Airlines cancel PH-mainland China flights amid coronavirus outbreak

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 1) — Local airlines are canceling flights between the Philippines and mainland China, where the number of novel coronavirus cases continues to rise.

Budget carrier Cebu Pacific in a statement on Saturday said it will cancel flights to and from the Chinese capital Beijing, and the cities Shanghai, Xiamen, Guangzhou, and Shenzen from February 2 to March 29.

Flights to and from Hong Kong and Macau have been reduced.

Likewise, AirAsia said it will no longer be offering flights from Manila and Kalibo to mainland China cities Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Shanghai, and to Hong Kong and Macau until March 1.

Cebu Pacific and AirAsia said all affected passengers will be notified, and asked to choose whether to rebook their flight, refund their tickets in full, or store the ticket value for future use.

Earlier, Cebu Pacific, like flag carrier Philippine Airlines, announced only a reduction of flights. PAL suspended charter flights between Kalibo, Aklan and Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Pudong Shanghai in China after Chinese authorities have restricted outbound travel from the mainland.

The two airlines also implemented various safety measures – including placing flight crews on quarantine – after a female Chinese national who earlier boarded their flights was confirmed to have the novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD).

The 38-year-old Chinese tourist boarded a PAL flight from Dumaguete to Manila on January 25. Two pilots and four attendants have been quarantined. Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific said the aircraft used for their Hong Kong-Cebu and Cebu-Dumaguete flights were also pulled out for disinfection.

President Rodrigo Duterte has temporarily stopped the entry of all travelers from China's Hubei province where Wuhan — epicenter of the novel coronavirus — is located.

The death toll in mainland China has risen to 258 as the virus infected 11,791 people there. More than 20 countries and territories outside of mainland China have confirmed cases of the virus, spanning Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East – prompting many of them to issue strict travel restrictions for foreign nationals who traveled to China.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health is monitoring 31 patients for suspected infection.

READ: How to protect yourself from coronavirus