As the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) continues both in China and across the world, Europe’s safety regulator has issued a safety information bulletin with recommended measures for airlines and airports to take in dealing with the outbreak.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in its bulletin, recommends that airlines be equipped with universal protection kits — for crew members who are assisting with potentially infectious cases — for flights to and from affected countries.
The protection kits usually contain items such as protective clothing, wipes, disinfectants, as well as biohazard waste disposal products.
“Such kits may be used to protect crew members who are assisting potentially infectious cases of suspected communicable disease and in cleaning up and correctly discarding any potential infectious contents,” EASA states.
It recommends that airlines provide crew members on layovers in China with necessary updates and information on the outbreak, as well as the universal protection kits.
Airlines should also inform its crew members about how to “manage a case of acute respiratory infection on board an aircraft”.
The identification of potential infectious cases on board aircraft and at airports should be encouraged as well, the agency adds. These include those who were recently in China or in contact with people coming from China.
Lastly, EASA urged airlines and airport operators to cooperate with public health authorities “in providing support in passenger tracing and epidemiological investigation in the event of flights where a [2019-nCOV] infection has been confirmed”.
According to Chinese state media, as of 28 January, the death toll in China from the 2019-nCOV surpassed 100, with the number of confirmed cases to be more than 4,500.
Apart from China, other countries affected by the outbreak include Singapore, Australia, Canada the United States, France, Japan and Thailand. Sri Lanka is the latest country to report a case.
In the wake of the outbreak, the city of Wuhan, which is the epicentre of the outbreak, has been placed on an indefinite lockdown, with all transport links in and out of the city — including its airport and train stations — shut off. At least 10 other cities have been placed on similar lockdown measures.
Other major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have suspended major long-distance domestic bus services, in an attempt to curb the virus’ spread.
Airlines, too, have suspended flights in and out of Wuhan, most of them until the end of February. Hong Kong-based Cathay Dragon on 26 January said it will extend the cancellation of all Wuhan flights till the end of March.
Wuhan is a major transportation hub in China and receives 55 international flights each week from over 20 countries, Cirium schedules data shows.