The mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, is under lockdown in a suburban Shanghai hotel after a passenger on his flight from the U.S. exhibited symptoms of swine flu -- and now his Chinese hosts are screening his calls "to keep him safe."
Officials at the hotel where Nagin is quarantined, the Jinjiang Inn in Shanghai's Nanhui district, have refused even to pass on telephone messages without the permission of the city's Disease Control and Prevention Office. They, in turn, handed requests over to the municipal foreign affairs department, which yesterday claimed no knowledge of the case.
"We have to keep him safe," said a woman who said she was acting as a translator at the hotel.
Hard to imagine how safety and telephone lockdown are related, but certainly the Chinese people know best. So don't go calling the mayor in Shanghai for the next few days. And it sounds like he won't be calling you, either.
Meanwhile ... what's Chinese quarantine like?
An Associated Press reporter was quarantined in the same hotel last month after his flight made a brief stopover in Mexico. Will Weissert described ample if greasy food, twice-daily temperature checks, limited English-language television and considerable boredom, which he said was his biggest inconvenience.
If you take out the temperature checks, it sounds a lot like the O.P.P.