African airlines are starting to cancel flights to China over concerns about the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 213 people there.
Kenya Airways is the latest African airline to stop all flights to China, due to the “deteriorating public health situation.”
RwandAir, Air Madagascar, Air Mauritus and Royal Air Maroc have suspended flights to mainland China because of the virus.
The airlines said the suspensions are indefinite, and have offered to refund or re-route passengers who had booked flights to China.
The United Nation’s health arm declared the coronavirus a global public health emergency after Thursdays meeting confirmed about 9,320 infected cases. The virus which broke out in china in December, and was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has already been confirmed in several other Asian countries, Europe, the United States, and now some African countries.
The African continent is paying particular attention to the evolution of the epidemic, especially as the continent maintains a significant flow of trade with China. According to Beijing, trade between Africa and China increased by 2.2% in 2019, reaching $208 billion (189 billion euros), and the continent welcomed 121 million Chinese visitors in 2017 against 31 million in 2005, says the Africa report.
Health experts have advised authorities in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa are the main countries receiving travellers from China to strengthen the screening of travellers at airports, including taking their body temperature.
Experts say the potential spread of the virus in Africa is a concern because of the poor healthcare infrastructure in many parts of the continent.
The presence of several Chinese companies in Africa too is a call for concern. Most companies from china have been awarded a string of contracts for infrastructure projects across the continent, with employees who could travel between china and Africa at anytime.
For many African states, China is Africa’s main trading partner while students and tourists also travel back and forth.
Whatever the case, some countries in Africa are better equipped than others to fight the novel coronavirus as they have an efficient early detection system at airports or border controls.