China’s coronavirus outbreak is poised to overtake SARS in numbers of infections—and the steady spread of the outbreak is seeing countries and airlines pulling back in a bid to stop the spread of the disease outside of the country.
Chinese health authorities today said that the number of infections crossed 7,700 (link in Chinese) by midnight on the previous day, and that the number of deaths had reached 170. During the SARS outbreak, about 8,100 people were infected globally, while 774 people died of their illness.
The US and Britain have issued travel warnings for China in light of the outbreak. Globally, more than a dozen airlines have suspended routes to mainland China. United Airlines cited a “significant decline in demand” for its move—China has quarantined over a dozen cities and barred overseas travel by tour groups. While some have cut flights for two weeks, in some cases the suspensions stretch until April.
In Hong Kong, the decision to reduce travel links with the mainland was an especially fraught one, with officials no doubt wary of the symbolism of closing the border to mainland travelers in the wake of a restive year of protests against Beijing. But amid signs that the government’s failure to take more robust measures was adding to already deep public anger—some people set a fire at a building that authorities had proposed could be used as a quarantine center—Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday (Jan. 28) announced a slate of travel restrictions, though not a total closure of the border as many have demanded.
The health crisis deals another severe blow to airlines, some of which are still reeling from the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max in March last year.
Here’s a partial list of moves by airlines servicing Beijing and Shanghai, as of Jan. 30:
- Air Canada: Suspended direct flights from Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver to Beijing and Shanghai through February. It usually operates some 70 flights a week on China routes, according to FlightGlobal
- Air India: Canceled direct flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Shanghai until Feb. 14; cut its daily flights to Hong Kong to three times a week in the same period
- American Airlines: Canceled routes from Los Angeles to Beijing and Shanghai from Feb. 9 to March 27
- British Airways: Suspended its flights to mainland China until Feb. 29; it usually operates two daily direct flights from Heathrow to Beijing and Shanghai
- Cathay Pacific: Will progressively reduce flights until March 31 to meet the Hong Kong government directive to cut flights by half (at peak periods, counting both inbound and outbound travel, Cathay has more than 800 weekly flights to the mainland)
- Delta: Cut weekly flights to China in half, from 42 to 21, between Feb. 6 and April 30
- Finnair: Will cut its three weekly flights to Beijing’s new airport between Feb. 5 and March 29, though it will continue to provide daily service to Beijing’s other airport and to Shanghai
- Hong Kong Airlines: Will cut 214 flights to the mainland between tomorrow and Feb. 11
- KLM: From tomorrow until Feb. 29, flights to Chengdu and Hangzhou are suspended; flights to Shanghai have been reduced from 11 to 7 a week; flights to Beijing continue as normal
- Lion Air: The Indonesian budget carrier will suspend all flights to China from Feb. 1 indefinitely
- Lufthansa: Suspended all flights to mainland China until Feb. 9 (affects its subsidiaries Austrian and Swiss Air also)
- United Airlines: Canceled a total of 356 round-trips between US hubs and Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai from Feb 1 through March 28; on average it’s cutting daily flights to mainland China and Hong Kong from 12 to four
Here’s a list of moves to restrict entry for Chinese nationals:
- Mongolia: Closed China border crossings
- Philippines: Halted visas on arrival for Chinese nationals
- Hong Kong: Closing direct trains and ferries; closing some border crossings; Beijing to halt individual visitor permits starting Jan. 30
- Kazakhstan: Closed all transport links and stopped visa issuance to Chinese nationals
- Macau: Suspended individual visitors from mainland China; suspended ferries to Hong Kong
- Nepal: Sealed border with China for two weeks from Jan. 29
- North Korea: Closed its borders to all foreign tourists
- Russia: Banned Chinese tour groups, closed Far Eastern borders; suspends e-visas for Chinese nationals
- Taiwan: Barred entry to most Chinese nationals
- Vietnam: Closed border crossing at Lao Cai to Chinese tourists; visas on arrival suspended for mainland China, Macau, and Hong Kong residents