Tourism Industry Called on to Help Stop Flu Spread - RePress

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Thursday, May 28

Tourism Industry Called on to Help Stop Flu Spread

The tourism industry is being called on to "do its bit" to help stop the spread of Influenza A (H1N1) in New Zealand.

A new Ministry of Health information campaign will be directed at visitors, returning Kiwis and the general public.

Dr Fran McGrath, Deputy Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Health, says the department needs the help of tourism operators to get the message out to international visitors.

"We are preparing an information sheet for tourists that will provide useful information about what to do if travellers become unwell within seven days of arriving in New Zealand, who to call for free advice and assistance and what precautions to take to stay well.

"We are recruiting the help of the tourism industry’s networks to make sure this document gets distributed to the people who need it, whether that means putting the information in a hire car or campervan, in a welcome pack or handed to visitors when they check in," Dr McGrath says.

More information will also be on display and given out at airports.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says with the spread of cases, and the spread of the virus in Australia, it would be almost impossible to keep Influenza A (H1N) out of New Zealand forever.

"There is no cause for alarm, but for caution. The Government is taking this threat seriously and will continue to do all it can to delay the virus taking hold in New Zealand," he adds.

The World Health Organisation’s latest update of 26 May records almost 13,000 cases of Influenza A (H1N1) in 46 countries.

Tourism operators who are part of an existing membership organisation will be forwarded a document to hand out to visitors later this week. Others should visit www.tourismnewzealand.com or www.tianz.org.nz and download a version of the document to hand out.

"The tourism industry has an important role to play in making sure that New Zealand contains the spread of this flu," Dr McGrath says.

According to World Health Organisation records, Japan, which detected its first cases on Saturday 16 May, had 350 confirmed cases at the last update on May 26. China had 20 cases, India one case and Korea 21 cases.

During recent weeks there has been growing concern over cancellations from Asian markets, particularly from Japanese school groups heading for New Zealand.

Tourism New Zealand’s Regional Manager Japan Jason Hill says though the flu was spreading in Japan, the "panic" factor was abating.

"The Government is very much in anti-panic mode here. The public is realising that for most people the illness is not severe, although for some it may be. The students who contracted it in Japan are recovering quickly and the Government has said it is now treating it as a normal seasonal flu."

Jason Hill says one school group from Japan, which had been wavering, had now decided to visit New Zealand as planned next week. Two others that had cancelled, have now rebooked for December.

"The concern is that new bookings are not coming through as they should. Many of our visitors are in the 50-plus age group and they can travel any time, so they will be able to put off trips to a later date," says Jason Hill.

Inbound Tour Operators Council Chief Executive Paul Yeo says he has not heard of any further substantial cancellations on top of the 3,500 notified through his members last week.

There are currently no confirmed cases of Influenza A (H1N1) in New Zealand, as all those people who had contracted it have now fully recovered.
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