Beijing will divert international flights to other cities as imported coronavirus cases mount: sources

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/18 16:33:40

Travellers wearing face masks are seen at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, Canada, March 16, 2020. (Photo by Liang Sen/Xinhua)

Beijing recently held a meeting to discuss plans to divert international flights arriving Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) to other cities, as the capital city is under immense pressure to curb its rapid rise in imported coronavirus cases, two separate sources told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The sources said airports in cities including North China's Tianjin Municipality, Shijiazhuang in North China's Hebei Province, and Taiyuan in North China's Shanxi Province will receive the spillover of international passengers, though they didn't disclose an implementation date or time.

According to data provided by BCIA, the number of flights arriving and departing from the airport remained flat at 409 on Wednesday, compared with Tuesday's 380 and Monday's 443.

The potential move came as Beijing reported 11 new imported cases of the virus at noon on Wednesday, according to the Health Commission of Beijing. The city has now reported a total of 54 imported infections.

As the largest global aviation hub in China, BCIA is seeing rapidly growing numbers of international passengers amid the rapid spread of COVID-19 overseas, which has exerted immense pressure on epidemic prevention measures, virus testing and quarantines, and could strain limited medical resources, Qi Qi, an independent market analyst, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"It is necessary and very urgent that some arrivals are diverted to other cities [which have the capacity and resources to handle massive traffic], otherwise the capital will be exposed to the dual risk of imported cases and returning workers," Qi said.

With the escalating outbreak overseas, Beijing has ramped up efforts to contain imported infections. Since March 11, all overseas arrivals to Beijing from countries and regions hit hard by the virus have had to be quarantined for 14 days.

The capital airport set aside a special area to deal with international passengers on March 10, and had handled a total of 112 flights involving 20,718 passengers by Monday.

The Global Times recently reported that major Chinese airlines including Air China, China Southern and China Eastern are considering slashing international flights as infections worldwide continue to rise.


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