As coronavirus rages on British Airways has announced it will be cancelling all flights right up until mid-April. The news comes as the infection rate for the deadly virus surpasses 77,000. Meanwhile, 2,250 have lost their lives.
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The British carrier initially cancelled services until the end of March, following suit of many other global airlines who also withdrew services to the virus epicentre.
However, this morning BA updated its travel advice section to say that it is extending flight cancellations to the Chinese cities of being and Shanghai following guidance from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
A statement posted on the website reads: “Following the Foreign Office’s continued advice against all but essential travel to mainland China, we have cancelled our flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until 19 April 2020.
“This situation will remain under review and we will continue to provide regular updates. If you have a booking with us, please make sure we have your contact details.
“We’ll do everything we can to help customers affected.”
BA will be contacting affected customers within the next 24 hours.
The airline is still operating flights to Hong Kong, though on a reduced schedule.
It has temporarily suspended one of its two daily flights to the region until March 31 due to a decrease in demand.
The BA’s website states: ‘If you are flying to/from Hong Kong up until 31 May 2020, you can rebook on to another flight operated by British Airways to the same destination at a later date, or request a refund.”
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Earlier this month airlines at least 73 other global airlines withdrew flights from China in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
Amongst them were Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Air Asia, Air France, Air India, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
Despite the concern, the World Health Organisation says travellers should not avoid airports if they need to travel.
Appearing on a Coronavirus update video, Dr Carmen Dolea, Head, IHR Secretariat at the World Health Organisation said that proper hand hygiene is the key to protecting against the virus.
“If you have to travel you have to go to the airport,” she says.
“If you want to reduce your risk of being infected it’s true that staying away from people which may be suspected cases may help you to reduce your risk.”
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“Being on travel in a hotel room is similarly an issue of practising personal protection measures,” she said.
“So, you should be careful to wash the hands properly, to use alcohol-based hand rub, make sure that the food hygiene practises are also taken into account.”
Dr Dolea adds: “There is no specific requirement for being in a hotel than being in any other place while being a traveller.
“Similar protection for regular people or regular travellers have to be taken as if for any other type of respiratory infection.”
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports the advice given by the World Health Organisation, similarly stressing the importance of hand hygiene.
The CDC adds: “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.”
Some travellers have taken to wearing masks to the airport, although they may not be as preventive as one might imagine.
Dr Dolea points out that they won’t necessarily protect you from picking up coronavirus.
She says: “The masks are very effective for protecting people that are sick, for preventing them to transmit the virus onward. For people that are not sick masks are not very effective.
“It is almost important to ensure that you are using the masks properly and make sure not to touch the exterior of the mask even if you are not sick.
“The masks are also important for people that are caring for sick people.
“It will be important that people who most need the masks have access.”
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