Flu fears turn Mexico City into ghost town

April 28th, 2009 - 1:08 am ICT by IANS  

Mexico City, April 27 (EFE) Residents of Mexico City went back to work Monday in a relatively empty city where schools, universities, restaurants, movies, museums and other establishments remained closed to prevent the further spread of the swine flu that has claimed 110 lives nationwide.
Public transport continues to operate normally in this metropolitan area of nearly 20 million people, but passengers on buses and riding the metro system wore surgical face masks to protect themselves from contagion.

The federal government said Sunday that up to now 103 deaths are suspected to have been caused by the outbreak of swine flu affecting the country, and for which 1,614 people have been hospitalised, of whom 60 have been sent home.

But at a press conference Monday, capital Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said that seven more people have died in Mexico City, bringing the nationwide death toll to 210.

He thanked citizens for their collaboration in following the authorities’ recommendations such as using surgical face masks and avoiding crowds, but asked those who have symptoms to go immediately to a hospital.

Ebard said that over the weekend there was a “slight decline in the number of potential cases,” although he warned that new infections appear in 10-day cycles, which makes it necessary to be cautious about the results of actions taken against the epidemic.

Of the seven deaths recorded Sunday, he said, “two arrived (at the hospital) already in serious condition” and died between 90 minutes and two hours later.

Five states - Hidalgo, Zacatecas, Nayarit, Queretaro and Nuevo Leon - have joined the capital and the surrounding state of Mexico in ordering schools and universities closed until May 6.

Meanwhile, economic activities in the Mexican capital went forward normally Monday, including operations in the stock exchange.

Nonetheless, the federal labour ministry asked companies to be tolerant towards employees who stayed home to look after children who are not permitted to go to school.

The Business Coordinating Council, a major business organization, has announced that it will stagger its workdays as recommended by the authorities to avoid bringing too many people together.

At Mexico City’s international airport the army was distributing surgical masks along with forms to fill out to discover the state of health of arriving visitors, who were warned of the situation the country is going through. No flights have yet been canceled.

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