Britain Releases Millennium Guide, Rates Worldwide Y2K Preparedness

Monday, September 20, 1999
Don't travel to Ukraine at the dawn of the new millennium. Avoid Russian airports, take extra cash to Egypt, and don't get sick in the Philippines. Be wary of air traffic control at some Indonesian airports and don't even try to fly Air Seychelles - all flights are cancelled over the New Year, just in case. Britain unveiled the first installment of its global guide to the millennium Sept. 14, setting out how far 50 countries have gone towards overcoming the Year 2000 problem and warning travelers and businesses about potential blackspots. The report released on a Foreign Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) outlines preparations for millennium compliance in key areas including transport, the economy, health, water, energy and communications. Foreign Office Minister John Battle said the report was impartial, not judgmental, and aimed to give "the most reliable and impartial information about Y2K preparedness worldwide." Few countries escaped without the caveat that "some disruption" was possible over the New Year. "We want to ease the impact of the millennium date change," he said. "It should be an occasion for celebration, not a time for unnecessary fear and worry." A travel advisory released with the report advises against all holiday and other non-essential travel to Ukraine over the New Year period and early January 2000 until the situation becomes clearer. Ukraine's cabinet was warned in March that a quarter of government computer systems could be non-Y2K compliant. Finance, banking, transport, power, defense and social sectors could all be vulnerable Loss of power output from nuclear plants is also possible. The report named three Indonesian airports where air traffic control is not yet compliant and said there were worries about other smaller airports. Regarding the economy, interbank transactions are a concern though most are still done on paper. According to the report, Russia faces the "high likelihood" of widespread failures in communications and 400 of its 600 airports are "sure to have some Y2K difficulties." In Egypt, travelers are advised be prepared for temporary disruption. Precautions should include "checking insurance cover and having enough cash to cover contingencies". In Uganda, where many people live in rural societies largely untouched by the blessings and curses of technology, the Foreign Office said the main impact would be in the capital Kampala. "Recent non-Y2K related bank failures and closures have damaged confidence in the banking sector and hoarding of bank notes is already beginning," it said. In the Philippines, the diagnostic systems of government hospitals contain "embedded systems," which often have date-sensitive computer chips that could malfunction at the start of the New Year. Even big industrial states don't escape without words of caution, the guide warns. Spain could face problems in water distribution, while a lack of awareness of millennium problems among small and medium sized enterprises is a major concern for the French government.

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