Mexico and China in Swine Flu Row (Updated)

Following the involuntary quarantine of Mexican citizens in China, Mexican government representatives have lodged complaints with Beijing. From BBC:

Mexican officials said their citizens were being unfairly confined. The Mexican ambassador was denied access to a group being held at a Beijing hotel.

China says the steps it has taken are lawful and justified.

Some 400 people have been quarantined in China since the virus was confirmed in a man who arrived from Mexico.

Most are in the Metropark hotel in Hong Kong, where the infected man checked in, but the number also includes his fellow passengers.

The Wall Street Journal has an article detailing the situation inside the Metropark:

The confinement has led to some tense moments. On Saturday morning, health workers met with guests to answer some of their questions, according to several guests reached by phone. A Korean man said he had a traveling companion with a health condition and heart medication, and he said confining him there could be dangerous for his health, recalled Kevin Ireland, a 45-year-old apparel exporter from Delhi who was at the meeting.

Shi Wenjing, a 27-year-old translator from Shanghai, was there, too. She remembers the Korean man growing more and more agitated. “He shouted loud at the health officers and insisted that he should be released,” she said. Both she and Mr. Ireland recall him telling the health officers that if anything happened, “I’ll kill you!”

It turns out the Metropark hotel group has bad luck when it comes to infectious diseases, according to CNN. The Metropark Hotel in Kowloon was the epicenter of the SARS outbreak in 2003.

See also “China quarantines Mexicans over swine flu fears” from the Guardian, and “China says quarantined passengers from Mexico flight show no flu symptoms” from Xinhua.

Update: Reuters reports that “China denies flu discrimination against Mexicans”:

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu rejected the criticism, saying the isolation was correct procedure, not bigotry.

“The measures concerned are not directed at Mexican citizens and there is no discrimination,” Ma said in a statement issued on the ministry website (www.mfa.gov.cn).

“This was purely a medical quarantine issue,” Ma said, adding that Mexico should “give full understanding to the measures adopted by China and handle this matter objectively and calmly.”

A spokeswoman for the Mexican Embassy in Beijing said neither she nor the ambassador had any immediate comment on the Chinese statement. She said that as of Sunday about 70 Mexican nationals were held in confinement in China.

Meanwhile, the Mexican government has said it will send a plane to China to pick up any nationals who want to leave the country. From AP:

A Foreign Relations Department official says Mexico will send a plane to China to bring back citizens after the Asian country quarantined more than 70 Mexican travelers in its fight against swine flu.

The official says the government will charter an Aeromexico airliner in the coming hours to take home any Mexicans who want to leave China. The official spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because of department policy barring her from being named.

The official could not say if priority would be given to Mexicans who have been quarantined.

Reuters is reporting that the plane from Mexico to China is en route.

May 3, 2009 8:11 AM
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