British Airways halts flights to China amid rising death toll

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

British Airways(BA) has suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China as the outbreak of the coronavirus continues to grow rapidly.

The move comes after the UK government warned against all but essential travel to the country, where 170 people have been killed by the mutating disease.

A statement on the BA website said: "Following Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel to mainland China we have temporarily suspended our flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai with immediate effect, until Friday 31 January, while we assess the situation.

"We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.

"This situation will remain under review and we will continue to provide regular updates."

Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic said its flights between Heathrow and Shanghai will continue to operate as scheduled, although passengers are able to rebook or obtain a refund free of charge.

Evacuations from China have begun with US and Japanese nationals leaving the country, while the UK is expected to follow suit.

It has been reported that Britons being flown back to the UK from Wuhan will be quarantined for two weeks in military bases, to rule out all possibilities that any individual, or family has caught the virus.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: "We are working hard to get British nationals back from Wuhan.

Mr Hancock said that public safety was a top priority and that anyone who is returning from Wuhan will be safely isolated for 14 days, with all necessary medical attention.

UK health officials said on Tuesday, that 97 people had been tested for the virus and were all negative, however, that the virus may still be in the country.

The latest figures show that the coronavirus has infected more people than SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which infected 5,327 people and killed 349 between November 2002 and July 2003.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that travel to China should only be for essential purposes and advised people not to travel unnecessarily.

"We are also working urgently to finalise arrangements for an assisted departure from Hubei Province for British nationals this week, and are in contact with people in Hubei to ensure they register their interest and that we can keep them updated."

He added: "The UK continues to be guided by the latest medical advice about the coronavirus outbreak. The safety and security of British people will always be our top priority."

In the last 24 hours,the numbers of confirmed cases has soared to 5,974, an increase of 1,459 from Tuesday.Over 56 million people are reportedly on lockdown since the virus broke out.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is still investigating the matter and has not classified the virus as a global emergency.

Some nations are taking more drastic action than others, with the Philippines issuing a temporary blanket ban on tourist visas for Chinese nationals and issuing 100,000 free masks to Filipinos living in Hong Kong.

#Coronovirus #WHO #Wuhan #BritishAirways