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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago - US Consular Information Sheet
March 04, 2009
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Trinidad and Tobago is a developing nation in the Caribbean composed of two islands.
The islands gained independence from the British in 1962.
>The country is one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean, largely as a result of petroleum and natural gas industries.
Tourist travel is mostly to the smaller of the two sister islands, Tobago.
Tourist facilities are widely available.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Trinidad and Tobago for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A valid passport is required of U.S. citizens for entry to Trinidad and Tobago.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa for tourism or business-related visits of 90 days or less.
Work permits are required for compensated and some non-compensated employment, including missionary work.
Visas may be required for travel for purposes other than business or tourism.
For further information concerning entry, employment and customs requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, 1708 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC
20036, telephone (202) 467-6490, or the Trinidad and Tobago Consulates in Miami or New York City.
Visit the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago’s web site.

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:
American citizens traveling to or residing in Trinidad and Tobago should avoid large crowds and demonstrations.
While non-violent demonstrations occur on occasion, widespread civil disorder is not typical.
The downtown area of Port of Spain experienced four bombings in 2005.
While no similar incidents have occurred since that time, the perpetrator(s) have not been arrested and their identities and motive remain unknown.
Americans visiting or residing in Port of Spain are advised to exercise caution, especially in crowded urban areas.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. 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 A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:
Incidents of violent crime have been steadily on the rise on both islands.
Visitors to Trinidad and Tobago should exercise caution and good judgment as in any large urban area. Particular caution should be exercised when traveling after dark from Trinidad's Piarco Airport as incidents have been reported involving armed robbers trailing arriving passengers from the airport and accosting them in remote areas of the airport parking lot, on the highway leading from the airport to downtown Port of Spain, and outside the gates of residences.
Areas of metro Port of Spain to avoid include Laventille, Morvant, Sea Lots, South Belmont, scenic rest stops (after dark), walking across the Queen’s Park Savannah, and downtown Port of Spain (after dark), as tourists are particularly vulnerable to pick pocketing and armed assaults in these locations.
Holiday periods, especially Christmas and Carnival, often see an increase in criminal activity.
Violent crimes, including assault, kidnapping for ransom, sexual assault and murder, have involved foreign residents and tourists, including U.S. citizens.
The perpetrators of many these crimes have not been arrested.
Burglaries of private residences are common.
Robbery is a risk, particularly in urban areas and especially near ATMs and shopping malls.
Visitors should avoid wearing expensive jewelry or displaying large amounts of money in public.
One victim was targeted for driving an expensive new car.
In some cases, robberies of Americans have turned violent and resulted in injuries after the victim resisted handing over valuables.
In Tobago, the media have reported an increase in the incidence of violent crimes.
While local authorities have announced increased measures to fight crime, the U.S. Embassy advises that when making reservations at private accommodations, visitors should ensure that 24-hour security is provided.
There have been reports of home invasions in the Mt. Irvine area, and robberies occurring at the waterfalls and on isolated beaches in Tobago where visitors are not in a group.
Visitors to Tobago should ensure that all villas or private homes have adequate security measures.
Visitors to Trinidad and Tobago are also advised to be cautious when visiting isolated beaches or scenic overlooks where robberies can occur.
Visitors should not walk alone or in unfamiliar areas.
Valuables left unattended on beaches and in other public places are vulnerable to theft.
Visitors should avoid neighborhoods known for high crime rates.
When in doubt, consult the establishment where you are staying to identify areas to be avoided.
Taxis available at the major hotels or through pre-arranged pick-ups with reputable companies are generally safe and reliable.
The U.S. Embassy urges caution in the use of the small buses or vans in Trinidad, known as "Maxi Taxis" (full-size inter-city buses are usually safe.)
Unmarked shared taxis authorized to pick up passengers will have the letter 'H' as the first letter on their license plates.
Some shared taxis and maxi taxis have been linked to petty crime and serious traffic accidents.
Valuables including travel documents should not be left unattended in parked cars, especially in parking lots, as several thefts have been reported.

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.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Trinidad and Tobago is:
Police 999 or 555, Fire 990, Ambulance-Trinidad 811, Ambulance-Tobago 639-4444, and Coast Guard (yachting emergencies) 634-4440.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before traveling.
Medical care is limited compared to that in the United States.
Care at public health facilities is significantly below U.S. standards for treatment of serious injuries and illness, with limited access to supplies and medications.
While care at some private facilities is better than at most public health facilities, patients may be expected to prove their ability to pay before assistance is given, even in emergency situations.
Patients requiring blood transfusions are expected to arrange for at least the same amount to be donated on their behalf.
Physicians and nurses may go on strike, causing serious strain on both public and private medical resources.
Ambulance service is extremely limited both in the quality of emergency care and in the availability of vehicles in many parts of the country.
According to the Trinidad & Tobago Ministry of Health, recent monkey deaths on the island of Trinidad have been laboratory confirmed as due to yellow fever.
Although no human cases have been reported since 1979, the virus appears to be permanently embedded in forested areas of the central/south region of the island of Trinidad.
Evident outbreaks among monkeys may appear every 10-20 years after long periods of epidemiologic silence.
CDC continues to recommend yellow fever vaccine for travel to Trinidad & Tobago.
Dengue fever presents significant risk in urban and rural areas.
Precautions against insect bites are recommended such as wearing long sleeved shorts/trousers, the use of bed nets and insect repellants which contain DEET, picaridin (KBR 3023), Oil of Eucalyptus/PMD, or IR 3535.
Ciguatera poisoning is prevalent and results from eating reef fish such as grouper, snapper, amberjack, and barracuda.
The toxin remains even when fish is well cooked.
Marine hazards include corals, jellyfish, sharks, and sea urchins.
Heed posted warnings at organized beaches, and do not bathe at unmarked, unpatrolled beaches.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Trinidad and Tobago.
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 web site.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site.
Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
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 Trinidad and Tobago is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic moves on the left in Trinidad and Tobago.
Most vehicles are right-hand drive, but left-hand drive vehicles are permitted.
Rental cars are available, and are generally right-hand drive.
A U.S. driver's license and/or an International Driving Permit are valid for up to 90 days after arrival.
Seatbelts are required for drivers and front seat passengers, and cars may be pulled over and drivers fined for not wearing seatbelts.
Trinidad has several good four-lane highways and one controlled-access highway.
However, road quality decreases quickly on secondary roads.
Rural roads are narrow and often have deep drainage ditches on either side.
Some are in poor repair, and are frequently congested.
Night travel should be avoided other than on major highways.
Roadside assistance exists, but is limited and may be subject to lengthy delays.
The Beetham Highway, a main thoroughfare in and out of the city, is dangerous if your vehicle has broken down.
If your vehicle is drivable get out of the area before seeking help.
The Ministry of Works and Transport is responsible for road conditions and safety in the country.
Emergency ambulance services exist but may take prolonged amounts of time to reach the site of an accident and may not provide service in rural areas.
Trinidadian drivers may use hand signals to indicate turning, stopping, or slowing, which do not necessarily correspond to hand signals used in the United States.
Trinidadian drivers are generally courteous, but can be flexible with the rules of the road.
For example, cars traveling north on a two way street may cross into the southbound lane to stop and let passengers out.
Visitors need to be attentive and alert.
Intoxicated drivers on the road are a particular concern on the weekends, especially after dark when many locals are going to or returning from social events.
Drivers should take extra precaution on narrow and winding roads leading in and out of beaches and small towns in Trinidad and Tobago.
As always, defensive driving is strongly encouraged.
The country has an extensive system of taxis, maxi-taxis (vans) and some larger buses.
Although the larger inter-city buses are generally safe, the maxi-taxis have been linked to many road accidents and some instances of crime.
Fares should be agreed upon in advance.
Taxis will often stop at any point along the road to pick up or discharge passengers, often with little or no warning.

Please refer to our Road Safety page, and the Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Tourism home page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Trinidad and Tobago’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site.

MARINE SAFETY AND OVERSIGHT:
Visitors arriving in Trinidad and Tobago aboard a private vessel must register any firearms with local customs authorities.
Failure to declare firearms or making false customs declarations is a serious offense.
U.S. citizens have been jailed and fined for possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, attempting to export ammunition, making false customs declarations and not declaring their firearms.
There is a small community of private boat owners who stay in Trinidad temporarily during the hurricane season.
There have been several incidents within the past few months in which vessels were boarded and the occupants were assaulted and robbed.
Sailors should report any incidents to the Coast Guard and local police, and are encouraged to check with the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard and yacht facility managers for current information.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Trinidad and Tobago is prone to occasional earthquakes, though no major earthquake has hit in recent history.
Tobago has suffered extensive damage from only two hurricanes since 1963.
In 2004, parts of Tobago were severely affected by flooding and mudslides from Hurricane Ivan and several other major storms that followed soon thereafter.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.

Travelers are cautioned against wearing military or camouflage clothing in public, as it is against local laws to do so, unless they are in Trinidad and Tobago on official military business.

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 Trinidad and Tobago laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Trinidad and Tobago 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.

Many of the US citizens incarcerated in Trinidad and Tobago were arrested attempting to transport suitcases or packages containing drugs in or out of the country.
Even if a package or suitcase is being carried for someone else, the traveler is liable for its contents.
Americans should be aware that cursing and use of foul language in public is a criminal offense in Trinidad and Tobago subject to arrest and fines.
Several Americans have been arrested for this offense. While the penalty for public cursing is usually a fine, it can cause considerable disruption in travel plans due to arrest procedures, requirements to appear at hearings, and even incarceration if bail cannot be posted.

Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Trinidad and Tobago are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Trinidad and Tobago.
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 15 Queen's Park West, telephone 868-622-6371, Consular Section fax 868-822-5555.
American Citizen Services public hours of operation are 8:00 AM – 11:30 AM, and 1:00 PM through 3:00 PM, Monday - Friday, except U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago national holidays.
For additional information, you may send email inquiries.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for Trinidad and Tobago dated April 13, 2007, to update sections on Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue 3 Dec 2019
Source: Trinidad Express [abridged, edited]

The number of local deaths from the influenza virus has risen to 24. At the Health Ministry's update last week, 16 fatalities were reported from the flu, with Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh appealing to citizens -- especially those considered at-risk -- to get vaccinated.
Date: Wed 27 Nov 2019
Source: Jamaica Observer [edited]

At least 16 people have died so far this year [2019] as health authorities embark on a "robust nationwide influenza vaccination drive" to protect the population against the flu virus. The Ministry of Health said that as of last Friday [22 Nov 2019], the number of suspected cases for this flu season had reached 2738 and that there had been 16 confirmed deaths. The ministry said that the cumulative number of vaccines administered to the public so far was 16 301.

"The influenza virus is serious and is generally more severe than the common cold. The flu vaccine is available, at no cost, at all health centres," the Ministry of Health said, adding that children and people with chronic medical conditions should be among those getting the vaccine. It said that the flu season runs until May next year [2020] and that individuals in the healthcare and essential-services sectors should also ensure that they receive the vaccine.
Date: Mon 10 Jun 2019
Source: Saturday Express [edited]

There have been 17 malaria cases thus far in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019, and 13 are Venezuelans. One case is a Trinbagonian, one is from Uganda, one is from Ghana, and one is from Guyana.

This was disclosed by health minister Terrence Deyalsingh as he responded to a question from Oropouche West MP Vidia Gayadeen-Gopeesingh on whether there was truth to social media reports that many Venezuelan nationals seeking medical attention at Port of Spain and San Fernando general hospitals have malaria and are HIV-positive.  [Byline: Ria Taitt]
=========================
[It is noteworthy that 13 of the 17 imported cases are from Venezuela. Over the past few years, malaria has surged in Venezuela and is not endemic and widespread, with no control policy and a lack of basic drugs. This is a clear threat to neighbouring countries, where imported cases can start new local transmission, so-called "introduced malaria."

"Trinbagonian" refers to a native or inhabitant of Trinidad and Tobago. All malaria cases are imported, and Trinidad and Tobago is indeed regarded as a malaria-free country. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Date: Thu 29 Mar 2018
Source: Daily Express [edited]

This media source quotes the Health Minister as saying they're imported cases:

"speaking during a news conference at the Ministry of Health in Port of Spain, Deyal Singh, said the cases of malaria in T&T are persons who visited other countries where malaria is present and returned to the country."  [Byline: Camille Hunte]
----------------------------------------
Communicated by
Viki Hansen-Landis
International SOS
=======================
[ProMED thanks Viki Hansen-Landis, International SOS, for informing us about the statement by Deyal Singh that all the 13 cases diagnosed in Trinidad and Tobago are imported cases. However, with a tropical climate and the presence of Anopheles mosquitoes, there is always a risk that malaria may be reintroduced.

A map of Trinidad & Tobago: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/28>. - ProMED Mod.EP]
Date: Fri 27 Apr 2018
Source: News Day [edited]

With the start of the wet season less than 2 months away, former Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has described the resurgence of the mosquito-borne disease malaria as "worrying" due to flooding, which occurs in central and south Trinidad every year.

Khan was commenting on World Malaria Day (WMD) 2018 observances themed: "Ready to Beat Malaria."

He observed that while Trinidad and Tobago has been relatively malaria free since 1965, he said the nation was witnessing a "re-emergence of this dreaded disease," as the Ministry of Health has reported 13 cases as of 30 Mar 2018.

He said the number of malaria cases has ranged between 7 and 24 cases over the past 10 years.

"This new development is worrying for a society that has constant issues with flooding, particularly in central and southern areas of Trinidad. Even though malaria was said to be eradicated in 1965, because of our tropical conditions, vast swamplands and thickly forested areas, our environment is still an easy target for the importation of the female anopheles mosquito containing a plasmodium parasite that is then transmitted from one person to another by that infected mosquito," he said. "Therefore, its eradication should not be taken for granted."

Khan said TT was able to begin to get ahead of the malaria problem when in 1944, the New York-based Rockefeller Foundation came to Trinidad to begin testing for the anopheles mosquito utilizing dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, commonly known as DDT, which is a larvacide for the spraying of the mosquitoes.

"While we acknowledge the dangers malaria poses to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, we must emphasize the need for the population to do its part in preventing the spread of this disease. We can do so by getting rid of pools of stagnant water, clearing bushes from around houses and planting lemon grass, which can all reduce the number of mosquitoes nearby," he said. "Do your part. Be responsible," he said.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, people with malaria often experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. Left untreated, they may develop severe complications and die.
================
[It is not clearly stated in the text, but we presume that the 13 cases were infected in Trinidad and Tobago and are not imported cases. If that is the case, the previous Minister of Health is indeed right that it is a serious situation because the island thus has sustained local transmission or autochthonous malaria. However, Trinidad and Tobago is not listed as a country with malaria in the 2017 WHO World Malaria Report (<http://www.who.int/malaria/publications/world-malaria-report-2017/wmr2017-regional-profiles.pdf?ua=1>), and thus the 13 cases may indeed be imported cases.

It is also not clear whether it was _Plasmodium falciparum_ or _Plasmodium vivax_. ProMED will be happy for a clarification from the authorities. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Trinidad & Tobago: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/28>]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 9 Apr 2020 07:30:18 +0200 (METDST)
By Mary Lyn Fonua

Nuku'alofa, Tonga, April 9, 2020 (AFP) - A resurgent Tropical Cyclone Harold flattened tourist resorts in Tonga Thursday, extending a week-long trail of destruction across four South Pacific island nations that has claimed more than two dozen lives.   The cyclone gathered pace as it bore down on the tiny island kingdom, which declared a state of emergency, warning residents to seek shelter from destructive winds and massive sea surges.

By early Thursday it had again become a scale-topping Category Five superstorm -- surprising meteorologists after signs earlier in the week that its intensity was dropping.   Packing winds of up to 260 kilometres per hour (160 miles per hour), it cut power in parts of the country and police said at least three tourist resorts north of the capital Nuku'alofa had been reduced to rubble.

The cyclone killed 27 people in the Solomons late last week before barrelling southeast to directly hit Vanuatu as a Category Five, obliterating entire towns in the northern provinces.   There have been no reports of deaths in Vanuatu, Fiji or Tonga, with emergency workers saying residents in the hardest hit areas took shelter early.   "It appears that many buildings and crops have been destroyed and some people in the most affected areas have lost everything," Red Cross Vanuatu secretary general Jacqueline de Gaillande said.

Harold weakened slightly to a still-formidable Category Four as it lashed Fiji on Wednesday but hopes the storm was dissipating were dashed as it regathered momentum heading towards Tonga.   "It's been a tricky one to predict," meteorologist Bill Singh from New Zealand's Metservice told AFP.   "We knew the track it was going to take but initially everyone thought it was just going to be Cat 3 or 4, but as it progressed over open warm waters it deepened."

- Closed borders -
The storm is expected to head away from Tonga onto the open ocean late Thursday but WeatherWatch.co.nz head forecaster Philip Duncan said there were no certainties.   "It's almost unheard of to see a cyclone tracking south away from the equator, weakening, then suddenly returning back to Cat 5 so far south," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated disaster relief efforts, with Vanuatu reluctant to open its international borders as it seeks to remain one of the few countries without any confirmed virus cases.   "No foreign personnel are being brought to Vanuatu for response efforts at the present time, this will be an internally run operation," Vanuatu's National Disaster Management Office said.

Fiji has 15 virus cases and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the virus and cyclone meant "our economy and our people have been dealt two body blows to start the year".   "This storm must not compromise our coronavirus containment efforts, lest we risk damage far more painful than the aftermath of any cyclone," he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said an air force plane carrying essential supplies such as tents and water containers was on its way to Vanuatu, while assistance had also been offered to other impacted nations.   "We are acutely conscious that this comes on top of the impact and difficulties created by COVID-19 for those countries," she said.   Vanuatu said any supplies that came into the country would be handled with protective equipment and the air crews delivering them would be isolated in transit areas.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 18:07:06 +0200 (METDST)

London, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Britain on Wednesday reported a record 938 new COVID-19 deaths in its daily update, 152 more than its previous highest toll, as the total number of deaths passed 7,000.    "As of 5pm on 7 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 7,097 have sadly died," the health ministry tweeted, up from 6,159 on Tuesday.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 16:50:53 +0200 (METDST)
By Sofia CHRISTENSEN

Johannesburg, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - A pride of lions flops lazily across a track at a South African game reserve, enjoying newfound tranquility since last month's closure of all national parks to support an anti-coronavirus lockdown.   Rather than the usual Land Rover, a lone elephant rumbles down the road, causing the felines to scatter into the surrounding bush.   A vehicle stands in the background, live streaming the scene for thousands of people watching the animals from the comfort of their homes.   "Since the lockdown occurred we have seen an amazing explosion in our audience," said Graham Wallington, head of a live safari broadcaster called WildEarth.

As the number of viewers tripled over the last days of March, Wallington noted that the audience -- typically American -- was increasingly from South Africa.   "It just happened overnight because all these kids at home with their families are watching these live safaris," he told AFP.   South Africa is almost two weeks into a 21-day lockdown meant to halt the spread of COVID-19.   The country is the worst-affected in Africa, with more than 1,700 infections recorded so far, including 13 deaths.

WildEarth operates from two vehicles in two private game reserves bordering the internationally famous Kruger National Park.   Guides take viewers along for a virtual game drive, finding wildlife and sharing facts about animals encountered along the way.   The cameras are positioned at the back of the vehicles, where passengers would usually be seated, in order to create a real-life experience.   "There it is," guide James Hendry whispered excitedly to the camera after stumbling across a mother hyena and her newborn cubs.   "Tell me, have you ever seen anything that cute in your life before?"   Participants can also send questions to the guides as they go along.

- Rare species emerge -
"You want to know how much water an elephant drinks in a day?" asked ranger Trishala Naidoo, as she drove along a bumpy bush track.   "Around 100 litres if not more," she answered, before pulling over to show viewers a leopard tortoise crossing the road.   Aside from providing entertainment, Wallington believes virtual safaris are an opportunity to observe how wildlife behave in the absence of tourists.   "It's kind of an interesting time where the animals are being left alone," Wallington said, adding that rare species such as the endangered African wild dogs had started venturing into his areas.   "Wild dogs coming in and hunting almost every day... is unheard of," he exclaimed.    "It's because there is no one else there and they've got the run of the place for themselves."
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 16:44:56 +0200 (METDST)

Monrovia, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Liberian President George Weah declared a state of emergency in the West African country on Wednesday, with the capital Monrovia set to go into lockdown in a bid to curb coronavirus.    In a televised statement, the president said that all movement between Liberia's 15 counties would be banned from 11:59 pm on Friday, and that all non-essential businesses and government offices would close.

Residents of four counties -- including Monrovia's, which is home to about 1 million people -- must also stay at home for two weeks, he said.    Authorities in those counties will allow people to leave their homes only to buy food or for health reasons.     "We have to ask ourselves why we should abide by these measures. The answer is simple: to save lives," Weah said.

Wednesday's announcement escalates earlier health measures which banned large gatherings as well as flights to and from virus-stricken countries.   As with other poor countries in the region, there are fears that Liberia is ill prepared to handle a large outbreak.

The nation of some 4.8 million has recorded 13 coronavirus cases to date, with three deaths.  But Liberia was badly hit during the West Africa's 2014-16 Ebola crisis, which killed more than 4,800 people in the country.    Weah warned that the coronavirus was the greatest threat facing Liberia since Ebola.    "The horrific scenarios that are beginning to emerge should serve as sufficient warning for every one of us to spring into action," he said.   Coronavirus "has already arrived in Liberia, and confirmed cases are now on the rise," Weah added.   Decimated after back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, Liberia also suffers economic woes including rampant inflation and fuel shortages.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 16:42:52 +0200 (METDST)

Cairo, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Egypt will extend a nationwide night-time curfew by a further two weeks in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said on Wednesday.   He told a news conference the measure would be enforced from 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) to 6:00 am and run until April 23.   The curfew would start an hour later, he said, to avoid overcrowding in public transport.   Schools and universities, as well as restaurants and cafes would also remain closed until then, while food outlets would be allowed to offer delivery services only.   To stem the spread of the coronavirus, authorities have also halted air traffic until the end of the month and closed tourist and religious sites.

Penalties against violators including fines of up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds (just over $250) and even prison, the prime minister said.  Madbouli also announced that cabinet members will take a 20 percent salary cut for three months, and allocate that sum to underprivileged Egyptians.   Egypt's health ministry has so far declared 94 fatalities out of 1,450 confirmed cases of COVID-19.   Authorities have in recent weeks carried out sweeping disinfection operations at archaeological sites, museums and other sites across the country.   In tandem, strict social distancing measures were imposed to reduce the risk of contagion among the country's 100 million inhabitants.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 15:46:57 +0200 (METDST)

Beirut, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Millions in Lebanon risk food insecurity due to a coronavirus lockdown unless the government provides urgent assistance, Human Rights Watch warned Wednesday.   Lebanon in mid-March ordered residents to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close to halt the spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected 575 people and killed 19 nationwide.   Before the pandemic erupted, Lebanon was struggling with its worst economic crisis in decades, with 45 percent of the population facing poverty according to official estimates.   Lockdown measures to slow the spread of the virus have made matters worse with "millions of Lebanon's residents... at risk of going hungry", HRW said in a statement.

Lebanon is home to 4.5 million people, and also hosts around 1.5 million Syrians who have fled the nine-year war next door, most of whom rely on aid to survive.   "The lockdown... has compounded the poverty and economic hardship rampant in Lebanon before the virus arrived," said HRW senior researcher Lena Simet.    "Many people who had an income have lost it, and if the government does not step in, more than half the population may not be able to afford food and basic necessities."

The economic crisis since last year had already caused many people to lose their jobs or take salary cuts, and stay-at-home measures to counter the virus have now prevented even more from earning a wage.   Media has carried reports of a taxi driver who set his car on fire after security forces fined him for breaking the lockdown rules.   And an unemployed Lebanese construction worker unable to afford rent offered to sell his kidney, in an image widely shared online.   HRW Lebanon researcher Aya Majzoub said many families are struggling due to a lack of savings.

The government has said it will pay out 400,000 Lebanese pounds (less than $150 at the market rate) to the most vulnerable.   HRW said the government should also consider suspending rent and mortgage payments throughout the lockdown.   Majzoub said Syrian refugees were also affected.   "Many of them were seasonal workers -- they worked in agriculture, they worked in the service industry -- and they're not able to do that anymore," she said.   But their ability to cope will depend largely on international aid, as before the pandemic.

The World Bank last week said it had re-allocated $40 million from its support to Lebanon's health sector to fight the virus, including for tests and ventilators.   And it has also been discussing "assistance to help mitigate the impact of the economic and financial crisis on the poor through emergency social safety nets", World Bank spokeswoman Zeina El-Khalil told AFP in March.    On Monday, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun urged the international community to provide financial assistance to back economic reforms.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 15:13:03 +0200 (METDST)

Dublin, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Irish police set up nationwide traffic checkpoints on Wednesday, armed with new powers to enforce a lockdown designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.   Emergency legislation passed in the Irish parliament two weeks ago allows the government to curb non-essential travel during the crisis.

People violating the ban risk a fine of up to 2,500 euros ($2,700) and/or six months in prison.   "The regulations now are in effect," Garda -- Irish police -- commissioner Drew Harris said at a press conference.   "People only should be moving if they have an essential reason to move throughout country. What we'll be doing is making sure that movement is essential."

Over 2,500 officers will be involved in the operation at any one time as it runs from noon Wednesday until midnight on Sunday, with an extension possible.   "It will involve thousands of checkpoints every day," police said in a statement. The roadblocks have been put in place ahead of Easter holidays, traditionally used as an occasion for travel in Ireland.

Harris said nationwide compliance with the ban on movement -- which allows for exercise within two kilometres of home -- had been strong.   But there is a "small minority and perhaps... an increasing number" in breach of the government order.   There have been 210 COVID-19 related deaths and 5,709 confirmed cases of the virus in Ireland according to health department figures released Tuesday.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 13:24:23 +0200 (METDST)

Tehran, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Iran on Wednesday reported 121 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing its overall number of fatalities to 3,993.   In the past 24 hours, 1,997 new cases of COVID-19 infection were detected in Iran, state news agency IRNA quoted health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour as saying.   That put the number of confirmed cases at 64,586, he added.

Iran, which announced its first COVID-19 cases on February 19, is by far the worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East, according to official tolls.   But there has been speculation abroad that the real number of deaths and infections in the country could be higher.   Jahanpour said that while 3,956 patients were in critical condition, those who recovered had reached 29,812.   The spokesman added that Iran had carried out 220,975 COVID-19 tests to date, according to IRNA.   In a bid to halt COVID-19, Iran has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses and imposed inter-city travel bans, while refraining from a lockdown.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said a "second wave" of the fight against the coronavirus would start from Saturday, and that it would be more difficult.   "Low-risk" businesses would be allowed to reopen from Saturday, he said, because "we want to continue economic activities as much as possible while fighting coronavirus at the same time".   The decision to reopen businesses has drawn criticism from health experts and even some government officials.   But Rouhani said "there is no other way".
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 13:14:26 +0200 (METDST)
By Robbie COREY-BOULET

Addis Ababa, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Ethiopia on Wednesday declared a state of emergency to fight the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far infected 55 people and resulted in two deaths there.    It is the first state of emergency announced under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018 and won last year's Nobel Peace Prize in part for expanding political freedoms in the authoritarian nation.    "Because the coronavirus pandemic is getting worse, the Ethiopian government has decided to declare a state of emergency under Article 93 of the constitution," Abiy said in a statement.     "I call upon everybody to stand in line with government bodies and others that are trying to overcome this problem," he added, warning of "grave legal measures" against anyone who undermines the fight against the pandemic.

It was not immediately clear how the state of emergency would affect day-to-day life in Ethiopia.   The government has so far refrained from imposing a lockdown similar to those in effect elsewhere in the region, including in Rwanda, Uganda and Mauritius.

According to the country's constitution, under a state of emergency the Council of Ministers has "all necessary power to protect the country's peace and sovereignty" and can suspend some "political and democratic rights".    The constitution also says lawmakers need to approve a state of emergency, which can last for six months and be extended every four months after that.

Wednesday's decree is likely to "beef up security operations with a greater role for the ederal government, including the military," said William Davison, Ethiopia analyst for the International Crisis Group, a conflict-prevention organisation.    "While this approach is understandable given the situation, it is critical that there is transparency over the government's extra powers and that there is adequate monitoring of implementation," Davison said.

-Opposition challenges move-
Since reporting its first COVID-19 case on March 13, Ethiopia has closed land borders and schools, freed thousands of prisoners to ease overcrowding, sprayed main streets in the capital with disinfectant, and discouraged large gatherings.    But Abiy said over the weekend that a harsher lockdown would be unrealistic given that there are "many citizens who don't have homes" and "even those who have homes have to make ends meet daily."    Jawar Mohammed, a leading opposition politician, said Wednesday this called into question why a state of emergency was necessary.   "Officials have been saying the country is too poor to stop population movement. So why do you need a state of emergency if you are not planning to impose stricter rules?" Jawar told AFP.

During consultations with Abiy earlier this week, the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) voiced worries that a state of emergency would lead to human rights abuses -- a well-documented problem under previous states of emergency imposed during several years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power.    "We explained our concern that the state of emergency has been initiated several times and it has been abused to violate the rights of citizens and other political activists," OLF chairman Dawud Ibsa told AFP.   It's also unclear how the state of emergency might affect planning for hotly-anticipated general elections in Ethiopia.

The country's electoral board announced last week that voting planned for August would need to be postponed because of the pandemic.    It did not provide a timeline for when the elections would ultimately be held, and lawmakers' constitutional mandates expire in October.   Davison, with the International Crisis Group, said the state of emergency could be used "to formally postpone elections" past that deadline, though such a move risks sparking opposition backlash.    "It is therefore essential that the government works with opposition parties on managing this constitutionally sensitive period and making new electoral arrangements," Davison said.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2020 13:08:25 +0200 (METDST)

Madrid, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - Spain recorded Wednesday a second successive daily rise in coronavirus-related deaths with 757 fatalities, lifting the total toll in Europe's second-hardest-hit country after Italy by 5.5 percent to 14,555.   The number of new infections rose by 4.4 percent to 146,690, the health ministry said, as Spain has ramped up its testing for the disease.   The number of daily deaths, which peaked on Thursday at 950, rose for the first time on Tuesday after falling for four straight days.

But the rate of increase in both deaths and new infections on Wednesday was largely in line with that recorded the previous day, and half of what was recorded just a week ago.   "We have consolidated the slowdown in the spread of the virus," Health Minister Salvador Illa tweeted after the latest figures were published.   The Spanish government on March 14 imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in Europe to curb the spread of the virus, with people allowed out of their homes only to work, buy food and seek medical care.

The pandemic has stretched the country's public healthcare system close to breaking point, with a shortage of intensive care beds and equipments, but in recent days hospitals have said the situation has improved.   "We have observed a de-escalation at this hospital in particular, and I believe at all hospitals," the spokesman for the Hospital Severo Ochoa in Leganes near Madrid, Jorge Rivera, told AFP.   "We can't let down our guard, emergency services are now working below their full capacity and are working well, they are not saturated and overcrowded but it does not mean that we can relax and go to the emergency ward because you have an ailment."