Mexico City offers free health insurance to tourists

After near-hysteria over Mexico’s outbreak of the H1N1 (swine) flu virus crippled the country’s tourism industry and resulted in record low hotel occupancy rates, Mexico City’s tourism is slowly rebounding. To help get tourism back to its pre-“aporkalypse” levels, the Mexico City Tourism Ministry is unveiling a new plan that officials hope will help convince people that it is safe to visit.

Any tourists who stay in one of Mexico City’s hotels will receive free health insurance. Under the plan, tourists are covered for not only treatment of the H1N1 virus, but also for any other disease or accident they suffer from while staying in Mexico City. Prescription drugs, emergency dental care, hospital stays, and ambulance transportation are also covered. There’s even assistance in case of robbery, luggage loss, or the delay or cancellation of a flight.

Mexico City normally welcomes around 7 million (international and domestic) visitors each year. When news of the H1N1 flu broke, tourists began to disappear and hotel occupancy rates plummeted, reaching as low as 5% in April, according to USA Today. Now they are around 59%, but the industry is still feeling the pinch. Officials hope that the offer of free health insurance may help sway those who were considering a trip to Mexico, but were concerned about the risk.

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[via Los Angeles Times]

Five ways to get dirty this summer

Grabbing the railing on the subway? For some of us, it’s a fact of life, but I’m told there are plenty of people out there who liken it to shoving your hand in a toilet. According to a recent TripAdvisor poll of more than 4,000 travelers, around one-third consider themselves to be “germaphobic” since the H1N1 swine flu outbreak.

So, where do germaphobes go? I imagine they hang out in hospitals and Reston, Virginia (you can do surgery off the streets there). More interesting is where these clean freaks won’t go: TripAdvisor’s five “germiest” world attractions.

Pucker up for the Blarney Stone: kiss the Blarney Stone, according to legend, and you’ll be rewarded with the gift of eloquent speech … yours and 400,000 other mouths.

Kiss the dead guy’s memorial: people just can’t keep their lips to themselves … if it’s not the Blarney Stone, then it’s Oscar Wilde‘s tomb in Paris.

Chew on the Wall of Gum: at Seattle‘s Market Theatre in Post Alley: there’s a giant wall of gum. And, travelers have begun to add to it. Try to stick yours on it without feeling anyone else’s contribution (blech).

Run with the pigeons in Venice: vendors in St. Mark’s Square have stopped selling food to tourists who feed the birds, because of the situation – I think Alfred Hitchcock made a movie about it.

Tactile Chinese theater in Hollywood: millions of people grind their fingers into the handprints at the Forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in the film capital of the world.

2000 passengers forced into quarantine on Australian swine flu cruise ship

Bad times for cruise passengers – after a flesh eating bacteria scare earlier this month, it’s an Australian ship that is in trouble this time.

The P&O operated Pacific Dawn was scheduled to cruise around the Great Barrier Reef, but 3 crew members were confirmed to be infected with swine flu.

At the moment, the schedule has been canceled, and the ship is heading towards Brisbane.

Once in port, only Queensland residents will be allowed to disembark, but they will all be forced to undergo a health check.

These 150 passengers will then be transported to their homes, where they will have to stay indoors for at least 7 days.

The remaining 1850 passengers will be forced to stay on board as the ship has been turned into a quarantine area.

The ship will head towards Sydney on Monday and will remain in quarantine until health officials clear every passenger.

The three crew members who were infected have received treatment. Five of the 2000 passengers are in isolation awaiting results of tests.

Update: The passengers have been granted permission to disembark. Medical tests showed no evidence of any further infections. On its previous cruise, a total of 48 passengers were infected. Initial reports show that the confirmed cases of swine flu on this cruise were all picked up on the previous voyage.

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