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Singapore

Singapore - US Consular Information Sheet
May 12, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:Singapore is a small, stable, highly developed country with an elected parliamentary system of government. Tourist facilities are modern and widely available. Singapore'
resident population of over 4.6 million inhabitants (including permanent residents and foreign workers) comprises 75% Chinese, 14% Malay, 9% Indian and 2% others. English is widely spoken. Criminal penalties are strict and law enforcement rigorous; see sections on “Entry/Exit Requirements,” “Special Circumstances,” and “Criminal Penalties,” below, for further details. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Singapore for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required. U.S. citizens do not need a visa if their visit is for business or social purposes and their stay is for 90 days or less. Travelers to the region should note that Singapore and some neighboring countries do not allow Americans to enter under any circumstances with fewer than six months of validity remaining on their passport. Female U.S. citizens who are pregnant when they apply to enter Singapore for a social visit are no longer required to make prior application through the nearest Singapore overseas mission or to provide documentation from a U.S. embassy concerning the nationality the child will acquire at birth.
Specific information about entry requirements for Singapore may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Singapore at 3501 International Place NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 537-3100. Visit the Embassy of Singapore’s web site at http://www.mfa.gov.sg/washington/ for the most current visa information.
Find more information about dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: In 2001, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a terrorist organization with links to Al Qaeda, planned attacks in Singapore against government and private targets associated with the United States, Singapore and other countries. These plans were disrupted and the JI organization in Singapore was dismantled. On February 27, 2008 suspected JI leader Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from detention in Singapore. His current whereabouts are unknown. Singapore remains a target of interest for terrorist groups. The Department of State remains concerned because extremist groups in Southeast Asia continue to demonstrate the desire and capability to carry out attacks against locations where Westerners congregate. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Americans residing in or traveling to Singapore and neighboring countries should therefore exercise caution, especially in locations where Americans and other Westerners live, work, congregate, shop or visit. U.S. citizens should remain vigilant about their personal security and surroundings.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Major crimes against tourists in Singapore are uncommon. Petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and purse or briefcase snatching occur in tourist areas, hotels and at the airport. Travelers should exercise the same caution that they would in any large city.. Visitors should be aware that credit card fraud is on the rise and should practice standard precautions to avoid falling victim of credit card fraud: do not carry multiple credit cards on your person; do not allow credit cards to be removed from your sight; avoid giving credit card information over the phone and use only secure internet connections for financial transactions.

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.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Good medical care is widely available in Singapore. Doctors and hospitals expect immediate payment for health services by credit card or cash and generally do not accept U.S. health insurance. Recipients of health care should be aware that Ministry of Health auditors in certain circumstances may be granted access to patient medical records without the consent of the patient, and, in certain circumstances, physicians may be required to provide information relating to the diagnosis or treatment without the patient's consent.

Despite vigorous mosquito eradication efforts in Singapore, from time to time Singapore experiences a spike in the number of dengue fever cases. Outbreaks tend to be clustered in residential areas, but there have been no reports of clusters in primary tourist areas, such as the Night Safari, the Singapore zoo, or Orchard Road.

In January 2008, a new strain of the viral disease Chikungunya was detected in Singapore. A dozen cases of the disease, which like Dengue Fever is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, were documented. There were no deaths. Unlike prior cases in Singapore, these cases were contracted locally and the outbreak centered around guest worker housing on Clive Street.

Information on dengue fever, vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

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 Singapore is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Singapore has a highly developed and well-maintained road and highway network. Driving is done on the left-hand side of the road. Motorists should be particularly aware of motorcyclists, who often ignore lane markings. Lanes are frequently closed without warning due to construction throughout the city. Public transportation and taxis are abundant, inexpensive, and reliable. Visitors should consider using this form of transportation. The Automobile Association of Singapore provides roadside assistance, and the Land Transport Authority has rescue vehicles on the road at all hours. In addition, closed circuit cameras monitor all major roads. As with all laws in Singapore, those involving traffic rules, vehicle registration, and liability in case of accident are strictly enforced, and failure to follow them may result in criminal penalties. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

Singapore has one of the worst road-fatality records among developed countries. In 2007, 2.6 deaths were logged for every 10,000 vehicles in Singapore, compared to 0.8 in Japan, 1.2 in Australia and 1.8 in the United States. For specific information concerning Singaporean driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Singaporean National Tourist Board located at 590 Fifth Ave., Twelfth Floor, New York, NY 10036, tel. 1-212-302-4861 or fax: 1-212-302-4801.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Singapore's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Singapore’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Singapore customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import and export of items such as weapons, illegal drugs, certain religious materials, pornographic material, videotapes, CDs, DVDs, and software. Singapore customs authorities’ definition of "weapon" is very broad, and, in addition to firearms, includes many items which are not necessarily seen as weapons in the United States, such as dive knives, kitchen knives, handcuffs, and expended shell casings. Carrying any of these items without permission may result in your immediate arrest. All baggage is x-rayed at every port of entry, so checked baggage will also be inspected for regulated items.

It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Singapore in Washington, DC at 3501 International Place NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 537-3100, http://www.mfa.gov.sg/washington/ for specific information regarding customs requirements. You may also visit Singapore Customs’ web site, http://www.customs.gov.sg/. Singapore customs officials encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA carnet headquarters located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA carnet in the United States. For additional information, please call 1-212- 354-4480, or send an e-mail to atacarnet@uscib.org or visit http://www.uscib.org/ for details.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found at http://www.ustr.gov/Document_Library/Reports_Publications/2004/2004_Special_301/Section_Index.html.
Please see our Customs Information.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) are plentiful in Singapore, and they are the best method of obtaining cash. Bank transfers generally take weeks, and surcharges are steep. Transfers from commercial services such as American Express and Western Union are generally efficient.

Americans may be asked by police, employers or hotels to surrender their passports in lieu of surety (guaranteed) bonds. Americans should carefully consider whether they wish to surrender their passport rather than seek some other type of surety, particularly if the passport is requested by someone who is not a government official (e.g., an employer, or hotel employees).
Note that Singapore does not recognize dual nationality beyond the age of 21, and it strictly enforces universal national service (NS) for all male citizens and permanent residents. Male U.S. citizens who automatically acquired Singaporean citizenship and continue to reside in Singapore are liable for Singapore national service once they reach the age of 18. Travel abroad of Singaporean males may require Singapore Government approval as they approach national service age and may be restricted when they reach sixteen-and-a-half years of age. Under Singaporean law, an individual who acquires Singaporean citizenship at birth retains that status even after acquiring the citizenship of another country, including U.S. citizenship.

Males may renounce Singaporean citizenship only after having completed at least two years of national service. U.S. citizens are subject to this law. Dual nationals, Singapore Permanent Residents, and their parents should contact the Ministry of Defense in Singapore to determine if there will be a national service obligation. For additional information, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site for our dual nationality flyer, and contact the Ministry of Defense Central Manpower Base (tel. 65-6373-3127), or visit http://www.ns.sg/nsPortal/appmanager/nsp/default?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=nsPortal_NSREG_ABT&nsp_community=ENLIST.
National-service-liable males who migrated from Singapore before age 11 and have not enjoyed significant socio-economic benefits of citizenship (e.g., applied for a Singapore identity card or studied in Singapore beyond the age of 11) are allowed to renounce their Singapore citizenship, but not before they turn 21. Until then, they are required to register for national service with Central Manpower Base and apply for a deferment. After turning 21, they are then eligible to renounce their Singapore citizenship and, if successful will not be required to serve NS and may continue to make short social visits to Singapore.

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 in Singapore than for similar offenses in the United States, and persons violating Singapore laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
There are strict penalties for possession and use of drugs as well as for trafficking in illegal drugs. Trafficking charges may be brought based on the quantity of illegal drugs in a subject’s possession, regardless of whether there is any proven or demonstrated intent to distribute the drugs. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Singapore has a mandatory death penalty for many narcotics offenses. Singapore police have the authority to compel both residents and non-residents to submit to random drug analysis, and do not distinguish between drugs consumed before or after entering Singapore in applying local laws.

Visitors should be aware of Singapore's strict laws and penalties for a variety of actions that might not be illegal or might be considered minor offenses in the United States. These include jaywalking, littering, and spitting. Singapore has a mandatory caning sentence for vandalism offenses, and caning may also be imposed for immigration violations and other offenses. Commercial disputes that may be handled as civil suits in the United States can escalate to criminal cases in Singapore, and result in heavy fines and prison sentences.
There are no jury trials in Singapore. Judges hear cases and decide sentencing. The Government of Singapore does not provide legal assistance except in capital cases; legal assistance may be available in some other cases through the Law Society.

There are strict penalties for those who possess or carry arms, or who commit crimes with arms. Singaporean authorities define “arm” as any firearm, air-gun, air-pistol, automatic gun, automatic pistol and any other kind of gun or pistol from which any shot, bullet or other projectiles can be discharged or from which noxious liquid, flame or fumes can be emitted, and any component part thereof. This definition also includes any bomb or grenade and any component part thereof. The unlawful possession of any arm or ammunition could result in imprisonment and caning. Any person convicted of committing a crime with an arm could receive punishment which could result in the maximum penalty of imprisonment for life and caning.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. In Singapore, local law prohibits causing or encouraging prostitution of, or engaging in sexual relations with, a female below the age of 18. An indecent assault against anyone, male or female, regardless of age, is also prohibited. Those convicted of facilitating or abetting the prostitution of any woman or girl could be sentenced to imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine of $7,100 or both. If the crime involves a female below the age of 16, the offender faces an additional charge carrying a possible sentence of imprisonment of up to 3 years and a fine of $2,000 or both.
Singapore enforces strict laws pertaining to the propriety of behavior between people, and the modesty of individuals. The Singaporean law “Outrage of Modesty” is defined as an assault or use of criminal force on any person, intended to, or knowing it to be likely to, outrage the modesty of that person. Penalties may include imprisonment for up to 2 years, a fine, caning, or a combination thereof. Men are sometimes accused of inappropriately touching other people, often women, resulting in their prosecution and punishment under this Singaporean law.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues web site.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Singapore are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site and obtain updated information on travel and security within Singapore. 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 27 Napier Road, Singapore 258508, tel. [65] 6476-9100, fax [65] 6476-9340; web site http://singapore.usembassy.gov/. In case of emergencies after working hours, the duty officer at the Embassy may be contacted by calling tel. [65] 6476-9100.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated September 11, 2007, to update sections on Country Description, Safety and Security, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2020 16:05:30 +0100 (MET)

Singapore, Jan 23, 2020 (AFP) - Singapore Thursday confirmed its first case of the new SARS-like virus which has killed 17 people in China and spread to multiple countries including the United States.   The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the patient was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with his family on Monday.    He was immediately isolated after arriving at a hospital with a fever and cough, and test results later confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus.   One of his travelling companions, a 37-year-old man from Wuhan, has also been admitted to hospital as a suspect case.

Prior to admission, they had stayed at a hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, the ministry said.   It added that Singapore was expecting more cases and alarms "given the high volume of international travel".   Singapore's Changi Airport started screening flights from Wuhan at the beginning of the month, and on Wednesday extended the checks to all flights from China.   The travel hub receives over 430 flights from China every week.   The virus has caused alarm in China and abroad because of its genetic similarities to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Singapore was among the hardest hit by SARS with 33 deaths.   Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in Davos for the World Economic Forum, said there was "no need to panic".   Speaking to reporters travelling with him, Lee said Singapore has beefed up its hospital facilities and laid out response measures since the SARS epidemic.   "I think we are much better prepared now," he said in remarks carried by the Straits Times newspaper.
Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2019 09:57:41 +0100 (MET)

Singapore, Nov 7, 2019 (AFP) - Tourists visiting Singapore can now check in at some hotels using facial recognition technology under a pilot programme that could cut waiting times and help tackle a labour crunch.  The tech-savvy country of 5.7 million people is increasingly turning to automation to speed up services and deal with workforce shortages, with robots deployed for tasks ranging from cleaning to making noodles.

Under the pilot launched Wednesday, visitors will not need to wait to be checked in by hotel staff but can instead use a phone app fitted with facial recognition technology or machines which scan their passports.   The data from the scan is sent to immigration authorities for checks after which the visitor is issued a room key, said the Singapore Tourism Board and Hotel Association, which announced the initiative this week.

The technology, reportedly being trialled at three hotels and is similar to that used in some airports including Singapore's Changi, could reduce check-in times by up to 70 percent, they said.   Singapore welcomed a record high 18.5 million visitors last year, up 6.2 percent from the year before. The city has more than 400 hotels with 67,000 rooms.
Date: Fri 25 Oct 2019
Source: Channel News Asia [abridged, edited]

The number of measles cases in Singapore has hit the highest level since an outbreak in 1997, figures from the Ministry of Health on Thursday [24 Oct 2019] showed. According to the latest weekly infectious diseases bulletin published on Thursday [24 Oct 2019], there were 149 measles cases in Singapore as of 19 Oct [2019]. That is more than 4 times the number of cases for the whole of 2018, when there were 34.

The number of measles cases in Singapore hit 1413 in 1997, before the government introduced the 2-dose MMR vaccination schedule in 1998. The number of cases fell to just 114 that year [1998].  In July this year [2019], MOH urged Singaporeans to remain vigilant, as measles cases around the world have increased substantially.  "As a travel hub, Singapore is likely to see increased cases from importation," it said.

According to the latest Communicable Diseases Surveillance report released by MOH in 2018, the number of reported measles cases has "rapidly declined" since the introduction of compulsory measles vaccination in August 1985. In 1992 and 1997, there was a spike in the number of reported cases across all age groups. The "catch-up" immunisation initiative was implemented between July 1997 and November 1997, and the 2-dose MMR vaccination started in January 1998.

The number of measles cases ranged between 13 and 96 between 2001 and 2010, before an increase in 2011 to 148 cases. Since then the number of cases has fluctuated, with 38 cases in 2012 and 46 cases in 2013, jumping to 142 cases in 2014.

There were 42 measles cases in 2015 and 136 cases in 2016. That dipped to 70 cases for the whole of 2017 and dropped further to 34 cases in 2018.

There have been outbreaks around the world as the virus exploits gaps in vaccination coverage, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this month [October 2019].

The disease, which is, according to the WHO, one of the world's most contagious, rose by 300% globally in the 1st 3 months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. There have been consecutive increases over the last 2 years.  [Byline: Michael Yong]
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 12:26:37 +0200 (METDST)
By Sam Reeves

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 18, 2019 (AFP) - Toxic haze from Indonesian forest fires closed schools and airports across the country and in neighbouring Malaysia Wednesday, while air quality worsened in Singapore just days before the city's Formula One motor race.   Illegal fires to clear land for agriculture are blazing out of control on Sumatra and Borneo islands, with Jakarta deploying thousands of security forces and water-bombing aircraft to tackle them.

Indonesian blazes belch smog across Southeast Asia annually, but this year's are the worst since 2015 and have added to concerns about wildfire outbreaks worldwide exacerbating global warming.   On Wednesday, air quality deteriorated to "very unhealthy" levels on an official index in many parts of peninsular Malaysia, to the east of Sumatra, with the Kuala Lumpur skyline shrouded by dense smog.    Nearly 1,500 schools were closed across Malaysia due to the air pollution, with over one million pupils affected, according to the education ministry.

A growing number of Malaysians were suffering health problems due to the haze, with authorities saying there had been a sharp increase in outpatients at government hospitals -- many suffering dry and itchy eyes.   Indonesian authorities said hundreds of schools in hard-hit Riau province on Sumatra were shut, without providing a precise number, while about 1,300 were closed in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo.    Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.   Poor visibility closed seven airports in the Indonesian part of Borneo, the transport ministry in Jakarta said. Scores of flights have already been diverted and cancelled in the region in recent days due to the smog.

- Singapore smog race? -
Air quality in Singapore worsened to unhealthy levels and a white smog obscured the striking waterfront skyline, featuring the Marina Bay Sands casino resort with its three towers and boat-shaped top level.    The worsening pollution increased fears that this weekend's Formula One race may be affected. Organisers say the possibility of haze is one of the issues in their contingency plan for Sunday's showpiece night race, but have not given further details.

The city-state's tourism board said spectators would be able to buy masks as protection from the haze if conditions did not improve and assistance would be provided for those who feel unwell, the Today news portal reported.   The fires have sparked tensions between Indonesia and Malaysia.    Indonesia's environment minister initially suggested the haze was from Malaysian fires despite satellite data showing hundreds of blazes in Indonesia and only a handful in its neighbour, prompting anger from her Malaysian counterpart.

Indonesia later sealed off dozens of plantations where it said fires were blazing, including some owned by Malaysia-based firms, deepening the row.   But Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has struck a diplomatic tone throughout the crisis, said Malaysia may pass legislation forcing its companies to tackle fires on plantations abroad.   Malaysia wants its firms with sites overseas to put out blazes contributing to the haze, he said, adding: "Of course, if we find they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law to make them responsible."

The Indonesian government has insisted it is doing all it can to fight the blazes. But this year's fires have been worsened by dry weather and experts believe there is little chance of them being extinguished until the onset of the rainy season in October.   Indonesia's meteorology, climate and geophysics agency said Wednesday that over 1,000 hotspots -- areas of intense heat detected by satellite that indicate a likely fire -- had been sighted, most of them on Sumatra.
Date: Sat, 14 Sep 2019 16:08:47 +0200 (METDST)

Singapore, Sept 14, 2019 (AFP) - Pollution from forest fires in Indonesia pushed Singapore's air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years on Saturday, the government said, a week ahead of the Formula One night race in the city.   The toxic smoke caused by burning to clear land for plantations is an annual problem for Indonesia's neighbours, but has been worsened this year by particularly dry weather.   "There has been a deterioration in the haze conditions in Singapore this afternoon," the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement.   "This was due to a confluence of winds over the nearby region that led to more smoke haze from Sumatra being blown toward Singapore," it said, referring to one of the Indonesian islands where fires are raging.

The NEA said the pollutant standards index (PSI) worsened to 112 in parts of the island Saturday night.   An index reading between 101-200 is considered unhealthy, with residents advised against doing prolonged strenuous exercises outdoors.   Singapore may continue to experience hazy conditions over the next few days, the agency warned.   The city-state of 5.6 million people was shrouded in a thin white haze, with a few residents seen wearing face masks, but there was no major disruption to daily activities.   The F1 race is scheduled from Friday to Sunday on a street circuit in the Marina Bay financial district.

Singapore GP, the Formula One organisers, said the possibility of haze is one of the potential issues covered in their contingency plan for this year's grand prix.   "The plan was formulated and refined with stake holders, government bodies and the Formula One community," Singapore GP said in an emailed statement.   "In the event that the haze causes visibility, public health or operational issues, Singapore GP would work closely with the relevant agencies before making any collective decisions regarding the event."

Neighbouring Malaysia has also been affected by the smoke, with air quality in parts of the country including the capital Kuala Lumpur reaching unhealthy levels over the past few days and triggering a diplomatic row with Jakarta.   In 2015, the index reached "hazardous" levels of more than 300 in Singapore, forcing the closure of schools. Indonesian forest fires were the worst in two decades that year, firing up smog that blanketed large parts of Southeast Asia for weeks.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2020 01:07:04 +0100 (MET)

Wuhan, China, Jan 27, 2020 (AFP) - China's central government said on Monday that the nationwide total of confirmed infections from a deadly respiratory virus had risen to 2,744, with 769 new cases coming to light.   However, it said no new deaths were confirmed outside of Hubei province, which had earlier reported 24 new fatalities to bring the national total to 80 dead.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 22:16:28 +0100 (MET)

Beijing, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Chinese authorities have ordered the extension of a public holiday in an effort to contain an epidemic that has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2,000 worldwide, state-run media reported.   A working group chaired by Premier Li Keqiang to tackle the outbreak decided on Sunday "to reduce population flows" by extending the Spring Festival holiday which had been scheduled to end on January 30, state news agency Xinhua said.   It was not immediately clear how long the extension is.

The group also ordered changes to "the starting dates of schools" and "people to work from home by working online."   "The meeting stressed that the country is at a crucial time in the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak, urging Party committees and governments at all levels to take more 'decisive, powerful and orderly, scientific and well-planned' measures to effective curb the spread," Xinhua reported.   In a bid to slow the spread of the respiratory virus, the government had previously locked down hard-hit Hubei, a province in central China that is at the outbreak's epicentre, in an unprecedented operation affecting tens of millions of people.

The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.   Originating in Hubei's capital of Wuhan, the virus has spread throughout China and across the world -- with cases confirmed in around a dozen countries including as far away as the United States.   Several countries were making arrangements to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, where an eery calm pervades as new restrictions prohibit most road traffic in the metropolis of 11 million.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 21:47:53 +0100 (MET)

Washington, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - US health authorities said Sunday there are now five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and more are expected.   Nancy Messonnier, head of the respiratory disease section at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said around 100 people in 26 states are being investigated for the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Of the confirmed cases, all five people had travelled to Wuhan, Messonier said during a conference call with reporters.   "Every case we have had in the United States is someone who has had direct contact in Wuhan," she said.   Messonier said there are two cases in California and one each in Arizona, Illinois and Washington state. Until now the toll was three.   While Chinese officials have launched an extraordinary emergency response, Messonier insisted that the health risk for Americans in general remains low "at this time."
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 13:44:57 +0100 (MET)

Lagos, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Nigerian health authorities have announced stepped-up emergency measures to tackle a rise in Lassa fever cases after 29 people died this month.   "As at 24th of January 2020, 195 confirmed cases and 29 deaths had been reported in 11 states," the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said in a statement Saturday.   A national emergency operations centre had been activated to coordinate the response "to the increasing number of Lassa fever cases" across the country.

Endemic to Nigeria, Lassa fever belongs to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, but is much less deadly.   The virus is spread by contact with rat faeces or urine. It starts with fever and can, in worst case scenarios, lead to severe bleeding and organ failure.   Nigeria declared an outbreak of Lassa fever a year ago and around 170 people died from the virus in 2019.

The number of cases usually climbs in January due to weather conditions during the dry season.    Almost 90 percent of the recent confirmed cases have been in Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi states in southern Nigeria, but their have also been deaths in the north.

The NCDC said that compared to the same period last year the fatality rate had dropped from 23.4 percent to 14.8 percent.    It encouraged Nigerians to "practise good hygiene and take measures to protect themselves and their families".   Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with a population of some 200 million, has five laboratories with the capability to diagnose Lassa fever.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 12:18:19 +0100 (MET)

Beijing, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Two Chinese provinces and three cities have ordered citizens to wear face masks in public, to help control the spread of a deadly virus.   The measure is required in the provinces of Guangdong in the south and Jiangxi in the centre, plus the eastern city of Nanjing, Ma'anshan city in Anhui province, and Xinyang city in Henan, according to local authorities.   China's industry and information technology ministry has said it would "spare no effort in increasing supply" after demand for masks skyrocketed.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 04:03:51 +0100 (MET)

Hong Kong, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong's Disneyland announced it was shutting its doors on Sunday until further notice over the deadly virus outbreak in central China, a day after city authorities classified the crisis as an emergency.   "As a precautionary measure in line with prevention efforts taking place across Hong Kong, we are temporarily closing Hong Kong Disneyland park out of consideration for the health and safety of our guests and cast members," the park said in a statement.
Date: 26 Jan 2020
Source: MENAFN [edited]

Two more polio cases have surfaced from Landikotal tehsil in Khyber tribal district, after which the number of reported cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reached 4 this year [2020].

According to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), a 2-year-old [male child] from Nekikhel and another child from Torwela have been diagnosed with polio. The samples of these 2 children were sent for laboratory tests in 2019, so these cases will be counted in the tally of 2019, which stands at 141 now.

The 2 cases in Landiktoal were reported 2 days after the emergence of 3 new polio cases in Qambar, Dadu and Sajawal districts of Sindh. Among them, 2 children contracted the crippling disease in 2019, but the cases were confirmed on Friday [24 Jan 2020].

On [21 Jan 2020], the 1st case of polio in Pakistan in 2020 surfaced in Lakki Marwat, the district with the highest number of cases in 2019.

The year 2019 was worse for Pakistan in polio eradication efforts, as 141 cases surfaced in Pakistan, including 96 cases in KP. Most cases in KP surfaced in Lakki Marwat, where 32 children were diagnosed with the crippling disease. In 2018, only 12 cases were reported, while in 2017, 8 cases were reported.

Currently, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only 2 countries in the world which have not fully eradicated polio. The main cause behind the emergence of so many polio cases is refusal of parents to cooperate with the vaccination teams. According to media reports citing Health Ministry data, over a million parents refused to cooperate with vaccination teams in 2019. Most of the refusal cases were reported in April last year [2019] when rumours spread in Peshawar that many children had fainted after consuming vaccination drops. A total of 1 089 087 parents refused to give vaccination drops to their children in 2019.

The emergence of so many polio cases in Pakistan, particularly in KP, has brought the federal and provincial governments under pressure over their performance and strategy to control the spread of disease.

Experts believe that polio vaccination efforts cannot succeed completely until the refusing parents are convinced to cooperate with vaccination teams.
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[The End Polio Pakistan website has not added all of the media reported cases as yet, so it's a bit difficult to follow at times and know which cases were 2019 onset and which were 2020 onset. The above media report clearly states 2019 onset and puts the tally for 2019 as 141 cases, but the media reports from Friday's [24 Jan 2020] report is less clear (see Poliomyelitis update (10): global, Pakistan (BA, SD) http://promedmail.org/post/20200124.6911971).

A good map of Pakistan showing districts and provinces can be found at:
Date: Fri 24 Jan 2020
Source: SciTechDaily [abridged, edited]

Citation: Amman BR, Bird BH, Bakarr IA, et al. Isolation of Angola-like Marburg virus from Egyptian rousette bats from West Africa. Nat Commun. 2020; 11:510.  <https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14327-8>

Scientists have detected Marburg virus in fruit bats in Sierra Leone, marking the 1st time the deadly virus has been found in West Africa. A total of 11 Egyptian rousette fruit bats tested positive for active Marburg virus infection. Research teams caught the bats separately in 3 health districts.

The presence of Marburg virus, a close relative to Ebola virus that also causes hemorrhagic disease in people, was detected in advance of any reported cases of human illness in Sierra Leone. However, the virus's presence in bats means people who live nearby could be at risk for becoming infected. No outbreaks have been reported to date.

The findings, based on PCR, antibody, and virus isolation data, were officially published today [24 Jan 2020] in the journal Nature Communications. Preliminary findings were announced earlier in December 2018 to ensure rapid notification to the citizens of Sierra Leone and the international health community.

The paper highlights the value of collaborating with government and key stakeholders across human, animal, and environmental sectors to engage at-risk communities about the discovery, address health concerns, and communicate risk-reduction strategies before recognized spillovers occur.

Marburg virus was detected by projects led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the USAID-funded PREDICT project led by the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; Njala University, Sierra Leone; and the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone.

"Finding Marburg virus in bats in Sierra Leone before any known cases in people is a huge success, as public health officials and doctors can now include Marburg virus among the possible causes when diagnosing hemorrhagic fever cases in the region," said Tracey Goldstein, co-principal investigator and pathogen detection lead for the PREDICT project from the UC Davis One Health Institute.

To date, there have been 12 known outbreaks of Marburg virus, with the most recent in Uganda in 2017. The largest and deadliest outbreak occurred in Angola in 2005 when 227 people died. Five of the new strains identified among the Marburg-positive bats in Sierra Leone were genetically similar to the strain that caused the outbreak in Angola. This is the 1st time scientists have detected these Angolan-like strains in bats.

The virus-positive bats were all Egyptian rousette bats, the known reservoir for Marburg virus, which primarily feed on fruit. Infected bats shed the virus in their saliva, urine, and feces. Egyptian rousette bats are known to test-bite fruits, urinate, and defecate where they eat, potentially contaminating fruit or other food sources consumed by other animals or people, particularly children. These bats sometimes serve as a food source for local populations as well. People may be exposed to Marburg virus through bat bites as they catch the bats.

Following the announcement of the preliminary findings by the government of Sierra Leone, the PREDICT team worked with government partners, universities, and other key stakeholders to develop and implement evidence-based public health messaging across national, district, and local community levels in Sierra Leone.  "Over a year ago, we worked with our Sierra Leone government colleagues to inform people across the country as fast as possible of this new health risk and remind people not to harm or come in contact with bats," said Brian Bird from the UC Davis One Health Institute and global lead for Sierra Leone and Multi-Country Ebola operations for PREDICT-USAID. "I'm very proud of that work and our teams now that this full report is available."
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Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts
<promed@promedmail.org>
and
Mary Marshall
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[The initial report of this finding, prior to this publication, was posted by ProMED-mail (Marburg virus disease - Sierra Leone (02): bats, additional information http://promedmail.org/post/20181223.6221436) when the virus was detected for the 1st time in fruit bats in Sierra Leone.

According to the CDC (<https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/marburg/index.html>), Marburg virus was 1st recognized in 1967, when outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia). A total of 31 people became ill, initially laboratory workers followed by several medical personnel and family members who had cared for them; 7 deaths were reported. The 1st people infected had been exposed to imported African green monkeys or their tissues while conducting research. One additional case was diagnosed retrospectively.

The reservoir host of Marburg virus is the African fruit bat, _Rousettus aegyptiacus_. Fruit bats infected with Marburg virus do not show obvious signs of illness. Primates (including humans) can become infected with Marburg virus, and may develop serious disease with high mortality.

Ebola virus is closely related to Marburg virus. "Ebola viral RNA fragments were found in an oral swab from a greater long-fingered bat (_Miniopterus inflatus_), captured in 2016 in Liberia's Sanniquellie-Mahn district, which borders Guinea. The bat, which lives in many parts of Africa, roosts in caves and feeds on insects. Scientists had previously found 2 other Ebola species in a related insect-eating bat, _M. schreibersii_. However, most other evidence has pointed to fruit bats as the carriers of Ebola Zaire, Epstein says [J Epstein, veterinary epidemiologist at EcoHealth Alliance in New York City and a member of the PREDICT consortium]. "What it really says to me is that this is a virus that has multiple hosts, and it might be regionally dependent as to which species carries it."

Supporting the variety of bat hosts for Ebola, the bat implicated in the initiation of the West African Ebola virus outbreak in December 2013 was _Mops condylurus_, long-tailed insect-eating bats, that were previously suspected in an outbreak of the Sudan strain of Ebola virus, which is related to the Zaire strain. - ProMED Mod.LK]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2020 11:49:16 +0100 (MET)
By Su Xinqi, Jerome TAYLOR

Hong Kong, Jan 25, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong on Saturday declared a new coronavirus outbreak as an "emergency" -- the city's highest warning tier -- as authorities ramped up measures to reduce the risk of further infections.   The announcement came as city leader Carrie Lam faced criticism in some quarters over her administration's response to the crisis.

Of the five people who have tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong so far, four arrived via a newly built high-speed train terminal which connects with the mainland.   That led to calls from some medical experts and politicians to limit, or even halt, arrivals from China, the epicentre of the outbreak with 41 people dead.

Lam held emergency meetings with health officials on Saturday morning after returning from Davos.   "Today I declare the lifting of the response level to emergency," she told reporters.   Schools and universities, which are currently on a Lunar New Year break, would remain closed until 17 February, Lam said.   All mainland arrivals to Hong Kong will now need to sign health declaration forms, she added, while public events including a new year gala and next month's marathon, would also be called off.    "We haven't seen serious and widespread infections (in Hong Kong), but we are taking this seriously and we hope to be ahead of the epidemic," Lam said.

- Tragic past -
Hong Kong has a recent experience of deadly viral outbreaks.    Nearly 300 people were killed by SARS in 2003, a tragedy that left a profound psychological impact on one of the most densely populated places on earth.   The city's ability to combat the crisis was hampered by moves in mainland China to cover up and play down the outbreak, leaving a lasting legacy of distrust among many Hong Kongers.   Animosity towards the mainland has intensified in recent years as Beijing tightens political control over the semi-autonomous territory.

The outbreak also comes at a sensitive time for Lam, who currently boasts record low approval ratings after seven months of pro-democracy protests.   "We must stand united so that we can prevent and control the disease," she said, in a nod to the political unrest.   The often violent protests have battered Hong Kong's reputation for stability and helped tip it into recession, with the recent virus outbreak compounding the city's economic woes.

Hospitals are already struggling with the winter flu season, but officials are isolating anyone with a history of travel to central China and those exhibiting respiratory tract infections that look similar to the virus.   So far some 300 people have been tested and monitored for the virus. Quarantine centres have been set up in remote holiday parks for anyone found to have come into close contact with people who tested positive.   On Saturday, officials announced a newly built but still-empty public housing block would be used for medical staff on the frontline who did not want to risk returning to their families.
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2020 06:46:59 +0100 (MET)
By Mahmut Bozarslan and Fulya Ozerkan in Istanbu

Elazig, Turkey, Jan 25, 2020 (AFP) - A powerful earthquake has killed at least 20 people and injured more than 1,000 in eastern Turkey, as rescue teams searched through the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors on Saturday.    At least 30 people were missing following the magnitude 6.8 quake on Friday night, which had its epicentre in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in the eastern province of Elazig.   "It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside," 47-year-old Melahat Can, who lives in the provincial capital of Elazig, told AFP.   President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to aid people affected by the quake, which caused widespread fear.   "We stand by our people," Erdogan said on Twitter.

The Turkish government's disaster and emergency management agency (AFAD) said the quake hit Sivrice at around 8.55 pm (1755 GMT). Turkey lies on major faultlines and is prone to frequent earthquakes.    Turkish television showed images of people rushing outside in panic, as well as a fire on the roof of a building.   Interior, environment and health ministers, who were in the quake zone, said the casulties were in Elazig province and in the neighbouring province of Malatya, which lies to the southwest.

At least 20 people died and 1,015 others were wounded, according to AFAD.   "There is nobody trapped under the rubble in Malatya but in Elazig search and rescue efforts are currently under way to find 30 citizens," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Friday.   Rescue teams were searching for survivors trapped in a five-storey collapsed building in a village some 30 kilometres from Elazig, according to AFP journalists at the scene. One person was pulled alive from the rubble.   Emergency staff and people waiting at the scene lit fires in the streets to stay warm in freezing temperatures.   Sports centres, schools and guest houses had been opened to accommodate quake victims in Malatya.

- 'Everybody is in the street' -
Sivrice -- a town with a population of about 4,000 people -- is situated south of Elazig city on the shores of Hazar lake -- one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris river.   The lake is home to a "Sunken City", with archaeological traces dating back 4,000 years in its waters.

The tremor was felt in several parts of eastern Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, the Turkish broadcaster NTV reported, adding that neighbouring cities had mobilised rescue teams for the quake area.   "Everybody is in the street, it was very powerful, very scary," said Zekeriya Gunes, 68, from Elazig city, after the quakes caused a building to collapse on her street.   "It lasted quite long, maybe 30 seconds," added Ferda, 39. "I panicked and was undecided whether to go out in this cold or remain inside."

The US Geological Survey assessed the magnitude as 6.7, slightly lower than AFAD, adding that it struck near the East Anatolian Fault in an area that has suffered no documented large ruptures since an earthquake in 1875.   "My wholehearted sympathy to President @RTErdogan and the Turkish people following the devastating earthquake that has hit Turkey. Our search and rescue teams stand ready to assist," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.   In Athens, the Greek premier's office said later that Mitsotakis had spoken by phone to Erdogan.   "The Turkish president... said Turkish teams had the situation under control for now and that it would be re-evaluated in the morning," his office added.

In 1999, a devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Izmit in western Turkey, leaving more than 17,000 people dead including about 1,000 in the country's largest city Istanbul.    In September last year, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Istanbul, causing residents to flee buildings in the economic capital.   Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate the city of 15 million people, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.