Hyderabad: Several international airlines, including Air India and IndiGo from India, have suspended their flights to China as the deadly coronavirus spread rapidly in the country. Airlines would refund full fare to customers.
As on Wednesday, 132 people have died in China — nearly all of them in Hubei province, where the virus started in December.
Of 6,078 people infected by the virus across the world, 5,987 cases were reported in China, including Hong Kong and Macau.
A representative of Air India said flights to Shanghai from Delhi and Mumbai would be suspended from January 31 to February 14. “Discussions on cancelling flights to Hong Kong are underway. As of now, they will run as usu-al,” he said on Wednesday.
Indigo Airlines would suspended its Delhi-Chengdu and Bengaluru-Hong Kong flights from February 1. Its flight to Guangzhou from Kolkata flight would continue to run, but it would be monitored 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 low-cost carrier said.
Other airlines, including British Airways, Air France, United Airlines, Air Canada, Lion Air have already cancelled some flights to China.
Reflecting seriousness of the epidemic, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday ordered the military to “shoulder responsibility” to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Indians rush to cancel their plans to visit China
Mr Xi’s call to the military came as the number of confirmed cases of the infection reported from 16 more countries.
The virus has already spread to 16 countries, which includes Thailand with 14 infected people, Singapore (10), Taiwan (8), Japan (8), Malaysia (7), Australia (7), US (5), South Korea (4), France (4), Germany (4), Canada (3), Vietnam (2), UAE (4), Cambodia (1) and two from South Asia — one each from Nepal and Sri Lanka.
The number of coronavirus infection has surpassed those witnessed during the SARS or severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, which had caused havoc in China in 2002-03. Over 800 people, mostly in China, died during the SARS epidemic.
According to travel agents, Indians are cancelling their trips to China after the outbreak of coronavirus epidemic. “There is definitely a drop in interest from people wishing to go to mainland China and Hong Kong. Those, who have already booked their tickets for China, have cancelled their plans,” said travel agent B. Sharan Kumar. Cathay Pacific said it would be reducing the number of flights to China and Hong Kong due to low demand, while Scoot would continue to operate flights to China, except the city of Wuhan....