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Chinese cities to lose crucial Emirates flights as virus spreads
[DUBAI] Gulf carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways were told to halt flights to all Chinese cities apart from Beijing as the coronavirus outbreak spreads, drastically reducing the Asian nation's links to the outside world.
The suspension ordered by the United Arab Emirates civil aviation authority will come into force on Wednesday, with the decision part of precautionary measures to confront the epidemic, according to state-run WAM news agency.
All passengers flying out of Beijing will be required to undergo comprehensive medical screening for as long as eight hours before boarding, it said.
Emirates, the largest airline on international routes, and smaller rival Etihad had provided China with vital links via their hubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi even as other carriers pulled the plug. Dubai alone has more than 90 weekly flights to China, from where 3.7 million people flew to the sheikdom last year.
The death toll from the virus has risen above 360, with total confirmed cases reaching almost 17,400. Chinese officials are evaluating cuts to their growth target for 2020 and the central bank stepped in to help cushion the economy.
The UAE, which has reported five cases of infection, put flights to and from Wuhan -- the city at the center of the crisis -- on hold on Jan 23.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG said separately Monday it will extend the cancellation of services to Beijing and Shanghai until Feb 28. Flights to Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao are suspended until March 28, the last day of the winter timetable.
Lufthansa and sister carriers Swiss and Austrian Airlines operate a total of 54 weekly trips to China. The company said 19 weekly services to Hong Kong will continue as normal.
More than 25,000 flights to, from and within China will be cancelled this week as in excess of two dozen airlines respond to the coronavirus threat, according to flight-data firm OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd.
International capacity will fall by 4.4 million seats a week -- equivalent to the whole of the Indian market stopping all services, it said.
Ryanair Holdings Plc said demand for air travel in Europe could gain in coming months if the virus persists to the extent that it prompts people to holiday closer to home. Chief Financial Officer Neil Sorahan said something similar happened during the 2013 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak.