Airlines continue to suspend international flight capacity to mainland China in the wake of the outbreak of the new coronavirus as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declares it an international public health emergency.
Since the outbreak emerged earlier in January, a number of international carriers have acted to cancel flights. While these initially focused on the city at the source of outbreak, Wuhan, it has more recently spread to wider international flights network serving the Chinese mainland.
Air France and KLM on 30 January become the latest European airlines to temporarily suspend scheduled flights The two carriers had already pulled some China flights - including Air France’s Wuhan service - but will now suspend their respective Beijing and Shanghai flights until 9 February.
Turkish Airlines has also now announced that to “evaluate the situation” regarding the outbreak, it is suspending its flights to the Chinese cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Xi’an.
Finnair had already cancelled its flights to Beijing Daxing and Nanjing following the suspension of group travel by the Chinese authorities - though it has retained its flights to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai - while British Airways and Lufthansa Group carriers suspended their flights to the Chinese mainland on 29 January.
Likewise North American carriers have taken action. US majors American Airlines, Delta Air LInes and United Airlines have all cut back their capacity, while Air Canada has pulled its mainland China flights altogether.
WHO DECLARES GLOBAL EMERGENCY
The WHO had initially stopped short of declaring the outbreak as a global public health emergency at a meeting on 22 January, though noting it would review the situation given its fast-development.
Now following a second meeting of its Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak, it on 30 January declared the outbreak of the coronavirus in China constitutues a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
WHO says there have have 170 deaths so far from outbreak - which has now has 7,711 confirmed cases and more than 12,000 suspected cases
It also says there are now 83 cases in 18 countries. Of these, only seven had no history of travel in China.
Whilst crediting China for its strong action in working to limit the spread of the virus, the Emergency Committee judged that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern.
”The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases.
”In line with the need for global solidarity, the Committee felt that a global coordinated effort is needed to enhance preparedness in other regions of the world that may need additional support for that,” it says.
Among wide-ranging advice, the Committee says it is not recommending any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available.