May 01, 2008
Uruguay is a constitutional democracy with a large, educated middle class and a robust developing economy.
The capital city is Montevideo .
The quality of tourist facilities varies according to price and location.
Travelers are encouraged to seek travel agency assistance in making plans to visit Uruguay .
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Uruguay for additional information.
All United States citizens entering Uruguay for business or pleasure must have a valid passport.
U.S. citizens traveling on a regular passport do not need a visa for a visit of less than three months.
U.S. citizens traveling on diplomatic or official passports require a visa.
Air travelers are required to pay an airport tax upon departure.
This fee may be paid in U.S. dollars or in Uruguayan pesos.
For further information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of Uruguay at 1913 “Eye” Street NW, Washington, DC 20006, tel. (202) 331-4219; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travelers may also contact the Consulate of Uruguay in New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Puerto Rico.
Visit the Embassy of Uruguay web site at http://www.uruwashi.org/ for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Regular protests, some with an anti-American flavor, take place outside Congress, City Hall and the “University of the Republic.”
U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Uruguay are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid any large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest.
If travelers encounter a protest they should walk the other way or enter a commercial establishment until the protest passes.
Taking pictures of protesters is not a good idea.
Although there have been no past instances of violence directed at U.S. citizens from cross-border extremist groups, U.S. citizens traveling or residing in the more remote areas of Uruguay near the border with Argentina and Brazil are urged to exercise caution.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up to date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada , a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. 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.
Petty street crime is prevalent in Montevideo .
The criminals tend to be non-violent.
However, criminals often resort to violence if the victims resist.
Travelers should exercise reasonable caution to minimize their exposure to crime.
Criminals prey on the unaware, particularly those carrying cameras, pocketbooks, laptops, or backpacks.
Travelers are advised to lock most valuables in secure hotel safes and to download their wallets of excess credit cards and cash.
If dining at an outdoor restaurant take extra care with pocketbooks or bags.
There are no “off limits” areas of the city and parts of “Ciudad Vieja” are popular tourist attractions.
However the only sections of Ciudad Vieja with continual police patrols are Plaza Independencia, the pedestrian street Sarandi, and the Mercado del Puerto.
Mugging is common in other parts of Ciudad Vieja - particularly for travelers walking alone, or couples walking at night.
A smart alternative is to call for a taxi for evening travel between restaurants, bars, and hotels.
Victims are usually foreign tourists, individuals openly carrying valuable items, and motorists in unlocked vehicles stopped at busy intersections, particularly on Montevideo 's riverfront road known as the Rambla. Drivers should keep all car doors locked, the driver's window open only one inch, and purses, bags, briefcases and other valuables out of sight on the floor or in the trunk. Parked cars, particularly in the Carrasco neighborhood, are also increasingly targeted for break-ins. During the summer months (December-March), beach resort areas such as Punta del Este attract tourists, and petty street crimes and residential burglaries--similar to those that occur in Montevideo --rise significantly. Visitors are advised to exercise common sense in the conduct of their activities around Montevideo and in Uruguayan resort areas. They should be very attentive to personal security and their surroundings in the aforementioned areas.
Those planning to live in Montevideo should note that burglaries and attempted burglaries seem to be on the rise in upscale neighborhoods.
The perpetrators are mostly non-confrontational but determined teenagers.
A combination of preventive measures including rigorous use of locks and alarms, strong grillwork on all windows, guard dogs, keeping a residence occupied as much as possible, and using a security service is highly recommended.
Montevideo continues to experience armed robberies of patrons at crowded restaurants in the Pocitos neighborhood.
Most of these crimes have occurred very late at night.
Restaurant patrons should exercise extreme caution for late night dining.
Uruguayan law enforcement authorities have increased the number of uniformed policemen on foot in areas where criminal activity is concentrated and the number of patrol cars in residential areas. The clearly marked patrol cars are equipped with cellular phones and the phone numbers are conspicuously painted on the vehicles.
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 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:
Facilities for medical care are considered adequate. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
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 at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
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 Uruguay is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in particular location or circumstance.
The Uruguayan Ministry of Transportation is responsible for maintaining safe road conditions countrywide. The Uruguayan Ministry of Interior highway police (tel. 1954) are responsible for traffic safety on highways and other roads beyond city limits. In urban and suburban areas, transit police and municipal employees share road safety responsibilities.
Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Wearing seat belts and using headlights on highways and other inter-city roads 24 hours a day are mandatory. Children under 12 must ride in the back seat. Motorcyclists must wear helmets. The use of cellular phones while driving is prohibited. Right turns on red lights and left turns at most intersections marked with a stoplight are not permitted. Drivers approaching an intersection from the right or already in traffic circles have the right of way.
Flashing high beams indicate intent to pass or continue through unmarked intersections.
Many drivers ignore speed limits and traffic signs.
If you plan to drive, use extreme caution and drive defensively.
For driving under the influence, violators are fined and confiscated licenses may be retained for up to six months. In accidents causing injury or death, drivers are brought before a judge who decides if incarceration is warranted.
Inter-city travel is via bus, taxi, car service (remise), car, and motorcycle. Speed limits are posted on highways and some main roads. Most taxis have no seat belts in the back seat. Cycling outside the capital or small towns is hazardous due to a scarcity of bike paths, narrow road shoulders and unsafe driving practices.
Illumination, pavement markings, and road surfaces are sometimes poor. Route 1, which runs between Montevideo and Colonia or Punta del Este, and Route 2, between Rosario and Fray Bentos, are particularly accident-ridden because of heavy tourist traffic. Road accidents rise during the austral summer beach season (December to March), Carnaval (mid-to-late February), and Easter Week.
Within Montevideo , the emergency number to contact the police, fire department, rescue squad, or ambulance service is 911. In the rest of the country, dial 02-911 to connect with the Montevideo central emergency authority, which will then contact the local emergency service. The Automobile Club of Uruguay responds to emergency calls for roadside assistance at 1707, “Car Up” at 0800-1501 and the Automobile Center of Uruguay at 2-408-6131/2091. SEMM (tel. 159) and UCM (tel. 147), Montevideo-based ambulance services manned by doctors, have agreements with emergency medical units in other cities.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
You may also telephone Uruguay ’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety in Miami at (305) 443-7431.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed Uruguay ’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Uruguay ’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.
Uruguay 's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Uruguay of items such as precious jewels, gold, firearms, pornography, subversive literature, inflammable articles, acids, prohibited drugs (medications), plants, seeds, and foodstuffs as well as some antiquities and business equipment. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Uruguay in Washington, D.C., or one of Uruguay 's consulates in the U.S. for specific information regarding customs requirements. Note: Travelers entering Uruguay with precious jewels or gold worth more than $500.00 ( U.S. ) must declare them to customs officers at the port of entry or face possible detention or seizure of the goods and charges of contraband or evasion of customs controls. Visitors are expected to comply with local law and regulations by approaching a customs officer before routine inspection of all incoming baggage, conducted on standard security equipment.
Please see our Customs Information.
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 Uruguay ’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Uruguay are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States .
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
The Uruguayan Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing strictly enforces all regulations regarding hunting permits, as well as seasonal and numerical limits on game. Visitors who contravene local law have been detained by the authorities and had valuable personal property (weapons) seized. Under Uruguayan law, seized weapons can only be returned after payment of a sum equivalent to the value of the property seized. Hunters are also subject to stiff fines for practicing the sport without all appropriate permits.
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages onintercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Uruguay are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Uruguay .
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Lauro Muller 1776; telephone (598) (2) 418-7777; fax (598) (2) 418-4110 or -8611. Internet: http://uruguay.usembassy.gov/, email: MontevideoACS@state.gov. Consular Section hours for American Citizen Services are Monday to Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., except U.S. and Uruguayan holidays.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated August 28, 2007 to update Sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Aviation Safety Oversight, Children’s issues, and Registration/Embassy Location.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
Torrential rains in central and southern Uruguay in the past several days have caused massive floods and forced some 7,400 people to leave their homes, according to the latest update by the country's National Emergency System. The central city of Durazno is the most affected, with 5,299 evacuees, according to official reports.
Defense Minister Jose Bayardi visited one of the camp sites managed by the military to help the displaced. ”We have established a high level of experience (in the face of these catastrophes) which we have succeeded in institutionalizing,“ he told the media. Troops will continue monitoring the situation because ”there are many people who do not want to leave their homes due to fear of being robbed and looted” Bayardi said.
The National Highway Police also said that 12 national highways remain cut-off in different directions. Uruguay's National Meteorological Institute said that between June 11 and 16, some southern regions of the country received around 270 mm of rain. On Wednesday morning, the Yi River, which had been 11.8 meters higher than its normal water level in the Durazno area, was falling at a rate of 11 cm per hour, according to local media reports.
A map of Colonia department in southern Uruguay is available at
and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/27367>. - ProMED Mod.TY]
By Lucia LACURCIA
Montevideo, July 19, 2018 (AFP) - Enrique Curbelo is delighted. Selling cannabis has allowed the affable 76-year-old to keep his privately owned pharmacy in Montevideo open in a market dominated by big chains. "I had to sell what they didn't sell," he told AFP. "For me it's like selling aspirin." It's been this way for a year now. Every Wednesday, Ismael Fernandez receives a WhatsApp message from his local pharmacist telling him a new stock of cannabis has arrived. After leaving work, he heads there and buys the 10 grams that Uruguayan law permits, costing 400 pesos, around $13.
Fernandez then heads home and rolls a joint "to relax" with his partner Stefania Fabricio. No longer do they need to surreptitiously contact a dealer and pay more for Paraguayan or Brazilian marijuana that's been "pressed, mixed (and is) sometimes very bad and full of chemicals." "Now it's much easier than when it started," Fernandez, a 31-year-old who works for a cleaning company, told AFP. It has been four and a half years since marijuana use became legal in Uruguay and a year since it has been sold in pharmacies -- up to 40 grams a month per person.
Initially, there was insufficient supply, leaving people standing in long queues as stocks sometimes ran out. Pharmacies are better prepared now. "They send you a message with a number which you use later to go and collect it, and in my pharmacy you can order it online," added Fernandez, the father of a three-year-old. Hairdresser Fabricio, also 31, says "it's good quality," but not too strong. "It doesn't send your head spinning, but it's not meant to. You get a hit but you can still do things perfectly." - 'Privileged' - She says she feels "privileged" to live in a country that enacted a law to "get tons of people out of the black market." As a result, she said, the stigma attached to those who smoke pot is changing, "albeit slowly."
The system is simple: to buy cannabis in a pharmacy you must be at least 18, live in Uruguay and sign up as a "buyer" at the post office. An initial stumbling block arose when banks refused to work with establishments selling cannabis due to international rules against drug-trafficking. But the country plowed on, and last year it became the first in the world to fully legalize its sale. But Enrique Curbelo had to get over his own prejudices before deciding to join the select band of pharmacies selling the plant. There are 14, half of them in the capital, serving the 24,812 registered buyers.
- 'Normal people' -
Users can choose between two brands and two types of cannabis -- sativa and indica -- both provided by an official distributor. Customers are generally not the stereotypical grubby-looking student or idle waster. On this day in Curbelo's store they include two young women, a man in his 50s and an older lady -- "normal people," says the pharmacist. Official statistics say 70 percent of buyers are male and 49 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29.
To keep anyone from exceeding their monthly allowance, a fingerprint machine is used to register every sale. Along with the ability to purchase cannabis in a pharmacy, Uruguayans have the right to grow their own -- up to a six-plant maximum -- or to join a cannabis club, which can have up to 45 members and 99 plants. Federico Corbo, a 41-year-old gardener, grows cannabis in his garden on the outskirts of Montevideo. He experiments by crossing species in an attempt to improve quality and optimize the flowering period. Corbo is not impressed with the quality on offer in pharmacies. "It's not the worst, but it's low," he said, insisting quality control needs to be improved. "Marijuana that doesn't reach the minimum standards -- with crushed flowers, no aroma, low quality -- shouldn't be sold in the pharmacy. "Maybe, as I'm a grower, I'm very demanding, but there is a cost associated to the product and it must be offered to the public in the best way possible."
According to the Institute of Cannabis Regulation and Control (Ircca), an average cultivator or club member supplies cannabis to two other people, while those who buy it in a pharmacy share it with one other. "Approximately half of marijuana users have access to regulated cannabis," says Ircca. The rest prefer to continue buying the drug on the black market, put off by the need to register as a user. "It's wrong -- if they legalize it they have to do so in a way in which the state doesn't keep a paternalistic role in overseeing how much you smoke or stop smoking," one clandestine user, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP. This 48-year-old lawyer simply doesn't trust the authorities. He pointed to the danger a change of government could bring, or even the return of dictatorship. "Right now that seems impossible," he said, "but you can never discount it."
World Travel News Headlines
Manila, Oct 16, 2019 (AFP) - A child was killed in a strong 6.4-magnitude quake that hit the southern Philippines on Wednesday, a local mayor said, as houses collapsed, power was knocked out and a shopping mall burst into flames. Residents evacuated homes and buildings across the Mindanao region including a mall that caught fire in the city of General Santos shortly after the quake struck in the evening, officials said. The child died in a house collapse in the town of Datu Paglas, while four residents of nearby Tulunan town were injured when at least two other houses fell down, Tulunan Mayor Reuel Limbungan told AFP. "The child was crushed by a collapsed house wall" and pronounced dead in hospital, Limbungan said, adding that he had visited the medical facility and spoken to its director.
Rescue and local officials said there were no immediate reports of deaths elsewhere in Mindanao, and rescue official Anthony Allada told local television that 20 people were treated for injuries in the town of Magsaysay, near the epicentre. Three other people were hurt in the town of M'lang, added its vice-mayor, Joselito Pinol. The quake was 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) deep and was followed by at least two aftershocks, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). "It was the most powerful earthquake I have ever experienced," Sara Duterte, mayor of the largest Mindanao city of Davao, and daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, told local television.
- Falling debris -
The Philippines is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin. An elderly man was treated for injuries after being struck by a falling object during the evacuation of a Davao mall, local TV reported. Jerome Barranco, civil defence officer for the region, said several people were also injured in the city of Kidapawan "as a result of falling debris". In General Santos, television footage showed firemen battling a blaze that engulfed the three-storey Gaisano shopping mall. It was not known if there were still people inside the building, which was evacuated as the quake struck. The blaze was still raging more than three hours later despite the efforts of nearly 100 firemen, fire officer Redentor Batulan told AFP.
Coastal residents of Davao fled their homes in fear of a tsunami, but rescue workers were trying to convince them to return as no warning was issued, city civil defence chief Rodrigo Bustillo told local television. "Our volunteers are out to calm the people and tell them there is no tsunami," Bustillo added. Chief Philippine government seismologist Renato Solidum said there was no risk of a tsunami because the quake occurred inland, but he advised residents to check their homes for possible damage. "We ran out of the police station, and we also let the inmates at the municipal jail out," patrolwoman Celina Sarte told AFP by telephone from the town of Bansalan. She said the 10 prisoners were put in handcuffs outside moments later.
Addis Ababa, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - Rescue workers on Tuesday used excavators to dig out bodies after a landslide in southern Ethiopia washed away homes and killed more than 20 people, a local official said. The landslide in the remote district of Konta occurred Sunday following 10 hours of heavy rains, said the official, Takele Tesfu. "There are 22 people dead and we have only been able to dig up 17 using manpower and machine power," Takele told AFP. "So far, we cannot get the others, so tomorrow we will continue to dig." He said the victims included nine women and six children.
While the district -- located in Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region -- sees landslides with some regularity, Takele said this was the deadliest he could remember. "The area where this occurred is very mountainous, and this means the landslide was very dangerous," he said. Ethiopia is nearing the end of its rainy season, but security forces are nonetheless relocating some families for fear that more rain in the coming days could lead to similar disasters, Takele said.
New Delhi, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - New Delhi banned the use of diesel generators on Tuesday as pollution levels in the Indian capital exceeded safe limits by more than four times. Every winter, New Delhi is enveloped in a noxious blanket of smog of car fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from stubble burning at farms outside the megacity of 20 million people. The ban on generators is part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) that entered into force on Tuesday. Other measures that will come into effect as smog levels rise, particularly following the Diwali festival in late October, include banning trucks and setting up a "war room".
From November 4-15, a road-rationing scheme will come into force, meaning cars with odd and even plates would be allowed on alternate days in that period. "We will hand out anti-pollution masks to schoolchildren next week but the date is yet to be decided," the official told AFP. Indian authorities have also sought to reduce the burning of stubble by farmers in areas surrounding Delhi. According to government data, concentrations of particles measuring less than 2.5 microns across -- which can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood -- hit 108 icrograms per cubic metre on Tuesday. This was more than four times the recommended World Health Organization safe daily maximum of 25. In previous years, the level has regularly exceeded 400. Last year, a UN report found 14 of the world's 15 most polluted cities were in India, with one US study saying it kills a million people prematurely every year.
By Kyoko HASEGAWA
Tokyo, Oct 15, 2019 (AFP) - Rescuers in Japan were working around the clock Tuesday in an increasingly desperate search for survivors of a powerful weekend typhoon that killed nearly 70 people and caused widespread destruction. Hagibis slammed into Japan on Saturday night, unleashing fierce winds and unprecedented rain that triggered landslides and caused dozens of rivers to burst their banks. By Tuesday afternoon, local media put the toll at nearly 70, with around a dozen people missing. The government's tally was lower, but it said it was still updating information. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there was no plan to slow rescue operations, with around 110,000 police, coast guard, firefighters and military troops involved. "Currently in damaged areas rescue work and searches for the missing are continuing around the clock," Abe told parliament. "Where rivers flooded, work is ongoing to fix spots where banks broke, and water is being pumped out where floods occurred," he added. The prime minister's office said more than 3,000 people have been rescued in the wake of the disaster, which affected 36 of the country's 47 prefectures. The defence ministry has called up several hundred reserve troops in addition to active duty soldiers for the first time since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
- Rain prompts new warnings -
Government officials warned that more rain was expected throughout the day Tuesday in several parts of the country affected by the typhoon. "We ask people not to drop their guard and to remain fully alert," chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga. told reporters. Hagibis crashed into land packing gusts up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, but it was the storm's heavy rain that caused the most damage. At least 176 rivers burst their banks, including in central Nagano, where a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods and submerging bullet trains in a depot up to their windows. Deaths were reported across many prefectures and included a man whose apartment was flooded, a municipal worker whose car was caught in rising waters and at least seven crew aboard a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo bay on Saturday night. By Tuesday morning, some 34,000 households were still without power, and 133,000 homes had no water. Tens of thousands of people spent Monday night in government shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home. "My frightened daughter can't stop shaking. We want to go home quickly," Rie Nishioka, 39, told Kyodo News agency in Miyagi prefecture.
- Government pledges aid -
The government pledged financial support to affected regions without specifying how much aid it would set aside. "Support for the victims of the disaster is an urgent task," Abe said. "There are concerns that the impact on daily life and economic activities may be long-lasting." Another area affected by the storm was Fukushima, where several bags containing soil and plants collected during nuclear decontamination efforts were washed away. "Ten bags out of 2,667 were swept into a river during the typhoon, but six of them were recovered yesterday," environment ministry official Keisuke Takagi told AFP, adding that the remaining four bags had been found and would be collected soon. "Residents must be worried about the environment, but there are no reports that the bags were broken, so there will be nothing to worry about once they have been recovered safely," he said. Hagibis caused transport chaos over a holiday weekend in Japan, grounding flights and halting train services. By Tuesday, things were largely back to normal, though some flights were cancelled and train services partially disrupted where tracks or train stock were damaged by the storm. The typhoon also caused disruption to sporting events, delaying Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and forcing Rugby World Cup organisers to cancel three matches. A crunch fixture pitting the hosts against Scotland went ahead on Sunday night, with Japan winning its first-ever quarter final spot.
Harare, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Striking Zimbabwe doctors on Monday defied a court order to return to work, saying a pay rise offered by the government failed to meet everyday costs. Doctors remained home for a 43rd consecutive day, striking for better pay after their salaries were eroded by the country's spiralling inflation. Zimbabwe's labour court ruled the action "unlawful" on Friday and ordered the medics back to their wards within 48 hours.
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) announced Sunday it would appeal to the Supreme Court. "We noted the court order but unfortunately we don't have the means by which to comply," said ZHDA spokesman Masimba Ndoro on Monday. "We remain incapacitated... There is nothing we can do when we don't have the means to go to work and to meet our basic needs," he told AFP. The doctors say the value of their pay shrank 15-fold over the past year -- a legacy of hyperinflation caused by economic mismanagement under ex-president Robert Mugabe. His successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has so far failed to redress the situation. Fuel prices have increased by more than 400 percent since the start of the year, and the ZHDA said that doctors had to use their savings just to show up to hospital each morning.
Negotiations with the government have been deadlocked since the ZHDA rejected a 60-percent salary rise offer. With pay slips worth less than the equivalent of $100 (91 euros) in some cases, they are demanding doctors' salaries be pegged to the US dollar and have appealed to international bodies to supplement their wages. "While doctors would want nothing more than to return to work in service of their patients, they continue to be incapacitated and lack the resources to comply with the Labour Court judgement," the ZHDA said in a statement on Sunday. Nurses joined in the action last week. "We have reduced the number of days we are coming to work initially to three days a week now we are down to two days," Zimbabwe Nurses Association spokesman Enoch Dongo told AFP. "If the issue of salaries is not urgently addressed we will soon have a situation where nurses will no longer be able to come to work," he said, adding that nurses were "taking turns" in coming to hospital. Rural teachers also embarked on strike action on Monday with a stay-at-home protest "against underpayment". "We urge the government to respect our right to engage in job actions and peacefully protest demanding a living wage," the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe posted on Twitter.
By Daniel BOSQUE
Barcelona, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - "I feel fury and a sense of powerlessness," said Joan Guich, a 19-year-old student protesting in Barcelona after Spain's Supreme Court jailed nine Catalan leaders jailed over a failed independence bid. "They have been convicted for an ideology which I agree with." Within minutes of the ruling demonstrators had poured onto the streets of the Catalan capital, waving flags and blocking traffic over the conviction of the separatist leaders who organised a 2017 referendum banned by Madrid. "We have to mobilise and stick up for them ... in a way that has an impact, closing airports, stations, but always avoiding violence," Guich said. "Or at least, it won't be us that provokes it."
Workers rallied outside their offices, university students walked out of classes and regional lawmakers demonstrated inside Catalonia's parliament, where most of the defendants had held a senior role. "Today is going to be historic, you can feel it in the atmosphere. Serious things are happening, we can't stay home," said Oscar Quiles, a 47-year-old real estate entrepreneur. News of the verdict reached him as he arrived at the office and he immediately called his mother to join him at a protest in Plaza Cataluna in the centre of Barcelona. By noon the square was packed with thousands of demonstrators, many waving yellow, red and blue Catalan separatist flags or banners reading "We would do it again" and "Freedom for political prisoners". The protesters then set off walking towards Barcelona's airport, Spain's second busiest, in the hope of blocking it, just as pro-democracy activists have done recently in Hong Kong.
- 'Weeks of mobilisation' -
Tension gripped Barcelona on Monday morning ahead of the ruling, with a heavy police presence outside the courts, the airport and the city's main train station, as a helicopter flew overhead. Democratic Tsunami, a group advocating more active forms of civil disobedience, had urged demonstrators to hit the streets as soon as the verdicts were announced. "Tomorrow everyone ready! When the verdict is out, the response will be immediate," said the group in a message to its roughly 150,000 followers on mobile messaging service Telegram. Juli Cuellar, a 44-year-old office worker, said he believed the verdict was politically motivated. "Now all we have left is a life of civil and institutional disobedience," he told AFP, predicting "weeks of mobilisation". The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Omnium Cultural, the region's two biggest grassroots pro-independence groups, have also called supporters to attend an evening rally. They have organised some of the largest separatist protests in recent years. Several more protests are scheduled over the next few days across Catalonia, as well as a general strike on Friday.
- 'Felt like crying' -
Democratic Tsunami, the group that called the gathering in Plaza Cataluna, only emerged in recent weeks. It says it does not depend on Catalan separatist parties or civil associations for support. Its leaders remain unknown, keeping in touch with each other through encrypted messaging apps such as Wire. But supporters tend to be kept in the dark until the last minute. "We don't know exactly what we have to do," said Arnau Font, a 22-year-old shop assistant who took the week off to protest. "We have to get involved. Right now I feel really powerless in light of the verdicts," he told AFP. "When I found out, I felt like crying." The uncertainty was over a few minutes later when a Telegram message arrived urging everyone to "go to the airport", a 15-kilometre (nine-mile) walk from the city centre. "The time has come to make our voice felt around the world. The goal: stop the activity of Barcelona's airport," it said. Spain's airport operator Aena said no flights were disrupted, but many passengers got stuck in traffic jams leading to the airport.
Frankfurt am Main, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - German cabin crew union UFO urged members Monday to walk off their jobs at airline giant Lufthansa on October 20, although the carrier contests its right to represent workers. "We call on all cabin crew... not to show up to work" between six and eleven am (0400 to 0900 GMT) at Germany's two busiest hubs Frankfurt and Munich, Ufo chairman Daniel Flohr said in a video message to staff. At least five of the Lufthansa group's airlines -- Lufthansa, Eurowings, Germanwings, Cityline and Sunexpress -- would be hit by strikes for higher pay in the coming weeks, Flohr added.
Lufthansa told AFP it would "maintain its entire timetable", calling UFO's call to strike "illegal". Bosses at the airline group believe UFO may no longer have the legal right to speak for workers and have challenged its status in court. Internal disputes at the union have cost it members and support among cabin crew, some of whom have now turned to other representative organisations. Berlin daily Tagesspiegel on Monday called UFO a "half-dead" outfit. "UFO is battling for its life," agreed business daily Handelsblatt. "With its far-reaching call for strikes, it wants to show members it remains capable of acting and is representing cabin crew interests." Lufthansa could also contest before a court whether UFO has the right to initiate a strike -- potentially leaving the worker representatives on the hook for any resulting costs.
Manila, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Parents lined up from sunrise holding sleeping infants as the Philippines launched a campaign on Monday to vaccinate millions of children against polio, which has re-emerged nearly two decades after the nation's last cases. Years of falling vaccination rates, made worse by the botched rollout of a dengue vaccine, culminated in an outbreak of the preventable disease in September. "This is for the welfare of my child," Ruth Miranda told AFP after the vaccine was squirted into her child's mouth at the Manila slum they call home.
Miranda's child is among scores who are unprotected in the capital of about 13 million people, where vaccination rates of young children plunged from 77 percent in 2016 to a mere 24 percent in June. The atmosphere at the event in Manila was festive -- with ice cream vendors and music -- but the stakes for the campaign are high.
Polio, which can cause paralysis and can be fatal in rare cases, has no cure and can only be prevented with several doses of oral and injectable vaccines. Two cases were detected in September, the first polio infections in the Philippines since 2001, adding to the woes of a country already hit by deadly measles and dengue epidemic. The risk of the disease spreading within the Philippines is high, according to World Health Organization, due to low immunisation coverage partly blamed to a dengue vaccine scandal.
The Philippines was the first nation to use Dengvaxia in a mass programme in 2016, but a botched rollout led to claims that children had died after being vaccinated. A dramatic drop in vaccine confidence followed, with trust plunging from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2018, according to a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Philippines polio outbreak has been traced back to the weakened form of the virus used in vaccines, which is excreted by people for a time after they receive it. According to the WHO, that form can mutate and spread in the surrounding community when immunisation rates get too low.
By Shingo ITO, Sara HUSSEIN
Tokyo, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of rescue workers in Japan battled on Monday to find survivors of a powerful typhoon that killed at least 43 people, as fresh rain threatened to hamper efforts. Typhoon Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night, unleashing high winds and torrential rain across 36 of the country's 47 prefectures, and triggering landslides and catastrophic flooding. "Even now, many people are still unaccounted for in the disaster-hit area," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an emergency disaster meeting on Monday. "Units are trying their best to search for and rescue them, working day and night," Abe said.
But even as rescuers, including troops, combed through debris, the country's weather agency forecast rain in central and eastern Japan that it warned could cause further flooding and new landslides. "I would like to ask people to stay fully vigilant and continue watching for landslides and river flooding," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. In Nagano, one of the worst-hit regions, rain was already falling and was expect to intensify. "We are concerned about the impact of the latest rain on rescue and recovery efforts," local official Hiroki Yamaguchi told AFP. "We will continue operations while watching out for secondary disasters due to the current rain."
- 43 dead, 16 missing: NHK -
By late Monday afternoon, national broadcaster NHK said the toll had risen to 43 dead, with 16 others missing and over 200 people injured. The government gave lower figures but was continuing to update its information. The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least seven crew from a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night, a coast guard spokesman said. Four others, from China, Myanmar and Vietnam, were rescued when the boat sank and the coast guard was still searching for a last crew member. While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, it was the heavy rains that caused most damage.
A total of 142 rivers flooded, mainly in eastern and northern Japan, with river banks collapsing in two dozen places, local media said. In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor. As water slowly receded Monday, television footage showed patients being transferred by ambulance from a Nagano hospital where some 200 people had been cut off by flooding. Elsewhere, rescuers used helicopters to winch survivors from roofs and balconies, or steered boats through muddy waters to reach those trapped.
- Japan dedicates rugby win to victims -
By Monday afternoon, some 75,900 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages. The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home. "Everything from my house was washed away before my eyes, I wasn't sure if it was a dream or real," a woman in Nagano told NHK. "I feel lucky I'm still alive." The storm brought travel chaos over the holiday weekend, grounding flights and halting commuter and bullet train services.
By Monday, most subway trains had resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted. The storm also brought havoc to the sporting world, forcing the delay of Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and the cancellation of three Rugby World Cup matches. But a crucial decider pitting Japan against Scotland went ahead, with the hosts dedicating their stunning 28-21 win to the victims of the disaster. "To everyone that's suffering from the typhoon, this game was for you guys," said Japan captain Michael Leitch.
Kinshasa, Oct 13, 2019 (AFP) - Doctors will use a second Ebola vaccine from November in three eastern provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the deadly virus, medical officials said Sunday. "It's time to use the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson's Belgian subsidiary," said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who leads the national anti-Ebola operation in the DRC. It will arrive in the eastern city of Goma, in North Kivu province, on October 18 and be used from the beginning of next month, he added. DRC's latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.
Muyembe said the communes of Majingo and Kahembe had been selected to receive the vaccine as they were considered the epicentres of the epidemic. "We will extend this vaccination to our small traders who often go to Rwanda to protect our neighbours," he added. "If it works well, we will expand vaccination in South Kivu and Ituri." DR Congo's eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu sit on the borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The Belgian laboratory will send a batch of 200,000 doses to neighbouring Rwanda and 500,000 doses in the DRC, Muyembe said. More than 237,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma company Merck Sharpe and Dohme since August 8, 2018.
The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC's former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high. But Ilunga's resignation in July appears to have paved the way for approval of the second vaccine. He currently faces charges that he embezzled funds intended for the fight against Ebola. In his letter of resignation Ilunga said "actors who have demonstrated a lack of ethics" want to introduce a second vaccine, but did not elaborate. Muyembe, who took over the Ebola fight in the DRC in July, said "The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the most science-based data."