East African airlines suspend China flights


Kenya Airways and RwandAir said all flights to and from China were suspended until further notice after a virus outbreak killed more than 200 people in China and spread to 18 countries.

Authorities in Kenya sent samples from a person suspected of having coronavirus to South Africa for further tests. The patient is isolated in a Nairobi hospital after arriving on a Kenya Airways flight from Guangzhou in Southern China.

“We have temporarily suspended all flights to and from Guangzhou starting Friday until further notice,” the airline said in a statement.

The World Health Organisation declared a global emergency as the virus spread to more countries.

Air transport links between Africa and China boomed in the past 20 years, in tandem with the growth of trade, social, economic, political and cultural ties between the continent and the Asian giant.

Kenya Airways, operating one flight daily to Guangzhou via Bangkok, joins other airlines that have stopped flying to the world’s second-largest economy as it deals with the outbreak that infected at least 8 000 people.

Flights to Bangkok will continue, Kenya Airways said.

RwandAir also suspended flights to Guangzhou, the airline said, adding the decision would be reviewed in February.

Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, denied reports it would suspend flights to China after its call centre told Reuters flights were cancelled.

Air Tanzania, due to start flights from Dar es Salaam to China in February, postponed the plan, citing concerns over the spread of the virus.