NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 31 – Kenya Airways has suspended flights to and from Guangzhou, China, with immediate effect over coronavirus, which has been declared a global epidermic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In a statement, the airline says it arrived at the decision after extensive consultation with the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs.
“We apologize to all our customers for the inconvenience and reaffirm that the safety of our customers and staff remains our highest priority,” the statement said.
The airline operates two daily non-stop flights on the Nairobi-Guangzhou route, thrice a week.
“We, however, clarify that our service between Nairobi and Bangkok remains operational.”
Earlier this week, the airline had said it would not suspend its flights, saying it was monitoring the situation on a regular basis.
The suspension comes three days after the airline flew in a Kenyan student from Guangzhou with symptoms of coronavirus, but tests on him turned negative.
“The results are negative,” Health CS Sicily Kariuki told Capital FM News on Friday morning, a day after the samples from the Kenyan student who flew in from China, were sent to South Africa for validation.
The initial tests were conducted at the National Influenza Centre, but the ministry wanted the results validated.
The national carrier is the latest airline to issue a cancellation.
On Wednesday, British Airways led other major airlines in cancelling flights to the China amid global fears mounting over the epidemic that has killed 231 people and nearly 10,000 infections worldwide.
“We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the (UK) Foreign Office against all but essential travel,” BA said in a brief statement.
BA announcement on suspending the flights came after Russia’s Urals Airlines on Wednesday said it had suspended some services to Europe popular with Chinese tourists, including Paris and Rome, because of the outbreak.
US carriers among them United, Delta and even American announced flight cancellations but only February 9 through March 27.
On Wednesday, Germany’s flagship carrier Lufthansa – and one of Europe’s largest airline companies – also cancelled all flights to mainland China until February 9.
The Lufthansa group normally operates 73 connections to and from mainland China a week, mainly to Beijing and Shanghai.
Indonesia’s Lion Air Group has since followed suit, as have airlines from Myanmar and Nepal.
The announcement comes after a string of countries — including the United States, Britain and Germany — advised citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China because of the virus.
This comes even as the World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the virus.
The UN health agency based in Geneva had initially downplayed the threat posed by the disease but revised its risk assessment after crisis talks.
“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in Geneva on Thursday.
Additional information by AFP.