Coronavirus: British Airways Suspends Flights to China, UK Will Quarantine Citizens For Two Weeks

Passengers wear face masks as the push their luggage after arriving from a flight at Terminal 5 of London Heathrow Airport in west London on January 28, 2020. - Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday the country was waging a serious fight against the "demon" coronavirus outbreak and pledged transparency …
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British flag-carrier airline British Airways has cancelled its direct flights to China until March at the earliest, and British travellers returning from China will be quarantined for two weeks, the latest bids to prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

As tens of millions of people in several Chinese cities remain on lockdown, with access to public transport restricted or totally withdrawn and roads closed, a handful of nations worldwide are putting in place plans to repatriate their own citizens from Coronavirus areas. The latest among them is the United Kingdom, which will fly back up to 300 citizens trapped in Wuhan and Hubei, reports the BBC, and will place them into quarantine for two weeks before being allowed to rejoin the general population.

Two weeks is thought long enough for any carriers of the deadly Coronavirus to develop symptoms, thereby preventing returnees from infecting family, friends, and the wider public. The importance of separation was underlined this week when the first case of human-to-human transmission was discovered in Europe, after a German man who had not visited China was infected by a visiting Chinese colleague who had.

The repatriated British citizens are expected to arrive in the United Kingdom on Thursday.

It is not clear where the Quarantine will take place, but given the number of people involved and the level of care and separation they may need, a certain amount of space and isolation may be required. The quarantine may take place at a military base which, already equipped with barracks, medical facilities, and ease of securing the location, would make a logical choice.

Australia, which is also repatriating citizens from China and placing them in quarantine before allowing them to return home is taking a further step to prevent further infection, using Christmas Island to house arrivals for two weeks. The Island is known for housing Australia’s offshore immigration detention centre.

British Airways also announced it would be suspending direct flights to the Chinese mainland Wednesday, cancelling Beijing and Shanghai bookings up to March 2020. The airline said of its decision: “We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.”

The move came as the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised against “all but essential travel” to China. Almost 100 people have been tested for Coronavirus in the United Kingdom so far, but no actual cases have yet been detected. Nonetheless, Public Health England has warned there may be as-of-yet undetected infected in the country.

The official death toll for the outbreak stood at 132 as of Wednesday morning.


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