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The New Arab

Arab airlines suspend China flights over coronavirus fears

Thousands of cases have been reported across the world [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 February, 2020

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As China continues to face global isolation over growing coronavirus fears, a number of Arab airlines joined dozens of countries in suspending flights to the Asian state.
A number of Arab countries suspended flights to China on Sunday, in the latest efforts to help contain a deadly coronavirus outbreak worldwide.

State airlines belonging to Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia will no longer travel to and from China, where the novel coronavirus originated in a live seafood market in Wuhan, in Hubei province, in December 2019.

Egypt’s EgyptAir also announced the move this week, while the UAE’s Etihad and Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc said they would temporarily suspend flights due to low travel demand. 

Meanwhile, Iraq on Sunday confirmed it would not allow foreigners travelling from China to enter the country over fears of an outbreak of coronavirus.

In an online statement, the ministry said the step was "part of the protective measures taken by countries around the world to combat the new coronavirus, and out of a commitment to protect its citizens from its disastrous effects and negative consequences for public health and safety". 

Iraqi authorities said Friday they had not detected any coronavirus cases in Iraq or among Iraqi expatriates abroad.

Similar to the SARS pathogen, coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year and has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation.

It has infected nearly 14,500 people across China and more than 100 in 20 other countries, including the United States. 

More than 300 people have died in China and on Sunday, the first foreign fatality was reported in the Philippines. 

Iraq has no direct flights from China but hundreds of Chinese nationals work on lucrative oil fields across the country, which is OPEC's second-largest crude producer. 

On Saturday, a biotech executive said no manufacturer will have a coronavirus vaccine ready for use before the middle of 2020, despite an intensive global effort.

"The challenge is that it could quickly be given to millions of people. The responsibility for its safety is therefore very important. Even going quickly with technology like mRNA, no manufacturer will be able to have a vaccine ready by the summer, or even by the autumn,” said Stephane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna Therapeutics, one of several entities involved in an all-out international effort to create a vaccine as soon as possible for the deadly SARS-like virus.

"We need approved vaccines so that if there are mutations within a strain of virus, we can produce vaccines in large quantities within a few months.”

So far, the majority of the victims of the virus have been elderly individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes and liver cirrhosis.

The virus has already confirmed cases across the world, including China, Australia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Macau, Nepal, The Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Canada, US, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

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