While this weekend welcomes in the Year of the Rat, the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province, China, has climbed further, prompting authorities to widen travel restrictions in Hubei province, affecting at least 20 million people across 10 cities.
Although travel restrictions vary from city to city, all outbound flights have been cancelled.
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the world, cases have also been confirmed in other countries, including Japan, South Korea and the US. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), the union representing more than 27,000 Flight Attendants at American Airlines, has urged airlines to step up precautionary actions to protect both flight crew and passengers.
APFA is calling on airlines to institute immediate emergency measures, including providing crew members with the latest information regarding the 2019-nCoV outbreak, identifying the signs and symptoms of illness in oneself and others, and practical procedures to manage potentially ill people.
“The health of our crew members and passengers is a top priority for us and we refuse to compromise their health or safety in any way,” said Lori Bassani, National President of APFA. “I am urging American Airlines and all airlines to do everything humanly possible to contain the outbreak and minimise any chance of exposure. We will continue to speak out to ensure airlines are erring on the side of caution and putting our members’ health first in these dangerous times.”
One company that has actively stepped up its response is Dimer UVC Innovations, which is offering its GermFalcon, a germ-killing robot that sanitises airplanes, to airlines and federal agencies at select US airports for free.
“The threat of coronavirus infecting innocent passengers on an airplane is one we must work to eliminate immediately,” said Dimer Co-Founder Elliot Kreitenberg. “This is a dangerous virus that has already taken lives. GermFalcon is a fast and effective response to this threat, and we are pleased to offer it at no expense to contribute to emergency response efforts at LAX, SFO, and JFK airports during this crisis.”
Public Health England has announced enhanced monitoring will be in place from all direct flights from Wuhan to the UK. The enhanced monitoring package includes a number of measures that will help to provide advice to travellers if they feel unwell.
For those travelling back directly from Wuhan, this includes a Port Health team who will meet each direct flight aircraft to provide advice and support to those that feel unwell. The team will include the Principal Port Medical Inspector, Port Health Doctor, Administrative Support, and Team Leader.
The enhanced monitoring of direct flights will be kept under continuous review and expanded to other Chinese departure points if necessary.
Dr Nick Phin, Deputy Director, National Infection Service, Public Health England, said: “ If you are travelling to Wuhan, you should maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and should avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms. Individuals should seek medical attention if they develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan, either in China or on their return to the UK. They should phone ahead before attending any health services and mention their recent travel to the city.”
According to Chinese astrology specialists, 2020 is the Year of the Metal Rat – where metal symbolises stability and longevity. Those born in the Year of the Metal Rat tend to live a stable life and have the ability turn unlucky events into fortune. It must be hoped that the coronavirus outbreak does not have longevity and is curtailed sooner rather than later.