As reports of the deadly coronavirus rapidly increase airports around the world have taken precautions, and now, the city of that is believed to be the center of outbreak is taking major measures to contain the deadly virus.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Chinese authorities are closing off planes or trains leaving the city of Wuhan starting on Thursday at 10 a.m. local time.
Although the announcement, which was made well past midnight could derail Lunar New Year plans, authorities insisted that the swift action would “effectively cut off the transmission of the virus, resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic, and ensure the safety and health of the people.”
Later, Reuters reported that neighboring city of Huanggang also suspended transportation.
Ahead of the city's transportation being closed off, Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific annouced they were allowing their employees to begin wearing surgical masks to work and
In a memo to employees this week, obtained by One Mile at a Time, the airline announced the new health and safety measures, including distribution of face masks and antiseptic wipes at the boarding gate for flights from Wuhan (the epicenter of the outbreak) to Hong Kong.
Flight attendants and crew members of the airline are now permitted to wear surgical masks on all flights, per their request.
"Our frontline staff are reminded to maintain good personal and environmental hygiene, and to remain alert and vigilant while being on the lookout for passengers presenting with infectious disease symptoms," the memo read.
The Chinese government has reported over 400 cases of the coronavirus, with at least 17 people dead, according to The Associated Press. On Tuesday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that a man in Seattle, Washington had contracted the disease.
In Hong Kong, additional cleaning and disinfection measures have been ordered for planes and trains. Surveillance has also increased. At Seoul Airport in South Korea, health officials are screening all passengers arriving from Wuhan, using ear thermometers to check their temperatures. Thermal screening has also expanded in India.
Airports around the world including in the UK and Australia are doing additional health screenings for travelers arriving from central China.
Flights to Australia are being met by health personnel, who are distributing pamphlets in Chinese and English describing the symptoms of the disease. A man in Brisbane was placed in isolation after developing a respiratory illness after traveling to Wuhan but is recovered.
At Heathrow Airport in London “enhanced monitoring” is enacted for all flights arriving to the UK from Wuhan, according to The Independent. Inflight announcements on flights from Wuhan will also inform passengers of safety measures and what to do if they start to feel unwell. Members of Public Health England will meet passengers who report illnesses and conduct health screenings upon arrival.
"The welfare of our passengers and colleagues is always our main priority and we are working with the government to support the implementation of enhanced monitoring measures as a precaution,” a spokesperson for Heathrow said in a statement to Sky News. "We would like to reassure passengers that the government assesses the risk of a traveler contracting coronavirus to be low.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States has also set up screening points at airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York for travelers from China.
Those who are traveling to Wuhan, China “should maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene and should avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms,” Public Health England advised. Early symptoms include runny nose, cough and headache. The disease could advance to cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, including pneumonia.