(For a factbox on the outbreak click [ID:nLG76170]
BEIJING, June 17 China plans to restrict movement in residential areas and shut down entertainment centres to prevent the H1N1 flu strain from spreading, under worst case contingency plans released by the health ministry on Wednesday.
The ministry says stringent quarantine measures on incoming travellers have prevented the disease from spreading among the general population.
With 264 cases as of Wednesday, and new cases cropping up around China, the ministry's new plan seeks to address possible outbreaks in residential neighborhoods.
Schools could be closed and meetings or gatherings delayed or cancelled, the plan said.
China has been eager to show it can effectively control H1N1, after its cover-up of SARS contributed to the spread of that disease. Experts also fear the flu strain could turn more lethal if it spread widely in China, given the large population and uneven health services.
Many foreigners chafed at China's quarantine restrictions on travellers, which in some cases seemed illogical. The World Health Organization warned that China's current policy is too resource intensive to be sustainable should the disease become widespread.
Roughly one-quarter of the confirmed cases in China as of early June were United States citizens, the U.S. embassy in Beijing said earlier this month, suggesting that Chinese caution in quarantining hundreds of American travellers was justified.
The WHO declared H1N1 a pandemic last week following a spike in cases in Australia. [ID:nLB765857]
(Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)