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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Fearing lethal flu virus, Mexico winds down ]

Fearing lethal flu virus, Mexico winds down

Fearing lethal flu virus, Mexico winds down
May 01, 2009 - By Helen Popper and Louise Egan (Reuters)

From building sites to barber shops, much of Mexico will shut down for the next five days as the country battles to stem a deadly swine flu outbreak that risks becoming a global epidemic.

Many government offices, car plants, factories and offices are letting employees stay home on a presidential order, extending a long weekend that starts with a public holiday on Friday.

Some businesses plan to stay open, however, and Mexicans working for themselves said they could not afford to obey President Felipe Calderon's order for non-essential parts of the economy to shut down for May 1-5.

At an old-fashioned hair salon in the capital's historic center, staff scrubbed down the floors before shutting up shop on Thursday afternoon to abide by the president's call. "I'm going to miss the tips," said stylist Ana Laura Hernandez, 23.

Calderon told Mexicans the best way for them to avoid catching the virus was to stay at home during the special May 1-5 shutdown.

Core industries like oil and mining will run as normal, as will hospitals and parts of the government handling the crisis, but companies like Ford and Volkswagen will shut plants and glassmaker Vitro will halt most of its operations.

"Since the federal government and the health authorities have requested it, our position is to stop operations until May 6," said Ford's Mexico spokesman Herman Morfin.

Global health officials urged more worldwide precautions against an imminent flu pandemic on Thursday as new confirmed flu cases were reported in the United States, Canada and Europe. The virus has killed up to 176 people in Mexico.

Mexico's top construction company ICA will stop work Monday and Tuesday, although it asked employees to take the two days out of their holiday allocation.

While some worried about losing vacation days, Mexicans in the vast informal economy had even more serious concerns.

"We are barely making enough to eat. Nobody is going to give us food if we stop working," said street stall seller Antonio Sanchez, 47, in Mexico City's historic center.

RICE AND BEANS

Industry federation CANACINTRA urged manufacturers to close down as well comply with Calderon's request, but it was not clear how his government planned to enforce it.

The measures taken to fight the flu outbreak will dent Mexico's economy, which is already in recession, especially if the crisis drags on for weeks or months. HSBC estimates that every week of the crisis could chop 0.3 percent off Mexico's annual growth rate.

Many smaller companies like consultancies and insurance companies said they would shut their doors or operate with a skeleton staff, with other employees working from home.

"We haven't completely decided what to do on Monday but it looks like we won't be coming in. The lawyers decided the best thing was to work from home," said Eduardo Pizarro, a lawyer at Gardere, Arena & Asociados in an upscale office tower.

Calderon has asked supermarkets and pharmacies to stay open, but other retailers like the popular department store Palacio de Hierro will be open.

Dozens of independent clothing stores in Mexico City, along with tattoo parlors and sex shops, said they would stay open.

In the northern business city of Monterrey, big companies like Cemex said they would not close, and tourism companies in the border city of Tijuana said they would ignore an order by the state governor to close. "We'd rather use face masks than close," said Andres Mendez, head of a local tourism chamber.

Mexico City has been hushed since the flu outbreak was made public at the end of last week, with bars, museums, cinemas, stadiums and even churches shut. Schools are closed across the country.

Some restaurant owners have protested a new measure by the Mexico City government this week saying they can only serve takeout food and must close by mid-afternoon, and many small business scoffed on Thursday at the new five-day closure order.

"We are going out to work as normal. We need to earn our rice and beans," said Victor Sanchez, who leads a 10-man mariachi band in Mexico City's famous Garibaldi square.


(Source: Financial Mirror, http://www.financialmirror.com/News/Cyprus_and_World_News/15175)



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