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World News

May 5, 2009

Mexico gets some bustle back after flu shutdown

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico began a cautious return to normal Tuesday, traffic picking up in the capital and cafes reopening while Cinco de Mayo celebrations were called off throughout the country.

The canceled events included the biggest one of all — a re-enactment of the May 5, 1862, victory over French troops in the central state of Puebla. And health experts warned that Mexico and the rest of the world needed to remain on guard against the virus.

Saying the outbreak is waning in Mexico, the epicenter of an illness that has sickened hundreds around the world, President Felipe Calderon announced it was nearly time to reopen businesses. Universities and high schools will open their doors Thursday, and younger schoolchildren are to report back to school May 11.

"The school schedule will resume with the guarantee that our educational institutions are in adequate hygienic condition," Calderon said. He urged parents to join educators in a "collective" cleansing and inspection of schools nationwide.

"This is about going back to normalcy, but with everyone taking better care," Calderon said.

Already more vehicles prowled the streets of the capital Monday than over the weekend, and fewer people wore surgical masks. Some cafes even reopened ahead of time.

Health Secretary Jose Cordova said infections were trending downward after Mexico's 27 deaths, including a Mexican toddler who died in Texas. He said those infected appeared to pass the virus on to an average of 1.4 other people, near the normal flu rate of around 1.3.

Cordova said soccer stadiums and concert halls could reopen — but only if fans were kept 2 meters, about 6 1/2 feet, apart.

However, world health officials stressed that the global spread of swine flu was still in its early stages and a pandemic could be declared in the days to come. Experts inside Mexico's swine flu crisis center warned that the virus remained active throughout Mexico and could bounce back once millions return to work and school.

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