Airports and airlines are stepping up efforts to protect staff and passengers amid heightened concern over the outbreak of a deadly virus originating from the Chinese city of Wuhan. At least 17 people have died with close to 500 infected, including the first confirmed case in the U.S.
The level of alarm is rising as the coronavirus spreads. China said it will conduct nationwide screening and improve monitoring of transportation links for the Lunar New Year holidays, which start at the end of this week. That complicates efforts to contain the virus as hundreds of millions of people travel during the period, the biggest annual migration of humans on the planet. People found to have symptoms such as fever at travel checkpoints are being stopped from boarding planes and trains.
Elsewhere, major hubs like London Heathrow have begun to monitor people disembarking flights from the center of the outbreak, while one airline has delayed plans for a new service to Wuhan from South Korea.
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Here’s a look at how airports and airlines around the world are reacting:
Hong Kong: The city’s Airport Authority said planes arriving from Wuhan — roughly a two-hour flight away — will be parked at a designated area and that a cleaning contractor will disinfect the terminal where passengers are arriving from the city, the capital of Hubei province. Cleaning and disinfection in the airport will also be stepped up as a whole, it said. Flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., in response to complaints from its cabin crew union about risk of “catastrophic” infection, on Wednesday said staff could wear protective face masks on flights to China if they wanted. The airline is also waiving rebooking, rerouting and refund charges for all tickets issued before Jan. 21 for travel to or from Wuhan between Jan. 21 and Feb. 15.
South Korea: Korean Air Lines Co. is providing hazardous-materials suits for crew on planes and plans to disinfect aircraft flying to Wuhan daily, as opposed to monthly, while Tway Air delayed plans to launch a new route from Incheon to Wuhan, Yonhap News reported, citing a company official. The country confirmed its first infection on Monday.
North Korea: The county has temporarily closed its borders to all foreign tourists as a precaution against the virus, according to travel agent Young Pioneer Tours. “Further details are yet to be confirmed by our travel partners in North Korea,” it said.
Singapore: Changi Airport is increasing surveillance on all passengers from China, rather than just those arriving from Wuhan. Low-cost carrier Scoot said it’s made arrangements to distribute a health advisory to all passengers arriving from Wuhan. Disinfectants, hand sanitizers and surgical masks are being supplied on all China flights. Scoot said it has an aircraft disinfection protocol in place for flights where suspected cases have been reported.
Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country will step up quarantine and testing, while Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday that health questionnaires would be given to passengers arriving from Wuhan by plane and that people should inform authorities if they’re not feeling well on arrival.
India: Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharak International Airport has increased surveillance measures. Delhi Airport staff are checking inbound passengers from affected areas, it said in a statement.
Australia: Health authorities will help aviation personnel monitor travelers entering the country from Wuhan.
Indonesia: Airports and airlines have been asked to take precautionary measures such as screening international passengers with thermal scanners. Airlines must provide health documents and manifests after landing, Director General of Civil Aviation Polana Pramesti said in a statement.
Vietnam: Equipment to measure body temperature is in place to screen passengers at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, according to a statement on the government website, which said monitoring will be increased during the Lunar New Year holidays as there’ll be a greater number of flights.
U.K.: Teams including a doctor and medical inspector will deploy to London’s Heathrow airport to greet passengers from Wuhan to monitor for signs of the virus and provide information to passengers about symptoms, the Department for Health said. The checks concern three flights a week operated by China Southern Airlines Co. The risk to Britons was raised to “low” from “very low.”
Italy: The Health Ministry said procedures are in force at Rome Fiumicino airport, which has direct flights to Wuhan, to check for symptomatic cases on flights arriving from the Chinese city. Surveillance of passengers is being strengthened and arrivals will be subject to body temperature checks at the airport, it said.
Nigeria: The country’s center for disease control advised travelers coming from Wuhan to report to a medical facility if they feel ill and said that surveillance has been intensified at all points of entry.
South Africa: The National Institute for Communicable Diseases recommends testing anyone who has recently visited Wuhan and is displaying symptoms such as fever and cough.
U.S.: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. has implemented health screening for arrivals at airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles on Jan. 17, and is expanding that to Atlanta and Chicago this week. CDC said it is closely monitoring the outbreak and there are ongoing investigations into the “rapidly evolving situation.”
–– With assistance from Tian Ying, Anurag Kotoky, Harry Suhartono, Nguyen Xuan Quynh, Isabel Reynolds, Sofia Horta e Costa and Sybilla Gross.
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