China virus: IndiGo suspends flights on Chengdu, Hong Kong routes
29 January 2020
IndiGo airlines has decided to suspend its flights on the Bengaluru-Hong Kong route and on the Delhi-Chengdu route from 1 February as the threat of novel coronavirus outbreak in China threatened to spread across nations.
The low-cost carrier said for now, it will continue to operate the Kolkata-Guangzhou flight, which it is "monitoring 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 airline said in a statement.
India's largest airline has also told its crew members, who are working on flights connecting India with East Asian countries like Thailand and Singapore, to wear N95 masks at all times when they are on ground.
"However, these crew members have been asked not to wear the mask when they are flying. They have also been told to avoid public places, meat from unverified sources and uncooked meat in East Asian cities. They have also been told to wash their hands frequently," the source added.
According to an Air India official, all crew members working on flights between India and South East Asia have been asked to wear N95 masks.
In India, many people are under observation in hospitals for suspected coronavirus infection, including in Maharashtra, Goa, Odisha and the national capital. People returning to the country after visiting China are being regularly screened for the deadly virus at airports across the country.
In China, deaths due to coronavirus on Wednesday rose to 132, with the number of confirmed cases rising to 5,974 and the number of suspected cases to 9,239, as per figures released by the National Health Commission (NHC).
"After carefully assessing the current coronavirus situation in China, IndiGo is taking some safety measures for its customers, crew and staff. Due to China travel restrictions, we have seen a high number of cancellations from China on our Delhi-Chengdu route and vice versa," IndiGo said on Wednesday.
"Therefore, we are suspending our flights between Delhi and Chengdu from 1 February until 20 February. We are also suspending our Bengaluru- Hong Kong flight effective February 1," it added.
The low-cost carrier stated that these are purely temporary and precautionary measures.
"We understand that these measures will cause inconvenience to our customers and we will be refunding the full amount to the impacted passengers," it clarified.
IndiGo added that it is in "close touch" with the "relevant government authorities" and "we thank them and our partners in China for all the help and support that they have extended so far".
Air India has kept a 423-seater jumbo plane ready in Mumbai to airlift Indian citizens from Wuhan city in China in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Wuhan is the capital of China's Hubei province.
As India started the preparations to evacuate over 250 Indians, mostly students, stuck in the Hubei province, its embassy in Beijing said these nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on their return.
And, amidst fears of contagion, British health authorities said hundreds of British citizens being flown back to the UK from Wuhan will be put in quarantine for two weeks.
It comes as British Airways suspends all direct flights to and from mainland China because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Australia, Japan, the US and EU nations are also repatriating citizens. Australia plans to quarantine its 600 returning citizens for two weeks on Christmas Island - some 2,000km (1,200 miles) from the mainland.
The UK government plans to fly 200 British citizens out from Wuhan, the centre of the new coronavirus outbreak, on Thursday.
Sources told the BBC the returning Britons will be given the best possible medical care and advice. Those returning from other parts of China will not be affected, but have been advised to "self-isolate" for 14 days.
In signs that the virus is spreading fast, four cases 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.
Confirmed cases were reported from 16 other countries.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) citing an expert at China’s National Health Commission as saying on Tuesday that it could take 10 more days for the outbreak to peak.
Like the similar Sars and influenza viruses, the new coronavirus is a particular risk for elderly people and those with pre-existing illnesses.
The sharp rise in cases is in part attributed to increased awareness, monitoring and testing in recent days.