Airline flights from Guangzhou, China to Nairobi, Kenya have been reduced to once a week starting from 26 February to 25 March, 2020. This follows alert on Wednesday 26 February, by some officials at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) who refused to allow passengers from the airline to disembark fearing of risk of importing the coronavirus.

Flight CZ 6043 landed at JKIA at about 8:30am to a hostile reception. The 239 passengers were screened on board before cleared and advised to self-quarantine for the next 14 days.

According to sources, medical officials at the airport refused to screen passengers, who were not allowed to leave the plane for almost an hour. In fact, it took the intervention of senior government officials to resolve the problem.

Currently the one month adjustment comes after a brief suspension of all China Southern Airlines flights to Nairobi were almost made to turn back. Officials at JKIA refused to clear passengers from Guangzhou as tension over coronavirus continues to rise.

The JKIA officials argued that some airliners originating from China were still being allowed to land at JKIA weeks after national carrier Kenya Airways suspended its flights on the route over the risk of importing the virus.

The new trip schedule now affects the normal direct flight from China to Nairobi by Southern Airlines following outbreak of Coronavirus in the Chinese, Wuhan city.

To help in the tracking the sick or possibly infected people and stop spread of the outbreak, the China Embassy in Kenya has sent its officials at the JKIA for assistance.

The Airline through its Kenyan Embassy is working with Kenya Ministry of Health to screen all passengers on board before being cleared for respective destinations.

The Embassy is reminding all Chinese companies and diaspora groups in Kenya of 14 days self-quarantine as requirement before exposure to the public.

According to the Embassy, the 14 days self-quarantine is one of the China’s epidemic prevention and control experiences and for the public health safety for Kenya.

“Chinese national entering Kenya should cooperate with Ministry of Health and strictly isolate themselves for 14 days as recommended,” Embassy ordered.

“For those Chinese nationals in quarantine, we have provided their information to the Ministry of Health for monitoring, and requested the Chinese companies and diaspora groups to provide necessary volunteer services,” letter from Embassy stated.

“All 239 passengers were screened on board, cleared and advised to self-quarantine for the next 14 days,” said Kenya Ministry of Health.

The Ministry advised Kenyans against non-essential travel to countries experiencing the outbreak. “This is in view of the expanding geographical spread of the outbreak across the world.” 

Chinese Embassy assured Kenyans that they would not relent the fight against coronavirus but do their utmost work with Kenyan Government to prevent importation of the COVID-19 into Kenya.

Up to 26 February, 2020 at least 80,000 people had been diagnosed with the illness globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which said the rapidly spreading disease had attained “pandemic potential”.

Until press time on , Africa had recorded two cases of the disease, in Egypt and Algeria which could spread to other African countries. And 2,770 people had been killed worldwide by the virus, forcing more countries to impose barriers in efforts to keep the disease at bay.

Several countries worldwide have issued travel advisories to their citizens, warning them against non-essential travel to China.

Consequently, several airlines have stopped flights to China until the situation is brought under control. At least 20 airlines have suspended flights from mainland China, including America Airlines, Air France, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, KLM, Qatar Airways and United Airlines.

In East Africa, RwandaAir, Air Tanzania and Kenya Airways suspended flights since January, 2020.

The decision has hit cash-strapped Kenya Airways hard. Monday, 24 February, 2020, the airline said it had lost Ksh 800 million in revenue. Kenya Airways operates the Nairobi-Quangzhou route thrice a week.

“We are looking at lost revenue of about $ 8 million, both passenger and cargo. However, various initiatives are in place to increase passenger and cargo revenues on other routes to minimize this impact,” said Allan Kilavuka, KQ acting Chief Executive.

But as the airline continues to absorb losses, China Southern Airlines, which just two weeks ago said it had stopped direct flights from Guangzhou to Nairobi, has been flying all along.

The airline on 10 February, said it had cancelled its four weekly direct flights to Nairobi until June.

“The last Guangzhou flight will be on10 February, lasting up to 20 March,” Belinda Agwena, airline’s Marketing Manager said at that time. “The cancellation of the flights has largely been driven by the need to combat coronavirus.”

Other airlines still flying from China to Kenya include Ethiopia Airlines and China Eastern. Ethiopian Airways flies five times a week from Guangzhou to Nairobi via Addis Ababa.

China Eastern flies three times a week from Guangzhou to Nairobi via Bangkok. Kenya Airways has retained its Bangkok-Nairobi route. Bangkok is popular among passengers from Asia intending to travel to Nairobi.

Kenya has been identified by WHO as among 13 top priority countries that either have direct links or high volume of travel to China.

The agency said the 13 countries should be prepared for containment, including surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention and sharing data.

Kenya has had three false alerts over patients thought to have been infected by the virus.

The Health Ministry said it has investigated 17 alerts and all tested negative for COVID-19.

On Tuesday 25, February, 2020, two alerts-one on Riara Road and the other in Valley Arcade in Nairobi were investigated and did not meet the WHO case definition criteria.