Shanghai Cancels 500+ Flights over Coronavirus Outbreak

A flight attendant wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus checks passengers before a flight to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai on July 14, 2020. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

One of the world’s busiest airports in Shanghai, China, canceled over 500 flights on Tuesday as the city raced to contain a recent coronavirus outbreak.

“On Tuesday, figures from data services firm VariFlight showed that over 500 flights out of Pudong Airport had been called off — nearly half the day’s scheduled flights,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. “Almost half of scheduled inbound flights were also canceled.”

“Variflight flagged the cancellation of more than 40 percent of Monday’s flights at the [Pudong] airport, one of the world’s busiest and a key gateway for international flights during the pandemic,” Channel News Asia (CNA) reported.

The coastal city has documented seven new local coronavirus cases linked to the airport this month, with most infections recorded within the past few days. In response to the cluster outbreak, municipal health officials launched a massive coronavirus testing drive for staff at Pudong, Shanghai’s biggest international airport.

“Overnight Sunday into Monday (November 23), workers in full protective gear ushered Pudong International Airport staff into a multi-story car park to have the virus test, with videos posted online by Shanghai health authorities showing scores of people filing into the facility,” CNA reported.

“More than 17,700 people had been swabbed by Monday morning in the drive to test airport cargo staff,” China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. The coronavirus test results had come back negative on more than 11,500 swabs as of November 23.

“The confirmed cases have only been found at the airport’s cargo handling area, and the airport’s passenger area is unaffected,” Shanghai Airport Authority vice-president Zhou Junlong told Xinhua on Monday.

Citing Zhou, Xinhua reported that cargo workers at Pudong will receive regular coronavirus tests in the future. Airport staff in high-risk roles will also be given China’s experimental coronavirus vaccine candidate, developed by the state-run company Sinopharm, the news agency added.

Since July, China has administered the experimental coronavirus vaccine to some medical workers and border officials in the country, as well as state employees and international students heading abroad.

China’s northern port city of Tianjin is currently carrying out mass coronavirus testing similar to that seen in Shanghai this week. Tianjin reported five new coronavirus infections on November 21, with an additional case reported on November 24. Chinese state media reported that “2.6 million people are being tested” in Tianjin for coronavirus after health authorities discovered the new infection cluster, according to CNA. Nearly half of all scheduled flights were canceled at Tianjin International Airport on Tuesday as part of the containment measures, according to AFP.

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