As the number of people sickened and killed by coronavirus keeps climbing airports and airlines continue to take action to contain the deadly disease.
Coronovirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan, China has resulted in 170 deaths as over 7,000 cases of the disease were confirmed on Thursday, according to The New York Times.
Five cases have been confirmed in the U.S., and on Thursday, a close contact of one of the patients became infected with the virus. He's the husband of the woman in Chicago who was one of the first stateside cases, The Times also reported on Thursday.
Following the announcement that coronavirus has spread from person to person in the U.S., the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global emergency after initially not refraining to do so. "This is only the sixth time such an emergency has been declared, with past examples including the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Zika virus," according to ABC News.
This week, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued its highest level of travel notice, advising Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to all of China during the deadly coronavirus outbreak. On Tuesday, United Airlines became the first U.S. airline to suspend flights to mainland China. Delta and American Airlines followed suit on Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has increased its presence at airports. Health screenings for travelers arriving from China have increased from five major airports — Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York JFK, Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta — to 20. These airports handle about 90 percent of arrivals from China, Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech on Monday.
Those who arrive at one of these 20 airports from China will be handed a CDC pamphlet with information about the coronavirus and asked to fill out a questionnaire with information about their travel and any symptoms. Travelers who appear to show symptoms — coughing, difficulty breathing, fever — will be brought aside for further examination.
United Airlines announced the cancellation of dozens of flights to China because of a “significant decline of demand." United typically offers 12 flights to China per day from the U.S. That number will reduce to three or four from February 1 through February 8, pending further monitoring, CNBC reported. The airline has also issued travel waivers for those who had booked trips to China over the coming months.
American Airlines will cancel two routes between February 9 and March 27. The airline will not operate its flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai or Beijing. Service to Hong Kong will continue from Los Angeles and Dallas Fort-Worth, according to CNN.
Delta Air Lines said in a press release it will half its number of weekly flights between the U.S. and China from 42 to 21. The cancellations will begin February 6 and last through April 30, the longest period of any U.S. carrier so far. Travel waivers have been issued for those seeking to rebook or cancel their plans.
Travel around China has been significantly impacted by the outbreak, particularly in the city of Wuhan, where the disease was first detected. Wuhan has been effectively quarantined during the outbreak, with flights and trains out of the city shut down.
And access to China from global airlines is also dwindling. In a statement, Lufthansa announced it was cancelling all flights (including Austrian Airlines and SWISS) to mainland China through February 9. It will not accept new bookings to China through the end of February, however the airlines will continue to operate flights to Hong Kong. British Airways announced an “immediate” suspension of flights to mainland China. Reuters reported that there are no flights available to China with the airline through the end of February. Air Canada has also temporarily suspended flights to Beijing and Shanghai.
Cruise lines that travel to mainland China have also cancelled upcoming itineraries and allowed passengers to rearrange their travel plans.
Travelers who have been to China within the last 14 days and are feeling ill should seek medical care immediately. Before visiting a doctor’s office or hospital, call ahead and report your condition and recent travel, the CDC advises.