Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Erring on the Side of Caution

Today a chartered Mexican plane is picking up Mexicans who were quarantined in the last few days in China and Hong Kong because of swine flu or the A H1N1 influenza virus.

The majority of those quarantined in hotels -- practically all of them -- haven't had any flu-like symptoms but felt discriminated against because of their nationality.

According to interviews with the media, their nationalities were determined before they disembarked the plane and those holding Mexican passports were forced to get off the plane to a different area than the rest of the passengers.

They were then holed up in five-star hotels and fed, but they felt like prisoners.

The same has happened to 20-something Canadian students, who although had no problems entering China via Beijing, they were immediately quarantined when they arrived in Changchun, Jilin Province.

In other measures, the Chinese have banned the imports of pork from Mexico, the United States and Canada, where the A H1N1 virus was found in some 200 pigs in Alberta.

While countries are crying foul, the World Health Organization hasn't condemned China's actions.

The WHO China representative Hans Troedsson said: "It's really up to each country and should be in accordance with their own regulations and legislation on public health and protection of the population."

China's tough stance on the A H1N1 influenza virus is playing up more to its domestic audience. It is eager to show its citizens that the government is taking effective measures to deal with the flu outbreak, protecting them from potential harm.

After the Chinese government's mishandling of SARS in 2003, it wants to prove to its people and the world that is has learned from its mistakes and is a responsible country when it comes to public health safety.

While officials may have won this round in public confidence, if another health scare like the milk scandal occurs, or if a virus does break out in China, people will be expecting swift action and transparency. They've already had enough with the charades.

3 comments:

ChopSuey said...

Toronto news reports portray the Chinese officials as being clueless - unable to distinguish between the means of transimissions. Your report is more understandable. The outrage is in some ways, quite comical. The Canadian students refused an offer to be flown home, after all, they're in China to learn the language.

Anonymous said...

If China really cares about its population it would have banned smoking to save millions from dying each year. This was just a PR exercise to show population that it's doing something to combat this virus.

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