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Fit for purpose

Malaysia [HEALTH]

In the competitive world of medical tourism, Malaysia is trying to catch up with neighbours Singapore and Thailand. The number of foreigners seeking care in Malaysia has more than doubled over five years to 770,000 in 2013. It is aiming to produce the world’s first halal vaccines for meningitis and hepatitis by 2017; officials hope that this will help boost the numbers of Muslim patients coming from the Middle East.

Biting back

Tokyo [HEALTH]

As autumn takes hold and the mosquito population tails off, Japan is taking stock of its first outbreak of dengue fever for 70 years. The reappearance this summer of the mosquito-borne tropical illness saw around 150 people infected and led to the closure of two of Tokyo’s largest parks.

City officials are planning ahead to see off another outbreak during Tokyo’s hot and humid summer months. “The mosquitoes in Yoyogi Park are laying eggs around wet places such as drains so we have been cleaning up and spraying there to prevent the larvae from hatching,” says Yuji Saito from the Tokyo Government’s Environmental Health and Sanitation Section. “From next April we’ll also leave [chemicals] in drains so the larvae won’t grow into mosquitoes.” Tough times ahead for the key carrier of dengue: the stripy mosquito Aedes aegypti.

Flight path no.15

Latin longhaul

Tokyo [AEROMEXICO]

Route: Mexico City to Tokyo (Narita)
Airline: Aeromexico
Plane: Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Frequency: Four times weekly

Latin America has seen a flurry of new jet services recently and Mexican flag carrier Aeromexico has got in on the act, ramping up its trips from Mexico City to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. “We have increased capacity as well as frequency to connect both Mexico and Asia in order to strengthen cultural, commercial and diplomatic relations,” says spokesperson Héctor Aburto Perez.

On the outbound journey, Flight 58 departs Mexico City and makes a quick stop at the carrier’s growing northern hub in Monterrey. “We have to stop in order to connect all passengers from northern Mexico, mainly from the car industry,” says Aburto Perez. Kia is building a plant near Monterrey while Honda and Nissan have their own further south. Beyond business reasons, the jet itself needs the outbound stop: the brand-new Boeing 787s that fly the route can’t make the full trip to Tokyo. The distance isn’t the problem: the altitude at Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport is. The thin air means jets need more runway and less weight to become airborne, thus the airline can’t fill the aeroplane with its maximum fuel load. For the return trip on Flight 57, the Dreamliner flies non-stop to the Mexican capital.

The carrier is taking its new routes seriously in terms of attracting the right mix of passengers. Beyond the 32 Premier Class (Business Class) seats and the 211 in Economy, Aeromexico has worked on a few of the softer touches that might keep fliers on both sides of the Pacific happy. For example, it commissioned famed Japanese chef Kazu Kumoto to oversee meal options on the flight, bringing a Japanese twist to the brand.

With smaller jets that have the same range capabilities of bigger ones, it is likely that Latin America will only see growth in its connections to Asia: now airlines like Aeromexico don’t need to fill a Boeing 777 or an Airbus a340 to turn a profit on otherwise obscure routes.

Road less travelled

Singapore [TRANSPORT]

Singapore’s public-transport system has been buckling under the weight of the 300,000 new residents who have settled here since 2010. To alleviate the pressure, the government has set aside s$500,000 (€300,000) for the Travel Smart Network, which will fund schemes that encourage employees to commute during off-peak hours or make the switch to less clogging forms of transport.

From November, companies can use the money to install showers and conduct morning exercise classes to encourage workers to arrive at work early, or build bicycle parks. So far more than 10 firms, including the likes of Standard Chartered Bank and ibm, have joined. “These companies are participating to improve work-life flexibility and staff morale,” says Jeremy Yap, group director for policy and planning at the Land Transport Authority.

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