Flights to and from Mexico are halted for at least 48 hours by Cuba because of swine flu outbreak

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Cuba suspended flights to and from Mexico on Tuesday for the next 48 hours, becoming the first country to impose a travel ban in face of the fast-moving swine flu strain.

The United States, Canada, Israel and European Union health authorities have warned against non-essential travel to Mexico, but have not imposed a ban.

The World Health Organization, however, has insisted that travel restrictions are ineffective. “Border controls do not work. Travel restrictions do not work,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said, recalling the 2003 SARS epidemic that killed 774 people, mostly in Asia, and slowed the global economy.

“There was much more economic disruption caused by these measures than there was public health benefit,” he said, adding that WHO is advising countries to provide treatment for the sick and make sure national plans are in place to ease the effects of a larger outbreak.

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