British Airways on Wednesday suspended all direct flights between the United Kingdom and China.
A statement by the airline Wednesday said the decision was made in light of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
“We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel,” the company said.
The decision is considered the most drastic action yet by a major airline as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread. The virus has killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000 people in China so far, with dozens more cases confirmed in places such as the United States, Japan, Germany and France.
On Tuesday, the UK’s Foreign Office warned people against travelling to mainland China in all but essential cases.
British Airways operates direct flights from London Heathrow to Beijing (PKX) and Shanghai (PVG). Checks showed, however, that passengers can still book BA flights to mainland China via connections in cities such as Hong Kong.
The decision comes a day after United Airlines (UAL) temporarily reduced its schedule between the United States and three cities in China, due to what it called “significant decline in demand”.
In total, 24 round trips are said to have been affected by the development.
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On Wednesday, the BBC reported that hundreds of British citizens being flown back to the UK from Wuhan on Thursday will be put in quarantine for two weeks.
Australia, Japan, the US and EU nations are also repatriating citizens.
Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES reported that despite the growing concerns on the spread of coronavirus, Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no plan in place for Nigerians residing in China.
A spokesperson for the ministry, Kimiebi Ebienfa, told this newspaper on Tuesday that, “for now, no plans are being made to evacuate Nigerians in China”.
He referred further enquiries to the health ministry who said they were focused on ensuring the disease does not spread to Nigeria.
Since the increase in the outbreak of the virus, countries around the world are planning to repatriate their citizens. So far, Wuhan, a province in China has recorded over 100 deaths, while more than 4,500 people have been confirmed infected.
An unnamed student in Cote d’Ivoire has also reportedly contacted the virus. She arrived from Beijing on Saturday and has since been quarantined by the Ivorian government.
But, a spokesperson at the ministry of health, Enefaa Bob-Manuel, said meetings are being held with some ministries towards setting up a committee responsible for scaling up “surveillance and vigilance to detect suspicious cases and ensure containment at all points.”
She explained that critical stakeholders in the aviation, health, security and transport will make up the committee. She added that, “attention will focus largely on Nigeria’s five international airports,” because “air travellers are more likely to be carriers of the virus rather than land border crossers.”