Coronavirus Outbreak: Safety at Major International Airports

Amid eager anticipation and awaited celebrations to welcome another new decade, a silent killer emerged from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei in China- the deadly coronavirus or COVID-19, as officially named by the WHO.

This novel strain of the virus, named after its crown-like spikes, has induced fear in the hearts of everyone. First reported in December 2019, COVID-19 is posing a global threat and there has been no success in controlling the situation. The virus has taken hold of the entire world with fresh cases in India.

Covid-19: Preparing for a Pandemic

As per the latest consensus, COVID-19 has spread to about 72 countries besides China, and the threat of a pandemic continues to linger. The WHO has been preparing daily situation reports for keeping the masses updated. According to its latest report released on 3rd March 2020, eight new member states – Andorra, Jordan, Latvia, Morocco, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Tunisia – have reported cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours.

At present, the total number of confirmed cases across the world is 90,870, out of which 80,304 cases belong to China and 10,566 belong to the remnant. The number of reported deaths stands at 2,946 in China and 166 across other nations.

Impact of COVID-19 on Airlines

The incessant spread of the epidemic has led to an “abnormally low demand” for air travel bookings. A lot of travelers have either postponed or canceled international trips. Such a fall in demand is undoubtedly going to cost airlines but what exactly could be the price? According to the estimates of Phil Seymour, chief executive of the International Bureau of Aviation; COVID-19 can cost the airline sector a whopping $100 billion! – The financial crisis of the past decade doesn’t even come close. There is also a high likelihood of several airlines going entirely bankrupt if the situation continues.

Many carriers such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., and Singapore Airlines have asked their staff members to go on a voluntary, paid leave. The initiative has been taken to curb costs amid the downturn. Other airlines have also responded to the crisis by cutting down administration costs and offering unpaid leave.

World Airports take Measures to Contain the Virus’ Spread

Up until the mid of February, travel restrictions on those traveling to and from Wuhan had already been imposed with the US disallowing all non-nationals or non-residents who had visited the mainland of China, from entering. Almost every other nation has completely banned the entry of anyone who has traveled to mainland China in the past 14 days.

Besides Wuhan, the epicenter of coronavirus and China in general, South Korea (the country with the most reported COVID-19 cases after China) has also announced lockdown and restricted travel. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a warning of Level-3 (very high risk) for South Korea, advising American citizens to limit all non-essential travel to the country.

But, with the virus rapidly spreading across other parts of the world – the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East – travel restrictions have become even tighter. Travelers from Italy and South Korea are required to go through additional screenings at the US airports.

Iranian citizens too have been banned from entering the US. This ban extends to even foreign nationals who may have visited Iran in the past 14 days. As Iran has the highest mortality rate outside of Hubei (China), Australia and New Zealand add Iran to their list of travel ban besides China.

Fiji, India, Israel, Mauritius, Mongolia, Seychelles, among others has completely banned entry of passengers travelling from Italy. Passengers who have visited the UK in the past 21 days are to be quarantined in the Solomon Islands.

Overall, European countries have fewer restrictions in place except for Poland where any passenger travelling from China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Italy, and Macao are required to fill in a health declaration form.

Last Few Words

International airports have buckled up on their preventive measures. For example – Prague has allotted separate gates for passengers flying in from China or Italy. Airports in the UK are implementing advanced monitoring regarding direct flights from China. Airlines have reduced in-flight services to avoid unnecessary contact with passengers. Aircraft and lounges are being regularly disinfected. Moreover, some airlines such as Cathay Pacific have even closed lounges in airports to further tighten precautionary measures. With the strictest measures in place, will the COVID-19 stop its onslaught on humanity is something only time will reveal.

Comments are closed.