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13 Feb 2020 | 04:56 AM UTC

US: United Airlines extends flight cancelations to China February 13 /update 12

United Airlines announces extension of flight cancelations to China and Hong Kong on February 13; confirm flight reservations

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Event

United Airlines announced on Thursday, February 13, that it would extend its flight cancelations to China through Friday, April 24, amid the ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The cancelation includes flights to Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. The airline previously canceled its flights to Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai through Saturday, March 29, and those to Hong Kong through Thursday, February 20.

On January 31, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in the United States due to the ongoing outbreak of the virus. Measures related to the declaration entered into effect at 17:00 (local time) on Sunday, February 2. The measures include mandatory quarantine for 14 days for any US citizen that has been to Hubei province (China) in the two weeks prior to their return. Those returning from other areas of mainland China will be subject to a health screening at a select number of ports of entry and the possibility of up to two weeks of monitored self-quarantine until the risk has been cleared.

The US Department of State increased its travel advisory to "Level 4: Do Not Travel" (the highest level) for all of mainland China on Thursday, January 30, due to the ongoing outbreak. US citizens are also being warned to prepare for travel restrictions that may be put into effect with little or no advance notice. All nonessential US government personnel have been requested to defer travel to China.

As of February 13, 14 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the US. Cases have been confirmed in the states of Washington, California, Arizona, MassachusettsIllinois, and Wisconsin. The first human-to-human transmission of the virus in the US was confirmed on January 30. More than 60 cases are still being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC maintained as of February 7 that "the potential public health threat posed by 2019-nCoV (now COVID-19) virus is high" for the general American public.

Further international spread of the COVID-19 virus is to be expected over the coming days and weeks.

Context

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 28 countries and territories worldwide. Virus screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a "public health emergency of international concern."

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. 

Advice

Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments. Individuals are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce their risk of contracting the virus:

  • Avoid all contact with animals (dead or alive); avoid eating animal products that are undercooked; avoid all markets where animals are sold
  • Avoid all close contact with people displaying symptoms of the disease (e.g. difficulties breathing)
  • Frequently wash hands, wear a face mask
  • Individuals within China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to seek medical attention, avoid contact with other people, and wash hands regularly
  • Adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments
  • Travelers returning from China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid spreading the disease.