Coronavirus: KQ temporarily suspends flights to Guangzhou
Kenya Airways (KQ) has temporarily suspended flights to the Chinese city of Guangzhou effective today, to limit the spread of the deadly Coronavirus to Kenya, which has so far claimed 170 lives and at least 15 other countries.
A statement from the airline’s corporate communication department said KQ will however continue operating flights between Nairobi and Bangkok.
“Further to our prior communication regarding the current Coronavirus outbreak, we have temporarily suspended all flights to and from Guangzhou starting Friday 31st, January 2020 until further notice. We however clarify that our services between Nairobi and Bangkok remains operational,” the statement noted.
KQ operates two weekly flights between Nairobi and Guangzhou.
Chinese authorities say by January 29, there were 7,711 confirmed cases, with infections spreading to at least 15 other countries.
In Kenya, a passenger with symptoms similar to the Coronavirus was quarantined at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) upon arrival from Guangzhou on Tuesday, as a precautionary measure.
The temporary suspension of flights to Guangzhou comes in the wake of consideration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on whether the virus constitutes a global health emergency.
KQ has been hesitant to suspend flights to Guangzhou, China’s third largest city after Beijing and Shanghai. On Wednesday, the airline’s management said it had implemented additional precautionary measures that included screening of all passengers at the Guangzhou Airport to ensure their staff and customers were safe.
This was despite pressure from the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU), which feared its members would contract the virus, and had even scheduled a strike if the airline was unresponsive to their demands.
The KQ, Guangzhou direct connection that began in 2008 has contributed to a growing number of tourist arrivals and trade between the two countries, with fear that the temporary suspension will affect the two sectors.
In the latest tourism sector performance report released by Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary (CS) Najib Balala, arrivals from China increased by 3 per cent to 84,208 in 2019, up from 81709 recorded in 2018.
And according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the value of imports from China in 2017 reached Sh390 billion, a 20 per cent jump from Sh337 billion in 2016. Major Chinese exports to Kenya include electronics, motorcycles, motor vehicles spare parts, furniture and clothes.