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Quarantine inspections to identify people infected with swine flu aboard airplanes arriving from North America will be scaled down and terminated as early as the end of this week, health ministry officials said Tuesday.

Although the measure has been in place to prevent the entry of the new H1N1 strain of influenza, the number of domestic infections grew to 193 after the Kobe Municipal Government confirmed 10 additional patients, including a 1-year-old girl.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a news conference the quarantine inspections were worthwhile because they discovered four cases of infection at Narita International Airport.

“But we have to shift our focus to domestic measures in line with the spread (of the H1N1 virus),” Kawamura said. “From this aspect, we think we need to scale down the operations” to prevent entry of the new flu.

The government is now determining the best timing to end onboard quarantine inspections, he added.

The four cases at Narita involved a group of students and teachers who had returned from a trip to Canada via the U.S.

The quarantine checks have been conducted aboard planes from the U.S., Canada and Mexico that arrive at Narita, Kansai and Chubu airports.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe told a separate news conference, “We can assume that the virus is spreading domestically already,” referring to the cases of H1N1 flu found in Hyogo and Osaka prefectures.

“We have to devote human resources to respond to such a situation,” he said.

Masuzoe also suggested the central government will allow local governments to have more authority on taking measures to tackle the new H1N1 influenza, such as hospitalizing patients and restricting people’s movements or activities.

Woman held at Jeju

SEOUL (Kyodo) South Korean health authorities quarantined a Japanese woman at an airport on the resort island of Jeju after she showed symptoms of having H1N1 swine flu, airport quarantine officials said Tuesday.

The 65-year-old tourist from Hyogo Prefecture arrived at Jeju International Airport from Kansai International Airport earlier Tuesday.

Further tests were being conducted to determine if she has swine flu.

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