WE are sometimes bewildered by the lack of flexibility of officials.

This country, indeed the whole world, may be in the early stages of an epidemic that will make past flu outbreaks seem relatively trivial.

Yet our attempts yesterday to clarify the situation regarding a Newport family who may or may not have contracted swine flu in Mexico were met with a brick wall by officials from the National Assembly who are co-ordinating the response in Wales.

The public health service for Wales has also refused to comment.

Let us state immediately that we have no wish to identify any potential victims of this disease unless they wish to be identified.

We hope their tests prove negative.

But we do have a duty to tell the public of Newport and greater Gwent what steps are being taken to deal with suspected cases.

If our information is incorrect then please tell us and we will not publish a story.

It is vital in this situation to avoid panic and misinformation, yet refusals by officials to help us inform the public of Newport about a suspected local outbreak are more likely to lead the public to worry unnecessarily.

We are grateful to Newport council for the limited help it was able to give us on this matter.

We have no reason to suppose that there is any danger to anyone, so why can't Assembly officials be more helpful?

Information on swine flu will be vital over the coming weeks, but a blanket silence to legitimate enquiries is not going to alleviate public concern.