Chinese carriers cut flights to Kathmandu as passengers cancel tickets en masseArrivals from China have all but dried up due to the 'rapidly spreading' coronavirus outbreak, airline officials said.
Many Chinese airlines are facing a similar situation as traveller movement from different Chinese cities to Kathmandu has all but dried up due to the 'rapidly spreading' coronavirus outbreak in China, according to airline officials in Kathmandu.
If passenger numbers continue to remain at this level for a few more days, all flights to and from China may be suspended, airline officials said. As of Sunday, most Chinese carriers had temporarily suspended their flights. Some of them have halved their frequency throughout February.
Currently, six Chinese carriers—Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airlines, Cathay Dragon and Tibet Airlines—operate flights to Nepal. Nepal-China joint venture Himalaya Airlines flies to Chongqing, Beijing, Changsha, Guiyang and Shenzhen.
China Southern could be the hardest hit. It carries 35 percent of the 573,082 passengers who travel between China and Nepal annually due to its double daily flights between Kathmandu and Guangzhou.
On Sunday, China Southern cancelled its morning flights to Nepal until February 17 and another three days beginning February 20, the airline said. “Due to bulk cancellations by the passengers, we have cancelled our morning flight effective from Sunday,” said Dhiraj Chandra Shrestha, deputy sales manager of the China Southern Airlines office in Kathmandu. “But we will continue our night flights.”
Shrestha said, “We are getting travellers in nominal numbers from China. The flight booking status was good until last week, but landing restrictions imposed by a few countries like Australia, the US, New Zealand and Myanmar, passenger numbers hit rock bottom,” he said, adding that transit passengers were also cancelling their tickets rapidly.
“The trend is not looking good, and if this continues for a few days, we may be forced to cancel all flights,” said Shrestha.
Sichuan Airlines that operates four weekly flights on the Chengdu-Lhasa-Kathmandu sector said it had been instructed by its headquarters to cut flights.
“We have cut our frequency to two flights a week,” said Sangita Rauniyar, operation head of Society International Travel, the general sales agent of Sichuan Airlines in Kathmandu. According to Rauniyar, Sichuan will operate flights on February 7, 10, 12, 16 and 19.
Air China, which operates daily flights on the Chengdu-Kathmandu route, has cut 12 flights in February, a reduction of almost 50 percent.
Lhasa-based Tibet Airlines was the first carrier to announce a temporary suspension of its flights from Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi Province in central China, to Kathmandu. The airline issued a notice to all travel agencies that from Sunday onwards it was stopping all flights to and from Kathmandu until further notice.
Vijay Shrestha, vice-president of administration at Himalaya Airlines, told the Post that flights to Changsha, Guiyang and Shenzhen had been temporarily suspended. “But we may continue the Beijing service as a commercial consideration,” he said. That means flights to Beijing are likely to be operates if there are passengers, he said.
Last Sunday, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued an emergency notice ordering national travel agencies and online travel companies to temporarily suspend tour packages. “From now on, national travel agencies and online travel companies will temporarily suspend business group travel and ‘ticket + hotel’ travel products,” said the notice.
Nepali travel trade entrepreneurs said that all tour packages sold for February had been cancelled.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of April 8, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 209 countries and infected more than 1,431,706 people with 82,080 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,351 with 160 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 4,035 confirmed cases with 57 deaths. Nepal has so far reported nine cases, in which one patient recovered.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.