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Mexico says spread of swine flu slowing -

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Reporter: Kim Landers

PETER CAVE: Mexico's Government is voicing optimism that the swine flu outbreak has slowed there.

Mexico's Health Ministry says the caseload is slowing and it's even revised the official death toll
down from 168 to 12, although the suspected number is still much higher.

Meanwhile a five-day shutdown of the country will begin in a few hours' time in the hopes of
slowing down the spread of the virus even more.

Our North America correspondent Kim Landers joins us now from Mexico City.

Kim, is there reason behind the Government's optimism or is it bravado?

KIM LANDERS: Well, the Mexican Health Secretary Jose Cordova says the number of new cases has
levelled off, and the death rate has been nearly flat for several days. So, he says, that that's
the cause for optimism.

He also adds, however, that the next few days would be critical in figuring out whether or not the
virus was truly on the decline here in Mexico.

But you've got to, sort of, you know raise an eyebrow over some of these figures.

After all, the Health Ministry, which had earlier said, you know, 168 people were believed to have
been killed by swine flu here, now is only confirming 12 of those deaths, and they're not saying
how many are suspected.

The World Health Organization , of course, is pointing out they're taking a more cautious note
about whether or not this virus has actually peaked, compared with the Mexican authorities.

And they say look, figures go up and down, that's to be expected, and that in Mexico, they expect
to see a continued mixed picture.

PETER CAVE: It's one thing for the Government to say that, but I suppose it's important that the
people believe them. Do the people you've been speaking to believe the worst is over?

KIM LANDERS: Well, when you look around Mexico City, you see a couple of really different pictures.

Today, for example, hundreds of people were lining up at a free clinic near the historic centre of
the city, all to have their temperatures and symptoms checked by health professionals and doctors.

Now, there were some people in that crowd, you know, they were coughing and they were hacking, and
you know - they looked like they had a cold, or some sort of flu.

And of course they're worried that they've got swine flu.

Other people are just you know panicking a little bit, I guess. They've gone along to that clinic
just to be checked out.

And yet they don't even seem to be taking some of the basic precautions, like wearing a face mask,
for example.

Then around other parts of the city, there's a lot of people getting around without these face
masks. But you're still seeing people, particularly on public transport - buses and taxis - all
wearing masks and gloves.

So whether or not people believe the worst is over is sometimes a little difficult to judge. Some
people will tell you that they don't believe anything the Government is telling you, and yet
they're standing there and they're not even wearing a face mask.

PETER CAVE: It's easy enough to issue a presidential decree saying the country will close down, but
in practical terms, how are they going about it?

KIM LANDERS: Well, while the traffic is much lighter here in Mexico City, and the smog's lifted a
little bit.

You know, daily life does grind on. And tomorrow was already a public holiday anyway, for Labour
Day, and so government offices would be shut.

But the President Felipe Calderon says he wants everyone across the country to stay indoors for the
next five days.

Now some of the small business people I spoke to today, they were not going to follow that decree.
Store holders at one of the big flea markets here say that they've got to make a living; that the
swine flu outbreak has hurt them already.

So they're going to be open. So I suspect we'll see quite a few people out and about again
tomorrow. Not as many as normal, but you know, life goes on.

PETER CAVE: Our correspondent Kim Landers, live on the line from Mexico City.