Mexico City ready to reopen, Calderon focuses on recovery


*logoCiting a decline in the number of new H1N1 swine flu cases, Mexico City was preparing this week to reopen many of its businesses and tourist attractions that were shuttered nearly one week ago to prevent the spread of the disease.

Mexico's health minister, Jose Angel Cordova, said the flu was in a "declining phase" but cautioned Mexicans to not let down their guard because of the unpredictable nature of flu viruses.

As of May 5, the swine flu had killed 26 people in Mexico and infected more than 800 others, according to Cordova; no deaths have been reported in Mexico due to the flu since April 29.

The majority of flu cases have been recorded in Mexico City, where officials lowered the capital's health alert from red, the highest warning, to orange, the second-highest of four.

As a result, authorities in Mexico City said they would begin opening restaurants, churches, museums, tourist sites and convention spaces this week after a mandatory five-day shutdown.

But other public venues in the capital, such as bars, nightclubs and movie theaters, will remain closed until the health alert is lowered another level, to yellow.

The capital's universities and high schools were also expected to reopen this week, while other schools and day-care centers were set to open May 11.

With the downgrading of the health alert, Mexico President Felipe Calderon said some parts of the economy could recover immediately, although the economic impact of the shutdowns would be felt for some time.

Calderon on May 4 said the country was preparing an economic-stimulus package that would include a temporary reduction in cruise ship taxes in an effort to entice cruise lines to return to Mexico.

The swine flu outbreak in Mexico has had a severe impact on the country's tourism industry, which could see revenue drop by 43%, to $7.58 billion, this year as tourists cancel their vacations or avoid the country altogether, Tourism Minister Rodolfo Elizondo said in an interview on Mexican radio.

Mexican aviation officials, for example, reported that the country's domestic carriers are experiencing a 35% drop in bookings due to the flu outbreak, with load factors down by as much as 25%.

Tourism is Mexico's third-largest source of revenue, following oil and remittances from abroad, and generated more than $13 billion last year.


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