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Chinese aviation bans flights from 2 Thai carriers for bringing Covid-19 into China

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PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

The Civil Aviation Administration of China announced yesterday that it’s banning flights by Thai AirAsia X and Thai Lion Air to the mainland from July 20-27 as a punitive measure for allegedly bringing Covid-19 patients into the country. Today both airlines announced that no one disembarked while in Bangkok. After the CAAC announced that 11 travellers aboard Thai Lion Air’s flight SL117 to Guangzhou and Thai Airasia X’s flight XJ808 to Tianjin landed there with the virus, both airlines explained that they were connecting flights transiting at Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport. Thai AirAsia X said the flights were routed through Thailand to take advantage of its flight status with Beijing.

The Thai AirAsia X flight from Kuala Lumpur was originally coded XJ325, but had to be changed to XJ808 because they did not have permission to operate under the initial code. Chinese state media report that the 2 scheduled flights will be barred for a week starting Monday. (Nation Thailand reports that all flights from both airlines will be banned.) It says 6 passengers travelling from Jakarta, apparently infected with the coronavirus, landed July 7 aboard the Thai Lion Air flight, and 5 more passengers, 3 days later, via the Thai AirAsia X flight from KL.

Thai Lion Air revealed today that its flight was a connection from Jakarta that transited at DMK (Don Mueang) before continuing on to Guangzhou. Most of the cabin crew were Chinese, and no Thai passengers were aboard, so the airline believes those with the disease were likely exposed in Indonesia.

AirAsia X responded similarly, saying its flight originated in Kuala Lumpur and flew to Manila before turning around and stopping in Bangkok on its way to Tianjin. It also said no passengers deplaned in Thailand. It emphasised that all passengers were tested for the virus before boarding.

China’s “carrot-and-stick” aviation policy calls for airlines operating Covid-free flights to expand their number of weekly inbound flights, with those who bring the virus being suspended for a number of weeks depending on how many infected passengers are aboard.

The issue on the two flights is an indication that it is going to be complex for increasingly reluctant nations to re-open their borders in a world connected with so many flights, all potential carriers of the virus.

SOURCES: Coconuts | Nation Thailand

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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