Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Swine Flu in China

BBC News
China's health minister says the nation is facing a grim situation as it tries to contain a rapid surge in swine flu.

Chen Zhu said a vaccination programme would start this week, prioritising those taking part in events to celebrate National Day on 1 October.


Mr Chen says priority will be given to young students aged between five and 19, vulnerable groups such as those with respiratory diseases and pregnant women, and front-line public service personnel.

But he also revealed that the vaccination programme would start with those performing in the National Day Parade.

There are at least 200,000 official participants, plus thousands of security police.

According to the BBC's China analyst, Shirong Chen, they have been pushed to the front of the queue not just because it is a huge public event that carries national pride, but because all the top leaders and dignitaries will be in Beijing.

The authorities cannot afford the political risk of any infection there, our correspondent says.

So there will not be much vaccine left for others on the priority list for now.

Sigh... you can always cancel or scale back the 60th anniversary propaganda show but that will be political suicide for anyone that suggests it. Maybe they should hand out 200,000 surgical masks instead and let pregnant women and the elderly get the vaccines.

There were quite a few people on my CX flights last week wearing masks. I thought the consensus was that masks, especially the surgical ones, are only useful for preventing the wearer from infecting others. Almost all the public workers I saw at Beijing airport were wearing the same flimsy masks too. I'm 100% sure all these people were not watching out for other people's health... that's not the Chinese way.

I did buy a few N95 respirator masks for our trip to China last week but that was more for the smog and air pollution. Those masks are slightly more effective than the surgical masks against flu viruses but are harder to breathe through. The air quality in Beijing was okay so we didn't use them.

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