Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine flu precautions

I arrived midnight last night from SF, CA via Incheon-Seoul (I took Korean air). There was no swine flu scare at SF airport, but there were swine flu "precautions" at Seoul and Manila airports.

At Seoul-Incheon airport, all passengers coming from the US have to submit a filled up form stating what country they have visited the past 7 days, if they have fever or cough or sore throat or nasal congestion. There is a penalty of "one year imprisonment" if the info given is wrong. Passengers coming out of the plane and tube, and entering the airport terminal have to go through body temperature check. The process though is quick, about 5 seconds per passenger on average.

My friend from Lion Rock Institute in HK, Dan O'Connor, who also went to Seoul from LA after the Atlas Liberty Forum, said such procedure was not done to them when they arrived, that was about 5 days ago. So the precautions we went through yesterday was done only a few days ago.

At Manila airport, all arriving international passengers also have to submit a filled up form stating what country they came from, flight number, if they have cough, fever, sore throat, etc.; if they have visited a piggery or farm the past few days, etc. It's a hassle of course to fill up 3 different forms upon arrival -- one for the immigration, one for the customs, and one for the health quarantine. But unlike in Incheon, passengers were not checked for body temperature individually. They just submit the health questionnaire and went straight to the immigration.

The swine scare has mellowed around the world but it's still there. And various policy debates how to deal with the flu is also there.

These precautionary measures by governments are understandable, say in Korea, since there is a big demand by their residents to watch out for arriving passengers from countries that have high reports of swine flu patients, like the US.

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