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Mexico City rumbles back to life after flu shutdown

Video by Yuka ROYER

Latest update : 2009-05-07

Mexico's main cities returned to their usual crowded bustle as restaurants and public places reopened on Wednesday after five days of lockdown aimed at containing the deadly A (H1N1) flu virus. High schools and universities reopen Thursday.

AFP - Life returned to Mexico's streets Wednesday as authorities began to lift a week-old shutdown they say curbed a swine flu epidemic which killed has 42 people by the latest count.
   
Although the toll rose from 29 to 42, after several more A(H1N1) deaths were recorded in recent days, authorities emphasized that the epidemic peaked at the end of last month and was now under control.
   
"Fortunately, we've managed to stop the dangerous expansion the virus could have had, but it's not time to shout victory or to say that it's now controlled and over," President Felipe Calderon said during a hospital visit Wednesday.
   
"There will be more (cases)," he said.
   
The number of confirmed infections rose from 913 to 1,070 on Wednesday, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova told a news conference.
   
The dead comprised 24 women and 18 men. More than half the fatalities were people between 20 and 39 years old, Cordova added.
   
Mexico, particularly its capital, was at the epicenter of the flu crisis now affecting more than 20 countries.
   
The worldwide total of infections is around 1,500 cases. The only two deaths recorded outside Mexico were in the United States: a visiting Mexican boy and a US woman with chronic health problems.
   
In its sprawling capital of some 20 million inhabitants and elsewhere, Mexico rumbled back into action Wednesday as traffic picked up and eateries re-opened.
   
"It's fantastic to be back. The emergency has faded, all the measures were followed and we prevented the epidemic spreading further," said one city resident, Alfredo Robles, as he sat in the sun with workmates.
   
World-famous Aztec and Mayan pyramids also affected by the shutdown were reopened to tourists.
   
The widespread closures had sparked frustration in a country already reeling from the impact of the economic crisis north of the border.
   
The shutdown and devastation to the tourism industry cost the economy around 2.3 billion dollars, or "close to 0.3 percent" of gross domestic product, according to the finance ministry.
   
The government is now to launch a fiscal stimulus package that would include a 1.3-billion-dollar injection into the economy.
   
Strict rules still held in the capital's 35,000 restaurants Wednesday, including large spaces between tables and compulsory face masks for waiting staff.
   
High schools and universities were to open Thursday, to be followed by primary schools and kindergartens next Monday.
   
Mexico City authorities said late Wednesday that bars, cinemas, night clubs, theaters and sports venues would also re-open on Thursday.
   
The Mexican government has challenged the assumption that the virus originated in the country, and pointed at a smaller outbreak that occurred in the United States around the same time.
   
Ties remained strained with several countries which have imposed bans on Mexican pork or cut travel ties with Mexico. The World Health Organization has questioned "significantly different" health measures adopted by some unnamed countries to combat swine flu.
   
Mexico's relations with China, notably, turned cold when scores of Mexicans were placed under quarantine in China after one Mexican there was confirmed to have been infected.
   
The Mexican and Chinese governments on Tuesday chartered jets to pick up nationals from each other's country. More than 130 Mexicans landed from China in Mexico City on Wednesday. The 98 Chinese were thrown into quarantine on their return.

Date created : 2009-05-07

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