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China bans flights from US as Covid-19 measures intensify

China bans flights from US as Covid-19 measures intensify

HONG KONG — Chinese aviation authorities have canceled multiple flights between the US and China for the coming weeks, along with other routes from countries such as France, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates, citing the country’s Covid-19 mitigation rules.

In recent days, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has issued several bans on domestic and foreign airlines. Their routes have varied – in the latest announcements that have included flights from Los Angeles to Guangzhou, Paris to Shanghai, Jakarta to Wuhan and Abu Dhabi to Shanghai.

The regulator invoked previously announced rules that flights with more than five Covid-19-positive patients would have canceled that route for two weeks. Those with 10 or more cases would be suspended for four weeks.

The move, which comes just weeks before the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, deepens China’s isolation from the rest of the world and highlights the costs of its “zero Covid” policy, especially if its Omicron variant — which is highly transferable. and a shorter incubation period – continues its worldwide spread.

China’s border controls are one of the toughest in the world during the pandemic, with borders largely closed since March 2020 and the number of international flights greatly reduced compared to pre-pandemic levels. Arrivals require special government approval to enter the country and those who obtain visas must undergo quarantines, which can last up to 28 days in some cities.

From mass tests to lockdowns, China is on high alert to keep the coronavirus at bay in the run-up to the Winter Olympics. WSJ examines the zero-covid strategy in the city of Xi’an to see how it has sparked resistance from residents and affected chipmakers. Photo: Shao Rui/Zuma Press, Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

The Civil Aviation Administration of China was not immediately available for comment.

China reported 143 locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, mainly in central Henan province and Tianjin municipality, near Beijing.

Even as other countries have moved away from lockdowns, China has stuck to its “zero Covid” strategy despite an increasing toll on the people and the economy. His approach has been seen recently with city and business shutdowns following the discovery of Omicron cases in various parts of the country.

With flight cancellations on the rise, Washington has expressed concern about China’s measures.

“China’s actions are inconsistent with its obligations under the US-China Air Transport Agreement. We are discussing this with the People’s Republic of China and reserve the right to take regulatory action where necessary,” a spokesperson for the US Department of Transportation said this week.

The order issued this week included

United Airlines Holdings Inc.

UAL 3.50%

along with other international and Chinese airlines, according to the CAAC announcements.

“We are proactively contacting affected customers to notify them of this schedule change and to discuss their options,” a United Airlines spokeswoman said this week.

In Hong Kong, flights from the US and several other countries have been banned for two weeks since January 7 after a cluster of Omicron infections prompted the city to shut down leisure venues such as bars and gyms.

write to Natasha Khan on [email protected]

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