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COVID penalties get tougher for incoming flights

By LUO WANGSHU | (China Daily ) | 2020-12-17

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A customs officer checks passengers' health information at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai. [Photo by Yin Liqin/China News Services]

Airlines will get two-week suspension if five passengers test positive, says CAAC

China's circuit breaker arrangement for international passenger flights was tightened on Wednesday to contain the spread of COVID-19.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, if there are five passengers on a flight who test positive, the airline's flights will be suspended for two weeks, starting on Wednesday. The earlier regulation-introduced in June-suspended the airline's flights for one week if five passengers on a flight tested positive.

The suspension will last for four weeks if 10 passengers test positive, which remains the same as the earlier regulation.

Zhang Qihuai, a senior lawyer specializing in civil aviation cases, said the tightened regulation is appropriate amid the recent rebound of COVID-19 overseas.

The number of confirmed cases in Western countries, especially in the United States, has surged recently, while China has basically contained the spread of the disease except for some sporadic cases.

According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, the number of reported cases in the US has surpassed 16.7 million with over 300,000 related deaths, while China reported 12 imported cases across the mainland on Tuesday and no new locally transmitted cases. There were more than 73 million confirmed cases in the world as of Wednesday, according to the university.

The adjustment of the regulation "shows that the CAAC has the capability and experience to handle the emergency cases to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus", he said.

Zhang agreed with the need to prioritize disease control over economic development under the current circumstances.

On Tuesday, three international airlines-Ethiopian Airlines, Russia's Ikar Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines-were suspended for one week after several passengers tested positive for COVID-19 on recent flights.

Also on Tuesday, the administration held a conference to arrange disease control measures to contain imported cases.

By Tuesday, the administration carried out 139 suspension orders, canceling 268 international passenger flights from 54 domestic airlines and 85 international airlines.

Separately, a Chinese pilot in Chengdu, Sichuan province, was confirmed as an imported COVID-19 case on Monday.

The pilot was on a cargo flight from Los Angeles to Chengdu, Sichuan, on Nov 29 and tested negative during quarantine. He flew a round-trip cargo flight from Chengdu to Jinan, Shandong province, on Dec 9 and continued his quarantine until Saturday.

On Saturday, he drove to a 300-person wedding banquet in Jiangyou, Sichuan, and sought medical attention on Monday, when he tested positive and was diagnosed as a confirmed case on Monday night.

The administration has established an investigation team to carry out epidemiological investigations related to the case, Xiong Jie, director of the CAAC's safety office, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

China's civil aviation market continued to normalize its operations last month, according to the administration.

Last month, international air cargo increased by 1.9 percent, which was the first monthly growth this year.