News World Coronavirus: China flights cancelled amid ‘grave’ global fears

Coronavirus: China flights cancelled amid ‘grave’ global fears

People will have limited access to China after several airlines cancel flights to the mainland. Photo: Getty
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Airlines around the world are stepping up efforts to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus by barring flights to China.

British and US carriers have joined several Asian carriers in suspending or significantly reducing the number of direct flights to the mainland.

It comes as the World Health Organisation expressed “grave concern” that the respiratory illness is spreading at an accelerating rate outside of China.

“The evolution of the outbreak and further development of transmission, these are of grave concern,” WHO official Dr Mike Ryan said at the United Nations’ Geneva headquarters on Thursday morning (Australian time).

The WHO will hold another emergency meeting on Thursday night (Australian time) as it considers whether to declare a global health emergency.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Australians in the virus epicentre are anxiously waiting for details of how they will be evacuated.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced evacuees would be sent to Christmas Island.

The first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Queensland as a 44-year-old Chinese national.

The man who is from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus first started infecting humans, has been isolated in Gold Coast University Hospital, health officials said.

It follows a second confirmed case in Victoria, bringing the number of coronavirus victims in Australia to seven.

The world reacts

A plane carrying 201 Americans from Wuhan landed at a military base in Southern California on Thursday for quarantine.

That will “ensure these people can get back home and not put anyone at risk”, Dr Cameron Kaiser from the local Department of Public Health said.

Passengers wear protective masks as they arrive in Los Angeles from China. Photo: Getty

British Airways has suspended all flights to China, increasing pressure on other airlines to follow suit amid growing fears of a global epidemic.

A further eight airlines from North America, Europe and Asia have announced plans to either halt or reduce flights to the mainland.

They include United Airlines, American Airlines, Air Asia, Cathay Pacific, Air India, IndiGo, Lufthansa and Finnair.

The disease has now infected more people in China than were sickened in the country by the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.

The number of confirmed cases jumped to 5974, surpassing the 5327 in mainland China from SARS. The virus has killed more than 130 people.

A “significant decline in demand” for American flights to China prompted United Airlines to announce it will stop flying to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai for the first week of February.

American Airlines has also cancelled flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai and Beijing from February 9 until March 27.

Air Canada has suspended some of its 33 weekly flights to China.

Buses carrying Japanese evacuees from Wuhan leave a Tokyo airport on January 29. Photo: Getty

Germany’s national carrier Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines and Austrian Airlines have all halted flights too and from the Chinese mainland until February 9. Passengers are barred from making online bookings until the end of February.

Finland’s Finnair has canceled flights from Helsinki to Beijing and Nanjing until March 29.

A Mexican health worker checks passengers on a flight from Beijing. Photo: Getty

Confirmed coronavirus cases rise in Australia

There are now four cases in NSW, two in Victoria and one in Queensland.

Vulnerable Australians trapped in Wuhan due to the outbreak will be evacuated to Christmas Island.

An Australian medical team is being formed to help evacuees who are sent to the island, but the exact details of the plan are yet to be finalised.
Evacuees will be isolated on the island for a fortnight.

Chinese authorities will also have to approve Australia’s evacuation plan. Qantas has offered a plane for the joint emergency operation with New Zealand.

Health officials issued new advice on Wednesday, saying anyone who had been in Hubei province must isolate themselves at home for 14 days.

-with agencies