Flu: Fear and The Media (Not Great Medical Advice) Sparking Strict New Measures in Mexico?

Mexican office workers are being forced to sit six feet apart and cinemas must allow a spare seat either side of each customer as tough new regulations are imposed after the peak of the swine flu outbreak.

By Ioan Grillo in Mexico City
Telegraph (UK)

After a five-day swine flu shutdown, in which Mexico City’s population of 20 million was told to stay at home, life is beginning to return to normal after 42 people died from the virus.

Cafes serving sizzling, spicy tacos have reopened their swing doors and schoolchildren returned to their desks. But they had to contend with tough new rules to limit infections of the H1N1 virus.

Restaurants could only seat 50 per cent of their capacity and all staff, from waitresses to cashiers, had to wear surgical facemasks, while office-based companies were urged not to have meetings. In theatres and cinemas, not only did a spare seat have to be allowed for on each side of a customer, but also in the rows in front and behind.

“It’s all a bit surreal,” said Claudia Bernal, 39, being served a chili and egg breakfast by a waiter in a blue mask. “We are used to crowded places and hustle and bustle. This is a like a different city.”

Some of the new rules signalled marked improvements. In the normally grimy subway system, cleaners in blue overalls rushed around cleaning everything from train seats to ticket machines and offering customers hand-cleaning gel.

A man wears a face mask adorned with a skull

But Mercurio Cruz, the manager of an Argentine-style steak house, said that losing half of his customers will annihilate his profits.

“I’m just opening so I can keep paying my staff. But I won’t make any money,” he said. “The government has to relax these rules soon.”

With both industry and tourism hard hit, Mexico’s finance minister has estimated losses from swine flu and its consequences at $2.3 billion (£1.5 billion).

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