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Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 17:55 UK

Hong Kong 'flu' hotel guests free

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The guests cheered as they were released from the hotel

Nearly 300 guests and staff at a hotel in Hong Kong have been released after being held in quarantine for a week due to a feared outbreak of swine flu.

All were given health checks before leaving the Metropark Hotel. They were isolated after a Mexican traveller carrying the virus stayed in the hotel.

Meanwhile, Mexico raised its flu death toll to 45, but the health minister said the virus was on the wane.

The number of confirmed infections in the US has nearly doubled to 1,639.

Two people have died in the US.

A spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dave Daigle, said the cases had been registered in 43 states, according to the AFP news agency.

He said he expected to find confirmed cases in all 50 US states because there were now more testing facilities in America. But he stressed that the epidemic was not speeding up.

I'm happy! I love Hong Kong people!
South Korean guest released from Metropark Hotel

In Mexico City, Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova said the country's swine flu death toll now stood at 45, but one more fatality was not a new infection.

Mr Cordova also said the number of confirmed cases across the country rose by 159 to 1,319.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was not recommending travel restrictions related to the outbreak of swine flu.

Speaking in Bangkok, WHO chief Margaret Chan said that "the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history".

'Breathe easily'

Hotel guests cheered and waved to bystanders as they walked out of the Metropark Hotel on Friday.

We have been successful in our effort to prevent the spread of the virus, but this doesn't mean that we can relax our guard
York Chow
Hong Kong Health Secretary

"I'm happy! I love Hong Kong people!" a South Korean businessman, who did not give his name, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The unidentified Mexican man was also released from a Hong Kong hospital on Friday.

Hong Kong officials earlier apologised to those held, but said it was in the public interest.

Hong Kong's Health Secretary York Chow said: "I am sure everyone feels... that Hong Kong has passed its first test and we can breathe more easily."

"We have been successful in our effort to prevent the spread of the virus, but this doesn't mean that we can relax our guard," he added.

Authorities have offered guests of the city centre hotel two nights' free accommodation at another of Hong Kong's luxury hotels to compensate for the inconvenience.

Although critics called the quarantine an over-reaction, officials were keen to avoid a repeat of the 2003 Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic.

That outbreak killed 300 people in Hong Kong and 800 worldwide after a single carrier spread the disease in a city hotel.



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