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Rwanda

Rwanda US Consular Information Sheet
May 19, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Rwanda is a landlocked developing country in central Africa which has made considerable progress in rebuilding its infrastructure and establishing security since the 19
4 civil war and genocide in which at least 800,000 people were killed. Economic activity and tourism are on the rise in Rwanda. Hotels and guesthouses are adequate in Kigali, the capital, and in major towns, but are limited in remote areas. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Rwanda for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and evidence of yellow fever immunization are required. Visas are not required for American citizens entering Rwanda for less than 90 days. U.S. citizens planning on working in Rwanda should apply for a work permit at the Directorate of Immigration as soon as possible after arrival in Rwanda. Detailed entry information may be obtained from Rwanda’s Directorate of Immigration at: http://www.migration.gov.rw/ or from the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda, 1714 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DC 20009, telephone 202-232-2882, fax 202-232-4544, web site http://www.rwandaembassy.org. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Rwandan Embassy or Consulate.
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:
There are currently no travel restrictions in place within Rwanda, but travelers should use caution when traveling near or crossing the border into Burundi, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Uganda.

In March 2005, the Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), comprising ex-Rwandese Armed Forces, Interahamwe, and other extremists, announced it would end its armed struggle against the Government of Rwanda, but thousands of combatants are estimated to remain in eastern Congo. The combatants currently are not well-organized or funded, nor do they pose a serious threat to Rwandan security. However, in early March 2007, in Gisenyi Province (near the Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda) they launched a mortar round and rocket into Rwandan territory. There were no casualties, and it appears to have been an isolated incident. While visitors may travel freely to Volcanoes National Park, they are not permitted to visit the park without permission from Rwanda's Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN). ORTPN stipulates that the park can only be used for gorilla tours and nature walks. Since December 2006, all restrictions have been lifted in the Nyungwe Forest near the Burundian border in southwestern Rwanda. In the past, the FDLR infiltrated Rwanda from Burundi through the Nyungwe Forest, but the last reported incident in the park was in November 2003. However, FDLR rebel factions are known to operate in northeastern DRC, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda, including near the popular tourist area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. For information on travel to those and other countries, and for the latest security information, American citizens 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.
From time to time, travel by U.S. Embassy personnel may be restricted based on changing security conditions. Visitors are encouraged to contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy Regional Security Office or Consular Section for the latest security information, including developments in eastern Congo, Uganda and Burundi. (See Registration/Embassy Location section below.)

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. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Pick-pocketing in crowded public places is common, as is petty theft from cars and hotel rooms. Although violent crimes such as carjacking, robbery, and home invasion occur in Kigali, they are rarely committed against foreigners. Americans are advised to remain alert, exercise caution, and follow appropriate personal security measures. Although many parts of Kigali are safe at night, walking alone after dark is not recommended since foreigners, including Americans, have occasionally been the targets of robbery.

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.

See our information on Victims of Crime. The U.S. Embassy provides some information on its web site about criminal justice in Rwanda at http://rwanda.usembassy.gov/criminal_justice_in_rwanda.html.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical and dental facilities are limited, and some medicines are in short supply or unavailable. Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. In Kigali, Americans may go to King Faisal Hospital, a private facility that offers limited services and dental facilities. There is also a missionary dental clinic and a few private dentists. American-operated charitable hospitals with some surgical facilities can be found in Kibagora, in southwestern Rwanda, in Ruhengeri, near the gorilla trekking area, and in Rwinkavu, near the entrance to Akagera National Park. The U.S. Embassy maintains on its website a current list of healthcare providers and facilities in Rwanda at http://rwanda.usembassy.gov/medical_information.html; this list is also included in the Consular Section’s welcome packets for American citizens. There are periodic outbreaks of meningitis in Rwanda. Yellow fever can cause serious medical problems, but the vaccine, required for entry, is very effective in preventing the disease. Malaria is endemic to Rwanda. All visitors are strongly encouraged to take prophylactic medications to prevent malaria. These should be initiated prior to entry into the endemic area. Because of possible counterfeit of antimalarial medications, these should be obtained from a reliable pharmaceutical source. Multiple outbreaks of ebola have been reported in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda in the past year, but none within Rwanda.
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) or via the CDC’s website 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 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 Rwanda is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Due to safety concerns, the use of motorbikes or van taxis for transportation is not recommended. Regulated orange-striped (along the base of the vehicle) sedan auto taxis are safer, but be sure to agree on a fare before beginning the trip. Public transportation can be dangerous due to overloading, inadequate maintenance, and careless drivers.
While the main roads in Rwanda are in relatively good condition, during the rainy season many side roads are passable only with four-wheel drive vehicles. Nighttime driving, particularly outside major cities, is hazardous and is discouraged. Often, roadways are not marked and lack streetlights and shoulders. Many sections have deteriorated surfaces. Due to possible language barriers and lack of roadside assistance, receiving help may be difficult. Travelers may be stopped at police roadblocks throughout the country, where their vehicles and luggage may be searched. Service stations are available along main roads.
In Rwanda, as in the U.S., traffic moves on the right-hand side of the road. Cars already in a traffic circle have the right of way. Until 2004, cars entering traffic circles had the right-of-way. Drivers should exercise caution at traffic circles, since some drivers might forget this change. Excessive speed, careless driving, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles are hazards on Rwanda's roads. Many vehicles are not well maintained, and headlights are either extremely dim or not used. Drivers also tend to speed and pass other cars with little discretion. Some streets in Kigali have sidewalks or sufficient space for pedestrian traffic; others do not, and pedestrians are forced to walk along the roadway. With the limited street lighting, drivers often have difficulty seeing pedestrians. Drivers frequently have unexpected encounters with cyclists, pedestrians and livestock.
Third-party insurance is required and will cover any damages from involvement in an accident resulting in injuries, if one is found not to have been at fault. The driver’s license of individuals determined to have caused an accident may be confiscated for three months. Causing a fatal accident could result in three to six months' imprisonment. Drunk drivers are jailed for 24 hours and fined Rwandan Francs 20,000 (approximately $35). In the city of Kigali, contact the following numbers for police assistance in the event of an accident: Kigali Center, 08311112; Nyamirambo, 08311113; Kacyiru, 08311114; Kicukiro, 08311115; Remera, 08311116. Ambulance assistance is very limited. Wear seat belts and drive with care and patience at all times. In case of an emergency, American citizens can contact the Embassy duty officer at 0830-0345.
For specific information concerning Rwandan driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks, B.P. 905, Kigali, Rwanda, telephone 250-76514, fax 250-76512.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.gov.rw/.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Rwanda, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Rwanda’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.

In recent months, Rwandair, which charters aircraft to fly its routes, has had difficulties maintaining its schedule, resulting in delayed and cancelled flights which have left passengers stranded for extended periods.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Telephone communication to and from Rwanda is generally reliable. Cellular telephones and Internet connections are available in Kigali and large towns.
Non-biodegradable plastic bags have been banned in Rwanda, and travelers carrying them upon arrival at the Kayibanda International airport may have them confiscated and have to pay approximately $4 for a reusable cloth replacement.
International ATMs are not available in Rwanda. The Rwandan franc is freely exchangeable for hard currencies in banks and the Bureaux de Change. Several Kigali banks can handle wire transfers from U.S. banks, including Western Union. Credit cards are accepted at only a few hotels in Kigali and only to settle hotel bills. Hotels currently accepting credit cards for payment include the Kigali Serena (formerly Intercontinental) Hotel, the Hotel des Mille Collines, the Novotel Umubano, Stipp Hotel and the Kivu Sun Hotel. Note that there may be an added fee for using a credit card. Travelers should expect to handle most expenses, including air tickets, in cash.

Traveler's checks can be cashed only at commercial banks. Because some travelers have had difficulty using U.S. currency printed before the year 2000, the Embassy recommends traveling with newer U.S. currency notes.
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 offenses. Persons violating Rwandan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Rwanda 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.
The U.S. Embassy provides some information on its website about criminal justice in Rwanda.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. Both foreigners and Rwandans taking Rwandan children to live outside Rwanda, e.g., after adoption, must obtain an exit permission letter from the Ministry of Family and Gender located within the Primature complex at P.O. Box 969, Kigali, Rwanda; Tel: 011-250-587-128; Fax: 011-250-587-127.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Rwanda are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Rwanda. 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 2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie; the mailing address is B.P. 28, Kigali, Rwanda; tel. (250) 596-400,; fax: (250) 596-591. The Consular Section’s email address is consularkigali@state.gov. The Embassy's web site is http://rwanda.usembassy.gov/. American Citizen Services hours are Tuesdays from 9:00 -17:00 and Fridays from 9:00 - 12:00 except on U.S. and Rwandan holidays.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Rwanda dated October 4, 2007, to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, Criminal Penalties, Children’s Issues, and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 7 May 2020 19:25:27 +0200 (METDST)

Kigali, May 7, 2020 (AFP) - Floods have left 65 dead in Rwanda and heavy rains swept away scores of houses, several bridges and farms, the government said Thursday, as similar scenes played out across East Africa.   In Kenya, floods and landslides have killed nearly 200 people in the past month, while Uganda's Lake Victoria has overflown, submerging houses, a hospital and bridges and displacing thousands.

"Heavy rains that poured Wednesday night caused a number of disasters," Rwanda's ministry of emergency management said in a statement on Thursday.    "Up until midnight, 65 death cases had been registered due to floods. The rains also led to damage of infrastructure like roads, 91 houses, 5 bridges and several farms were swept away by the floors," said the statement.

In April 20 people were killed in flooding in Rwanda.   In Kenya, four teenagers drowned on Thursday after a river burst its banks, a day after the government announced 194 people had been killed due to floods and landslides since the rainy season began in April, and large areas of farmland and water infrastructure destroyed.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Thursday wrote on Twitter that Lake Victoria was near record levels.   "Encroachers on Lake Victoria and (its) river banks should vacate before they are swallowed by the water because you're in its way" he said.   The Red Cross issued a statement Thursday saying thousands were displaced in Uganda after two rivers burst their banks, and a major hospital in western Kasese had partly been submerged by water.

Ugandan MP Alex Byarugaba from Isingiro, a border district with Tanzania, told AFP Thursday: "We lost four people after the heavy rains in last four days pounded the district. Some were buried by the flash floods which have displaced over 5,000 people".   Somalia has also experienced flooding in several areas, with six people killed in northeastern Puntland last month.
Date: Mon, 4 May 2020 21:42:43 +0200 (METDST)

Kigali, May 4, 2020 (AFP) - Kigali traders eagerly resumed work on Monday as Rwanda partially lifted strict lockdown measures adopted six weeks ago to curb the spread of the coronavirus.    Businesses in the capital were flooded with customers hurrying to finish their shopping before an 8:00 pm curfew.

Rwanda imposed one of Africa's first total shutdowns on March 22, closing non-essential shops, shuttering schools, suspending public transport and banning all "unnecessary travel" outside the home.   The measures have had a heavy economic impact in the poor east African country.   Jane Mutoni, a waitress at a small restaurant in Kigali, said two of her male colleagues were let go.   "We are now two waitresses," she told AFP, adding: "It has been really good to return to work because we had no other source of income."   In the markets, only half the shops were allowed to reopen.

Hair salons in particular have benefited from the easing of restrictions, although measures have been taken to prevent them from becoming overcrowded.   "We are going back to work slowly. Usually we are eight people working as a team here. But today we work in shifts at only three at a time to respect the social distancing," said John Sibomana, a Kigali hairdresser.   "After three hours, a colleague will replace me. We don't earn much, but it is still better than staying at home," he said, adding that life had been "very hard" during the lockdown.

Residents were also happy to resume physical activity in the streets, which had been forbidden.    "You know, it's been 40 days without practising and touching a ball and most of the young guys here do sports every day," said Bonfils Rukundo, who lives in a Kigali suburb, after going for a run in the capital.   Bus stations were full Monday, with masks mandatory in all public places. Buses were allowed to operate only at half capacity and only within Kigali.    Rwanda has officially registered 259 cases of coronavirus and no deaths. 
Date: Fri, 1 May 2020 09:19:52 +0200 (METDST)

Kigali, May 1, 2020 (AFP) - Rwanda will partially lift its virus lockdown from next week and allow people to move freely during the day more than six weeks after being confined, the prime minister's office said Friday.   Rwanda was one of the first to impose strict lockdown measures in Africa, on March 22, when it had only 19 cases, and to date has officially recorded 225 cases and zero deaths.

From Monday May 4, citizens will be allowed to move freely from 5am to 8pm, and will need permission to do so later in the evening, the prime minister's office said in a statement.   Businesses, manufacturing and construction operations will be allowed to resume with essential workers, while markets will be allowed to open with no more than 50 percent of traders operating.

According to the statement hotels and restaurants will be allowed to operate but must close by 7pm.   People will be allowed to exercise in open spaces but sports facilities will remain closed.   No more than 30 people will be allowed to attend funerals, and schools, churches, gyms and bars will remain closed.   Transport between different provinces is still banned, borders remain closed and mass gatherings prohibited.   "Masks must be worn in public at all times," said the statement.
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 2020 12:22:23 +0200 (METDST)

Kigali, April 2, 2020 (AFP) - Rwanda has extended a national lockdown for another two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, which has so far infected 82 people, according to a government statement issued late Wednesday.

Rwanda was among the first nations in Africa to impose a lockdown, banning all "unnecessary movements" outside the home, shutting down schools, shops, and public transport.   "To further contain the outbreak, Cabinet extended the existing measures for an additional two weeks, until 23:59 on Sunday 19th April, 2020," read the statement issued after an extraordinary cabinet meeting via video conference chaired by President Paul Kagame.

Rwanda has the second highest number of infections in East Africa after Mauritius which stands at 154, although Kenya is rapidly catching up after a leap saw an increase to 81 on Wednesday.   Africa, which has lagged behind the global curve, has nearly 6,400 recorded cases, of which 234 have been fatal, according to a continent-wide tally compiled by AFP.
Date: Fri 20 Mar 2020
Source: VICE News [edited]

Rice farming is a priority crop in Rwanda but working in the flooded fields means 10 hours a day exposed to mosquitoes.

Rwanda's tens of thousands of acres of bright green, grassy rice fields present a paradox for the landlocked East African country. The crop is a dietary staple for virtually every family here, and it brings in a good chunk of the country's GDP. So, the government is embarking on an aggressive campaign to produce even more. But the waterlogged fields where the grain grows are the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, so the disease is rampant.

In 2016, researchers from the Rwanda Biomedical Center came to Bugesera District in Rwanda's Eastern Province. They brought with them a larvicide that kills mosquitoes before they hatch. The larvicide is called _Bacillus thuringiensis_ israelensis, or Bti, and is applied to the fields using the same machine they use for pesticides. The study also involved preparing community action teams to deliver malaria-prevention education to villages.

The study showed that over a year, there was a 90% decrease in mosquito density in rice fields. But when the study ended, farmers were left without the larvicide and with 10 times the amount of mosquitoes once again.

After their study concluded in 2015, the researchers from the Rwanda Biomedical Center and their Dutch partners recommended the government incorporate Bti into their farming practices. The larvicide has been used in the United States for over 30 years, and it's EPA-approved. The agency says it doesn't pose a risk to humans.

But the government never funded national Bti spraying. And over the next nearly 5 years, the government pushed to increase rice production by turning marshlands into rice fields. The number of reported malaria cases, meanwhile, increased 68%, from 2.5 million in 2015 to 4.2 million in 2018, according to the World Health Organization.

In a 2018 study, the country's experts "hypothesized that a potential contributor to the increase in cases" was this push to convert the marshlands.

In 2016, the government established a national strategy titled "The Rwanda We Want: Towards Vision 2050." In it, they outline their hope to eradicate malaria by mid-century. While cases began to decline between 2016 and 2018, malaria in Rwanda is still extremely widespread. The World Health Organization says the whole population is at risk for the disease. Without proper care, malaria's complications can be deadly.

And despite these widespread concerns about the lack of malaria prevention or education for tens of thousands of rice farmers and surrounding communities, Rwanda has been ramping up its push for more rice for years.

Charles Bucagu, the deputy director general of the Rwanda Agriculture Board, stood atop a hill overlooking vast fields. He said the government was undergoing a "crop intensification program," aiming to increase the amount of rice yield from under 2 tons per acre to almost 3 through farmer training and new tools.

Rice brings about USD 64.8 million of revenue to Rwanda annually. And although the country relies heavily on domestic rice production, they still have to import some. The government's goal is to be self-sufficient by 2050. As part of their efforts to expand farming, the government often rents parcels of land to farming cooperatives to exploit, and farmers get a cut of what they harvest.

Dr. Diane Gashumba, the country's then Minister of Health, told VICE News in September [2019] that malaria in and around rice fields must be addressed and that the government is "really committed" to exploring larviciding after seeing countries like Brazil apply the technique successfully. "We need rice," she said, "we cannot stop rice farming ... but also, there is a way."

On 14 Feb 2020, the office of the prime minister announced that he had accepted Dr. Gashumba's resignation. In a tweet, he said her resignation "follows a series of habitual gross errors and repeated leadership failures."

On 11 Mar 2020, one month after her resignation and 5 months after Bucagu's statement, the government finally reintroduced larvicide to Rwanda's rice fields. The announcement came as Rwandans started yet another agricultural season. But the commitment is only to a 6-month spraying program and only in the Gasabo district, one of 30 in Rwanda.

Bti will be sprayed 3 times each month, mainly using drones, and community health workers will help with the targeting of surrounding mosquito breeding sites. The decision was made in response to a request from Rwanda's Biomedical Center's team for almost USD 200,000 in funds, and the test run's success will determine whether the Bti program gets scaled nationally, said Dr. Emmanuel Hakizimana, the director of vector control at the center.

Hakizimana believes malaria eradication in rice paddies is feasible, but Bti spraying is just the 1st step. "The problem is not rice farming; the problem is lack of prevention," he said, explaining that larviciding must be combined with malaria detection and treatment, indoor spraying, insecticide-treated nets, and the use of repellent. "It's not impossible," Hakizimana added.

The around 1000 farmers on E's co-op earn about USD 1.4 per day. She gathered 567 pounds of rice during the last season and was given 128 pounds for her family by the co-op. She said she doesn't earn enough to buy bug repellent. The head of her co-op, Joseph Hitumukiza, said his organization doesn't have the resources to give farmers the tools to protect themselves either, so he advises them to save money in case they get malaria and need to be treated.

Citizens have good access to healthcare, but information around prevention is still lacking. When asked what measures she takes against the disease, E said she boils the water she drinks at home. While boiling water is recommended in areas where the quality is unreliable, it bears no effect on malaria.  [Byline: Patricia Guerra]
==================
[A study of mosquito distribution and risk of malaria in Rwanda found that: "For the 7 sentinel sites, the mean indoor density for _An. gambiae_ s.l. varied from 0.0 to 1.0 mosquitoes/house/night. _P. falciparum_ infection rates in mosquitoes varied from 0.87 to 4.06%. The entomological inoculation rate (EIR) ranged from 1.0 to 329.8 with an annual average of 99.5 infective bites/person/year." (Hakizimana E et al. Spatio-temporal distribution of mosquitoes and risk of malaria infection in Rwanda. Acta Trop. 2018;182:149-57).

The study using the larvicide _Bacillus thuringensis_ (Bti) referred to is Ingabire CM et al. (Community-based biological control of malaria mosquitoes using _Bacillus thuringiensis_ var. israelensis (Bti) in Rwanda: community awareness, acceptance and participation. Malar J. 2017;16:399). - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
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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.