Swine flu epidemic hits Mexican economy

April 30th, 2009 - 9:43 am ICT by IANS  

By Nelson Keiman
Mexico City, April 30 (DPA) The ongoing swine flu epidemic is hitting Mexico City’s economy hard and is starting to hurt business in other parts of Mexico, according to official and business association data.

The capital’s Economic Development Minister, Laura Velazquez Alzua, said the city is experiencing economic losses of $54 million per day due to measures taken to combat a flu epidemic that has already claimed 152 lives across Mexico.

She said that the cancellation of large gatherings including football games - currently being played before empty stands - and cinema screenings and the latest limits on restaurants had reduced economic activity within the capital by 60 percent. An order Tuesday allows restaurants to only serve takeaway food.

Over the weekend, shopping centres reported that attendance was down by about 60 percent.

Juan de Dios Barba, president of Mexico’s Employers Association (Coparmex), questioned the ban on eating inside restaurants, saying it would cause financial losses of some $111 million per day.

According to business organisations, the ban would affect at least 35,000 restaurants and 450,000 workers.

In further damage to the economy, all nightclubs in the southern Mexican seaside resort of Acapulco, which are usually open 365 days a year, were to remain closed for three days until the weekend.

The outbreak led to the cancellation after 181 consecutive years of the Feria de San Marcos, Mexico’s main bullfighting event, held in the central state of Aguascalientes.

Aguascalientes governor Luis Armando Reynoso Femat said the cancellation would cause losses of $126 million, directly affecting 5,000 temporary jobs. Reynoso Femat said that the event was cancelled because two people have died in the state, and 40 remain hospitalised with flu symptoms.

Mexican airlines have reported dropping demand and high cancellation rates.

The authorities have asked private companies to allow parents of sick children, as well as anyone with flu symptoms, to stay home from work.

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