Mexicans urged to stay home during partial economic shutdown

President Felipe Calderon urged Mexicans to stay home during a partial shutdown of the economy from May 1 to May 5. The measure is aimed at slowing the spread of a swine flu believed to have killed up to 176 people in the country.


Almost a week after the swine flu crisis gripped his country, Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced a five-day partial suspension of non-essential work Wednesday night, in his first televised address to the nation since the deadly epidemic broke out.


Calderon urged Mexicans to stay home during an extended weekend from May 1 to May 5.


"Stay at home with your family because there is no place as safe for protecting yourself against swine flu as your own home," said Calderon.


Reporting from Mexico City, FRANCE 24’s Gallagher Fenwick said Mexicans, in effect, have been hunkering down since the crisis began and were resigned to an extended period of lying low. “They’ve been doing this quite a bit already, so yet again Mexicans have to accept this new measure,” he said.


More than 170 people are suspected to have died from swine flu over the past week but only eight have been confirmed to have died from the virus. The World Health Organization has raised the alert over swine flu to level five - six being the highest alert level - which, the organization says, means there is a "strong signal that a pandemic is imminent".


‘Where is the captain?’ ask Calderon’s critics


In recent days, Calderon has been criticized for not doing enough and not acting quickly enough to stem the crisis, said Fenwick.


“It’s important to point out that he has been under a lot of criticism,” said Fenwick. “At one point, a major local paper ran a cartoon depicting a sinking ship with the title ‘Where is the captain?,’” said Fenwick.


In his televised speech Wednesday night, Calderon maintained that Mexico would overcome its flu crisis and he assured the people that the country was well stocked with anti-viral medication.


Calderon also said he was “proud” of his peoples’ response to the deadly epidemic.


Global crisis-hit economy expecting another blow


Mexican officials estimate that the swine flu crisis could cost the economy over $70 billion amid fears that the epidemic could batter an economy already badly hit by the global crisis.


Mexican Finance Minister Agustin Carstens has estimated that the cost of the epidemic could be between 0.3 and 0.5 percent of the nation’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).


The epidemic has also dealt a blow to Mexico's tourism industry, which is the country's third-biggest foreign-revenue earner.



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