Family tell of swine flu holiday drama

A FATHER from west Suffolk has spoken of the drama of his family being caught up in the Mexican swine flu outbreak.

Russell Claydon

A FATHER from west Suffolk has spoken of the drama of his family being caught up in the Mexican swine flu outbreak.

The Hicks family from Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, flew into Cancun to celebrate a 50th birthday, but have never been so glad to return home.

Phil Hicks, 51, has told how they were herded together with 900 other holiday makers in the Mexican airport looking nervously around at a mass of worried faces, some with masks on, whilst they waited anxiously for their flight.

So far they are all healthy but they now face an edgy seven-day wait to see if they develop any symptoms of the deadly virus.

Mr Hicks, a father of two, last night called for more stringent health checks to be carried out on passengers getting off flights from Mexico to stop swine flu fully taking hold in the UK.

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He also spoke of his horror that their tour operator, Thomson, told them on several occasions they had nothing to be worried about as swine flu was being “over-hyped” and didn't even offer them a face mask at the airport.

The banking sector worker said of the conditions they faced at Gatwick yesterday: “We did not want to be put into some enclosed quarantine unit like dogs for a week, but it was too relaxed in the other direction.

“We thought there would be resources to have a team of doctors and nurses there and run some rudimentary checks and temperatures and offer some advice.”

As it was they only had to hand over name and addresses written on plane sick bags and take home an advice leaflet.

He said they only learnt about the health crisis unfolding after his son Daniel, 25, switched on an American news station in the hotel room and even heard rumours the foreign channels were being banned in other hotels.

“Thomson did not provide us with masks,” he said. “From our point of view Thomson were poor - very, very poor. There was no information forthcoming and they did not pay any respect to the fact that in this day and age holiday makers get very detailed information on what happens in the world. Just a note under our door saying you may have heard about this would have been good.”

The Hicks family came back on their scheduled flight yesterday after a 10 day stay at an all-inclusive hotel by the Peurto Aventuras resort one hour and 30 minutes south of their airport at Cancun - where the first Brits to contract the disease were staying.

A spokesman for Thomson said last night they would not comment on individual cases, but said: “We are taking this matter extremely seriously. Customers are our number one priority and our overseas team are going to great lengths to keep our holidaymakers informed. Our reps have attempted to speak to all customers individually and information is posted on all notice boards.

“Furthermore, we have arranged for an additional dedicated flight from Cancun to bring back those passengers who wish to return home early. This demonstrates that we are listening to our customers and taking this matter extremely seriously.”