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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea - US Consular Information sheet
October 17, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Papua New Guinea is a developing country in the Southwest Pacific. The capital is Port Moresby. Tourist facilities outside major towns are limited. Crim
is a serious concern throughout Papua New Guinea (please see the section on crime below). Read the Department of State Background Notes on Papua New Guinea for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Travelers must possess a valid passport, onward/return airline ticket, and proof of sufficient funds for the intended visit. Travelers may obtain business or tourist visas (valid for stays of up to 60 days, with extensions available for an additional 30 days) upon arrival at Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby. All persons boarding international flights originating from Papua New Guinea pay a departure fee, which should be included in airline fares. Travelers may obtain more information on entry and exit requirements from the Embassy of Papua New Guinea, 1615 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009, tel. 202-745-3680, fax 202-745-3679, e-mail kunduwash@aol.com, or via the Papua New Guinea Embassy web site at http://www.pngembassy.org/
Travelers who plan to transit or visit Australia must enter with an Australian visa or, if eligible, an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). The ETA replaces a visa and allows a stay of up to three months. It may be obtained for a small service fee at http://www.eta.immi.gov.au/. Airlines and many travel agents in the United States are also able to issue ETA’s. Travelers may obtain more information about Australian entry requirements from the Australian Embassy at 1601 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036, tel. 202-797-3000, or via the Australian Embassy's web site at http://www.austemb.org/.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Civil Unrest/Political Tension: Tension between communal or clan groups, particularly in the Highlands region, occasionally leads to outbreaks of tribal fighting, often involving the use of firearms. Travelers should consult with their tour operator, the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby, or with Papua New Guinean authorities before visiting the region.

Visitors intending to travel to the autonomous region of Bougainville Island should contact the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby for updated security information. Bougainville Island is not peaceful, law enforcement is weak, and tourist and transportation facilities are limited. We advise travelers to Bougainville, as in other parts of Papua New Guinea, to exercise a high degree of caution. Areas near the Panguna mine, located on the southern part of the Island of Bougainville, have been officially designated “no go zones” by the Autonomous Government of Bougainville; Americans should avoid those areas.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures that travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Papua New Guinea has a high crime rate. Numerous U.S. citizen residents and visitors have been victims of violent crime in recent years, and they have sometimes suffered severe injuries. Carjackings, armed robberies, and stoning of vehicles are problems in and around major cities such as Port Moresby, Lae, Mount Hagen, and Goroka, but can happen anywhere. Pickpockets and bag-snatchers frequent crowded public areas. Hiking or other travel in rural areas and visiting isolated public sites such as parks, golf courses, beaches, or cemeteries can be dangerous. Individuals traveling alone are at greater risk for robbery or gang rape than are those who are part of an organized tour or under escort. Visitors to Papua New Guinea should avoid using taxis or buses, known as Public Motor Vehicles (PMV's), and should instead rely on their sponsor or hotel to arrange for taxi service or a rental car.
Road travel outside of major towns can be hazardous because criminals set up roadblocks near bridges, curves in the road, or other features that restrict vehicle speed and mobility. Visitors should consult with the U.S. Embassy or with local law enforcement officials concerning security conditions before driving between towns. (See also Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below). Travel to isolated places in Papua New Guinea is possible primarily by small passenger aircraft; there are many small airstrips throughout the country. Security measures at these airports are rare. Organized tours booked through travel agencies remain the safest means to visit attractions in Papua New Guinea. The Embassy recommends that prospective visitors consult a Primer on Personal Security for Visitors to Papua New Guinea at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1757.html
Kokoda Track: Americans should exercise a high degree of caution when walking the Kokoda Track and traveling through the areas adjacent to each end of the track. Travelers should travel with guides from a reputable tour company. This is particularly important given occasional threats by villagers to close parts of the track because of local land and compensation disputes. Trekkers should ensure that their tour company provides a permit in return for fees paid for this purpose. The Kokoda Track Authority (KTA) has stationed rangers along the track and at airports to collect fees from trekkers who have not obtained a valid trekking permit. The KTA can be contacted on telephone (675) 325 6165 regarding payment of the applicable fee.
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 may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney, if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Papua New Guinea is: 000
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Papua New Guinea vary from hospitals in Port Moresby and the larger towns to aid posts (including some missionary stations) in remote areas. Medical facilities vary in quality, but those in the larger towns are usually adequate for routine problems and some emergencies. However, equipment failures and sudden shortages of common medications can mean that even routine treatments and procedures (such as X-rays) may become unavailable. A hyperbaric recompression chamber for diving emergencies is available in Port Moresby. Pharmacies in Papua New Guinea are found only in urban centers and at missionary clinics. They are small and may be inadequately stocked. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical services.
Medical conditions arising as a result of diving accidents will almost always require medical evacuation to Australia, where more sophisticated facilities are available. Medical evacuation companies could charge thousands of dollars to transport a victim to Australia or the U.S. A last-minute, one-way commercial ticket from Port Moresby to Brisbane or Cairns costs upwards of US$250 for economy class and upwards of US$550 for business class. The most commonly used facilities are in Brisbane and Cairns, both in the Australian State of Queensland. Travelers who anticipate the possible need for medical treatment in Australia should obtain entry permission for Australia in advance. Entry permission for Australia can be granted by the Australian Embassy in Port Moresby, but it is easier to obtain it prior to leaving the United States (see section above on Entry/Exit Requirements).
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Papua New Guinea. The Government of Papua New Guinea does not currently have any policy guidelines that prevent entry into the country by short- and long-term travelers and/or residents.

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 (CDC) and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad 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 if 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 Papua New Guinea is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic in Papua New Guinea moves on the left. Travel on highways outside of major towns can be hazardous. Motor vehicle accidents are a common cause of serious injury in Papua New Guinea, especially when passengers are sitting in the open bed of a pickup truck. Drivers and passengers are advised to wear seatbelts. There is no countrywide road network. Roads are generally in poor repair, and flat tires occur routinely as a result of potholes and debris on the roadways. During the rainy season landslides can be a problem on some stretches of the Highlands Highway between Lae and Mount Hagen. Criminal roadblocks have occurred during the day and more widely after dark on the Highlands Highway. Visitors should consult with local authorities or the U.S. Embassy before traveling on the Highlands Highway.
Crowds can react emotionally and violently after road accidents. Crowds form quickly after an accident and may attack those whom they hold responsible, stoning and/or burning their vehicles. Friends and relatives of an injured party may demand immediate compensation from the party they hold responsible for injuries, regardless of legal responsibility. Persons involved in accidents usually should proceed directly to the nearest police station rather than stop at the scene of the accident.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Papua New Guinea’s national tourism office and national authority responsible for road safety. For specific information concerning Papua New Guinea driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact Papua New Guinea’s Tourist Promotion Authority via the Internet at http://www.pngtourism.org.pg/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Papua New Guinea, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Papua New Guinea’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.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Customs: Papua New Guinean and Australian customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Papua New Guinea and Australia of items such as firearms, certain prescription drugs, wooden artifacts, exotic animals, food, and sexually explicit material. Other products may be subject to quarantine. It is advisable to contact the Embassies of Papua New Guinea and Australia in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding each country’s customs requirements. (See the contact information in the section on Entry/Exit Requirements above.)
Natural Disasters: Papua New Guinea is prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and sudden tidal movements. There are numerous active volcanoes throughout Papua New Guinea. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
Documentation: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available.

Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Papua New Guinea‘s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Papua New Guinea 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. Homosexual activity is illegal in Papua New Guinea. 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 AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living or traveling in Papua New Guinea are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy website is http://portmoresby.usembassy.gov. Americans without Internet access may register directly at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby and obtain updated information on travel and security within Papua New Guinea. The U.S. Embassy is located on Douglas Street, adjacent to the Bank of Papua New Guinea, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. That address should be used for courier deliveries. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1492, Port Moresby, NCD 121, Papua New Guinea. The Embassy's telephone number is (675) 321-1455; after hour’s duty officer telephone number is (675-601-9689); fax (675) 321-1593. Americans may submit consular inquiries by e-mail to ConsularPortMoresby@state.gov
****
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Papua New Guinea dated July 18, 2008 to update the section on Safety and Security.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2020 08:46:04 +0100 (MET)

Sydney, Feb 9, 2020 (AFP) - A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Sunday, the US Geological Survey said, but no tsunami warning was issued and there were no immediate reports of damage.    The quake hit just after 4pm local time (0600GMT) at a depth of 31 kilometres (19 miles) some 122 kilometres (75 miles) south of Kokopo, the capital of PNG's East New Britain province, the USGS said.

Geoscience Australia senior seismologist Trevor Allen said coastal communities near the epicentre would have felt "quite strong ground shaking" as the tremblor was close to the shore.    But, he said, the area was relatively sparsely populated and flexible building design locally helped limit exposure to damage from quakes.   "The East New Britain region is one of the most seismically active regions in the world and would generally tend to get an earthquake of this size once or twice a year," he told AFP.

Miriam Koikoi, a receptionist at Kokopo Beach Bungalow Resort, told AFP the shaking was "not that big" and she had not seen any signs of damage.   PNG sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, which is a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.   Its mountainous and remote terrain means it often takes several days for information about damage from quakes to reach officials and aid agencies.
Date: Wed 25 Dec 2019
Source: PNG News [abridged, edited]

The Papua New Guinea (PNG) National Department of Health has confirmed 2 positive cases of measles on 22 Dec 2019 by laboratory test performed at our Central Public Health laboratory here in Port Moresby. Two of the positive cases are from the Gulf and New Ireland provinces, respectively. The suspected cases were detected through our heightened surveillance system due to the current measles outbreaks within our region.

In 2019, over a million children under 5 years were vaccinated; that is more than 95% of the national targeted population. However, because of the history of low immunization coverage in PNG, this could result in possible outbreaks of measles within PNG.

I urge the general public not to panic; we are working in close collaboration with the provinces. It is still uncertain if there are more measles cases in the communities, but we're taking all necessary measures to ensure the situation remains under control. New Ireland and Gulf provinces have already responded by sending out teams to investigate and carry out preventative measures including vaccination to targeted age-groups to control the situation.

The Department of Health acknowledges the support of the New Irelands Provincial Health Authority, Gulf Provincial Health Authority & Oil Search Foundation for assisting in the investigation of the suspected cases. The Oil Search Foundation assisted Gulf Provincial Health Authority with logistics, technical team support in terms of providing chopper, a medical team for the initial investigation, sample collection and shipment to the laboratory.
Date: Tue, 1 Oct 2019 06:39:06 +0200 (METDST)

Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, Oct 1, 2019 (AFP) - Papua New Guinea's volatile Ulawun volcano erupted early Tuesday, sending a column of red lava shooting up into the sky and forcing the evacuation of recently returned residents.   Mount Ulawun, situated on the remote Bismarck Archipelago chain, displaced between 7,000 and 13,000 people from their homes when it last erupted in June.   Seismic activity started at midday on Monday before the volcano erupted at about 4:30am Tuesday, according to Rabaul Volcano Observatory assistant director Ima Itikarai.   "It was noiseless and in the dark just before dawn; the eruption was visible (with) a distinct shard (of) red incandescent glow shooting up less than 100 metres from the base," he told AFP.

As light dawned, billowing clouds of grey ash could be seen rising several hundred metres into the sky, he said, while local Chris Lagisa said residents could hear the noise of gushing gas and flowing lava.   Ulamona Volcano Observatory staffer Herman Volele said ash falls could affect Kimbe, the nearby capital of West New Britain province, while regular earthquakes were also occurring in the vicinity of the volcano.   While most people affected by the previous eruption had remained at evacuation centres, an official with the West New Britain Disaster Office said a number who had returned to tend to their homes and gardens at the base of the volcano had to be evacuated again.   The volcano is one of the world's most hazardous, featuring on a list of 16 "Decade Volcanoes" targeted for research because they pose a significant risk of large, violent eruptions.
Date: Thu 1 Aug 2019 12:55 PM NZST
Source: Radio New Zealand (RNZ) [edited]

Papua New Guinea health officials have been dispatched to the Eastern Highlands after dozens of people reportedly died in a disease outbreak. The provincial governor, Peter Numu, told local media 35 people at the local hospital died from curable diseases. He said 11 died over the weekend [27-28 Jul 2019], although he didn't specify when the others died.

PNG's Health Minister, Elias Kapavore, said health department officials alongside the World Health Organisation will arrive in Goroka town today [1 Aug 2019].  "I think it is to do with the lack of infection control monitoring and prevention in the hospital that has led to this particular unfortunate scenario that has affected the lives of many of our people there." Mr Kapavore, who said he would fly to Goroka to look at the situation, noted that media reports linked the deaths to _Klebsiella_, a rare disease often caused by poor infection control.

But according to him, the National Emergency Operations Centre hadn't received a formal report by the hospital or Provincial Health Authority regarding a disease outbreak. However the minister said the situation warranted investigation.
======================
[_Klebsiella pneumoniae_ is an enteric Gram-negative bacillus that has been known to cause hospital-acquired infections and infections in debilitated or immunocompromised patients. However, a distinctive syndrome caused by _K. pneumoniae_ was first seen in Taiwanese patients in the 1980's (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7613255>). Cases have since been reported worldwide.

The syndrome is characterized by life-threatening community-acquired _K. pneumoniae_ infection in relatively healthy hosts that includes liver abscess and bacteremia complicated by the ability of the responsible _K. pneumoniae_ to spread hematogenously to the lungs, brain, meninges, eyes, prostate, bones, joints, and psoas (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732457/>).

Approximately half of the reported patients had diabetes mellitus, with the remainder displaying no apparent underlying diseases. The _K. pneumoniae_ strains were susceptible to many antibiotics, but mortality rates were as high as 10% for liver abscess and 30-40% for those with metastatic meningitis.

Colonies of the strains causing this illness were noted to be unusually mucoviscous with a positive "string test," defined as the formation of a mucoviscous string of over 5 mm in length when using a bacteriology inoculation loop to touch and stretch a colony grown overnight on an blood agar plate at 35 C [95 F] (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4685062/>). The strains were called hypervirulent _K. pneumoniae_ or hvKP, and their capsular polysaccharide serotypes were found to be either K1 or K2. Whole genome sequencing indicated that the hypervirulent K1 isolates belonged to clonal complex 23 (CC23) that grouped into a distinct monophyletic clade, with global spread by multiple international transmissions (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26199326>). The hvKP carried siderophores, which confer the ability to more efficiently acquire iron in iron poor environments. A large virulence plasmid, which encodes the siderophores and a regulator of the mucoid phenotype, was detected in all hvKP clonal lineages (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26199326>). The latest development was the acquisition of the virulence plasmid by multidrug resistant hospital-associated ST11 _K. pneumoniae_.

_Klebsiella_ have been known to develop multiple antimicrobial drug resistance, commonly due to production of beta-lactamases that destroy the class of beta-lactam antibiotics known as carbapenems, as well as all other beta-lactam antibiotics. These carbapenemases are referred to as KPCs, that is, _K. pneumoniae_ carbapenemases. Some multidrug resistant strains have also been found to produce extended-spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBLs). The genes that encode KPCs and ESBLs are plasmid-mediated, which readily facilitates horizontal gene transfer between bacteria. The genes that encode these beta-lactamases are often linked to genes that encode resistance to multiple other classes of antibiotics. The principal reservoir for these organisms is the gastrointestinal tract, and spread occurs from there on the contaminated hands of healthcare workers and environment.

More information on this fatal outbreak would be appreciated from knowledgeable sources.

The eastern part of the island of New Guinea forms the mainland of Papua New Guinea, which has been an independent country since 1975. The outbreak is said to be occurring in the Eastern Highlands. Goroka, with a population of about 19 000 residents, is the capital of the Eastern Highlands Province (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goroka>). A map showing the location of Goroka can be found at <https://goo.gl/maps/f1PxnS7c9vCogDtw8>. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Papua New Guinea:
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2019 07:13:48 +0200

Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, June 27, 2019 (AFP) - An erupting volcano in Papua New Guinea that has blanketed a town in ash has forced around 5,000 people from their homes, officials said Thursday.   Mount Ulawun -- one of the world's most hazardous volcanoes -- began spewing lava and smoke high into the air on Wednesday.   Chris Lagisa, a community elder, said people had gathered at a church hall to flee on lorries, trucks and 4x4s, clutching sacks filled with belongings.   In the nearby provincial capital of Kimbe, grey ash that had been shot more than 13 kilometres (8 miles) into the air, turning day to night, began to fall on cars and homes.   People downwind from the volcano were advised to take precautions to avoid the ashfall, which can cause respiratory ailments, eye irritation and skin problems.   Images of the volcano early Thursday appeared to show the ash flow easing.   "Parts of (the) erupting column collapsed, sending block and ash flows down the flanks," said Rabaul Volcano Observatory chief geodetic surveyor Steve Saunders.   Initial reports from the provincial disaster committee indicate lava flows had cut through the main coastal road.

Ulawun, on the remote Bismarck Archipelago chain, is listed as one of 16 "Decade Volcanoes" targeted for research because they pose a significant risk of large, violent eruptions.   Saunders said they will be deploying staff today to Ulamona to assess the situation as the eruption continues.   "We are monitoring instrumentally from Rabaul Volcano Observatory and have access to satellite data," he said.   "However due to the continuing eruption (and) the potential for unexpected resurgence, it is recommended that the alert be raised to Stage 2," Saunders said.   National airline Air Niugini cancelled all flights into Hoskins Airport in Kimbe for an indefinite period, and the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre issued a "red" warning to international airlines.   Thousands of people live in the shadow of Ulawun, despite its being one of the most active volcanoes in the country.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2020 10:23:53 +0200 (METDST)

Yerevan, June 1, 2020 (AFP) - Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his family have tested positive for the coronavirus, he said Monday, as the rate of new infections soared in the Caucasus nation.   "My coronavirus test was positive yesterday," Pashinyan said in a self-recorded video message on Facebook, adding that his family were also infected.   He said he had no "viable symptoms" of the virus and would be working from home.   The prime minister and his wife Anna Hakobyan, who is a journalist, have four children.   The ex-Soviet republic of some three million has so far reported 9,492 cases of the coronavirus and 139 deaths.

Coronavirus patients have overwhelmed Armenia's hospitals and last week health officials said that intensive care treatment could be soon restricted to patients with the best chance of survival.   Pashinyan's announcement came nearly one month after Armenia on May 4 lifted a state of emergency imposed in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The prime minister acknowledged his government had failed to enforce anti-virus measures and there had been widespread quarantine violations.   Pashinyan was elected prime minister in the wake of mass popular protests he led two years ago against veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian and his Republican Party.   He has since led a relentless crusade against graft and initiated sweeping judicial reforms.
Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2020 09:17:15 +0200 (METDST)

San Salvador, June 1, 2020 (AFP) - Tropical Storm Amanda triggered flash floods, landslides and power outages as it barrelled through El Salvador and Guatemala Sunday, killing 14 people, authorities said, warning of further heavy rain to come.   El Salvador President Nayib Bukele declared a 15-day state of emergency to cope with the effects of the storm, which he estimated to have caused $200 million in damage, but which weakened later in the day as it moved into Guatemala.

Amanda, the first named storm of the season in the Pacific, unleashed torrents of floodwater that tossed vehicles around like toys and damaged about 200 homes, the head of the Civil Protection Service William Hernandez said.   The fatalities were all recorded in El Salvador, Interior Minister Mario Duran said, warning that the death toll could rise.   One person is still missing, senior government official Carolina Recinos added.   "We are experiencing an unprecedented situation: one top-level emergency on top of another serious one," San Salvador mayor Ernesto Muyshondt said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that half of those killed died in the capital, and that 4,200 people had sought refuge in government-run shelters after losing their homes or being forced to leave because they were in high-risk areas.   In some flooded areas, soldiers worked alongside emergency personnel to rescue people.   "We lost everything, we've been left with nowhere to live," said Isidro Gomez, a resident of hard-hit southeastern San Salvador, after a nearby river overflowed and destroyed his home.

Another victim, Mariano Ramos, said that at dawn residents of his San Salvador neighborhood were slammed by an avalanche of mud and water. An elderly man died in the area, officials said.   El Salvador's environment ministry warned residents of the "high probability" of multiple landslides that could damage buildings and injure or kill people.

Nearly 90 percent of El Salvador's 6.6 million people are considered vulnerable to flooding and landslides due to its geography.   In neighboring Guatemala, officials said roads had been blocked by at least five landslides and some flooding was reported, but no evacuations were underway.   Even though Amanda weakened to tropical depression status, Guatemalan officials warned that heavy rain would continue, with swollen rivers and possible "landslides affecting highways ... and flooding in coastal areas."
Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2020 06:55:18 +0200 (METDST)

Lima, June 1, 2020 (AFP) - Peru on Sunday reported 8,800 new COVID-19 infections, setting a new daily record for a country that already has the second highest number of novel coronavirus cases in Latin America after Brazil.   The death toll is now at 4,506, the third highest in the region -- itself the new hotspot of the deadly disease -- after Brazil and Mexico, with President Martin Vizcarra warning the country is only halfway through the crisis.

Infections have jumped in Peru despite a months-long mandatory lockdown and a nigh time curfew and the government ordering international borders to be closed.   The spike is concentrated around the capital Lima, where one third of the population lives, and put tremendous strain on Peru's economy and healthcare system.   Four out of every ten Peruvians lost their source of income when the lockdown began, according to one study, and last week Peru secured a two-year, $11 billion credit line from the International Monetary Fund.

- 'Tremendous challenge' in Chile -
Neighbouring Chile on Sunday reported 57 more fatalities in the past 24 hours, a new record that brings the country's COVID-19 death toll to 1,054.   "We are facing the largest pandemic of the past 100 years," said Deputy Health Minister Paula Daza, as she announced the latest figures.    "It is a tremendous challenge; we are living very difficult times in our country."

In Santiago, where the 80 percent of the virus cases were reported, 96 percent of the emergency room beds were taken, officials said.   Officials reported a sharp increase in cases over the past two weeks.   In early May the government of President Sebastian Pinera said that the number of virus cases had hit a plateau, and lockdown restrictions would be loosened.
Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2020 03:38:38 +0200 (METDST)
By Anna SMOLCHENKO

Moscow, June 1, 2020 (AFP) - Shopping malls and parks are set to reopen in Moscow on Monday as the Russian capital eases coronavirus restrictions despite having the world's third-largest caseload.   The relaxation of the confinement orders in Moscow, the epicentre of Russia's outbreak with a population of more than 12 million, comes after President Vladimir Putin announced the epidemic had passed its peak in the country.

Under lockdown since March 30, residents of Europe's most populous city were until now only allowed to leave their homes for brief trips to shop, walk dogs or travel to essential jobs with a permit.   While Muscovites welcomed the opportunity to return to parks and malls after weeks of being cooped up at home, many ridiculed the Moscow mayor's "experiment" aimed at regulating people's walks and exercise.

As a two-week test measure, Sergei Sobyanin said residents of Moscow will be allowed to take walks according to a staggered schedule based on their home address.   "Regular walks are allowed between 9am and 9pm but no more than three times a week -- twice on weekdays and once on a weekend," said Sobyanin on his blog, adding that a detailed schedule would be released separately.   People can jog or exercise between 5am and 9am but must wear masks, according to the new rules.   Sobyanin said he feared that without limits on walking, people would throng the streets in scenes reminiscent of May Day outpourings in Soviet times.

- 'Sheer lunacy' -
The new regulations unleashed a flood of mockery on social media, with political commentator Alexander Golts calling them "sheer lunacy".   Critics quipped that life in Moscow was beginning to imitate dystopian fiction such as the novels of Aldous Huxley and Yevgeny Zamyatin.

Popular comedian Maxim Galkin, who has nearly eight million followers on Instagram, released a sketch in which Putin and Sobyanin discuss a "breathing schedule" for Moscow residents.   The five-minute parody has been viewed nearly six million times over the past few days.   When the restrictions are relaxed, dry-cleaners, laundry services and repair workshops will be allowed to reopen, while restaurants, cafes and cinemas will remain closed for now.

Moscow authorities also said that no mass gatherings would be allowed during the city-wide quarantine that will remain in place until at least June 14.   On Thursday authorities sentenced prominent reporter and activist Ilya Azar to 15 days in jail for staging a lone protest in central Moscow.   Dozens of his supporters have also been briefly detained over the past few days.   Rights organisations including Amnesty International and the Council of Europe have warned Moscow against using the coronavirus lockdown as a pretext to muzzle activists.

Many critics have also questioned the move to lift the restrictions as Russia reported more than 9,000 new infections on Sunday.   With more than 405,000 confirmed infections and over 4,600 deaths, the country has the world's third-largest caseload after the United States and Brazil.   Analysts say Putin is keen to open up the Russian economy and has recently ordered a World War II victory parade postponed by the contagion to be held on June 24.   The 67-year-old leader is also widely expected to announce a new date for a vote on constitutional reforms that could pave the way for him to potentially stay in power until 2036.
Date: Sun, 31 May 2020 11:16:20 +0200 (METDST)

Mogadishu, May 31, 2020 (AFP) - At least 10 people died and 12 were wounded when an explosive device ripped through a minibus outside the Somali capital Mogadishu on Sunday, the government said.   The deadly explosion occurred near Lafole village along the Afgoye-Mogadishu where the passenger bus was travelling early in the day.   "At least 10 civilians were killed in an explosion at Lafole area this morning, those who died were all civilians," the information ministry said in a statement, adding that the victims were on their way to a funeral.

Witnesses said the minibus was completely destroyed, and described an horrific scene with everyone on board either dead or wounded and many bodies ripped apart or burned beyond recognition.   "This was a horrible incident this morning, the explosive device went off as the bus was passing by the area and destroyed it completely," said Daud Doyow, a witness.   "Bodies of civilians were strewn in pieces and most of the people died," he added.   "There were more than 20 people on board and 10 of them were confirmed dead while the rest are seriously wounded and taken to hospital, this is a horrible scene here," said another witness, Abdirisak Adan.   No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Somalia's al Qaeda-aligned Shabaab group carries out regular attacks in and around the capital, often killing civilians.
Date: Wed, 27 May 2020 17:58:12 +0200 (METDST)

Nairobi, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - Kenya said Wednesday it had documented a record 123 cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, a "staggering" figure although one also explained in part by wider testing.   "Today, I come to you with sombre news," Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said.   "Our figures today are staggering. Out of the 3,077 samples tested, we have 123 positive cases. For the first time we have hit a triple digit.    "This is the highest number of positive cases we have ever recorded in a single day since we recorded the first case on March 13."

A total of 1,471 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Kenya since the start of the epidemic. Of these, 55 have been fatal.   The tally of infections has doubled since mid-May but the country has also tripled its number of daily tests, from less than 1,000 to nearly 3,000, which has helped unearth more cases.

Kagwe sounded a warning about the vulnerability of crowded slums in the capital Nairobi, which leads the list of new cases followed by the port city of Mombasa.   "There is a raging number of infections in these areas," he said, adding: "No-one should have a false sense of security about their immunity to COVID-19."   Among its anti-coronavirus measures, Kenya has a national 7pm-5am curfew, which is currently in force until June 6, and has a ban on entering or exiting the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera.
Date: Wed, 27 May 2020 16:38:21 +0200 (METDST)

Nicosia, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - Cyprus hopes to attract tourists after its coronavirus lockdown by paying the medical costs of anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 while holidaying on the island, officials said Wednesday.   The plan was outlined in a letter to tour operators and airlines detailing the measures Cyprus is taking to ensure the safety of its tourism sector.   The letter was made public Wednesday and signed by the ministers of foreign affairs, transport, and tourism.

The Mediterranean island is marketing itself as a safe holiday destination during the global pandemic.   The Republic of Cyprus has reported 939 novel coronavirus cases and only 17 deaths.   The government said it is "committed to taking care of all travellers who test positive during their stay, as well as their families and close contacts".   It pledged to cover accommodation, dining and medical care if a tourist falls ill with the virus.   The "traveller will only need to bear the cost of their airport transfer and repatriation flight," it said.

- 'Quarantine hotels' -
A 100-bed hospital will be available exclusively for tourists who test positive, with more beds available "at very short notice if required".   An additional 112 beds in intensive care units with 200 respirators will be reserved for critically ill patients.   Designated "quarantine hotels" will have 500 rooms available for family members and close contacts of patients.

Other hotels on the island will be allowed to remain open if a guest tests positive, but their room will "undergo a deep clean".   Authorities have forecast a 70 percent decline in tourist arrivals in 2020.    Tourism earned Cyprus EUR2.68 billion ($2.94 bn) in 2019 -- about 15 percent of gross domestic product -- down one percent from the previous year, which was bolstered by a record 3.97 million arrivals.   Cyprus plans to reopen its airports on June 9 to arrivals from 13 countries considered low risk.   These include Israel, Greece, Germany, Austria and Malta but the island's two biggest markets Britain and Russia are not on the approved list.

hose arriving between June 9-19 will need to provide a health certificate proving they do not have the virus.   That requirement will be dropped from June 20, when another six countries will be added to the approved list, including Switzerland and Poland.   Cyprus says it will update the list of approved countries on a weekly basis based on scientific advice.

Officials will administer temperature checks and free random testing of arrivals.   Having tested over 10 percent of its population, Cyprus says it has one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in Europe.   "Very few countries worldwide, especially in the Mediterranean, can boast about such statistics," the letter said.
Date: Wed, 27 May 2020 14:45:11 +0200 (METDST)

Stockholm, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - Airline SAS said Wednesday it would resume flights on several domestic and international routes in June, over two months after the operator grounded most of its fleet over the new coronavirus' impact on travel.   "This primarily includes domestic flights within and between the Scandinavian countries, but flights to New York, Chicago and Amsterdam from Copenhagen are also set to resume," SAS said in a statement.

The Scandinavian airline announced in mid-March it was halting most of its traffic and furloughing around 90 percent of its staff.   In late April the airline, whose two largest shareholders are the Swedish and Danish states, announced it was laying off about 5,000 people, representing 40 percent of the company's workforce.

In early May the company secured a state-guaranteed credit line of 3.3 billion Swedish kronor ($344 million or 313 million euros) to help it navigate the impact of the new coronavirus.   Even with the resumption of some flights, the airline continues to operate at a reduced capacity, but the added routes means an effective doubling of the aircraft in use from 15 to 30, according to SAS.   Finnair, of Nordic neighbour Finland, announced early last week it would start resuming its long-haul flight to Asia in July.
Date: Wed, 27 May 2020 14:25:21 +0200 (METDST)

Yerevan, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - Virus cases have overwhelmed Armenia's hospitals, officials said Wednesday, raising the prospect that intensive care treatment could be restricted to patients with the best chance of survival.   The tiny Caucasus nation of some three million has so far reported 7,774 coronavirus cases and 98 deaths.   At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said "the situation with the coronavirus pandemic is very severe in Armenia."

Health ministry spokeswoman Alina Nikoghosyan told AFP: "if the current situation persists, in the coming days, intensive care will only be available for the patients with the best survival chances."   Health Minister Arsen Torosyan said Sunday that out of the country's 186 intensive care beds for coronavirus patients, only 32 remained empty and would soon be filled.

The prime minister called for stricter enforcement of measures aimed at containing the outbreak such as the wearing of face masks in public spaces.   This comes after the country lifted a state of emergency on May 4 which it had declared in March because of the pandemic.   Pashinyan said his government had failed to enforce anti-virus measures and there had been widespread quarantine violations.   "Our mistake was that we put too much trust in our citizens' sense of responsibility," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said he did not rule out that the government could have to impose a fresh nationwide lockdown.   Analysts have criticised the government's handling of the crisis, saying a decision to close borders was taken too late and officials sent the public "confusing messages."   "Officials were calling for the wearing of face masks, but they themselves didn't wear them until recently," said analyst Tatul Hakobyan.
Date: Wed, 27 May 2020 09:53:01 +0200 (METDST)

New Delhi, May 27, 2020 (AFP) - India is wilting under a heatwave, with the temperature in places reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) and the capital enduring its hottest May day in nearly two decades.   The hot spell is projected to scorch northern India for several more days, the Meteorological Department said late Tuesday, "with severe heat wave conditions in isolated pockets".   As global temperatures rise, heatwaves are a regular menace in the country -- particularly in May and June. Last year dozens of people died.

Met officials said Churu in the northern state of Rajasthan was the hottest place on record on Tuesday, at 50 Celsius, while parts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh sweltered in the high 40s.   Parts of the capital, New Delhi, recorded the hottest May day in 18 years with the mercury hitting 47.6 Celsius.   No deaths have been reported so far this year, but last year the government said the heat had killed 3,500 people since 2015. There have been fewer
fatalities in recent years.

The country of 1.3 billion people suffers from severe water shortages with tens of millions lacking running water -- to say nothing of air conditioning.   Parts of Delhi and elsewhere regularly see scuffles when tankers arrive to deliver water. Last year Chennai made international headlines when the southern city ran out of water entirely.   The heatwave adds to problems the country already has dealing with the spread of coronavirus.   India now has the 10th highest number of coronavirus cases globally, climbing above 150,000 on Wednesday with almost 4,500 deaths.

Last week cyclone Amphan killed more than 100 people as it ravaged in eastern India and Bangladesh, flattening villages, destroying farms and leaving millions without power.   Huge swarms of desert locusts, meanwhile, have destroyed nearly 50,000 hectares (125,000 acres) of crops across western and central India, and may enter Delhi in coming days.   The north-eastern states of Assam and Meghalaya are also currently experiencing floods, with more heavy rainfall forecast in the coming days.