China and Mexico spar as flu eases

Dozens of Mexicans were flying home from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong after being quarantined in China over fears of swine flu, or influenza A (H1N1), Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Xinhua reported that a Chinese plane had retrieved 79 Chinese nationals in Mexico City before heading to Tijuana, where it was expected to pick up 20 more.

While none of the 70 or so Mexicans kept in isolation on the Chinese mainland showed flu symptoms, they were caught up in the drama as their governments sought to stifle fears of the virus spreading. China has suspended direct scheduled flights to Mexico. Other flu-affected nations, as well as China itself, also have had citizens affected by the emergency measures.

In Mexico, the government announced plans to revive the economy hit by the flu epidemic, which is showing signs of easing. President Felipe Calderón announced a stimulus package, including a temporary tax cut for cruise lines visiting Mexico, in an effort to lure back shiploads of foreign visitors.

The row has strained warming relations between the two countries, as China has been courting Latin America as a trade and diplomatic partner. No lasting effect from the strain is expected.

Mexico is considered the epicentre of the flu outbreak that has infected more than 1,200 people in 21 countries. To date, 27 deaths have been officially confirmed — 26 in Mexico and one in the United States. The flu’s global spread has kept alive fears of a possible pandemic, although scientists say the current strain does not appear more deadly than seasonal flu.

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