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World News

May 6, 2009

Mexicans fly back to home emerging from flu scare

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Dozens of Mexican nationals who were quarantined at hospitals and hotels in China despite showing no symptoms of swine flu arrived home early Wednesday on a government-chartered jet.

First lady Margarita Zavala and officials from the Foreign Relations Department greeted the passengers as they deplaned at Mexico City's international airport. Authorities did not say exactly how many were on the plane but estimated the number at about 140.

"I'm very happy to be back in Mexico," passenger Oscar Fernandez told reporters. "We were in quarantine for four days in Guanghzou but they treated us very well."

Fellow passenger Daniel Charnitsky concurred with Fernandez that they had not been mistreated, and added that all the passengers "are happy to be back."

Mexico has criticized the quarantine as unfair and discriminatory. Of the 71 Mexicans held at hospitals and hotels in China, Mexican diplomats say none had swine flu symptoms.

China has defended its measures to block the swine flu virus from entering the world's most populous nation.

But Lin Ji, deputy director of the general office of the Jilin provincial health department in China, said the government had decided to lift a quarantine for a group of Canadian students two days early, following pressure from Canada's government.

He said the government would nonetheless continue its strident checks on travelers from swine flu-hit regions.

"China's large cities have a very high demographic density," the Chinese Embassy in Mexico said in a statement reported late Tuesday night on the Web site of the Mexican newspaper El Universal. "In addition, the public health system in China is far from being perfect. If the virus shows up among our population, the consequences could be catastrophic."

The Mexican travelers returned to a capital that has begun emerging from a government-ordered lockdown designed to contain the spread of the virus that has caused 31 deaths in Mexico and the U.S. and sickened nearly 1,900 in 21 countries.

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