Business as normal as flu fears rise

GOVERNMENT officials today insisted it was "business as usual" after the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its swine flu alert level to phase five of six.

GOVERNMENT officials today insisted it was "business as usual" after the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its swine flu alert level to phase five of six.

The move means the WHO believes a global outbreak is imminent.

The latest development comes as a group of 12 women from Ipswich continue their desperate attempts to get away from the Mexican resort of Cancun.

The youngest member of the Suffolk party, a 20-year-old, said: "Everything's gone more scary. We went out of the complex into town and everyone was walking around in masks. It is surreal and a little bit scary.


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"We've spoken to Thomas Cook and they told us to speak to the British Embassy, but the British Embassy told us to speak to Thomas Cook.

"Most people want to go home as soon as possible but at the moment we're still going home on Sunday."

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She said the group could only get home early by paying lots of money each for new flights, which they would not be able to claim back on insurance.

Meanwhile another couple have made the heartbreaking decision to cancel their dream wedding in Mexico as the swine flu epidemic escalates.

Tara Gray - whose father Chris was chief executive of the Port of Felixstowe - and Israel Pons, who live in Witham, had been left in an agonising state of limbo since the disease first appeared last week.

They had been waiting to decide whether they and 35 friends and family would be able to jet off to the Central American country for the May 15 date.

Ms Gray said it was simply not worth risking the health of any members of the wedding party.

She and her partner reluctantly agreed to postpone the event and began the process of reorganising it.

She said: “As minimal as the risk is, we decided it was still enough of a risk.”

The couple have been together for 10 years and have three young children, aged two, three and nine.

The latest warning from the WHO signals there is sustained human to human spread in at least two countries, and that efforts to produce a vaccine will be ramped up.

The alert upgrade came after three more people in Britain were confirmed as having the illness yesterday, including a 12-year-old girl.

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government's Chief Medical Adviser, said: "A change to phase five is a signal to countries' governments to ramp up their pandemic preparations - which we are already doing.”

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