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SWISS extends flight cancellations to China

A passenger in a mostly empty plane flying from Cambodia to Guangdong Province, China, on Saturday. The WHO has said there is no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” Keystone

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) and its parent company Lufthansa will ground planes to and from China for longer than originally planned owing to the coronavirus. 

This content was published on February 3, 2020 - 18:32
SDA-Keystone/Reuters/ts,ug

Lufthansa said in a statement on Monday that Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines flights would be suspended to and from Beijing and Shanghai until February 29 with immediate effect. Initially the flights had been suspended until February 9.

“Nanjing, Shenyang and Quingdao will not be served until the end of the winter timetable on March 28. Flight operations to/from Hong Kong will continue as planned,” it said. 

On Monday China decried some countries for denying entry to people from Hubei province, at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, and cancelling of flights, as going against World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations not to take unnecessary or excessive measures. 

In a speech to the WHO’s executive board, which opened a six-day session in Geneva, China’s delegate said the international community needed to treat the new virus outbreak objectively, fairly, and not “deliberately create panic” among the general public. 

International isolation 

China is facing increasing international isolation due to restrictions on flights to and from the country and bans on travellers from China. 

There have been 17,238 confirmed infections in China including 361 deaths, as well as 151 confirmed cases in 23 countries and one death which was reported from the Philippines on Sunday, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday. 

Tedros said there was no need for measures that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” in trying to halt the spread of the coronavirus. 

“We call on all countries to implement decisions that are evidence-based and consistent,” Tedros told the WHO executive board, reiterating his message from last week when he declared an international emergency.

Hotline and emergency plan

By Monday evening, there have been no confirmed infections with the virus in Switzerland. A suspected case of coronavirus on board a flight to Zurich from New York turned out to be a regular case of seasonal flu, according to Zurich police.

The plane was temporarily put in quarantine in Zurich for a few hours before passengers were allowed to disembark.

Meanwhile, an information hotline set up by the health authorities last week appears to meet limited public interest.

Medgate, the private company operating the hotline in Switzerland, said it registered about 1,000 calls over the past four days. In comparison, the information service set up for the 2009 swine flu pandemic had about 3,000 in the first few days.


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