More than 150 Mexico citizens donning facemasks were sent under quarantine in ambulances to four Chinese airports to fly back home on a chartered flight.
An AeroMexico chartered flight - which earlier picked up passengers quarantined in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou - took off from Hong Kong International Airport late last night heading to Mexico City, the center of the H1N1 flu outbreak.
The charter flight was part of an agreement between the Chinese and Mexican governments to transport citizens of both countries back home.
In Mexico City yesterday, 79 Chinese citizens boarded a Boeing 777-200 jet that took off from Benito Juarez international airport. The flight was headed for Tijuana, the northern Mexican city near the US border, to pick up more Chinese, 200 in all, before their scheduled return to Shanghai at 10am today.
Officials in Beijing yesterday said the quarantine and departure of the Mexicans were in accordance with international medical practice and domestic law.
In the capital, eight Mexicans left their hotel quarantine in a police-escorted motorcade yesterday afternoon, ending their isolation that started Saturday.
Their stay was short of the required seven-day quarantine for the deadly flu, which has claimed 25 lives in Mexico, according to the World Health Organization.
Of the 10 Mexicans who stayed at the four-star Guomen Hotel in Beijing, two have agreed to complete the rest of their quarantine.
Liang Wannian, spokesperson for the Beijing municipal government's special task force formed after learning from the SARS epidemic that hit the capital in 2003, said the local authorities acted according to international practice.
"Our decision to send the foreigners back is based on their willingness to leave as well as the need to safeguard their health," Liang, who is also the deputy director of the Beijing municipal health bureau, told reporters at the hotel.
"Our practice of quarantining foreigners is also in line with the Law on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, and the Frontier Health and Quarantine Law of China," he said.
Besides the eight Mexicans who left Beijing yesterday, there are still 25 others, including two in Guomen Hotel and 23 others from Beijing, Yunnan and Jilin, staying for the rest of the quarantine period, said Yu Debin, deputy director of the Beijing tourism administration.
In Shanghai, the local government deployed 27 ambulances to send 77 passengers and crew of an AeroMexico flight who were quarantined at a hotel to the airport.
China yesterday also defended the quarantine of 25 Canadian students in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, saying the move was legal and with the consent of the Canadians.
The students started their seven-day quarantine at a hotel on May 2 when they arrived, the same day Canada confirmed it had 51 cases of the flu, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a regular press conference in Beijing yesterday.
Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday said the government would continue with strict medical examinations and follow-up checks on travelers from flu-affected countries and regions.
A State Council meeting presided by Wen said health departments must report suspected cases without delay or cover-ups, and allocated 5 billion yuan ($725 million) for flu prevention and control.
Source: China Daily