Philippine carriers cancel flights to China over coronavirus

Philippine Airlines says it would cut the number of flights between Manila and China by over 50%. (Reuters pic)

MANILA: Three Philippine airlines on Saturday cancelled flights to China, joining many others around the world that have done the same, after health officials confirmed the Philippines’ first case of coronavirus.

A 38-year-old Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan, China, tested positive for the virus on Thursday.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday banned the entry of Chinese arriving from Wuhan, at the centre of the epidemic, and provinces with reported cases of the disease.

Carriers Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and the local unit of AirAsia Group Bhd said they were cancelling flights starting this month.

“In light of developments related to the novel coronavirus, Cebu Pacific will be cancelling all flights between the Philippines and mainland China from Feb 2 to March 29, 2020,” the airline said.

The country’s largest budget carrier, which flies to Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Shenzen, said it also reduced trips to Hong Kong and Macau.

Philippine Airlines said it would cut the number of flights between Manila and Greater China by over 50%. It would continue to serve Filipinos and Chinese nationals returning from the Lunar New Year holidays.

But further reductions are expected in the coming weeks based on daily assessments and guidelines from government authorities, the flag carrier said.

Philippines AirAsia, another low-cost carrier, said flights to and from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, were suspended until March 1 “because of the current health situation”.

Thousands of Filipinos live and work in Hong Kong, mainly as house helpers, and in Macau gaming hub as employees of integrated casino resorts.

China faced mounting isolation from international travel curbs and flight suspensions on Saturday as the death toll from coronavirus surges past 300.