Wary Mexico sees flu stabilizing, slams flight bans

MEXICO CITY, Sophie Nicholson- Mexico's government warily said Saturday that the country's H1N1 flu outbreak appeared to be stabilizing, and slammed countries which had banned flights from the country, including China.
Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa also advised Mexican citizens to avoid travel to China after a Mexican family got caught up in strict health measures imposed there after a sick Mexican tourist who arrived in Hong Kong from Shanghai tested positive Friday for H1N1.

Wary Mexico sees flu stabilizing, slams flight bans
Mexico, and particularly its capital, is at the epicenter of the flu epidemic, recording most of the infections worldwide and all the deaths except for one -- a Mexican child on a visit to the United States.
Mexico's confirmed death toll remained unchanged at 16 on Saturday, although Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova raised the tally of infected cases to 427, up 46 following lab tests on a backlog of patient samples.
"It would be hasty to say we have passed the most difficult moment, but I believe we have enough elements to say that we are in a stabilization phase," Cordova told a news conference.
Health authorities across Asia meanwhile joined the scramble to limit the spread of swine flu Saturday, after reporting two confirmed cases in one of the world's most densely populated regions.
Mexico advised citizens to avoid travel to China after a Mexican family appeared to have been caught up in strict quarantine measures there.
China "has in an unjustified manner isolated Mexicans who had no symptoms" of H1N1 flu, Espinosa said, referring to a Mexican family who were detained after testing negative for the virus in Beijing.
"They had no symptoms (of H1N1) and we hope they'll return to Mexico that way," Espinosa added.
Mexico's foreign minister also slammed countries which have cut flights to and/or from Mexico, including China as well as Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Cuba, amid WHO warnings a global pandemic from the virus was "imminent."
The air restrictions are a further blow to the hard-hit Mexican economy.
"We're surprised by the adoption of unjustified measures," Espinosa said.
"We've made direct contact with their governments to state that (the measures) are not based on scientific evidence, and they should be rectified," she added.
In Mexico, continued fear over the epidemic saw millions observing a call by President Felipe Caldron to "stay at home" for a five-day long weekend in a bid to contain the virus.
All but essential business and offices were closed for that period, along with schools, popular tourist sites, and all bars, restaurants and cinemas in the capital.
The sprawling city on Saturday saw a second consecutive day without H1N1 deaths reported, the capital's administration said.
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard also announced sanitary controls to prepare for the end a virtual shutdown, but warned that life would not be the same.
"We are not going to return to a normal situation without the virus, we're going to live in a new situation: living with the virus. This is the next step," Ebrard told a news conference.
The World Health Organization is still trying to determine the severity of the new swine flu virus in Mexico, a senior WHO emergency response official said Saturday.
WHO teams in Mexico are still trying to track down the source of the outbreak and to establish the pattern and exact numbers involved there.

Saturday, May 2nd 2009
Sophie Nicholson

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