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Nation's civil aviation body orders orderly redirection of Beijing intl flights

By Yang Zekun | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-03-21 15:48
Passengers from Beijing Capital International Airport wait at China International Exhibition Center to be sent to quarantine or for further screening on March 14. All inbound passengers will be quarantined for 14 days after arriving in the Chinese capital. [AN XUDONG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

China's top civil aviation administrator has called for a safe and orderly operation to ensure inbound international flights scheduled to land at the Beijing Capital International Airport are redirected to designated entry airports in nearby cities as Beijing steps up its effort to meet the challenge resulting from an increasing number of imported novel coronavirus cases.

The move is to protect the health of incoming passengers and improve the efficiency of customs clearance, Feng Zhenglin, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, was quoted as saying in a teleconference on Friday.

The situation of epidemic prevention and control in China continues to improve, and the spread of the epidemic has been curbed, while the ongoing spread of the epidemic abroad has brought new challenges to China's anti-epidemic work, said Feng, according to a post on the official website of the CAAC.

Feng stressed that Beijing, as an international city, has become the main battlefield for the prevention and control of imported cases from overseas. As an important international aviation hub in China, the Beijing Capital International Airport has become the forefront of fighting the overseas outbreak.

It is the first time in the history of China's civil aviation that the international passenger flights to Beijing have been adjusted on a large scale, Feng said.

The Chinese mainland has seen no homegrown infections of COVID-19, a disease caused by a novel coronavirus, for three straight days, as the latest data of the National Health Commission showed.

Imported cases, however, keep increasing and are on a generally upward trend in the past week despite fluctuations.

The daily increase of imported cases reached a record high of 41, bringing up the total number of such cases to 269.

Beijing saw another 14 imported cases on Friday, followed by Shanghai with nine. Another six provinces also registered cases coming from abroad on the day.

The administration announced a work plan of adjusting the international flights and set up a leading group to implement the plan.

The designated entry airports were selected based on the principle of being safe and convenient. These airports' security capacity is required to meet the needs of safe operation regulations, and the airline companies can choose the nearest airport to land according to the flight route, Feng said, adding that the selection of the designated entry airports will be adjusted according to the changing situation of the epidemic.

Airline companies were asked to update flight data promptly, select experienced flight crew to operate the diversion flights, arrange backup crew in advance, and make dynamic adjustment of flight routes according to the number of passengers.

Local administration authorities should strengthen the safety supervision of airports and airlines, and focus on facilities, equipment and professional support capabilities. Divisions of the Civil Aviation Administration of China should carefully conduct risk assessments and issue safety warning bulletin on time, he said.

Airlines and the airports, based on the situation of passengers with or without fever on board, should organize the flight support work during stoppage, and timely implement the prevention and control measures such as transshipment and isolation. The air traffic administrations are required to ensure the timely adjustment of flights back to Beijing and avoid long delays, according to the administration.

Airline companies should minimize the impact on passengers, inform passengers in advance of the specific information of flight diversions such as the landing airport, flight time, and matters needing attention. Besides, passenger's complaints must be properly handled, he said.

The administration and the foreign affair department are also strengthening communication and coordination with foreign civil aviation authorities and release relevant information to foreign airlines in a timely manner.

Five government departments, including the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the General Administration of Customs, jointly issued a circular on Thursday, announcing that four international flights bound for Beijing within the next three days will be diverted to nearby airports. Passengers on such flights need to take the health and quarantine process at the landing airports, and those who don't exhibit any symptoms will be allowed to re-board the plane to Beijing.

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