British Airways suspends all flights to mainland China

pharmafile | January 29, 2020 | News story | Research and Development British Airways, MERS, Sars, Wuhan Virus, coronavirus, virus 

British Airways has ceased all flights to mainland China until 31 January. This comes after the Foreign Office advice against “all but essential travel” to the country. A British Airways spokeswoman said that the safety “of our customers and crew is always our priority”.

In the US, the Trump administration is reportedly considering a temporary ban on all flights from China. Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary, said: “In terms of travel restrictions . . . it’s important to not take anything off the table with a rapidly emerging novel infectious disease.” United and Delta airlines have already cancelled dozens of flights to mainland China and the US State Department also warned US citizens not to travel anywhere in China.

In the UK, 97 people have been tested for the virus but the results have all been negative. However Dr Yvonne Doyle, England’s Director for Health Protection, believes that it is more likely that travel restrictions won’t stop the virus spreading to the UK. She said: “The most likely place that we’re going to find a case is someone who is in the country already. Our view is that, although airports are important, the most likely place that we might find a case is somebody in the country already, and it’s absolutely critical that the public health service and the NHS are ready to diagnose that and are able to designate the person to the right facilities.”

Around 2,000 are thought to have entered the UK from China on international flights since the outbreak began on 12 December. It has been traced to a Wuhan market that sold meat and animals and the disease is thought to come from animal products. Currently known as 2019-nCoV, the virus is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans.

This episode is reminiscent of the SARS epidemic in 2003 that spread to Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Canada; it killed 774 people and infected over 8,000. Chinese scientists reported that they had generated the genetic sequence of the new virus and it is a coronavirus that is in the same group as SARS and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus).

Conor Kavanagh

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