Turkey travel warning

Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis yesterday urged citizens not to travel to neighboring Turkey unless necessary after Turkish authorities confirmed their fourth bird flu victim, but he added that Greece has been advised not to close its borders for now. «Greek citizens are advised not to travel to Turkey without serious reason,» Kaklamanis said. «But if travel is necessary, health guidelines should be taken seriously into account.» The Health Ministry said it had asked the European Center for Disease and Prevention Control (ECDC) if it should close its borders with Turkey and had been told that such a move «would not contribute to safeguarding Greek citizens from avian flu.» The government stopped short of issuing an official travel advisory warning, which could strain ties with Turkey. Meanwhile, ministers approved a legislative amendment enabling prefectural authorities implementing measures against bird flu to recruit support staff directly rather than going through a time-consuming state recruitment procedure. One of several local emergency response units – aimed at containing a possible outbreak of bird flu in Greece – started operating yesterday in the northern prefecture of Evros, which borders Turkey. As inspections on suspect poultry intensified, local radio and television channels broadcast messages warning farmers to keep their poultry indoors while megaphones were used to ensure the message reached residents of remote villages. The army dispatched 200 veterinarians to 27 prefectures which have reported staff shortages while three 10-member mobile units of experts were on standby in Athens, Larissa and Thessaloniki. Meanwhile, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas revealed that the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET) has put its inspectors at the disposal of the Interior, Agriculture and Health ministries. A total of 86 vehicles have been made available for the more efficient transport of EFET inspectors to areas requiring their help, Sioufas said. Greece is donating 600,000 euros to a fund being pooled in Beijing, where an international summit on tackling bird flu starts today, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said.

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