Coronavirus: China suspends Guangzhou-Dhaka flight after 17 passengers test positive

Amanda Lee

China’s aviation regulator has suspended a China Southern Airlines service between Guangzhou and Dhaka in Bangladesh after 17 passengers on a flight on Thursday tested positive for the coronavirus.

The service, flight CZ392, is the first to be cancelled under the regulator’s new “circuit-breaker” rule and comes as China battles a fresh wave of infections, most of them in Beijing.

The China Southern service will be suspended for four weeks from June 22, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

Under rules introduced on June 4, if between five and nine passengers on a flight test positive for coronavirus on arrival in China, the service will be suspended for a week. If 10 or more passengers test positive, the route will be suspended for four weeks.

The CAAC made the decision to address concerns over the rising number of coronavirus cases among arrivals.

The CZ392 has been irregular in recent weeks and has been operating two flights per week since the start of June. Two scheduled flights will be subject to cancellation, according to VariFlight, an aviation data provider, while one flight is still scheduled for next week before the ban takes effect.

The flights link the southern Chinese hub with Bangladesh, where many Chinese textile manufacturers have relocated their operations in recent years to take advantage of lower labour costs.

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As part of the new rules announced on June 4, the CAAC also eased restrictions to allow some foreign carriers to resume weekly flights to a Chinese city of their choice from June 8.

Airlines can increase flights to two per week if no passengers on their services test positive for the coronavirus for three consecutive weeks.

The suspension of the CZ392 service highlights the challenges that the pandemic presents for the global aviation industry, which has been hit hard by the rapid spread of the disease.

The International Air Transport Association estimates that the financial losses for the entire industry could be more than US$84.3 billion this year, a record for the sector.

The suspension comes as China reported 57 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Saturday, the biggest one-day total in two months.

Most of the cases were in Beijing, which has shut down its biggest vegetable market and gone into “wartime” mode in one district.

On Friday, the northeastern province of Liaoning also announced that it had two new cases, both of whom had close contact with people who tested positive in Beijing.

The coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19, has infected more than 7.7 million and killed more than 430,000 people worldwide.

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