Qinghai Lake bird-flu ban to be lifted

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 August, 2005, 12:00am

Tourists have already been allowed to visit a nature reserve in Qinghai province where more than 6,000 wild birds have died from the H5N1 bird flu virus since late April.

The Ministry of Agriculture is expected to soon announce the lifting of a ban on such visits.

The ban was imposed after the Qinghai Lake Nature Reserve reported the death of more than 1,000 migratory birds in May.

There have been fears the birds could be spreading the virus across the globe.

A Qinghai government source said yesterday that visitors had been allowed to return.

'Of course, the ban will only be formally lifted when the Ministry of Agriculture officially makes the announcement,' he said.

He stressed the outbreak in Qinghai was over and admitted local officials had learned a lesson about how to deal with epidemics.

He said the Qinghai government had not withheld information about bird flu and officials would improve the release of information in the future.

However, he said the impact of the outbreak had only had a marginal effect on tourism - which is a main source of income for the province.

According to official statistics, Qinghai received 4.14 million visitors in the first seven months of this year.

Total tourism income amounted to 1.6 billion yuan.

Comparable figures were not available, but Qinghai earned nearly 2 billion yuan in tourism revenue last year.