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H1N1 Flu Virus Disrupts School, Provincial Events

Posted September. 04, 2009 09:13,   


With the rise in influenza A infections and the country’s fourth swine flu death, people have began avoiding crowded places such as public baths and Internet cafes, dealing a blow to business.

School athletic meets and trips and provincial events are also being canceled to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus.

○ Drivers refuse sobriety tests

At the entrance of a sauna at Seoul’s Yongsan district yesterday, workers had customers wash their hands with a sanitizer and take temperatures. A worker there said, “The number of customers has plummeted due to the new influenza.”

With fears over the flu growing, people are reluctant to go crowded places. Kim Hye-rim, 25, a college student who works out at a sports center run by Seoul’s Gwangjin district, said, “I will stop going there because I don’t want to risk getting the new flu virus.”

Office worker Kim Tae-hwan, 35, began driving to work instead of using the subway after the influenza A outbreak. Customers at Internet cafes are cleaning computer mouses and keyboards before use.

Unnecessary medical spending is also growing as people take tests for the flu though they have minor symptoms. General hospitals charge around 200,000 won (161 U.S. dollars) for the flu test.

The demand for electronic thermometers priced at around 100,000 won (80 dollars) is soaring as parents began taking their children’s temperatures. A parent with two elementary school children in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, said, “Despite the high price, I bought an electronic thermometer because I get anxious if I don’t take my children’s temperatures before and after school.”

Others refused to take a sobriety test at checkpoints. A police officer in the southern port city of Ulsan said, “A growing number of drivers are refusing sobriety tests for fear of contracting the new flu.”

The Public Administration and Security Ministry ordered provincial and municipal governments Wednesday to either suspend events with more than 1,000 people or hold smaller events.

The city of Gwangju decided yesterday to cancel or delay a world tourism expo to run from Oct. 9 through Nov. 5 and a kimchi festival slated for Oct. 23 through Nov. 1.

As of yesterday, dozens of provincial events were canceled, including a world taekwondo championship in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province, at the end of the month. The event was to draw 700 athletes from 21 countries.

Incheon is in trouble as more than 200,000 parents of public school students demanded refunds for tickets to the Global Fair and Festival in New Songdo City.

○ School activities canceled

Schools nationwide are on high alert as well. Taebong Elementary School in Gwangju canceled a fall athletic meet slated for Sept. 25 and Ewha Girls` High School in Seoul also snubbed community work for the disabled.

Samcheon Elementary School in Daejeon decided to take student graduation pictures in October after canceling a school trip to Gyeongju, an ancient Korean city in North Gyeongsang Province.

Lodging facilities at major school trip destinations are also reeling from a rush of reservation cancellations. A youth hostel in Buyeo, South Chungcheong Province, said, “We have no customers this fall.”

The Korea Youth Center run by the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry is also struggling due to a rising number of cancellations. A facility in Cheonan normally handles 900 public school students and another in Pyeongchang 1,000. The occupancy rate had been 70 percent since each school sent 350 students on average. The two facilities, however, have no students these days.

The center said, “We had reservations for early and mid-September, but school principals abruptly canceled them,” adding, “Schools that made reservations for late September and afterward are set to cancel after seeing how the outbreak of the flu unfolds.”

The number of blood donations is also likely to decline. According to the Korean Red Cross, five high schools in Seoul canceled group blood donations. Red Cross officials expect the number of donations to drop this month after a rise of 220,712 in July and 208,831 last month year-on-year.

The military and companies are also poised to delay donations for the time being. Last year, 40 percent of blood donations were made by groups. A Red Cross official said, “If the cancellation of group donations continues, blood will be in short supply,” adding, “Countries around the world including the United States suffered a decline of 16 percent in blood donations due to swine flu.”

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