World News

Mexico seeks partial shutdown of economy in flu crisis

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The Mexican government called on Wednesday for all businesses that are not crucial to the economy or public safety to close between May 1-5 to help contain the deadly swine flu outbreak.

Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova urged “the suspension of non-essential work and services,” to avoid people gathering and spreading a swine flu virus which has killed up to 176 people in Mexico.

Government ministers said food, medical, financial and transportation sectors would be among those not affected but did not make clear which parts of the economy should close down.

Although the shutdown will last for five days, the period includes a weekend and the May 1 public holiday.

“What we are looking for is for this to be as wide as possible so it can have an impact on the objective of breaking the reproductive cycle of the virus in the widest possible way,” Finance Minister Agustin Carstens said.

As many government workers as possible will be sent home but key public sectors like oil production, the police and the army will work as normal, Carstens said.

The World Health Organisation said the world is on the brink of a pandemic, raising its threat level as the swine flu virus spread and killed the first person outside of Mexico, a toddler in Texas.

Reporting by Alistair Bell, Editing by Sandra Maler