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Tourists held in Tibet over flu

May 19, 2009

The Strait Times (Taiwan)
May 18, 2009

BEIJING -- A GROUP of foreign tourists were being
held on Monday against their will in a hotel in
Tibet over swine flu fears in what one angry
traveller said was a 'completely inefficient' and lengthy process.

The 24-strong group was taken to a hotel in
Zhangmu - a town near Nepal - after one of the
tourists was diagnosed with a mild fever when
crossing the border, fellow traveller Anna Husarska told AFP by phone.

'It's completely inefficient the way that things
are run,' she said. 'First we had to wait for
half a day for the ambulance to come and pick us
up, then they took us to this hotel and they put
us here, and we had to wait for a day and a half for the doctor to arrive.'

'And the only thing the doctor did was to take
the blood of the Italian woman who had a
temperature, and now he's driving back to Lhasa.'

She said the group - which had come for an
eight-day tour of Tibet - was being treated well,
but had developed no symptoms.

'There is no danger among us, there is no
temperature, and it's a big show of how much we
care for our borders, but it's done at our expense,' she said.

Ms Husarska compared the situation she and the
rest of the group were in to a scene from a
science fiction movie. 'The people who are
guarding us are in white suits with masks on
their mouths, they look like they're from Star Trek,' she said.

'We have asked to leave as many of us have
flights from Kathmandu (Nepal's capital) on the
23rd, but we will be really stuck here.'

China has reported three cases of A(H1N1) flu,
which so far has killed over 70 people globally,
and has urged local authorities to stay vigilant
to prevent the spread of the virus in the populous nation.

But it has come under strong criticism from some
countries over its treatment of foreigners coming
from flu-affected areas such as Mexico, where the
virus first emerged. Mexico has accused Beijing
of discriminating against its citizens by
quarantining them even when they had no flu
symptoms and had not travelled from Mexico, and
Canadian officials have raised similar concerns.
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