Mexico Awaits Return to Normalcy After Shutdown Over Flu

by VR Sreeraman on  May 5, 2009 at 5:36 PM General Health News
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Mexico was on Tuesday eagerly awaiting the resumption of normal business at the end of a five-day nationwide shutdown over swine flu and launched an operation to fly home its nationals quarantined in China.
 Mexico Awaits Return to Normalcy After Shutdown Over Flu
Mexico Awaits Return to Normalcy After Shutdown Over Flu

As President Felipe Calderon said Mexico's response to the epidemic had saved "thousands of lives," the UN's top health official said the number of people to have contracted the virus in 21 countries had topped 1,000.

And the third case of infection in Asia was confirmed when a patient tested positive in South Korea.

Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak, has been eerily quiet since Friday after Calderon urged everyone to stay at home over a five-day holiday weekend.

However, in a televised address on Monday night, the president said it was coming to the point where the country could start returning to normal.

Mexico "has taken the lead in the global battles against the virus ... thousands of lives have been saved not only in Mexico but in the world" as a result of his government's containment measures, he said.

Starting on Wednesday, Mexico would progressively return to normal activities by reopening its businesses, schools, museums and other venues closed for a week or more in its clampdown on the A(H1N1) outbreak, Calderon explained.

"At last," said Ana Maria Rodriguez, a teacher from Mexico City. "We live in the capital, we're not used to being cooped up at home."

Calderon warned against complacency as "this virus is still circulating", and urged people to take precautions such as regular hand-washing.

That note of caution was repeated in Washington, where White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters: "It's still out there."

The WHO has reported a total of 1,085 cases worldwide and 26 deaths -- 25 of them in Mexico and one in the United States. Mexico puts its death toll at 26.

Keiji Fukuda, acting director-general of the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO), said: "In this situation, it's critical that we continue to maintain and strengthen our alert and surveillance."

"We don't know how long we have till we move to phase six. Six indicates we are in a pandemic. We are not there yet," she told UN officials in New York.

Chan has said the end of the flu season in the northern hemisphere means that while the initial outbreak may be relatively mild, a second wave could be more lethal, as with the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that killed some 50 million.

China, the centre of the 2003 SARS outbreak, has come under diplomatic pressure over its hardline efforts to halt the disease in its tracks.

Although no cases have been recorded on the Chinese mainland, dozens of Mexicans have been quarantined across the country but are now set to fly home as part of a repatriation deal between the two governments.

A chartered AeroMexico airliner landed at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport and reports said the flight would also pick up other stranded Mexicans from Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, the scene of Asia's first confirmed swine flu case, chief executive Donald Tsang apologised to guests quarantined in a city hotel for seven days, while defending the decision to isolate them.

Hong Kong's Metropark hotel, and the 300 staff and guests inside, has been sealed off since last Friday following the discovery that a Mexican visitor had tested positive for the A(H1N1) virus.

Beijing meanwhile has sent a chartered plane to Mexico to fetch 200 of its own citizens stranded by the flu crisis there, China Southern Airlines said.

Mexican travellers held at a Beijing hotel said they were told by their embassy to be ready to leave Tuesday, ending an enforced isolation that Mexico charged was unfairly targeting its citizens.

"We were told to be ready to go. We are just awaiting word," Gustavo Carrillo, a Mexican businessman, told AFP.

Source: AFP

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