Airports and airlines are taking steps to protect staff and passengers amid heightened concern over the outbreak of a new virus originating from the Chinese city of Wuhan. At least nine people have died and hundreds more have been infected, including the first confirmed case in the US.
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.
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, which is 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, 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.
Korea: Korean Air Lines is providing hazardous-materials suits for crew on planes and plans to disinfect aircraft flying to Wuhan daily, as opposed to monthly. South Korea had its first confirmed infection on Monday.
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 sanitisers 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.
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 staff monitor travellers returning from Wuhan.
UK: Heathrow spokesman Weston Macklem said the airport was awaiting instructions from public health authorities. British Airways said it’s monitoring the situation closely.
US: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US 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.”