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Asia tightens health check at airports

27 Apr 2009

With memories of SARS still fresh after six years, thermal-imaging scanners are out in full force as airports in Asia-Pacific take steps to ward off the new swine flu.

Travellers running a temperature are better off staying home than risk being questioned or quarantined on arrival.

The new swine flu has killed 103 people in Mexico and has spread to North America, New Zealand and Spain, underscoring its potential to become a global pandemic.

Below is the latest airport updates from major destinations in the region:

•    Australia

All flights from North and South America have to report passengers with flu-like symptoms before the aircraft is allowed to land.

•    China

China issued an emergency notice requiring people to report flu-like symptoms at the point of entry when coming from the deadly swine flu-affected places.

The notice also said people who developed flu-like symptoms after returning from the disease-affected regions within two weeks should also report to the local entry-exit inspection and quarantine authorities.

•    Hongkong

While there are no direct flights from Mexico, an inflight announcement is being given to all incoming passengers of a stricter thermal check procedure.

“The health department has reminded us to be extra vigilant especially if a passenger from North America arrives with a high fever,” a spokesman at the Hongkong International Airport said.

Passengers arriving from swine flu-affected countries with flu-like symptoms will be quarantined in hospitals until tests can clear them of the disease.

•    Japan

Narita and Kansai airports have begun using thermographic imaging to check passengers’ temperatures and spot symptoms of swine flu. These cameras will be installed at the arrival gate of flights from Mexico at Narita airport.

The Japanese health ministry has also set up a hotline for people worried about the situation. The hotline, which has already received over 400 phone calls, can be dialled at (03) 3501-9031.

•    Malaysia

At least 11 thermal imaging scanners will be installed at major international airports in the country to detect possible cases of swine flu.  The health-screening unit had been stationed at the terminal since Sunday night to check passengers for any signs of the disease.

•    Singapore

Thermal scanners have been deployed at the arrival halls of Terminal 1, 2 and 3 for the screening of all passengers. On Wednesday, April 29, scanners will also be deployed at the Budget Terminal and Seletar Airport.

Passengers will undergo the screening before going through immigration.

•    Taiwan

People arriving from the affected places with flu symptoms will be taken to hospitals and be held for as long as six hours pending test results, according to Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control said.

They will be allowed to leave if the results are negative and will be held for treatment if found to be infected with swine flu, he said. No cases of the illness have been reported in Taiwan, Shih said.

•    Thailand

Visitors from France, Tokyo, Frankfurt, London, Chicago, Los Angeles and Texas will be screened using infrared thermal scanners at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport in a move to prevent the spread of swine flu in Thailand.

Scanners will also be deployed in other major airports in the country.

Gigi Onag and Joshua Tan

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