Information on the coronavirus continues to be updated. As of 1 February, the advice level for Australians has been upgraded to Do Not Travel to China.
The Australian Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, outlined the situation in a letter to the travel industry on Friday, 31 January.
“Experts still believe this virus is, in the great majority of cases, only passed on to others from people who are unwell with symptoms of infection. There is very limited information to suggest that occasionally people may have spread the virus late in the incubation period in the days before they become unwell or develop an infection without obvious symptoms.”
It is important to note that the risk of infection remains very low. The coronavirus requires person to person contact and is generally passed via saliva. Therefore the virus being carried via touch or through the air-conditioning is extremely unlikely. People should not feel that they are in a position of high risk at this point, beyond the general risk of contracting the virus.
While the Department of Health calls for calm over the outbreak, in a precautionary measure the Australian federal government will now deny entry to foreign travellers who have left, or passed through, mainland China.
The Department of Health advises that the best defence against most viruses is practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene:
1. Wash hands often with soap and water before and after eating, as well as after attending the toilet
2. Avoid contact with others (including touching, kissing, hugging, and other intimate contact)
3. Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
You can read more about the novel coronavirus outbreak on the smartraveller.gov.au website.
We also recommend visiting the Smartraveller China page for information on the coronavirus and any updates on the current advisory to ‘do not travel’ to China.
Airlines suspending or reducing flights to China
Several international airlines have announced plans to suspend or reduce flights to and from mainland China. This is not specifically related to services outbound Australia.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents has compiled list of current schedule changes, including updates as of 1 February.
Air Canada: Suspended all flights to Beijing and Shanghai from 30 January until 29 February. The carrier previously operated 33 flights per week.
Air India: Suspending Delhi-Shanghai flights, which operate six times a week, from 31 January until February 14.
American Airlines: Cancelled flights between Los Angeles and mainland China from 7 February to 26 March.
Asiana Airlines: Starting next month will temporarily suspend flights to the Chinese cities of Guilin, Changsha and Haikou.
British Airways: Halting all flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai with immediate effect from the UK until 31 January. Has also suspended all bookings until 29 February citing the travel advice of the British foreign office.
Cathay Pacific Group: Plans to progressively reduce flights to and from mainland China by 50 per cent or more from 31 January until the end of March. Cathay Pacific Group previously operated 480 flights per week to/from mainland China.
Delta Airlines: Intends to halve flights between the US and mainland China. Cutting back from 42 flights per week to approximately 21 flights with effect from 6 February to 30 April.
Eva Air: Announced a partial cancellation of flights to and from mainland China for two weeks starting on February 2. Also, the airline has stopped providing towels, magazines, table cloths, and is limiting the use of blankets and pillows on its flights.
Finnair: Has cancelled its three weekly flights to Beijing and two weekly flights to Nanjing through end-March.
Jetstar Asia: Suspended flights from Singapore to Hefei, Guiyang and Xuzhou from 31 Jan to 31 March. Jetstar has offered optional cancellation/rebooking after 31 March for all Jetstar passengers with flights to, from or via mainland China between 24 Jan and 31 March.
Korean Air: Considering grounding some of its flights to mainland China as passenger demand drops. Korean Air had operated four flights a week to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, before suspending them on Jan. 23.
Qantas Airlines: Qantas will suspend its two direct services to mainland China (Sydney-Beijing and Sydney-Shanghai) from 9 Feb until 29 March. There is currently no change to Qantas services between Australia and Hong Kong.
Lion Air Group and Batik Air: Will suspend all flights to China during the month of February. Lion Air had more than 50 flights per week to China. Batik Air had 10 flights per week.
Lufthansa and its Swiss and Austrian subsidiaries: All flights to mainland China would be suspended until at least 8 February 2020.
Singapore Airlines: Flights to and from mainland China remain unchanged at this point. It may be the case that services are altered or adjusted, but at this point, services are expected to continue.
United Airlines: Has cancelled 24 return flights between 1 to 8 Feb to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong (reduced from 12 flights to 8-9 flights per day) and said more cancellations may follow.
If you have any questions or concerns about your upcoming travel to China or other destinations, please don’t hesitate to contact your CBT team.
This post was updated on 2 February, 2020.