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Coming and Going: Swine Flu, Baggage Fees, Bolt Bus Stops

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Sunday, July 26, 2009


Swine of the Times

How dicey is travel to China these days? The news last week that 22 local high school students and two teachers were quarantined in China after one of them tested positive for swine flu prompted CoGo to take a second look at the State Department's recent statements on the matter. The latest, dated July 9, reminds travelers that since May, Chinese authorities have been detaining "arriving passengers who exhibit fever or flu-like symptoms" if they are coming from the United States or any other country with documented cases of H1N1 (that's more than 136 countries and territories at last count). "Travelers with even a slightly elevated body temperature risk being placed into hospital quarantine," continues the statement, noting that the department has received complaints about quarantine conditions (e.g., unsanitary quarters, poor access to "suitable drinking water and food").

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And as the high-schoolers discovered, quarantine isn't only for the symptomatic. "Passengers sitting in close proximity to another traveler with fever or flu-like symptoms may be taken to a specially-designated hotel . . . even if they show no symptoms themselves," the State Department reported. Indeed, as The Post reported last week, all students in the group were taken to a quarantine hotel after one of them tested positive for swine flu. There, their temperatures were monitored for several days, and during that time they had limited exposure to one another, not to mention the outside world.

How common is such quarantining, and should you be concerned? So far, roughly 1,800 Americans, only 200 of whom tested positive for the virus, have been detained because of swine flu concerns, according to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. To be sure, that's a small percentage of Americans who have traveled to China since May, but CoGo recommends that everyone going to China closely monitor their health and that of their fellow travelers in the days leading up to such trips. You should also strongly consider purchasing travel insurance as protection against possible disappointments; you will most likely receive no compensation from travel companies for lost vacation days. For further information, visit the State Department's Web site at http://travel.state.gov.


Continental Adds On

After a dismal second quarter, Continental is trying to raise revenue by -- you guessed it -- raising fees. The airline is increasing its checked baggage fees by $5, making the first bag $20 and the second $30 if you check them at the airport (it's still $15 and $25 if you prepay online). The new baggage fees go into effect Aug. 19. Also effective immediately, the airline is tagging $5 onto the booking-by-phone fee, bringing it to $20.

Reporting: Scott Vogel, Christina Talcott

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.

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