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Amid the feared spread of an apparent deadly strain of swine flu, Panasonic Corp. and Sharp Corp. instructed their employees Sunday to forgo business trips to Mexico for the time being.

Sharp will also order its employees in Mexico to wear masks and refrain from visiting crowded areas to lessen the chances of infection.

Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Taro Aso ordered the Cabinet’s crisis-management officer to come up with measures to block swine flu from entering Japan, officials said.

“We must stop the entry and spread (of swine flu) in Japan at the border,” Aso told reporters on a Japan Coast Guard vessel he had boarded for an inspection parade.

The crisis-management officer, Tetsuro Ito, was also ordered to closely cooperate with other countries and provide information to the public, following reports of swine flu infections in humans in Mexico, the United States, Europe and Oceania, the officials said.

The government will convene a meeting of all Cabinet ministers Monday morning to look into the issue.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry received inquiries about the safety of travel to Mexico from 314 people Saturday after it set up a 24-hour telephone consultation service on the disease.

The health ministry will also strengthen its surveillance on direct flights from Mexico by asking all passengers, regardless of whether they show flu symptoms, to provide contact information.

Local public health centers will monitor their conditions for about 10 days to see if there is any sign of swine flu infection.

Quarantine officers continued to use thermographic imaging to check the temperatures of passengers coming from the United States and Mexico to detect signs of flu.

To prepare for confirmation of a new type of influenza by the World Health Organization and raising its alert level from the current phase 3 to 4, the ministry will confirm the amount of flu drug Tamiflu in distribution and secure accommodations near Narita airport to be used for isolating infected people from the general public.

Reflecting public concern about swine flu, JTB Corp. and Hankyu Travel International Co. will cancel their package tours to Mexico.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Shigeru Ishiba meanwhile said on a television program Sunday that eating pork poses no danger of being infected.

Pork is sanitized at the shipment stage regardless of whether it is produced domestically or imported, he said.

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