On Monday, February 17, Air Madagascar announced it will suspend all Antananarivo-Guangzhou flights until Thursday, April 30, to prevent the spread of the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak into the country.
Further flight disruptions including delays, cancelations, and modified timetables, are possible over the near term.
This decision follows the Malagasy Government's decision to prohibit all airlines operating in Madagascar to service passengers that had visited China, Hong Kong, and Macao up to 14 days before their intended arrival in Madagascar. The government has also set up mandatory quarantine measures for a period of 14 days for any travelers coming from China.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in 29 countries and territories worldwide. Virus screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Individuals flying with Air Madagascar are advised to monitor the situation and confirm flight status prior to leaving for the airport.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.