With the coronavirus outbreak in China, Cathay Pacific Airways is asking its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave as the company deals with financial setbacks from the health crisis.
Cathay Pacific Airways’ CEO Augustus Tang said in a video message to the company’s employees that the current situation is as serious as the global financial crisis of 2009, according to the The South China Morning Post.
The airline also asked employees to take “special leave” at some point between the dates of March 1 and June 30, according to a statement by Cathay Pacific Airways obtained by PEOPLE.
“In view of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and also significant drop in market demand, we just announced massive capacity cuts yesterday,” they said.
“Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business. We have already been taking multiple measures to achieve this. Today, we are appealing to all employees to participate in the special leave scheme (SLS), which will take effect from 1 March and last until 30 June,” they continued. “All employees will have the option to take three weeks of unpaid leave in this period.”
On Tuesday, Cathay Pacific Airways announced a 90 percent cut in flight capacity to mainland China and a 30 percent cut of its worldwide capacity over the next two months. It has also canceled group tours in mainland China and told businessmen to cancel foreign travel as Beijing deals with the outbreak.
A rep for Cathay Pacific Airways did not immediately reply to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Cathay Pacific’s request for the company’s employees to take weeks-long unpaid leave comes amid two additional flights evacuating American citizens from Wuhan, China have landed in California for a two-week quarantine.
The two flights will be going to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego and Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield, California, according to CNN.
During the quarantine, the hundreds of passengers from these flights will be screened by Centers for Disease Control officials for symptoms of the coronavirus.
The first flight of U.S. nationals landed on Jan. 29 at March Air Base in Riverside County, California.
So far, there have been 12 confirmed cases of the Corona virus in America. On Friday, the Trump administration announced that they will ban any non-U.S. citizens arriving from China and quarantine any Americans who came from Hubei in the last 14 days. They are also requiring that all flights from China go to 11 airports with enhanced health screenings.
The Chinese government has since quarantined nearly 35 million residents in and around Hubei and grounded all flights, while the three major U.S. carriers — Delta, American and United — have suspended all flights to China.
As of Wednesday, there are 24,324 cases of coronavirus in China and 490 have died from the respiratory illness.
The number of Chinese deaths has already exceeded that of the 2002-3 SARS outbreak, when there were 349 deaths, however the mortality rate — about 10 percent — was much higher than this coronavirus, which is around 2 percent.
And a significant number of people are recovering from this coronavirus. Chinese officials said that 262 people left the hospital on Tuesday, and in the U.S., the man who had the first confirmed case of coronavirus also went home.