SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Starting next week, the number of weekly flights to China from San Francisco will drop from 90 to 55 due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.
This week, Southern China Airlines suspended its three weekly nonstop flights after Chinese authorities closed the airport in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter, according to San Francisco International Airport spokesman Doug Yakel.
Next week, United Airlines will suspend all flights to China from SFO, with the exception of a single daily flight to Hong Kong, Yakel said.
Yakel said the suspension of Chinese flights would likely have an impact at SFO.
“Hard to put a dollar amount on it right now, but United is a pretty significant player in the Asian market,” he said. “Just to put it into numbers, this time of year we have about 90 flights per week departing to various cities in China with United reductions that go into effect next week, that number goes down to about 55.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to conduct health screenings for international passengers arriving at SFO who had Wuhan in their travel itinerary, Yakel said.
The screenings are conducted in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility inside a separate area from other international arriving passengers, he said.
But with the federal declaration of a public health emergency because of novel coronavirus, San Francisco International Airport will still be one of just seven U.S. airport accepting flights from China.
Even then, entry of foreign nationals may be blocked due to health screenings.
“This is really going to affect the course of how we address the outbreak and kind of urgency,” said UCSF Dr. Charles Chiu. “It really increases the urgency that we have to promptly identify patients and to prevent further spread of this virus.”
The virus has yet to affect the San Jose Mineta International Airport, which hosts three flights a week from Beijing on Hainan Airlines and one per day from Tokyo Narita Airport on All Nippon Airways, according to airport spokesman Scott Wintner.
Oakland International Airport, which has no direct flights to or from China, is not affected.
The spread of the virus has prompted airlines around the globe to curtail or cancel flights since it first came to international attention in December.
Delta and American airlines both announced this week that they would suspend all flights to China, as have several international carriers, including Air France and British Airways.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday issued a “Do Not Travel” alert for all of China and the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency in an effort to combat the spread of the virus.
On Friday, the CDC’s website listed the number of positive cases in the U.S. at six, with 121 cases awaiting lab results.
The coronavirus is a respiratory virus with a flu-like appearance that is thought to have jumped from animal to human, possibly at a large seafood and animal market in or near Wuhan, and is now being transmitted from person to person, according to the CDC.
The total number of confirmed infections in China jumped to 9,692 with 213 deaths as of midnight Thursday, according to the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic China’s website.
The Commission also reported 4,812 new suspected cases, bringing the total number of suspected infections to 15,238.
The World Health Organization reported Thursday that there were 82 confirmed cases in 18 countries outside China.
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