China Southern aircraft quarantined in Nairobi over coronavirus scare

China Southern Airlines celebrates the launch of its Changsha-Nairobi flight in June 2019

Acting on an anonymous tip via a phone call to the police, Kenya Port Health officials grounded and quarantined a China Southern Airlines aircraft that landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi at 7:30 am on Wednesday morning.

According to an airport official, two passengers on board the aircraft exhibited signs of illness, triggering the tip off. The aircraft was held on the tarmac as soon as it landed and all those aboard the aircraft were prevented from disembarking until port health officials had conducted a comprehensive screening. All passengers and crew were later released at about 9:30 am.

The airline operates two weekly direct flights to Nairobi from Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province where 661 cases of coronavirus have been reported so far. Moreover, the province recently reported an outbreak of a highly pathogenic strain of the bird flu virus, H5N1, which can be transmitted to humans. China Southern also operates two weekly flights between Nairobi and Guangzhou City, the capital of south China’s Guangdong Province.

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In a bid to reduce the risk of the spread of the deadly coronavirus, Kenya Airways last week suspended flights to and from China indefinitely. The carrier, which operates direct flights to Guangzhou, said it is monitoring the situation with Kenya’s health and foreign ministries.

At the time of going to print, the Ministry of Health had not responded to queries as to whether they would take more stringent measures as regards allowing access to foreign airlines from China access into the country.

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