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Hundreds in quarantine, but no new cases in Asia

THERE were no new confirmed cases of A-H1N1 flu in Asia yesterday.

But 350 people remain under quarantine in a downtown Hong Kong hotel as a precaution and people who were on the same flights as the Mexican who fell ill are under quarantine on Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong sealed the Metropark Hotel, where the Mexican tourist had stayed, confining 350 guests and employees inside. The 25-year-old man had arrived last Thursday after a stopover in Shanghai. He was in stable condition yesterday.

One hotel guest, James Parer from Brisbane, Australia, said by phone there were no signs of unrest on the second day of the seven-day quarantine, although some tourists complained about their breakfast of Chinese-style buns filled with pork.

"Everyone is staying in their rooms," said Parer, 38, who was visiting Hong Kong for a trade fair.

A video shot by a guest showed guests wearing masks mingling in the hotel lobby with health workers in masks, surgical caps and gowns.

Hong Kong Director of Home Affairs Pamela Tan said the hotel would pay the lodging costs and long-distance calls, while the government will ask airlines to waive penalties for guests forced to change their itineraries.

Hong Kong's health secretary sent each quarantined person a box of chocolates.

Experts say it may be too soon to determine how widely the disease has spread. "We still have to wait and see. The next three or four days will make things much clearer," said Malik Peiris, a flu expert at the University of Hong Kong.

"It's clearly not very transmissible, but it may be sufficiently transmissible for it to sustain itself."

"There is no way to measure it at this stage," World Health Organization spokesman Peter Cordingley said.

But he noted that the disease appears to be spreading around the world through travelers from Mexico and that Asia might have fewer travelers from there than other parts of the world.


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