Mexico City Slowly Returning to Normal as Flu Threat Recedes

But bars, restaurants and theaters will stay closed until there is stronger evidence that the threat has receded, he said.

“We have succeeded in detaining or at least slowing the spread of the virus precisely because the measures have been the correct ones,” President Felipe Calderon said in an interview with state television broadcast Sunday night.

The number of cases of H1N1 influenza confirmed by the World Health Organization stands at 1,003 from 20 countries, WHO chief Margaret Chan said Monday. But, addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Chan said there was “no indication that we are facing a situation similar to that in 1918,” when a flu pandemic killed tens of millions.

Meantime, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that WHO does not plan to raise its pandemic alert to the highest level if the current outbreak continues as is, Reuters reported. However, WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said Monday that the organization has to be open to all possibilities and future plans will be dictated by the virus.

WHO uses a six-level scale to assess the world’s risk. On Wednesday, the agency raised the level to 5. Level 6 means a global outbreak of swine flu is underway.

“We have consistently said a pandemic is imminent,” said Thompson. “It’s only a matter of time before we move to phase 6 unless the virus suddenly becomes weaker and dies off.”

In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais published Monday, Chan implied the agency might raise its alert to level 6, but she played down the potential move’s impact, saying she was concerned about causing unnecessary panic. “Level 6 does not mean…we are coming near to the end of the world,” Chain said.

In the United States, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city has 73 confirmed and six probable cases of swine flu, the Associated Press reported. That’s 10 more confirmed cases than the city reported Sunday.

Of the 79 cases, the mayor said, three have no link to Mexico or St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens. The school was closed for a week after 45 cases were confirmed there. Students returned to classes on Monday.

“The good news is when we look at this virus right now, we’re not seeing some of the things in the virus that have been associated in the past with more severe flu,” said Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “That’s encouraging, but it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet.”

The H1N1 flu has now infected 286 people in 36 states, the CDC reported Monday. Most cases remain mild but a toddler died in Texas last week, the only death in the United States caused by the H1N1 flu.

While Mexico began its first tentative steps toward normalcy, the virus spread to Colombia in the first confirmed case in South America, where flu season is about to begin. More cases were confirmed in North America and Europe, including Portugal’s first, with the total number sickened worldwide rising to more than a 1,003 people.

In Alberta, Canada, officials quarantined about 220 pigs infected by a worker who recently returned from Mexico. It was the first documented case of the H1N1 virus being passed from a human to another species. Canadian official stressed that pigs often get the flu and there is no danger in eating pork.