China quarantines U.S. school group over flu concerns

Chinese health authorities prepare to take temperatures of passengers on a plane from Germany this week.
A group of students and teachers from a Maryland private school have been quarantined in China because of swine flu concerns, a school spokeswoman said Thursday.

The Chinese government has confined 21 students and three teachers to their hotel rooms in Kaili, China, because a passenger on their plane to China was suspected of having swine flu, or H1N1, said Vicky Temple, director of communications for the Barrie School in Silver Spring, Maryland. Temple said the students and teachers are occupying two floors of a four-star hotel in the Guizhou province city in southern China. The quarantine will end Friday, and the students are scheduled to return to the United States on Sunday, Temple said. Mike Kennedy, the head of Barrie School, said U.S. consular officials have since told the school that the plane passenger does not have swine flu, or H1N1. “So now our question has been for the last 24 hours, can this quarantine be lifted even sooner than sometime on Friday so these kids can get out and enjoy a little bit of China,” he said. “Since about noon on Monday, they have been in their hotel rooms,” he said. “They’ve missed the lion’s share of the itinerary.” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that the Guizhou province’s health bureau announced this week that it had discovered two dozen Americans who had been within four rows of the suspected swine flu case on the plane.

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The plane had departed Friday from San Francisco, California. Kennedy said the students and teachers are permitted to speak to one another through the open doors of their hotel rooms, but are not allowed to leave. “They’re being well taken care of, but they are in their hotel rooms,” he said. “It’s very frustrating,” he said, but added, “I understand and I’d like to say that the Chinese officials have been as kind and friendly to our kids and chaperones as they can be.” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a Thursday afternoon briefing that he was aware of the report but said he didn’t have any details on the circumstances or what the U.S. officials might be doing about it.