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Mexicans fly home amid China flu quarantine spat

 Travelers arriving from overseas wait in a long line all wearing masks to go through quarantine at Narita International Airport in Narita, east of To...
 A Chinese security officer wearing masks as a precaution against the swine flu stands guard in front of a sealed-off hotel, where Mexican travelers a...
 Hotel guests look out from the window of the Metropark Hotel after police seal off the area in Hong Kong Tuesday, May 5, 2009.  Guests and employees ...
 Medical staffs wearing protective masks as a precaution against the swine flu, look out from the main entrance of the Metropark Hotel after police se...
 An Aeromexico plane chartered by Mexican government to transport Mexican travelers who have been held in quarantine at a hotel in Shanghai, takes off...
 An unidentified Mexican passenger, second from right, was transported to special entrance at Pudong International Airport to aboard a Mexican airplan...
 Mexican, Pedro Dias, 28, walks past journalists as he arrives at the Mexican embassy with luggage to catch a chartered flight out of Beijing, China, ...
 Unidentified Mexican travelers who have been held in quarantine at a hotel, are checked by Chinese inspectors after they were transported to special ...

Japan Swine Flu

Travelers arriving from overseas wait in a long line all wearing masks to go through quarantine at Narita International Airport in Narita, east of To...

China Mexico Swine Flu

A Chinese security officer wearing masks as a precaution against the swine flu stands guard in front of a sealed-off hotel, where Mexican travelers a...

Hong Kong Swine Flu

Hotel guests look out from the window of the Metropark Hotel after police seal off the area in Hong Kong Tuesday, May 5, 2009. Guests and employees ...

Hong Kong Swine Flu

Medical staffs wearing protective masks as a precaution against the swine flu, look out from the main entrance of the Metropark Hotel after police se...

APTOPIX China Swine Flu

An Aeromexico plane chartered by Mexican government to transport Mexican travelers who have been held in quarantine at a hotel in Shanghai, takes off...

APTOPIX China Swine Flu

An unidentified Mexican passenger, second from right, was transported to special entrance at Pudong International Airport to aboard a Mexican airplan...

China Mexico Swine Flu

Mexican, Pedro Dias, 28, walks past journalists as he arrives at the Mexican embassy with luggage to catch a chartered flight out of Beijing, China, ...

APTOPIX China Swine Flu

Unidentified Mexican travelers who have been held in quarantine at a hotel, are checked by Chinese inspectors after they were transported to special ...

Mexico flew dozens of its citizens home from China on Tuesday, freeing them from a swine flu quarantine that has also ensnared travelers from the U.S. and Canada, as Beijing takes strict measures to block the virus from entering the world's most populous nation.
Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea remained on high alert as it confirmed a second case, a 44-year-old Catholic nun whom the Health Ministry said had recovered and was due to be released from a military-run hospital Wednesday.
In the Philippines, the health secretary said two people in the central city of Cebu were being tested for swine flu after three other patients were cleared of the virus. Singapore said it ordered six locals and two foreigners to home confinement for a week after arriving on flights from Mexico.
The arrival of the Mexican charter flights come amid a diplomatic row between China and Mexico, whose President Felipe Calderon complained Monday of a backlash against Mexicans abroad.
Mexico has reported 802 of the more than 1,446 confirmed cases of swine flu in 20 countries worldwide.
"I think it's unfair that because we have been honest and transparent with the world some countries and places are taking repressive and discriminatory measures because of ignorance and disinformation," Calderon said.
Of the 71 Mexicans China held at hospitals and hotels in China, none had swine flu symptoms and most had no contact with infected people or places, Mexican diplomats say. Mexicans, including the consul general in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, were apparently being picked up simply on the basis of their nationality, with one traveler likening the quarantine in Beijing to "a kidnapping."
China's Health Ministry says the country has no confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu.
Amid high security, Mexicans held at a hotel in the capital were spirited away to the airport in a motorcade including four ambulances and three unmarked black sedans. The driver and passenger in the front of each ambulance were wearing full biohazard protection suits.
Of the 10 Mexicans isolated at the hotel, eight left on the flight, said Liang Banmian, a Beijing health bureau spokesman. The other two stayed behind for work-related reasons, he said.
Another 23 people were still at the hotel. Most were Chinese and Liang did not say what other nationalities were involved.
Liang defended the quarantine measures as authorized under Chinese law and according to WHO guidelines, and said everything was done to make the guests feel comfortable, including providing Western food. The children were given toys.
"The task we have carried out was intended purely for the safety of the public and our city," Liang said.
The chartered plane left Beijing about 1045 GMT for the southern city of Guangzhou and Hong Kong. It would fly later Tuesday to Mexico City.
China's Foreign Ministry has denied singling out Mexicans, saying it was purely a medical matter and it hoped Mexico would be "objective and calm." A plane Beijing sent to Mexico to retrieve its citizens arrived Tuesday in Mexico City.
The American Embassy in Beijing said a pair of U.S. citizens were quarantined in a hotel in a suburb of the city, while another two people who had earlier been kept in isolation in the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen were allowed to leave Monday.
Embassy spokeswoman Susan Stevenson declined to give specifics of the individual cases, citing privacy reasons, but said consular officials were in touch with the travelers and cooperating with Chinese health authorities.
"They were either placed under quarantine because they themselves exhibited symptoms or because they were in proximity to cases of interest to the Chinese authorities, and the consular section of the embassy has been in contact with them," Stevenson said.
A group of 29 Canadian university students and a professor have also been quarantined at a hotel in China since the weekend over swine flu fears. Canada has 140 confirmed cases of swine flu.
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said arrangements had been made for the students' accommodation, food and medical checks. Calls to the hotel where they were staying in the northern city of Changchun would not connect.
China has been accused in the past of not acting quickly enough to combat the spread of diseases, especially the 2003 global outbreak of SARS. Chastened by that experience, and subsequent threats from avian flu, the government this time has acted quickly and decisively to block an outbreak, even if some of its measures have been considered over-the-top.
In Hong Kong, 274 people were three days into a weeklong quarantine in a hotel after a Mexican traveler there was determined to have swine flu. Hong Kong's leader appeared on TV to apologize to them, and the government offered free hotel lodging and free Hong Kong Disneyland tickets to travelers who wanted to stay on after the quarantine as a gesture of thanks.
Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health York Chow told reporters that the Mexican swine flu patient was not ready to be discharged yet.
In Southeast Asia, about 200 passengers who flew from the U.K. to Brunei, the oil-rich sultanate on Borneo island, were under quarantine in a hospital because of swine flu concerns, after three of them showed fever symptoms, an official said.
Initial tests showed the passengers did not have swine flu, said Rahmah Said, the director general of health services.
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Associated Press writers Mark Stevenson in Mexico City, Min Lee in Hong Kong, Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul and Henry Sanderson and Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-16 19:56 GMT+08:00