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China halts Mexico flights as flu hits

CHINA reacted to its first case of the swine flu case yesterday by suspending flights from Mexico after Hong Kong authorities confirmed a Mexican traveller who transited through Shanghai on Thursday had the new A-H1N1 flu.

China has notified the Mexican government and airline companies about the decision, the Foreign Ministry said. Resumption of flights depended on the situation of the pandemic.

Local authorities are now tracking down the Mexican man's fellow passengers to quarantine them.

The Hong Kong government has sealed off a downtown hotel where the man stayed, confining some 200 guests and 100 staff to the hotel for the next seven days, the Associated Press reported.

Fifteen Shanghai tourists on the same flight with the Mexican man to Hon Kong were quarantined in Hong Kong, according to Shanghai Tourism Administration. Thirteen tourists from the flight, MU505, have been sent to Princess Margaret Hospital suffering from a fever, according to the Website, after checking into the L'hotel Nina et Convention Centre in Hong Kong.

It was not possible to confirm yesterday if any of the 13 were Shanghai tourists. The organizing tour agency refused to comment if its clients had the fever and administration officials were not available for comment.

The 15 tourists were members of a tour group of 36 organized by Shanghai CYTS Tours that took MU505 to Hong Kong at noon on Thursday.

As soon as the 25-year-old Mexican was confirmed to have contracted the A-H1N1 flu, all the 36 tourists were quarantined. Twenty-one were cleared of infection of the new flu and were expected to return home today, said Shanghai Tourism Administration in a press release.

The 25-year-old Mexican is being treated in Hong Kong and the Ministry of Health has asked local authorities to quarantine all passengers who were on the Mexicana Airlines flight AM098 that landed in Shanghai and also those who flew with the man from Shanghai to Hong Kong on MU505 flight.

A health official in southern Guangdong Province said they had found 37 of 41 passengers that took the same Mexicana flight and travelled further to Guangzhou City.

A total of 189 boarded the AM098 flight, including 176 passengers and 13 crew members. Mexicana Airlines flies between Mexico and Shanghai but no Chinese airlines fly to Mexico.

China is imposing stringent checks on people entering the country by air, land and sea in an attempt to prevent the new flu from spreading to the country, the top quality supervisor said yesterday. Anyone entering from places where the flu was reported will have their temperatures checked twice, said the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

People entering China from affected areas must go through a separate channel upon arrival. The first check will be done at or before that point, while the second will be done at regular inspection channels, Xinhua news agency reported.

People with temperatures at or above 38 degrees Celsius must undergo further examination, and all arriving passengers and transportation staff must provide health information, the GAQSIQ said.

It ordered quarantine offices to do thorough sanitation of flights, ships and other vehicles, including waste.


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