Australia’s Qantas Airlines Suspends Flights to China Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

February 1, 2020 Updated: February 1, 2020
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Australia confirmed its 10th case of the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on Saturday as its flag carrier Qantas is scheduled to suspend two direct services to mainland China starting Feb. 9, due to travel restrictions imposed by other countries amid the outbreak.

The unidentified woman who was confirmed to be infected on Saturday is in her 20s and lives in Melbourne, Victoria. She is the fourth case of coronavirus in the state and the 10th case in the country.

The woman had traveled to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and returned to Australia on Jan. 25. She became ill two days later.

She was seen by doctors in a hospital in Melbourne on Jan. 30 and was deemed well enough to stay at home, where she currently remains since being tested. Health authorities claim that she was not considered infectious on the flight back to Victoria.

Authorities in Victoria are awaiting test results from another 13 people for the respiratory illness. The other nine cases confirmed in Australia are two in Queensland, three in Victoria, and four in New South Wales.

Later Saturday, Qantas said it will suspend its direct Sydney-Beijing and Sydney-Shanghai flights from Feb. 9 to March 29.

“This follows entry restrictions imposed by countries including Singapore and the United States, which impact the movement of crew who work across the Qantas International network,” the company said. “These entry restrictions pose significant logistical challenges for rostering crew to operate mainland China services, leading to the need to temporarily suspend these flights.”

“There is no change to Qantas services to Hong Kong as it’s exempt from current travel restrictions,” Qantas noted.

The Beijing service was already scheduled to end on Feb. 23 for commercial reasons.

Singapore from Sunday will bar entry or transit to those who have visited mainland China in the past 14 days. The United States will carry out a similar temporary ban but will grant entry to the immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Qantas said the date Feb. 9 was selected as a compromise between high passenger demand in both directions and a number of other travel restrictions, reported Australian news agency AAP.

“The suspension may be brought forward if demand levels or other factors change,” Qantas said. “The date for flights to resume will also be regularly reviewed based on the circumstances.”

A growing number of countries are closing their borders or announcing travel restrictions with China. The deadly coronavirus has spread to 23 countries outside of China, with at least 132 confirmed cases.

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