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5 Feb 2020

Ibrahim Oruko, Daily Nation (Kenya)

Ethiopia Airlines urged to stop flights from China to protect Africa's weak health systems from coronavirus

"Uhuru urges Ethiopian carrier to halt China flights over virus"

President Uhuru Kenyatta has pleaded with the Ethiopian Airlines to consider halting direct flights to China to help stop a possible spread of the coronavirus that has spread in several other Asian countries, Europe and the United States. The President said the spread of the virus portends danger to Africa but Kenya in particular because of its weak health management systems.“Our worry as a country is not that China cannot manage the disease. Our biggest worry is diseases coming into areas with weaker health systems like ours,” President Kenyatta said...

The President was reacting to an announcement by the airline that it will continue flying to China, serving its five destinations of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hong Kong with the usual demand and supply adjustment despite the risk brought about by the virus. “We are working together with relevant Chinese and Ethiopian authorities to protect our passengers from the coronavirus,” Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement. Kenya Airways has already suspended its flights to Guangzhou over the coronavirus epidemic after consultations with the government through the ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs.“We have temporarily suspended flights to and from Guangzhou effective January 31 until further notice. We, however, clarify that our service to Bangkok, Thailand, remains operational,” the airline said last week.

Ethiopia and Kenya are the two countries in Africa that have come nearest to reporting the first case of the virus. So far four people have been quarantined in Addis Ababa while one case that was reported in Nairobi returned a negative finding after tests were done.