China Braces for H1N1 Pandemic Fallout

The World Health Organization has categorized the H1N1 flu outbreak as a pandemic. Amidst the health concerns and quarantine problems is another alert — the economy. Tourism, retail, entertainment, and trade are expected to be among those affected the most. From Shan Juan, Zhang Ran, Xin Dingding and Jiang Wei from China Daily:

Gao Yaosong, director of the Shanghai Research Institute of International Economy and Trade, agreed the pandemic alert will deal a big blow to exports and imports, turning matters from bad to worse.

A series of restrictions will be imposed on the movement of both people and goods, making it difficult for trade delegates to travel overseas freely, he said.

“The news is the last thing we want to hear,” said Zhang Qingzhu, marketing manager of China Comfortable Travel Services in Beijing.

“The government might adopt stricter policies on travel, but what is worse is that people will have greater fear about travel. It will be a devastating blow for tour operators,” she said.

Meanwhile, frustrations are mounting over the strict and often arbitrary quarantine measures. James Fallows has posted the letter of a quarantined Chinese with U.S. citizenship, in an entry titled “Journal of the Quarantine Year.” Incidentally, the writer was on the same flight as New Orleans mayor Jim Nagin. Nagin was also quarantined, and just released yesterday:

I am now sitting by myself in a room, in a building full of other “suspected” H1N1 patient. I can use the internet, the phone and watch TV but there is a lock on the front door and I’m not allowed to leave my room or talk to the other “guests”. Three women dressed in full gear deliver food to me three times a day (7:30, noon and 5:30 pm) and I get my temperature taken too. They confiscated my passport but there are plenty of posters and pamphlets everywhere describing precautions and horror that is H1N1.

The funniest part about all of this? I don’t have H1N1. Although the people here refuse to answer most of my questions, I was given an English document from the government describing proper procedure for the quarantine. I quote, from the section “When will you be free to leave”

“The time to lift the medical observation depends on the diagnosis of the passenger with fever symptoms. If the diagnosis rules out the possibility of A H1N1 infection, you will be free to leave immediately…However, if the test report shows anything suspicious or needs another diagnosis, your time of staying here will have to be extended according to official notice…”

That is what the official government notice says. “I will be free to leave immediately,” yet when I asked the workers here about that statement, they claimed that I was misinterpreting the text. Clearly, my English skills have regressed rapidly. When I asked for a blood test, the official way to confirm whether or not I carry the virus, I was denied, “We only test people who look sick. You don’t look sick. If you develop a fever, we will test you.”

So I am still here in my hotel room, healthy but treated as if I have the plague. Counting down the days. One down, six more to go.

Ji Le of the blog “Eye on China” (Un oeil sur la Chine) has written about the flu containment measures in Shanghai and has also included photos. An excerpt, translated by CDT:

He approaches, ready to point his infrared gun at me. He is covered from head to toe in a white suit and a mask that reveals only his eyes. Four little red spots turn onto my neighbor. Next, it’s my turn. We’re not in an episode of “Invaders,” but have just arrived at the Pudong airport. A group of men in white raided the plane, and now surround a woman, two rows behind me. Everyone in the plane turns to look at her, and she is visibly embarrassed. Someone is possibly contaminated! The men in white discuss amongst themselves. A few questions, and then they continue down the cabin, gun in hand. It’s good. No one on board has a fever. It would have taken just one feverish passenger for us to all get quarantined.

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June 12, 2009 3:25 PM
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Categories: Economy, Society