Prague, Feb 3 (CTK) – The government today approved a ban on direct flights between China and Czech Republic over the spread of coronavirus, effective on February 9, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) has told journalists.
Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (for ANO) said the measure would be effective for an indeterminate time and declined to estimate its duration.
Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the authorities knew about 105 Czech citizens who wanted to return from China to the Czech Republic.
“These are the people who are outside the hub of the infection,” Petříček said.
Vojtěch said the ban would be issued in the form of a protective measure under the public health protection law.
The ministry proceeded in the same way last week when instructing the airports on how they should inform the passengers about the symptoms of the virus and related measures.
“I will sign the protective measure later today and the ministry will issue it. It will be valid as of today, but effective as of February 9,” Vojtěch said.
It refers to commercial flights, not to those of special government aircraft, he added.
Babiš said at the weekend the government would adapt the start of the ban to the return of about 100 Czechs from China. If some of them want to stay in China, the government is ready to send a special government-owned Airbus there.
Prague has 12 air connections with China, operated by three Chinese airlines. Last year, 188,000 passengers used direct air connections between Prague and China in both directions.
Since 2015, Hainan Airlines has been flying to Beijing. One year later, Sichuan Airlines started flying to Chengdu. In 2017, the China Eastern Airlines launched a connection with Shanghai, with a stopover in Xian.
The spokeswoman for the Vaclav Havel International Airport in Prague, Katerina Pavlikova, said this week, seven direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengu were scheduled.
“Two of the arrivals occurred early in the morning on Monday. There are the remaining five last flights before the government decision takes effect,” she added.
Chinese television has announced that the disease has claimed 362 lives. Except for one case (the Philippines), all the victims are from mainland China.
A number of other countries such as North Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, Georgia and Italy have limited or cancelled flights to China over the coronavirus outbreak.