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New Zealand

New Zealand US Consular Information Sheet
September 22, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
New Zealand is a highly developed, stable parliamentary democracy, which recognizes the British monarch as sovereign. It has a modern economy, and tourist fa
ilities are widely available. The New Zealand Tourist Board, which has a wide range of information of interest to travelers, can be contacted via the internet at http://www.newzealand.com/USA/.
Read the Department of State Background Note on New Zealand for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
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:
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 victim@xtra.co.nz.

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.
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 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.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
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
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 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.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
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 .
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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

Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2020 02:27:15 +0100 (MET)

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.
Date: Fri 24 Jan 2020
Source: Stuff [abridged, edited]

Authorities have sounded the alarm after a passenger infected with measles flew from Auckland to Tonga [and returned] in recent days.

People who were on the flights should be on guard for signs of the highly infectious disease, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) medical officer of health Maria Poynter said.

The same measles patient flew from Auckland to Tonga and back over 2 days.

[See URL for flights.]
Date: Wed 8 Jan 2020
Source: Stuff [abridged, edited]

More than 2400 people travelling on the Interislander over the holidays may have been exposed to measles. A child, whose family had chosen not to vaccinate, likely contracted the measles in Auckland, then crossed Cook Strait on the Interislander's Kaitaki ferry twice during the holiday period.

There were 1219 passengers on the 1st crossing and 1220 passengers on the 2nd. KiwiRail, which runs the Interislander, became aware of the issue after the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) publicly notified the case on Tuesday [7 Jan 2020].

The CDHB urged people who had not been vaccinated and may have come into contact with the child to isolate themselves. "We are contacting all passengers and crew who travelled on the 2 affected sailings to provide health advice from the Canterbury District Health Board," KiwiRail tourism and marketing executive general manager Ahleen Rayner said.  [See URL above for locations, dates of possible exposure.]  [Byline: Oliver Lewis]
Date: Fri 27 Dec 2019
Source: NZ Herald [abridged, edited]

A total of 7 new cases of measles have been confirmed in Hawke's Bay in the past 2 weeks, taking the total to 26 for the year [2019]. Hawke's Bay District Health Board Medical Officer of Health Dr. Rachel Eyre said the new cases were linked to an infant too young to be immunised, who had been hospitalised recently.

"Public health has worked hard over the Christmas break to identify other close contacts to identify those not immune (protected against measles) because of the high likelihood they could get it too," she said. Dr. Eyre said, as the cases were all closely linked, any risk to the wider general public was low.  [Byline: Christian Fuller]
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2019 05:24:44 +0100 (MET)
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."
More ...

Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar (Burma) US Consular Information Sheet
October 09, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Burma (Myanmar) is an underdeveloped agrarian country ruled by an authoritarian military regime.
The country's government suppresses all expression of
opposition to its rule.

After a long period of isolation, Burma has started to encourage tourism.
Foreigners can expect to pay several times more than locals do for accommodations, domestic airfares, and entry to tourist sites.
Tourist facilities in Rangoon, Bagan, Ngapali Beach, Inle Lake, and Mandalay are superior to tourist facilities in other parts of the country, where they are limited.
Please note that visitors should travel with sufficient cash to cover their expenses for the duration of their visit.
Traveler’s checks and credit cards are not accepted anywhere, and ATM machines are nonexistent in Burma.
(See "Currency" and “U.S. Treasury Sanctions" below.)
Read the Department of State's Background Notes on Burma for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: The Government of Burma strictly controls travel to, from, and within Burma.
Since October 1, 2006, Burmese authorities have often prohibited entry or exit at most land border crossings, unless the traveler is part of a package tour group that has received prior permission from the Burmese authorities.
A passport and visa are required for entry into Burma.
Travelers are required to show their passports with a valid visa at all airports, train stations, and hotels.
Security checkpoints are common outside of tourist areas.

Burmese authorities rarely issue visas to persons with occupations they deem “sensitive,” including journalists.
Many journalists and writers traveling to Burma on tourist visas have been denied entry.
Journalists -- and tourists mistaken for journalists -- have been harassed.
Some journalists have had film and notes confiscated upon leaving the country.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points.
These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
Information about entry requirements as well as other information may be obtained from the Burmese Embassy (Embassy of the Union of Myanmar) at http://www.mewashingtondc.com/,
2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC
20008, telephone 202-332-4350 or the Permanent Burma Mission (Mission of Myanmar) to the U.N. 10 East 77th St., New York, NY 10021, (212-535-1311) 212-744-1271, fax 212-744-1290.

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 traveling in Burma should exercise caution, register with the U.S. Embassy and check in for an update on the current security situation.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and visa pages at all times so that if questioned by Burmese officials, they will have proof of U.S. citizenship readily available.

In September 2007, the Burmese Government brutally cracked down on peaceful demonstrators, using gunfire, rubber bullets, batons, and tear gas against them and those observing in the vicinity.
The authorities killed at least 30 people during the crackdown and arrested more than 3,000.
On September 27, 2007, security forces shot and killed a Japanese journalist in the Sule Pagoda downtown area during a demonstration. The Burmese Government has a standing law, which is sporadically enforced, that bans all gatherings of more than five people.

On May 7, 2005, three large bombs simultaneously exploded in Rangoon at two crowded shopping areas frequented by foreigners and at an international trade center, killing at least 20 people and wounding several hundred.
On April 26, 2005, an explosive device detonated at a busy market in Mandalay, killing at least three people.
Although other smaller-scale bombings have occurred in Burma in recent years, including in early 2007 and early 2008, the 2005 bombings were more sophisticated and specifically targeted more highly trafficked areas than those used in other bombings.
However, there is no indication that these attacks targeted American citizens or U.S. interests.
The perpetrators of these bombings have not been identified.

In light of these incidents and the possibility of recurring political unrest, Americans in Burma should exercise caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings.
Furthermore, Americans in Burma should avoid crowded public places, such as large public gatherings, demonstrations, and any area cordoned off by security forces.
The Embassy also advises U.S. citizens not to photograph or videotape the military or police, because doing so could be interpreted as provocative.
Burma experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime jailed as well as killed thousands of Burmese democracy activists.
In 1990, the military government refused to recognize the results of an election that the opposition won overwhelmingly.
Major demonstrations by opposition activists occurred in 1996 and 1998.
In May 2003, individuals affiliated with the Burmese regime attacked a convoy carrying opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing Division; dozens were killed or injured.

Ethnic rebellions still smolder in regions along Burma’s borders with Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh, and anti-personnel landmines along border areas pose an additional danger. Occasional fighting between government forces and various rebel groups has occurred in Chin State and Sagaing Division near India and along the Thai-Burma border area in Burma's Shan, Mon, Kayah (Karenni), and Karen states.
From time to time, the Governments of Burma and Thailand have closed the border between the two nations on short notice.
In January 2005, regional governments announced a major regional law enforcement initiative aimed at dismantling the operations of Southeast Asia's largest narcotics trafficking organization, the United Wa State Army.
At that time, the Burmese Government stated that it could not guarantee the safety of foreign officials or personnel from non-governmental organizations traveling or working in Wa Special Region 2 (northeastern Shan State).

U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried, and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders.
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may also result in problems with authorities.
Burmese authorities have warned U.S. Embassy officials that those who engage in similar activities in the future will be jailed rather than deported.
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 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. - 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except for 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 rates in Burma, especially toward foreigners, are lower than those of many other countries in the region.
Nevertheless, due in part to the poor economic situation in Burma, the crime rate has been increasing.
Violent crime against foreigners is rare.
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: Medical facilities in Burma are inadequate for even routine medical care.
There are few trained medical personnel.
Most foreign drugs on sale have been smuggled into the country, and many are counterfeit or adulterated and thus unsafe to use.
Travelers should bring adequate supplies of their medications for the duration of their stay in Burma.
HIV/AIDS is widespread among high-risk populations, such as prostitutes and illegal drug users.
Malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases are endemic in most parts of the country.

In early 2006 and throughout 2007, brief avian influenza outbreaks resulted in the death of domestic poultry and some wild birds. In December 2007, the World Health Organization and Burmese Ministry of Health confirmed Burma’s first case of human infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
The young girl infected with the virus during a poultry outbreak in eastern Shan State in late November responded well to treatment and fully recovered.
Travelers to Burma and other South Asian countries affected by avian influenza are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any other surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals.
Current information about avian influenza A (H5N1) and pandemic influenza can be found via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) web site at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/ or at AvianFlu.gov.
For additional information on avian influenza as it affects American citizens residing abroad, see the U.S. Department of State’s Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Burma.
For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Burma.
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 (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad and other health information, consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en/.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
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 Burma is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Rangoon's main roads are generally in poor condition.
Traffic in the capital is increasing rapidly, but heavy congestion is still uncommon.
Some roads are in serious disrepair.
Slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, animals, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on Rangoon's streets.
Drivers must remain extremely alert to avoid hitting pedestrians.
Most roads outside of Rangoon consist of one to two lanes and are potholed, often unpaved, and unlit at night.
Many of the truck drivers traversing from China to Rangoon are believed to drive under the influence of methamphetamines and other stimulants.
Drunken and/or drugged drivers are also common on the roads during the four-day Buddhist water festival in mid-April.
Driving at night is particularly dangerous.
Few, if any, streets are adequately lit.
Most Burmese drivers do not turn on their headlights until the sky is completely dark; many do not use headlights at all.
Many bicyclists use no lights or reflectors.

Vehicular traffic moves on the right side, as in the United States; however, a majority of vehicles have the steering wheel positioned on the right.
The “right of way” concept is generally respected, but military convoys and motorcades always have precedence.
Most vehicle accidents are settled between the parties on site, with the party at fault paying the damages.
In the event of an accident with a pedestrian, the driver is always considered to be at fault and subject to fines or arrest, regardless of the circumstances. Accidents that require an investigation are concluded quickly and rarely result in criminal prosecution.
There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available.
Vehicles generally do not have seat belts.
Child car seats are also not available.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Burma, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burma’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon has advised its employees to avoid travel on state-owned Myanmar Airways, as well as on Air Bagan, whenever possible due to serious concerns about the airlines’ ability to maintain their airplanes.
(Myanmar Airways International [MAI] is a different carrier that operates flights between Bangkok and Rangoon.)

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Foreigner Travel within Burma:
Burmese authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests.
Burmese who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Burmese authorities.
Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance, and travelers must assume their actions, such as meeting with Burmese citizens, particularly in hotel lobbies and rooms, are being closely monitored.
Travelers must assume that telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.

Travelers are not generally required to obtain advance permission to travel to the main tourist areas of Mandalay and the surrounding area, Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali, and other beach resorts.
However, some tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel.
Additionally, the military regime restricts access to some areas of the country on an ad hoc basis, and in 2005 stated it could not guarantee the safety of foreigners traveling in eastern Shan State, specifically in Wa territory, also known as Special Region 2.
Individuals planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see whether travel to specific destinations is permitted.
Even if the Burmese authorities allow travel to specific destinations in Burma, it may not be safe to travel in those areas.

Irrawaddy Delta Region: On May 2, 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta region and surrounding areas, killing over 130,000 people.
The Delta region is still without many basic necessities, and the risk of outbreaks of disease remains high.
The United Nations, ASEAN, and others in the international community, including the United States, provided international relief assistance to meet both immediate and long-term needs.
The Burmese Government has restricted access to this area for people other than relief workers it has authorized.
American citizens should defer nonessential travel to the Irrawaddy Delta region.

The environment in Rangoon, Burma’s most populous city, and other areas outside of the Irrawaddy Delta has gradually improved.
Electrical power and water supply have been restored in most areas and markets are now operating normally.

Customs Regulations:
Customs regulations in Burma are restrictive and strictly enforced.
Customs authorities closely search travelers’ luggage upon arrival and departure from Burma.
It is illegal to enter or exit Burma with items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, gems, and ivory.
On several occasions in the past two decades, foreigners have been detained, searched, and imprisoned for attempting to take restricted items out of the country.

Customs officials also strictly limit what is brought into the country, including bans on pornography and political material or literature critical of the regime or supportive of the opposition.
Travelers have also reported problems bringing in high-tech electronic devices and equipment, ranging from toys to computers.
The military regime has never provided a complete listing of prohibited import items.
For information on restricted items for import into Burma and specific customs’ requirements, it is best to consult the nearest Burmese Embassy (Embassy of the Union of Myanmar) or in Washington DC located at 2300 S Street NW, Washington DC 20008, tel..: 202-332-4350.
You may also contact Burma’s Mission in New York located at 10 E. 77th Street, New York, NY
10021, tel. 202-535-1310, or 212-535-1311, fax 212-744-1290
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products are illegal, and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

Computers, Internet, and E-Mail: The military regime carefully controls and monitors all internet use in Burma and restricts internet access through software-based censorship that limits the materials individuals can access on line.
The government has allowed several cyber cafes to open, but access to the Internet is very expensive, and access to most “free” international e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo is prohibited.
Currently, Gmail (Google mail) accounts can be accessed in Burma, and many locals and resident expatriates use it.
It is illegal to own an unregistered modem in Burma.
Tourists may bring one laptop computer per person into Burma and must declare it upon arrival.
Limited e-mail service is available at some large hotels.
All e-mails are read by military intelligence.
It is very expensive to send photographs via e-mail.
One foreign visitor was presented a bill for $2,000 after transmitting one photograph via a major hotel's e-mail system.
During September and October 2007, the military government disconnected all Internet access across the country for extended periods of time.

Consular Notification and Access: U.S. consular officers do not always receive timely notification of the detention, arrest, or deportation of U.S. citizens.
In addition, Burmese authorities have on occasion refused to give Embassy consular officers access to arrested or detained U.S. citizens.
U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that if questioned by local officials, they have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.

Should an emergency arise involving the detention of a U.S. citizen, especially outside of Rangoon, it may be difficult for U.S. Embassy personnel to assist quickly, because travel inside Burma can be slow and difficult.
The Burmese authorities do not routinely notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of American citizens, and the Burmese Government has obstructed regular access by consular officers to American citizen detainees.

Photography: Photographing military installations or people in uniform is prohibited by Burmese authorities and could lead to arrest or the confiscation of cameras and film.
It is advisable to avoid photographing anything that could be perceived by the Burmese authorities as being of military or security interest—such as bridges, airfields, government buildings or government vehicles.

Telephone Services: Telephone services are poor in Rangoon and other major cities and non-existent in many areas.
Calling the United States from Burma is difficult and extremely expensive.

Currency: Executive Order 13310, signed by President Bush on July 28, 2003 imposed a ban on the exportation of financial services to Burma.
Travelers’ checks, credit cards, and ATM cards can rarely, if ever, be used.
Although moneychangers sometimes approach travelers with an offer to change dollars into Burmese kyat at the market rate, it is illegal to exchange currency except at authorized locations such as the airport, banks and government stores.
It is also illegal for Burmese to have possession of foreign currency without a permit.
Foreigners are required to use U.S. dollars, other hard currency, or Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets and most hotels.
Burmese kyats are accepted for nearly all other transactions.

In recent months, U.S. financial institutions have increased scrutiny of on-line financial transactions taking place on Burmese internet providers.
The result has been that bank accounts of some American citizens working or traveling in Burma have been frozen.
To avoid this potential problem, customers of U.S. banks may wish to avoid on-line banking while using a Burmese Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Those who believe their accounts have been subject to similar restrictions in error are asked to contact the Consular Section of U.S. Embassy Rangoon.

U.S. Treasury Sanctions: As of August 27, 2003, U.S. Treasury sanctions ban the import of almost all goods from Burma into the United States.
This ban includes Burmese-origin products such as gifts, souvenirs, and items for personal use, even if carried in personal luggage.
These sanctions are part of a much larger U.S. sanctions regime for Burma, which includes a ban on new U.S. investment among other measures.
For specific information, contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/ via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077 or by phone toll-free at 1-800-540-6322.
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 those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Burmese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burma are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal proceedings in Burma, especially when suspected of engaging in political activity of any type.
This includes, but is not limited to, denial of access to an attorney, denial of access to court records, and denial of family and consular visits.
The criminal justice system is controlled by the military junta, which orders maximum sentences for most offenses.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children, using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
See our section on Criminal Penalties for more information.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: 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 Burma are encouraged to register with the Embassy through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Burma.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 110 University Ave., Kamayut Township, Rangoon.
The Consular Section telephone number is (95-1) 536-509, ext. 4240; email consularrangoo@state.gov. Travelers may visit the U.S. Embassy web site at http://burma.usembassy.gov/.
The after-hours emergency number is 09-512-4330, or (95-1) 536-509, ext. 4014.
The Consular Section is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 p.m., with non-emergency American Citizen Services from 2:00 to 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday except on U.S. and Burmese holidays.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated March 19 to update the sections on Safety and Security, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Special Circumstances, and Criminal Penalties.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 14:53:47 +0100 (MET)

Yangon, Jan 7, 2020 (AFP) - Four children were killed and five injured alongside their teacher as an explosion hit while they collected firewood in an area of Myanmar's Rakhine state beset by fighting between the military and Arakan Army (AA) rebels.   It was not immediately clear what caused the blast or who was behind it.   The conflict has seen scores of civilians killed, hundreds wounded and some 100,000 displaced in the past year as the AA fights for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

The attack happened Tuesday morning in Htaikhtoo Pauk village in Buthidaung township, deputy administrator Hla Shwe told AFP.   Local media posted a graphic video on Facebook showing people retrieving the victims' bodies and carrying the bloodied injured away as distressed crowds gathered.   "They were looking for firewood on the mountainside," Hla Shwe said by phone, adding the wounded had been taken to nearby hospitals in Buthidaung and Maungdaw.   He declined to say who he thought had been behind the attack.

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun confirmed the incident and number of victims, accusing the AA of planting a landmine.   The rebels could not be reached for comment but one local village leader, who asked not to be named, told AFP the number of casualties and lack of blast crater made him doubt it had been a mine.   "Some people say a mine explosion, some say this was from heavy shelling."   The rebels have carried out a series of brazen kidnappings, bombings and raids against the military and local officials in recent months.   The army has hit back hard, deploying thousands of soldiers to the conflict-ridden region.
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2019 10:44:40 +0100 (MET)

Yangon, Nov 27, 2019 (AFP) - A German tourist was killed and an Argentine woman injured in a landmine explosion in Myanmar, local police said Wednesday, days after the country was shamed over its continuing use of the weapons.   The accident happened near the town of Hsipaw, a popular hiking spot for backpackers who often ride the scenic route by train from Mandalay to reach the mountains.

Tim Geibler, 40, died on Tuesday afternoon near the villages of Pan Nayung and Kwun Haung, a local police officer told AFP, on condition of anonymity.   "Tourists are not permitted to go to that area," he said, adding that a 39-year-old Argentine woman was also slightly injured in the blast.   Local NGO Without Borders, which runs a de facto ambulance service staffed by volunteers, told AFP she had since been discharged from hospital.

A German foreign ministry spokesman confirmed the incident and said its Yangon embassy was in close contact with Geibler's relatives   Huge swathes of Myanmar's restive borderlands are no-go areas for holidaymakers, with various ethnic armed groups fighting the military for more autonomy in shifting violence that has endured for decades.   Two foreign tourists were injured in a mine blast in 2016 in nearby Kyaukme township, according to local media.

Myanmar was one of the top offenders named in the Landmine Monitor 2019 report published last week.   The watchdog said it was the only country in the world where the use of new anti-personnel mines had been documented over the past year.   Both the military and armed groups stand accused of using mines and the country has so far refused to sign the Mine Ban Treaty.
Date: Mon 19 Aug 2019
Source: Mizzima News [in Myanmar, trans. ProMED Mod.YMA, edited]

From 1 Jan to 16 Aug 2019, 544 people were confirmed to have H1N1 infection and 96 of them died, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

Among those deaths, the highest deaths were recorded in Yangon region, with 66 deaths. There were also 12 deaths in Ayeyarwady region, 7 in Bago region, 3 in Sagaing region, 2 from Magway region, and one each from Kachin, Rakhine, and (south) Shan states.

Most of these deaths were found to have underlying diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and heart diseases.

In 2018, over 300 people were found to have H1N1 influenza infection. However, no deaths were identified. In 2017, more than 30 deaths out of over 400 confirmed cases were recorded.
=====================
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Myanmar:
14 Aug 2019

48 people died and over 10,757 others were infected by dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) across Myanmar in the past 7 months, according to a release from the Public Health Department under the Ministry of Health and Sports on Wednesday [14 Aug 2019]. As of 27 Jul [2019], Ayeyarwady region registered the highest numbers of DHF infection cases with 1974 cases and 5 deaths, followed by Yangon region with 1788 cases and 15 deaths, the department's figures said. The figures showed that children aged 5-9 years old are mostly infected by the dengue virus with 4473 cases registered during the period. In 2018, a total of 187 people died of the mosquitoborne disease in connection with 3649 cases in Myanmar, with 25 deaths in Yangon. Dengue fever mostly occurs in the rainy season from June to August in the country.

HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Myanmar:
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2019 13:49:56 +0200 (METDST)

Mawlamyine, Myanmar, Aug 11, 2019 (AFP) - Myanmar troops and emergency responders scrambled to provide aid in flood-hit parts of the country Sunday after rising waters forced residents to flee by boat and a landslide killed at least 52 people.   Every year monsoon rains hammer Myanmar and other countries across Southeast Asia, submerging homes, displacing residents and triggering landslides.   But this season's deluge has tested disaster response after a fatal landslide on Friday in southeastern Mon state was followed by heavy flooding that reached the roofs of houses and treetops in nearby towns.

Hundreds of soldiers, firefighters and local rescue workers were still pulling bodies and vehicles out of the muddy wreckage of Paung township on Sunday.   "The latest death toll we have from the landslide in Mon state was 52," Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told AFP.   As the rainy season reaches its peak, the country's armed forces are pitching in and have readied helicopters to deliver supplies.   "Access to affected regions is still good. Our ground forces can reach the areas so far," Zaw Min Tun said.   Heavy rains pounded other parts of Mon, Karen and Kachin states, flooding roads and destroying bridges that crumbled under the weight of the downpour.   But the bulk of the relief effort is focused on hard-hit Mon, which sits on the coast of the Andaman sea.   About two-thirds of the state's Ye township remained flooded, an administrator said, as drone footage showed only the tops of houses, tree branches and satellite dishes poking above the waters.

- 'We thought we were dead' -
Families realised they had to leave in the early hours Sunday, packing possessions into boats, rowing towards higher ground or swimming away.    Than Htay, a 40-year-old from Ye town, told AFP that water rose to their waists around 02:00 am and she and her family members started shouting for help.   The heavy rains muffled their pleas but a boat happened to pass by and gave them a ride.   "That's why we survived. We thought we were dead," she said.   Another resident said this year's flooding was the worst they had experienced.

Floodwaters have submerged more than 4,000 houses in the state and displaced more than 25,000 residents who have sought shelter in monasteries and pagodas, according to state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar.   Vice President Henry Van Thio visited landslide survivors in a Paung township village on Saturday and "spoke of his sorrow" while promising relief, the paper reported.   The search for victims continued later Sunday though the rain has made the process more difficult.   "We are still working. We will continue searching in the coming days as well," Paung township administrator Zaw Moe Aung said.   Climate scientists in 2015 ranked Myanmar at the top of a global list of nations hardest hit by extreme weather.   That year more than 100 people died in floods that also displaced hundreds of thousands.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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