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Ethiopian Airlines denies suspension of flights to China over Coronavirus pandemic


ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopian Airlines will not suspend flights to China despite the Coronavirus scare, state media FANA said, amidst claims that the carrier had shutdown operations.

Social media reports indicated the fastest growing African carrier had cancelled flights, leaving thousands stranded across the globe.

China is battling Coronavirus pandemic, which has so far left over 200 people dead. About 9,000 cases of infections have been discovered, Chinese media said.

Amid the pandemic, various governments are evacuating their citizens to safety, with suspension of flights being among emergency options, Reuters said.

Flights not suspended

Tewolde Gebremariam, the airline's CEO, on Thursday denied the reports on alleged suspension of flights, adding that all five gateways to China were open.

“We are operating our regular flights to all of our five gateways in with the usual supply and demand adjustment that we always make during the Chinese New Year Holidays," he said.

The airline makes stopovers at China, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hong Kong among others, FANA reported.

China remains one of the strongest and oldest market for Ethiopian Airlines, he said, adding that the trips will go on until advised to the contrary.

For the last decade, the Chinese have flooded African market, and the Ethiopian Airline has remained an integral partner, Mirror reported.

"We have been connecting the great Chinese nation with the entire continent of African for the almost half a century and it is our growth strategic market,” he said.

Ethiopia working with Chinese authorities

The virus has been reported in various towns in the Communist state, causing a global health scare in the past few weeks.

But various guidelines have been put in place to prevent the spreading, with World Health Organization playing a fundamental role.

The CEO added: “We are also working together with all relevant Chinese and Ethiopian Authorities to protect our passengers."

He extended his gratitude to the people and the government of China for their unreserved support and added “we would like to reassure our full commitment to stand with them at all times.”

Travel restrictions around the world

But with Ethiopian Airlines remaining optimistic, their Kenyan counterparts KQ on Friday suspended flights to the Chinese's Guangzhou city.

Elsewhere, State Department issued travel advisory to her citizens, banning them from visiting China until the pandemic is contained, NYT reports.

The department set the new advisory at Level 4, or red — its highest alert, reserved for the most perilous situations.

“Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice,” the State Department said. 

Schools close down in China

Chinese schools and universities have extended their holidays to help contain the coronavirus. 

Foreign students in China are leaving in droves. Some American and Australian universities have restricted travel to China.

China’s education ministry ordered schools and universities to lengthen their winter holidays, though it was left to each province to decide on dates. 

In Hong Kong, a semiautonomous region, a few universities have suspended classes until March 2, and local news media reported that primary and secondary schools would do the same, along with kindergartens.


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