Mexican officials loweured their flu alert level in Mexico City Monday and are allowing restaurants, other businesses and public facilities like museums to reopen. At the same time, officials with the World Health Organization say the threat for the rest of the world is still very real and they’re considering raising the pandemic alert level, asserting that a pandemic is imminent, where the disease would reach every country.
Epidemiologist Dr. Robert Ball with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says the spread of the disease would worsten economies around the world, at the height of a severe recession. “This is far more than a health crisis. This is a crisis of the entire society and economic infrastructure.”
Argentina, Peru and Cuba have banned flights to Mexico. Argentina is sending a plane to Mexico to pick up Argentines who want to leave Mexico. In Hong Kong, 350 Mexicans have been isolated in a hotel after a Mexican traveler there was determined to have swine flu. The President of Mexico is complaining of the backlash against Mexicans abroad. A chartered plane left Monday to pick up Mexicans in China and will make stops in several cities to pick up any Mexican citizen wanting to return home.
Ball says the swine flu has already hurt tourism in a number of countries and would have a major economic impact if a pandemic occurs, affecting world economies for years to come. “When you’re talking about anticipating significant absenteeism rates, in a falling economy. Tourism is already suffering dramatically and this will further weaken economies.”
Mexico has 727 reported cases of swine flu and 26 deaths from the virus. The U.S. has 245 cases in 35 states. Some U.S. officials have said that they suspect the number of cases in Mexico has been severely under-reported.