September 22, 2008
New Zealand is a highly developed, stable parliamentary democracy, which recognizes the British monarch as sovereign. It has a modern economy, and tourist fa
Read the Department of State Background Note on New Zealand for additional information.
U.S. citizens eligible for a visa waiver do not need a visa for tourist stays of three months or less. For more information about visa waivers and entry requirements, contact the Embassy of New Zealand: 37 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 328-4800; or the Consulate General of New Zealand in Los Angeles: 2425 Olympic Blvd Suite 600E, Santa Monica, CA 90404, telephone (310) 566-6555.
Visit the Consulate of New Zealand web site at http://www.nzcgla.com 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:
U.S. citizens in New Zealand should review their personal security practices, be alert to any unusual activity around their homes or businesses, and report any significant incidents to local police.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for other callers, 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 personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves overseas, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
Crime rates in New Zealand are low but have increased in recent years. The most prevalent crime is theft or attempted theft from cars, camper vans and hostels. To help protect against theft, do not leave passports, or other valuable items in unattended vehicles. Violent crime against tourists is unusual; however, visitors who are traveling alone should be especially vigilant, and avoid isolated areas that are not frequented by the public.
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.
In New Zealand, a private organization called Victim Support works both independently and with the NZ Police to assist victims of crime. Victim Support is available 24 hours per day on 0800-842-846, 0800-Victim, by email at email@example.com.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in New Zealand is 111.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Quality medical care is widely available, but waiting lists exist for certain types of treatment.
High-quality medication (both over-the-counter and prescription) is widely available at local pharmacies, though the products’ names may differ from the American versions.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of New Zealand.
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 New Zealand is provided for general reference only.
All traffic travels on the left in New Zealand, and drivers should exercise extra caution if accustomed to driving on the right. Driving on the wrong side of the road is a leading cause of serious injury and death for American tourists.
Cars turning left must yield to oncoming cars that are turning right.
Proceed carefully through intersections.
Red means “stop”—do not turn at a red light.
New Zealand has only 100 miles of multilane divided motorways. Most intercity travel is accomplished on two lane roads.
While these are in good condition, New Zealand's rugged terrain means motorists often encounter sharper curves and steeper grades than those found in the U.S. interstate highway system. Renting a car or camper is a popular way to enjoy New Zealand's natural beauty, but visitors unfamiliar with local conditions should drive particularly conservatively.
Posted speed limit signs should be observed. Drivers should use caution to avoid animals when driving in rural areas.
Pedestrians are advised to look carefully in all directions before crossing a street or roadway, and to use crosswalks.
Pedestrians do not have the right of way except in crosswalks.
New Zealand law requires that cars yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, and that cars stop at least two meters (approximately 6 feet) from a crosswalk that is in use.
Traffic circles are common throughout New Zealand.
When approaching a traffic circle, always yield to traffic coming from the right –noting that traffic already in the circle has the right-of-way-- and merge to the left into the circle.
Public transportation, including buses, trains and taxis, is for the most part reliable and safe.
In case of emergency, phone the local police at 111.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
For specific information concerning the operation and rental of motor vehicles, contact the New Zealand Tourist Board via the Internet at http://www.newzealand.com/USA/ or the Land Transport Safety Authority at http://www.ltsa.govt.nz.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of New Zealand’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Some heavily populated parts of New Zealand are in areas of very high seismic activity. General information regarding disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.
Many tourists come to New Zealand to participate in extreme adventure sports, such as bungee jumping, sky diving, hiking, rappelling, climbing, motorcycling, and kayaking.
All too often, injuries and even death result from participation in such activities.
Travelers are advised to employ caution and common sense when engaging in adventure sports.
Never participate in such sports alone, always carry identification, and let someone else know where you are at all times.
Before kayaking, check the river conditions and wear a life jacket.
When hiking, rappelling, or climbing, carry a first aid kit, know the location of the nearest rescue center, and bring a friend along.
New Zealand is an island nation, and the government is serious about preserving its delicate ecosystem.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) imposes strict regulations regarding what can be imported into New Zealand.
People failing to declare goods that could be quarantined can be fined up to $100,000 NZ and/or face up to five years in prison. People failing to declare risk goods such as fresh fruit, seeds, and plants can receive an instant fine of $200 NZ.
When importing a pet, thorough veterinary documentation and a quarantine period are required.
Unfinished wood products, used hiking shoes and gardening tools, fresh food items, and items such as used pet carriers may be seized and destroyed by MAF.
More information can be found at http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/personal-travel-belongings-and-mail/arriving-by-air/what-you-cannot-bring
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 those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating New Zealand laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in New Zealand 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.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in New Zealand are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within New Zealand.
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 in Wellington is located at 29 Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington.
The telephone number is (64) (4) 462-6000.
The fax number is (64) (4) 471-2380.
The Embassy’s web site is http://wellington.usembassy.gov.
The U.S. Embassy in Wellington does not have a consular section and thus cannot provide consular services to American citizens.
All consular services for American citizens are provided by the Consulate General in Auckland.
The U.S. Consulate General in Auckland is located on the third floor of the Citigroup Centre, 23 Customs Street East, between Commerce and Queen Streets. The telephone number is (64) (9) 303-2724. The fax number is (64) (9) 366-0870.
See information on services to Americans at http://wellington.usembassy.gov/service.html.
The Consulate General in Auckland handles all consular matters in New Zealand.
For after-hours emergencies anywhere in New Zealand, a duty officer can be contacted by telephone. Persons seeking after-hours assistance may call (64) (4) 462-6000; after listening to a brief recording, the caller may leave a message on the voice mail system, describing the nature of the emergency and giving a point of contact. The phone system will automatically call the duty officer in Wellington or in Auckland, who will listen to the message and take the appropriate action .
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated January 31, 2008, to update the Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information sections.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Wellington, Feb 5, 2020 (AFP) - Severe flooding forced thousands of residents in New Zealand's South Island to flee their homes on Wednesday and left hundreds of tourists stranded at the remote Milford Sound beauty spot. The Southland region declared a state of emergency after being deluged with more than 1,000 mm of rainfall in 60 hours, triggering landslides on major roads and causing rivers to burst their banks.
Authorities told residents in the low-lying areas of Gore and Mataura to evacuate immediately early on Wednesday as floodwaters in the Mataura river peaked, warning those further downstream in Wyndham to prepare to leave. "We have issued notices to evacuate and to prepare to evacuate to 6,000 people across the region," an Emergency Management Southland (EMS) spokeswoman told AFP.
Residents were advised to grab medication, clothing and identification documents, then head to higher ground. Power to affected areas was cut off as a precaution and evacuation centres were set up in local churches and schools.
Floodwaters washed away sections of the only road to Milford Sound, a popular hiking spot for international tourists, and EMS said almost 200 people were being airlifted to nearby Te Anau. "The tourists... have been well catered for," it said. "Morale has been high amongst the visitors and staff, as they received regular briefings and have been in contact with friends and family." Only two minor injuries have been reported after a landslide hit a hut on the Routeburn walking track, with both people receiving treatment at the scene.
By Neil SANDS
Wellington, Dec 13, 2019 (AFP) - Adventure tourism is a key part of New Zealand's international appeal but the White Island volcano eruption is a tragic reminder that such activities carry genuine risk that must be better explained to travellers, experts say. The South Pacific nation offers a wealth of adrenaline-fuelled pursuits, from heli-skiiing on snow-capped mountains to ballooning and blackwater rafting through caves.
Some, such as bungee-jumping, jet-boating and zorbing -- where you hurl yourself down a hill inside an inflatable ball -- were invented or popularised in a country that prides itself on catering to intrepid visitors. The tourism industry as a whole is among New Zealand's biggest earners, generating about NZ$16.2 billion ($10.7 billion) and attracting 3.8 million international visitors annually. "Adventure tourism is a massive sector in New Zealand. We are promoting ourselves as the adventure capital of the world," professor Michael Lueck, a tourism expert at Auckland University of Technology, told AFP.
New Zealand is also renowned for its rugged landscapes, which feature prominently films such as Kiwi director Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings". Day-trips to White Island combined both, taking tourists including cruise ship passengers to a desolately beautiful island off the North Island coast where they could experience the thrill of standing on an active volcano. Instead, at least 16 people are believed to have died and dozens suffered horrific burns when 47 tourists and guides were caught on the island during Monday's eruption.
The disaster has raised questions about why tourists were allowed on a volcano where experts had recently raised threat levels, as well as broader issues about the regulation of risky activities in the tourism sector. "There will be bigger questions in relation to this event," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told parliament after the eruption. "These questions must be asked, and they must be answered."
- 'Slapdash' or world's best? -
The disaster on White Island -- also known as Whakaari -- is not the first mass-fatality accident to affect tourists in New Zealand. In 2015, seven people were killed when a scenic helicopter flight crashed into Fox Glacier. Two years earlier, a hot-air balloon claimed 11 lives and in 2010 nine died when a plane carrying skydivers plunged into a paddock.
Briton Chris Coker's son Brad, 24, died in the skydive plane crash and since then he has campaigned from afar for tighter regulations in New Zealand's adventure tourism sector. "In my opinion, the New Zealand authorities... are still slapdash about tourist safety," Coker told news website stuff.co.nz after the White Island eruption. "To run tourists there is insane. I know they signed a waiver and so on, but it's not really taking care of people."
Trade body Tourism Industry Aotearoa disputes such assessments, saying operators are "working within a world's best regulatory framework", but could not eliminate risk completely. "Operators put safety first, but adventure activity inherently carries some risk and it's critical that 'adventure' remains in adventure tourism," TIA chief executive Chris Roberts told AFP. "Operators take all practical actions to minimise the risks and the safety culture of individual operators remains the key factor in preventing accidents."
Roberts said the issue was not tourism operators, but the alert system they relied on at volcanic destinations such as White Island, which attracts about 17,000 visitors a year. The GeoNet monitoring agency raised White Island's threat level in the week before the eruption but also advised current activity "does not pose a direct hazard to visitors". "The reviews need to look at the science and specifically the guidance provided about volcanic activity, and whether the operating practices followed for the past 30 years need to change," Roberts said.
- 'Understand the risks' -
Travel companies such as White Island Tours brief customers before setting off and require them to sign a waiver declaring they understand the risk, as well as supplying equipment such as hard-hats and gas masks. However, some relatives of those affected by the eruption have expressed scepticism that their loved ones truly appreciated the potential danger they faced. Options for legal redress are limited under New Zealand's Accident Compensation Commission scheme, which covers victims' medical bills and provides modest compensation but does not allow civil suits for damages.
Neither Roberts nor Lueck expected the White Island eruption to hit international arrivals in New Zealand, which have continued to climb despite major earthquakes in 2011 and 2016. The nature of any review arising from White Island remains uncertain, but Lueck said at the very least tourists needed to be better informed about any risks. "Operators and tourism boards should have tourists understand what these risks are, and not brush over quickly signing a waiver," he said. "Only then can tourists make an informed decision and decide whether or not they want to take that particular risk."
India is bounded by the Himalayas in the north and extends 2000 miles southwards into the Indian Ocean, between the Bay of Bengal on the East and the Arabian Sea on the West. The cou
Most of the country is tropical or sub-tropical and subject to seasonal monsoon winds. This is especially true in the southwestern regions. * New Delhi There are three distinct seasons in New Delhi. Between mid-April to mid-July there is the hot dry season with dust storms. From mid-July to September there is a rainy season and a cooler season from October to March. * Bombay Bombay has a tropical climate and has an annual average temperature of about 270C. The hot humid season occurs in April and May. A monsoon occurs from June to September with about 70" of rainfall. A cool season extends from November to February when the temperatures can drop somewhat. * Calcutta Humidity remains high throughout most of the year. This is especially true between May to October when humidity levels of 90% are common. Most of the rainfall occurs during the monsoon season between June to October. * Madras The climate remains tropical throughout the year. December and January are relatively cool months and the heat increases rapidly from March to June. Premonsoon rains bring relief in July and the temperatures decrease slowly until the cooler season returns in November.
Safety & Security:
For most Irish travellers this will not be a major concern. However, the experience of travelling through any of the major cities is something many tourists will not forget. Taking care on Indian roads is a constantly essential activity. Parts of the country are unstable and recent earthquakes have led to disruptions to the transport infrastructure. As in many other countries travelling alone or late at night is unwise. In Kashmir tourists have been targeted and it is sensible to check you itinerary carefully before you travel throughout the country. In the northeastern part of the country (Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya) there have been sporadic incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including the bombing of buses and trains reported.
General Health Issues
It is essential that travellers recognise that there is a higher risk to their health while travelling in India. These risks are mainly associated with malaria and food and water borne diseases but conditions like accidents, rabies, tuberculosis and cholera are also present in many regions.
Food Borne Disease
A vegetarian diet is common throughout the country. Frequently the care taken with food preparation will be below standards usually seen in Western Europe. Work surfaces may be contaminated and food handlers may themselves infect the food before it is served. Cold foods should be avoided, where possible, and travellers should only consume hot food which has been freshly prepared. Stir fries may not reach sufficient cooking temperatures and need to be treated with great care. Shell fish and lettuce should always be avoided as they are one of the main ways food borne diseases are transmitted.
Water Borne Disease
Tap water should NOT be used for drinking or brushing teeth unless the smell of chlorine is obvious. Don’t use water from a jug in the hotel bedroom for anything except general washing. Sealed mineral water bought from your hotel should be used for all consumption and for brushing teeth.
Malaria is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. This may occur throughout India, including all the major cities. The highest risk time is during the monsoon season (May to October approximately) but there is risk throughout the year. Travellers should take care against mosquito bites and maintain their prophylactic tablets during their time in India and also for a further four weeks after leaving the country.
This viral disease is transmitted by any infected warm-blooded animal. Dogs, cats, monkeys etc are frequently involved. Travellers should avoid all contact with animals and any bite (lick or scratch) should be treated by immediately washing out the area, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention. India reports many thousand deaths each year from this dreadful disease.
Most short term travellers should consider vaccination cover against Poliomyelitis, Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis A. Malaria tablets will also be required. For longer trips please contact the Tropical Bureau at the numbers below.
Other Health Information
A full range of information on healthy travelling overseas can be obtained from the educational department of the Tropical Medical Bureau.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
World Travel News Headlines
By Suy SE
Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - A US cruise ship blocked from several Asian ports over concerns that a passenger could have been infected with the new coronavirus docked at a Cambodian pier Thursday, as frustrated holidaymakers expressed hope their ordeal may soon be over. The Westerdam was supposed to be taking its 1,455 passengers on a dream 14-day cruise around east Asia, beginning in Hong Kong on February 1 and disembarking on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan. But the ship was turned away from Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand over fears of the novel coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 1,300 people in China.
Cruise operator Holland America has insisted there are no cases of the SARS-like virus on board and Cambodia announced Wednesday that the boat would be able to dock in Sihanoukville, on its southern coast. By evening, the ship moved into the beach town's port, moving past the small fishing vessels that usually ply the waters. As it slowly approached the pier, people onshore snapped selfies of themselves with the massive vessel. The mood was equally buoyant on the boat. "Thank you Cambodia! You believed in us when no one would!" tweeted passenger Lydia Miller around 7 pm (1200 GMT). "We promise to spend lots of money in your country."
Fellow cruiser Christina Kerby -- who has been posting light-hearted updates from the Westerdam -- tweeted she was "feeling rebellious tonight so I'm wearing sneakers in the dining room". But all passengers would have to remain onboard until flights have been arranged, said provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun. "The arrangement of the planes to take them from (Sihanoukville) airport to Phnom Penh airport is underway," he said, explaining that three flights were scheduled Friday morning. Buses were lined up by the pier ready to transfer passengers to Sihanoukville's airport. Holland America has said they would foot the bill to return all guests.
- 'Disease of fear' -
Before the ship docked, doctors conducted health checks for the passengers. The samples of 20 on board who were sick were sent to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh to test for the virus, said transport minister Sun Chanthol. Cambodian premier Hun Sen is a staunch Chinese ally and has been vocal in his support of Beijing's handling of the epidemic, even going so far as to visit China last week in a show of solidarity. "The permission to dock is to stop the disease of fear that is happenin
Both Seabourne Ovation and Quantum of the Seas were allowed to dock, and passengers to alight for roughly 10 hours as part of the scheduled stop. "They were all checked by their doctors on the ship, and we also examined them when they disembarked," Phuket governor Pakapong Tawipat told AFP. He added that the passengers and the crew members "were not Chinese", and that Phuket was part of their regular routes, unlike the Westerdam. Japan's premier Shinzo Abe expressed worries last week over a possible infection on the Westerdam, and said measures will be taken to "reject entries" for foreigners into the country. Cambodia, which has one confirmed case of the virus, is the recipient of billions of dollars in soft loans, infrastructure, and investment from China.
Jakarta, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia's Mount Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes, erupted Thursday as fiery red molten lava streamed down from the crater and it belched clouds of grey ash 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky. Authorities did not raise the rumbling volcano's alert status after the early-morning eruption, but they advised commercial planes to take caution in the area. But any activity at Merapi raises concern and local residents were ordered to stay outside a three-kilometre no-go zone around the rumbling crater near Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta. Volcanic ash rained down on a 10-square kilometre area, according to the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre.
Mount Merapi's last major eruption in 2010 killed more than 300 people and forced the evacuation of some 280,000 residents. It was Merapi's most powerful eruption since 1930, which killed around 1,300 people, while another explosion in 1994 took about 60 lives. The Southeast Asian archipelago has more than 17,000 islands and islets -- and nearly 130 active volcanoes. It sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.
Sydney, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Australia on Thursday announced a ban on travellers from China would extend for at least a week beyond Saturday's planned deadline, as the death toll from the coronavirus soared. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would maintain "entry restriction on foreign nationals who have recently been in mainland China" for further week "to protect Australians from the risk of coronavirus". A decision to extend the ban further will be taken week-to-week, he said. The decision is a blow to Australian tourism operators who have seen business from Chinese visitors dry up, as well as for tens of thousands of Chinese students hoping to return to Australia for the new academic year.
China's official death toll and infection numbers from a new coronavirus spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed their counting methods, fuelling concern the epidemic is far worse than being reported. The virus has now officially killed more than 1,350 people in China and the World Health Organisation has warned the disease has not yet peaked. "I just want to assure all Australians, that we are doing everything we can to keep Australians safe at this time, and to ensure that we are mitigating everything that is possible to address any of the threats," Morrison said.
Sydney, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Dams near Sydney overflowed Thursday after days of torrential rain, as Australia braced for more storms expected to bring dangerous flash flooding to the country's east. Recent downpours have brought relief to areas ravaged by bushfires and drought -- as well as chaos and destruction to towns and cities along the eastern seaboard. On Thursday, Nepean Dam south of Sydney was at full capacity and spilling over, with video footage showing excess water cascading over the dam wall and downstream. Two other dams in New South Wales, Tallowa and Brogo, were also overflowing and more dams could reach capacity in the coming days, a WaterNSW spokesman told AFP.
Sydney's dams have seen water levels spike dramatically -- the Nepean was just a third full less than a week ago -- though many inland areas are facing severe water shortages missed out on the flows. A devastating months-long bushfire crisis that killed 33 people has effectively been ended by the downpours, with just one blaze yet to be brought under control in New South Wales. Hundreds of people have been rescued from floodwaters in recent days. Police said a man's body was discovered in a flooded river on Queensland's Sunshine Coast on Thursday, though the cause of his death was not immediately clear.
Wild weather is set to ramp up again from Friday, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting ex-Tropical Cyclone Uesi would bring "damaging to destructive winds" and heavy rainfall to remote tourist destination Lord Howe Island. Senior meteorologist Grace Legge said storms were also expected for Queensland and New South Wales -- with areas still recovering from bushfires likely to be hit again. "Any showers and thunderstorms that do develop are falling on already saturated catchments, so there is a risk with severe thunderstorms of flash flooding," she said. Emergency services have warned residents in affected areas to be cautious in the dangerous conditions.
Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Vietnam announced Thursday that a commune of 10,000 people will be placed under quarantine due to fears over the spread of the new coronavirus. "As of February 13, 2020, we will urgently implement the task of isolation and quarantine of the epidemic area in Son Loi commune," said a health ministry statement. "The timeline... is for 20 days". There are 15 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in Vietnam, five of them in Son Loi commune.
Geneva, Feb 12, 2020 (AFP) - The UN health agency on Wednesday said it was extending its global emergency designation for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo but said the sharp decline in cases was "extremely positive". The recent outbreak was first identified in August 2018 and has since killed more than 2,300 people in eastern DR Congo -- an area where several militia groups are operating. "As long as there is a single case of Ebola in an area as insecure and unstable as eastern DRC, the potential remains for a much larger epidemic," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.
The WHO, however, said it was downgrading the national and regional risk of the disease from very high to high, while it kept the global risk at low. Tedros also voiced hope that the emergency could be lifted within the next three months on the advice of the WHO's Emergency Committee of international experts. The World Health Organization last July declared it a "public health emergency of international concern" -- a designation that gives the WHO greater powers to restrict travel and boost funding. Tedros, who will be travelling to DRC on Thursday to meet President Felix Tshisekedi, on Tuesday said only three cases had been reported in the past week.
But for the epidemic to be declared over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days -- double the incubation period. The health emergency designation last year came a few days after a patient was diagnosed with the virus in the provincial capital Goma -- the first case in a major urban hub. More than a month before that, the WHO reported that the virus had spread to Uganda for the first time. The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person. The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.
This is the second worst outbreak of the disease since 2014 when it killed about 11,000 people -- mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Efforts to contain the current outbreak have been hindered by attacks on health workers and conflicts in the east. The WHO said in November it had moved 49 staff out of the Beni region in eastern DRC because of the insecurity. The Beni region, straddling the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, has been repeatedly attacked by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, which activists say has massacred more than 300 people since October.
Tomohon, Indonesia, Feb 12, 2020 (AFP) - Bats, rats and snakes are still being sold at an Indonesian market known for its wildlife offerings, despite a government request to take them off the menu over fears of a link to the deadly coronavirus. Vendors at the Tomohon Extreme Meat market on Sulawesi island say business is booming and curious tourists keep arriving to check out exotic fare that enrages animal rights activists. But scientists are debating how the new virus, which has killed more than 1,100 people in China and spread to dozens of countries around the world, was transmitted to humans.
A wildlife market in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, is thought to be ground zero and there is suspicion it could have originated in bats. The possible link wasn't on many radar screens at the Indonesian market, however. Its grubby stalls feature a dizzying array of animals including giant snakes, rats impaled on sticks and charred dogs with their hair seared off by blowtorches -- a gory scene described by some critics as "like walking through hell".
Bat seller Stenly Timbuleng says he's still moving his fare for as much as 60,000 rupiah ($4.40) a kilogram to buyers in the area, where bats are a speciality in local cuisine. "I'm selling between 40 and 60 kilograms every day," the 45-year-old told AFP. "The virus hasn't affected sales. My customers still keep coming." Restaurateur Lince Rengkuan -- who serves bats including their heads and wings stewed in coconut milk and spices -- says the secret is preparation. "If you don't cook the bat well then of course it can be dangerous," she said. "We cook it thoroughly and so far the number of customers hasn't gone down at all."
This despite a request from the local government and the health agency to take bats and other wildlife out of circulation -- a call that has been all but ignored. "We're also urging people not to consume meat from animals suspected to be carriers of a fatal disease," said Ruddy Lengkong, head of the area's government trade and industry agency. Indonesia has not yet reported a confirmed case of the virus. In the capital Jakarta, vendors selling skinned snakes and cobra blood on a recent Saturday night didn't have any trouble finding takers. "It's good for you, sir," said one vendor of his slithering fare. "Cures and prevents all diseases."
Malé, Maldives, Feb 10, 2020 (AFP) - The Maldives' speaker of parliament on Monday apologised to a British tourist after footage of her arrest by several policemen triggered a social media storm. Tourism is a major earner for the Maldives, a tropical island paradise in the Indian Ocean popular with honeymooners and celebrities. Police said the bikini-clad woman, who was walking on a main road, was "inappropriately" dressed and allegedly unruly and drunk when she was detained after refusing to comply with requests to cover up on Thursday. The Maldives previously confined tourists to resort islets separate from the local Muslim population, but in recent years has allowed foreigners to stay on inhabited islands.
Tourists can wear swimwear such as bikinis in the resorts but are subject to local dress codes elsewhere. Videos shared on social media showed three men trying to detain the traveller, while a fourth person tried to cover her with a towel. The woman was heard shouting "you're sexually assaulting me" during the incident. The speaker, Mohamed Nasheed, told parliament he was extending an apology to the woman over the incident, which saw her detained by police for two hours before they released her.
The tourist has since left the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, but Nasheed said he hoped tourism authorities would invite her to return to the luxury vacation spot. Maldives Police Service Commissioner Mohamed Hameed said on Twitter after the footage was shared online that the incident "seems to be badly handled". "I apologise to the tourist & the public for this. The challenge I have taken up is to professionalise the police service & we are working on that. This matter is being investigated." A police statement on Friday called on tourists to respect "cultural sensitivities and local regulations".
The video of the incident also sparked anger among Maldivians. Some took to social media to criticise the tourist's behaviour after other videos showed her grabbing the sunglasses of a police officer. Former foreign minister Dunya Maumoon criticised both the tourist and the police. "She should have respected the religious and cultural norms of the country in terms of modest attire in a residential area," Maumoon said on Twitter. "Condemn the man-handling by the Maldivian police. It could have been handled better and more professionally."