Coronavirus: UAE suspends flights to and from China, except Beijing

A man in a face mask taking a photo of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Feb 1, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DUBAI (BLOOMBERG) - The United Arab Emirates (UAE), home to Emirates airline and Etihad Airways, suspended all flights to and from China, with the exception of Beijing, to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The General Civil Aviation Authority said the suspension will come into effect on Wednesday (Feb 5) and last until further notice, according to state-run WAM news agency.

The UAE, which has reported five cases of infection, had already put flights to and from Wuhan - the city at the centre of the crisis - on hold on Jan 23.

From Wednesday, all passengers travelling from Beijing International Airport will be required to undergo a six-to-eight hour medical screening before boarding, it said.

Emirates, the largest airline on international routes, and smaller rival Etihad had provided China with vital links via their hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi even as other carriers pulled the plug.

Dubai alone has more than 90 weekly flights to China, from where 3.7 million people flew to the sheikdom last year.

The death toll from the virus has risen above 400, with total confirmed cases reaching almost 21,000. Chinese officials are evaluating cuts to their growth target for 2020 and the central bank stepped in to help cushion the economy.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG said separately on Monday that it will extend the cancellation of services to Beijing and Shanghai until Feb 28.

Flights to Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao are suspended until March 28, the last day of the winter timetable.

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Lufthansa and sister carriers Swiss and Austrian Airlines operate a total of 54 weekly trips to China. The company said 19 weekly services to Hong Kong will continue as normal.

More than 25,000 flights to, from and within China will be cancelled this week as more than two dozen airlines respond to the coronavirus threat, according to flight data firm OAG Aviation Worldwide.

International capacity will fall by 4.4 million seats a week - equivalent to the whole of the Indian market stopping all services, it said.

Ryanair Holdings said demand for air travel in Europe could gain in the coming months if the virus persists to the extent that it prompts people to holiday closer to home.

Chief financial officer Neil Sorahan said something similar happened during the 2013 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak.

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