A number of global airlines, including Air India, British Airways, Lufthansa, Lion Air and Indigo airline on Wednesday suspended their flights to Chinese cities as Beijing struggled to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus within the country.
The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province, in December and it has now spread across the globe. In China, 132 people have died and there are at least 6,061 confirmed cases of coronavirus.
Chinese authorities are trying to contain the outbreak while other countries, including India, are working on plans to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province.
The US and Japan have already evacuated some of their citizens from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
In London, British Airways, which operates daily flights to Shanghai and Beijing from Heathrow, announced the suspension of flights to and from mainland China “with immediate effect” until January 31 while it assesses the situation.
“We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority,” the airlines said.
In Frankfurt, Germany’s flagship carrier Lufthansa said on Wednesday that it was cancelling all its flights to China until February 9 over the coronavirus outbreak.
Other airlines, including United Airlines, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific Airways, Lion Air have already cancelled some flights to China.
Air France suspended its three weekly flights to Wuhan on January 24, but as of Wednesday morning said it was maintaining its 23 weekly flights to Beijing and Shanghai.
In New Delhi, Air India spokesperson said the national carrier is suspending its flights on Delhi-Shanghai route from January 31 to February 14.
IndiGo airlines also announced that due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, it has decided to suspend its flights on the Bengaluru-Hong Kong route from February 1 and on the Delhi-Chengdu route from February 1 to 20.
IndiGo also said that for now, it will continue to operate the Kolkata-Guangzhou flight but would monitor the situation on a daily basis.
“And for our operating crew, we are ensuring that they return to India on the inbound flights without any layover in China,” the low-cost carrier said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a flight carrying 201 American passengers out of Wuhan is now flying to California following health screenings and refuelling in Anchorage, Alaska, US officials said on Wednesday.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said passengers coming from Wuhan, China were screened twice following two health checks in China, and would be subject to further tests in California and temporarily rehoused for a period of time.
The crew of the plane was completely separated from the passengers, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink told reporters.
About three dozen US diplomats and their families were expected to be on board the aircraft, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN.
Priority was also given to US citizens who were “most at risk for contracting coronavirus” if they stayed in the city, a State Department official said. There are about 1,000 Americans living in Wuhan.
Four cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Germany, making it the second European country to report cases, after France.
The United Arab Emirates has also confirmed its first cases of the virus in a family who recently returned to the UAE from Wuhan.
President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that China was in a struggle against a “demon” epidemic.
“Chinese people are currently engaged in a serious struggle against an epidemic of a new type of coronavirus infection,” Xi told WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.