Japan Relaxes Flu Guidelines
In Japan face masks are in high demand to combat swine flu. But the Japanese government is now relaxing rules for dealing with swine flu. It's concerned that the strict regulations may be needlessly restricting the public and hurting the economy.
Japan’s rules for dealing with the new H1N1 flu were drafted with the deadly bird flu in mind, while the swine flu behaves more like a seasonal flu.
Under the new guidelines patients would be allowed to go regular medical centers rather than designated “fever centers”.
Quarantine checks on airplanes will no longer be conducted in most instances. It’s travel warning for Mexico has also been relaxed, calling for caution rather than the postponement of visits.
[Taro Aso, Japanese Prime Minister]:
"I would like to amend our basic influenza strategy and our efforts to stop the disease at our borders today."
However, the mood in Japan remains tense over influenza cases.
The head teacher of a school near Tokyo was reduced to tears at a news conference this week. He was criticized for letting two of his students go on a trip to New York where they were infected with the flu.
Face masks have become an essential accessory in many parts of Japan where infections have been reported. There is a shortage of masks even in Tokyo.
Pharmacies around Tokyo are out of stock and the few orders that came in did not last very long.
[Yoshitaka Osawa, Pharmacy Employee]:
"Today we miraculously got an order in of 30 boxes of masks but that was gone in under one minute."
There are debates as to how effective the masks are, but some are not taking any chances.
[Mizuhiro Saito, Tokyo Resident]:
"It will hit Tokyo eventually as we're a big city and when it does it will spread very fast. I am sure there are even infected people around us right now as we speak. The only thing is that we just don't know it."
Others are simply confused.
[Yuka Oba, Tokyo Resident]:
"Eventually I think I will start wearing a mask but right now we're getting conflicting information and I really don't know what to think."
That however did not stop some from selling off their stocks at a profit on Internet auction sites.
A total of 289 flu cases have been confirmed in Japan, many of them high school students. Only two cases have been confirmed in Tokyo.