Date: Mon 23 Sep 2019
Source: News Ghana, via XinhuaNet [edited]

Hepatitis E cases in Namibia have risen to over 6305 cases in the entire country, health officials said Monday [23 Sep 2019]. Health Ministry director of research Phelomena Ochurus said there is a need for the country to be concerned, as cases are being reported on a weekly basis.

According to statistics Ochurus provided, there have so far been 52 fatal cases since 2017, with pregnant women topping the list of deaths.

"Pregnant women are more susceptible, because when they are pregnant, their immune system is compromised," she said. She added that males are topping the number of cases reported, with 60% of them affected in a specific age group of between 20 and 39 years old.

"In the Khomas and Erongo regions, people affected are living in areas with limited water and sanitation facilities, especially in the informal settlements where there are no proper facilities," she said. Khomas region has so far recorded 3865 cases, while Erongo region has recorded 1358 cases.

Namibia experienced the 1st hepatitis E outbreak in 1983 in Rundu, where 9 cases were confirmed, and the last outbreak was experienced in 1995-1996, also in Rundu.
========================
[Hepatitis E is found worldwide, and different genotypes of the hepatitis E virus determine differences in epidemiology. For example, genotype 1 is usually seen in developing countries and causes community-level outbreaks, whereas genotype 3 is usually seen in developed countries and does not cause outbreaks. Acute epidemic hepatitis E is attributable to infection with hepatitis E virus genotypes 1 and 2. Many of the deaths are in pregnant women, characteristic of genotype 1.

The highest seroprevalence rates (number of persons in a population who test positive for the disease) are observed in regions where low standards of sanitation increase the risk for transmission of the virus. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 9 Apr 2020 07:30:18 +0200 (METDST)
By Mary Lyn Fonua

Nuku'alofa, Tonga, April 9, 2020 (AFP) - A resurgent Tropical Cyclone Harold flattened tourist resorts in Tonga Thursday, extending a week-long trail of destruction across four South Pacific island nations that has claimed more than two dozen lives.   The cyclone gathered pace as it bore down on the tiny island kingdom, which declared a state of emergency, warning residents to seek shelter from destructive winds and massive sea surges.

By early Thursday it had again become a scale-topping Category Five superstorm -- surprising meteorologists after signs earlier in the week that its intensity was dropping.   Packing winds of up to 260 kilometres per hour (160 miles per hour), it cut power in parts of the country and police said at least three tourist resorts north of the capital Nuku'alofa had been reduced to rubble.

The cyclone killed 27 people in the Solomons late last week before barrelling southeast to directly hit Vanuatu as a Category Five, obliterating entire towns in the northern provinces.   There have been no reports of deaths in Vanuatu, Fiji or Tonga, with emergency workers saying residents in the hardest hit areas took shelter early.   "It appears that many buildings and crops have been destroyed and some people in the most affected areas have lost everything," Red Cross Vanuatu secretary general Jacqueline de Gaillande said.

Harold weakened slightly to a still-formidable Category Four as it lashed Fiji on Wednesday but hopes the storm was dissipating were dashed as it regathered momentum heading towards Tonga.   "It's been a tricky one to predict," meteorologist Bill Singh from New Zealand's Metservice told AFP.   "We knew the track it was going to take but initially everyone thought it was just going to be Cat 3 or 4, but as it progressed over open warm waters it deepened."

- Closed borders -
The storm is expected to head away from Tonga onto the open ocean late Thursday but WeatherWatch.co.nz head forecaster Philip Duncan said there were no certainties.   "It's almost unheard of to see a cyclone tracking south away from the equator, weakening, then suddenly returning back to Cat 5 so far south," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated disaster relief efforts, with Vanuatu reluctant to open its international borders as it seeks to remain one of the few countries without any confirmed virus cases.   "No foreign personnel are being brought to Vanuatu for response efforts at the present time, this will be an internally run operation," Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office said.

Fiji has 15 virus cases and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the virus and cyclone meant "our economy and our people have been dealt two body blows to start the year".   "This storm must not compromise our coronavirus containment efforts, lest we risk damage far more painful than the aftermath of any cyclone," he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said an air force plane carrying essential supplies such as tents and water containers was on its way to Vanuatu, while assistance had also been offered to other impacted nations.   "We are acutely conscious that this comes on top of the impact and difficulties created by COVID-19 for those countries," she said.   Vanuatu said any supplies that came into the country would be handled with protective equipment and the air crews delivering them would be isolated in transit areas.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 18:07:06 +0200 (METDST)

London, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Britain on Wednesday reported a record 938 new COVID-19 deaths in its daily update, 152 more than its previous highest toll, as the total number of deaths passed 7,000.    "As of 5pm on 7 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 7,097 have sadly died," the health ministry tweeted, up from 6,159 on Tuesday.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 16:50:53 +0200 (METDST)
By Sofia CHRISTENSEN

Johannesburg, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - A pride of lions flops lazily across a track at a South African game reserve, enjoying newfound tranquility since last month's closure of all national parks to support an anti-coronavirus lockdown.   Rather than the usual Land Rover, a lone elephant rumbles down the road, causing the felines to scatter into the surrounding bush.   A vehicle stands in the background, live streaming the scene for thousands of people watching the animals from the comfort of their homes.   "Since the lockdown occurred we have seen an amazing explosion in our audience," said Graham Wallington, head of a live safari broadcaster called WildEarth.

As the number of viewers tripled over the last days of March, Wallington noted that the audience -- typically American -- was increasingly from South Africa.   "It just happened overnight because all these kids at home with their families are watching these live safaris," he told AFP.   South Africa is almost two weeks into a 21-day lockdown meant to halt the spread of COVID-19.   The country is the worst-affected in Africa, with more than 1,700 infections recorded so far, including 13 deaths.

WildEarth operates from two vehicles in two private game reserves bordering the internationally famous Kruger National Park.   Guides take viewers along for a virtual game drive, finding wildlife and sharing facts about animals encountered along the way.   The cameras are positioned at the back of the vehicles, where passengers would usually be seated, in order to create a real-life experience.   "There it is," guide James Hendry whispered excitedly to the camera after stumbling across a mother hyena and her newborn cubs.   "Tell me, have you ever seen anything that cute in your life before?"   Participants can also send questions to the guides as they go along.

- Rare species emerge -
"You want to know how much water an elephant drinks in a day?" asked ranger Trishala Naidoo, as she drove along a bumpy bush track.   "Around 100 litres if not more," she answered, before pulling over to show viewers a leopard tortoise crossing the road.   Aside from providing entertainment, Wallington believes virtual safaris are an opportunity to observe how wildlife behave in the absence of tourists.   "It's kind of an interesting time where the animals are being left alone," Wallington said, adding that rare species such as the endangered African wild dogs had started venturing into his areas.   "Wild dogs coming in and hunting almost every day... is unheard of," he exclaimed.    "It's because there is no one else there and they've got the run of the place for themselves."
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 16:44:56 +0200 (METDST)

Monrovia, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Liberian President George Weah declared a state of emergency in the West African country on Wednesday, with the capital Monrovia set to go into lockdown in a bid to curb coronavirus.    In a televised statement, the president said that all movement between Liberia's 15 counties would be banned from 11:59 pm on Friday, and that all non-essential businesses and government offices would close.

Residents of four counties -- including Monrovia's, which is home to about 1 million people -- must also stay at home for two weeks, he said.    Authorities in those counties will allow people to leave their homes only to buy food or for health reasons.     "We have to ask ourselves why we should abide by these measures. The answer is simple: to save lives," Weah said.

Wednesday's announcement escalates earlier health measures which banned large gatherings as well as flights to and from virus-stricken countries.   As with other poor countries in the region, there are fears that Liberia is ill prepared to handle a large outbreak.

The nation of some 4.8 million has recorded 13 coronavirus cases to date, with three deaths.  But Liberia was badly hit during the West Africa's 2014-16 Ebola crisis, which killed more than 4,800 people in the country.    Weah warned that the coronavirus was the greatest threat facing Liberia since Ebola.    "The horrific scenarios that are beginning to emerge should serve as sufficient warning for every one of us to spring into action," he said.   Coronavirus "has already arrived in Liberia, and confirmed cases are now on the rise," Weah added.   Decimated after back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, Liberia also suffers economic woes including rampant inflation and fuel shortages.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 16:42:52 +0200 (METDST)

Cairo, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Egypt will extend a nationwide night-time curfew by a further two weeks in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said on Wednesday.   He told a news conference the measure would be enforced from 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) to 6:00 am and run until April 23.   The curfew would start an hour later, he said, to avoid overcrowding in public transport.   Schools and universities, as well as restaurants and cafes would also remain closed until then, while food outlets would be allowed to offer delivery services only.   To stem the spread of the coronavirus, authorities have also halted air traffic until the end of the month and closed tourist and religious sites.

Penalties against violators including fines of up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds (just over $250) and even prison, the prime minister said.  Madbouli also announced that cabinet members will take a 20 percent salary cut for three months, and allocate that sum to underprivileged Egyptians.   Egypt's health ministry has so far declared 94 fatalities out of 1,450 confirmed cases of COVID-19.   Authorities have in recent weeks carried out sweeping disinfection operations at archaeological sites, museums and other sites across the country.   In tandem, strict social distancing measures were imposed to reduce the risk of contagion among the country's 100 million inhabitants.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 15:46:57 +0200 (METDST)

Beirut, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Millions in Lebanon risk food insecurity due to a coronavirus lockdown unless the government provides urgent assistance, Human Rights Watch warned Wednesday.   Lebanon in mid-March ordered residents to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close to halt the spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected 575 people and killed 19 nationwide.   Before the pandemic erupted, Lebanon was struggling with its worst economic crisis in decades, with 45 percent of the population facing poverty according to official estimates.   Lockdown measures to slow the spread of the virus have made matters worse with "millions of Lebanon's residents... at risk of going hungry", HRW said in a statement.

Lebanon is home to 4.5 million people, and also hosts around 1.5 million Syrians who have fled the nine-year war next door, most of whom rely on aid to survive.   "The lockdown... has compounded the poverty and economic hardship rampant in Lebanon before the virus arrived," said HRW senior researcher Lena Simet.    "Many people who had an income have lost it, and if the government does not step in, more than half the population may not be able to afford food and basic necessities."

The economic crisis since last year had already caused many people to lose their jobs or take salary cuts, and stay-at-home measures to counter the virus have now prevented even more from earning a wage.   Media has carried reports of a taxi driver who set his car on fire after security forces fined him for breaking the lockdown rules.   And an unemployed Lebanese construction worker unable to afford rent offered to sell his kidney, in an image widely shared online.   HRW Lebanon researcher Aya Majzoub said many families are struggling due to a lack of savings.

The government has said it will pay out 400,000 Lebanese pounds (less than $150 at the market rate) to the most vulnerable.   HRW said the government should also consider suspending rent and mortgage payments throughout the lockdown.   Majzoub said Syrian refugees were also affected.   "Many of them were seasonal workers -- they worked in agriculture, they worked in the service industry -- and they're not able to do that anymore," she said.   But their ability to cope will depend largely on international aid, as before the pandemic.

The World Bank last week said it had re-allocated $40 million from its support to Lebanon's health sector to fight the virus, including for tests and ventilators.   And it has also been discussing "assistance to help mitigate the impact of the economic and financial crisis on the poor through emergency social safety nets", World Bank spokeswoman Zeina El-Khalil told AFP in March.    On Monday, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun urged the international community to provide financial assistance to back economic reforms.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 15:13:03 +0200 (METDST)

Dublin, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Irish police set up nationwide traffic checkpoints on Wednesday, armed with new powers to enforce a lockdown designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.   Emergency legislation passed in the Irish parliament two weeks ago allows the government to curb non-essential travel during the crisis.

People violating the ban risk a fine of up to 2,500 euros ($2,700) and/or six months in prison.   "The regulations now are in effect," Garda -- Irish police -- commissioner Drew Harris said at a press conference.   "People only should be moving if they have an essential reason to move throughout country. What we'll be doing is making sure that movement is essential."

Over 2,500 officers will be involved in the operation at any one time as it runs from noon Wednesday until midnight on Sunday, with an extension possible.   "It will involve thousands of checkpoints every day," police said in a statement. The roadblocks have been put in place ahead of Easter holidays, traditionally used as an occasion for travel in Ireland.

Harris said nationwide compliance with the ban on movement -- which allows for exercise within two kilometres of home -- had been strong.   But there is a "small minority and perhaps... an increasing number" in breach of the government order.   There have been 210 COVID-19 related deaths and 5,709 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland according to health department figures released Tuesday.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 13:24:23 +0200 (METDST)

Tehran, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Iran on Wednesday reported 121 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing its overall number of fatalities to 3,993.   In the past 24 hours, 1,997 new cases of COVID-19 infection were detected in Iran, state news agency IRNA quoted health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour as saying.   That put the number of confirmed cases at 64,586, he added.

Iran, which announced its first COVID-19 cases on February 19, is by far the worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East, according to official tolls.   But there has been speculation abroad that the real number of deaths and infections in the country could be higher.   Jahanpour said that while 3,956 patients were in critical condition, those who recovered had reached 29,812.   The spokesman added that Iran had carried out 220,975 COVID-19 tests to date, according to IRNA.   In a bid to halt COVID-19, Iran has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses and imposed inter-city travel bans, while refraining from a lockdown.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said a "second wave" of the fight against the coronavirus would start from Saturday, and that it would be more difficult.   "Low-risk" businesses would be allowed to reopen from Saturday, he said, because "we want to continue economic activities as much as possible while fighting coronavirus at the same time".   The decision to reopen businesses has drawn criticism from health experts and even some government officials.   But Rouhani said "there is no other way".
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 13:14:26 +0200 (METDST)
By Robbie COREY-BOULET

Addis Ababa, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Ethiopia on Wednesday declared a state of emergency to fight the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far infected 55 people and resulted in two deaths there.    It is the first state of emergency announced under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018 and won last year's Nobel Peace Prize in part for expanding political freedoms in the authoritarian nation.    "Because the coronavirus pandemic is getting worse, the Ethiopian government has decided to declare a state of emergency under Article 93 of the constitution," Abiy said in a statement.     "I call upon everybody to stand in line with government bodies and others that are trying to overcome this problem," he added, warning of "grave legal measures" against anyone who undermines the fight against the pandemic.

It was not immediately clear how the state of emergency would affect day-to-day life in Ethiopia.   The government has so far refrained from imposing a lockdown similar to those in effect elsewhere in the region, including in Rwanda, Uganda and Mauritius.

According to the country's constitution, under a state of emergency the Council of Ministers has "all necessary power to protect the country's peace and sovereignty" and can suspend some "political and democratic rights".    The constitution also says lawmakers need to approve a state of emergency, which can last for six months and be extended every four months after that.

Wednesday's decree is likely to "beef up security operations with a greater role for the ederal government, including the military," said William Davison, Ethiopia analyst for the International Crisis Group, a conflict-prevention organisation.    "While this approach is understandable given the situation, it is critical that there is transparency over the government's extra powers and that there is adequate monitoring of implementation," Davison said.

-Opposition challenges move-
Since reporting its first COVID-19 case on March 13, Ethiopia has closed land borders and schools, freed thousands of prisoners to ease overcrowding, sprayed main streets in the capital with disinfectant, and discouraged large gatherings.    But Abiy said over the weekend that a harsher lockdown would be unrealistic given that there are "many citizens who don't have homes" and "even those who have homes have to make ends meet daily."    Jawar Mohammed, a leading opposition politician, said Wednesday this called into question why a state of emergency was necessary.   "Officials have been saying the country is too poor to stop population movement. So why do you need a state of emergency if you are not planning to impose stricter rules?" Jawar told AFP.

During consultations with Abiy earlier this week, the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) voiced worries that a state of emergency would lead to human rights abuses -- a well-documented problem under previous states of emergency imposed during several years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power.    "We explained our concern that the state of emergency has been initiated several times and it has been abused to violate the rights of citizens and other political activists," OLF chairman Dawud Ibsa told AFP.   It's also unclear how the state of emergency might affect planning for hotly-anticipated general elections in Ethiopia.

The country's electoral board announced last week that voting planned for August would need to be postponed because of the pandemic.    It did not provide a timeline for when the elections would ultimately be held, and lawmakers' constitutional mandates expire in October.   Davison, with the International Crisis Group, said the state of emergency could be used "to formally postpone elections" past that deadline, though such a move risks sparking opposition backlash.    "It is therefore essential that the government works with opposition parties on managing this constitutionally sensitive period and making new electoral arrangements," Davison said.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 13:08:25 +0200 (METDST)

Madrid, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Spain recorded Wednesday a second successive daily rise in coronavirus-related deaths with 757 fatalities, lifting the total toll in Europe's second-hardest-hit country after Italy by 5.5 percent to 14,555.   The number of new infections rose by 4.4 percent to 146,690, the health ministry said, as Spain has ramped up its testing for the disease.   The number of daily deaths, which peaked on Thursday at 950, rose for the first time on Tuesday after falling for four straight days.

But the rate of increase in both deaths and new infections on Wednesday was largely in line with that recorded the previous day, and half of what was recorded just a week ago.   "We have consolidated the slowdown in the spread of the virus," Health Minister Salvador Illa tweeted after the latest figures were published.   The Spanish government on March 14 imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe to curb the spread of the virus, with people allowed out of their homes only to work, buy food and seek medical care.

The pandemic has stretched the country's public healthcare system close to breaking point, with a shortage of intensive care beds and equipments, but in recent days hospitals have said the situation has improved.   "We have observed a de-escalation at this hospital in particular, and I believe at all hospitals," the spokesman for the Hospital Severo Ochoa in Leganes near Madrid, Jorge Rivera, told AFP.   "We can't let down our guard, emergency services are now working below their full capacity and are working well, they are not saturated and overcrowded but it does not mean that we can relax and go to the emergency ward because you have an ailment."