Philippines suspends flights to, from coronavirus-hit Wuhan

Philippines suspends flights to, from coronavirus-hit Wuhan
A thermal scanner screens arriving passengers for fever at Tianhe airport in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on January 23, 2020.
AFP / Leo Ramirez

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s Civil Aeronautics Board said it would suspend all flights to and from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a new virus outbreak that has claimed 17 lives.

“The suspension of flights between Wuhan and points in the Philippines will be the first step,” CAB Director Carmelo Arcilla said in a televised press briefing Thursday.

Flights from other cities in China will also be under strict monitoring

“We will continue to monitor the situation in coordination with the Department of Health regarding other cities in China and we will act as warranted by the situation,” Arcilla said. 

Royal Air Charter Service and Pan Pacific Airlines have flights to Wuhan, the CAB director said.

The announcement came after Wuhan—home to 11 million people—was put on effective lockdown. Planes and trains out of the city were canceled, with public buses and subways suspended and residents ordered not to leave “without a special reason.”

CAB also issued an advisory Thursday calling on carriers with flights coming directly or connecting from China to secure a health declaration checklist from the Bureau of Quarantine.

“[Carriers must] ensure the dissemination of the said checklist to all passengers and crew on board the aircraft and to mandatory fill out the said checklist prior to their disembarkation,” the advisory read.

More than 570 people have been infected with the virus across China. It has since been detected in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002 and 2003.

The Department of Transportation earlier said airports and seaports in the country have tightened their safety measures in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.

The Philippines has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, the Department of Health said as it awaits results of the test sent to Australia on the specimen taken from a five-year-old boy who was hospitalized in Cebu City. — Gaea Katreena Cabico with a report from Agence France-Presse

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