Two major airlines - Air India and IndiGo - have temporarily halted some flights to coronavirus-hit China where 130 people have died amid the outbreak. Many international airlines began suspending flights to and from China on Wednesday as global fears mounted over the epidemic.
Air India this evening said it is suspending its flights on Delhi-Shanghai route from January 31 to February 14. All crew members working on flights operated by the national carrier between India and South East Asia have been asked to wear N95 masks.
In a statement, private carrier IndiGo said that it is temporarily suspending flights to China's Chengdu city from Delhi and Bengaluru-Hong Kong flight.
"After carefully assessing the current coronavirus situation in China, IndiGo is taking some safety measures for its customers, crew and the staff. Due to China travel restrictions, we have seen a high number of cancellations from China on our Delhi-Chengdu route and vice-versa," the statement read.
"Therefore, we are suspending our flights between Delhi and Chengdu from February 01, 2020 until February 20, 2020. We are also suspending our Bengaluru-Hong Kong flight effective February 01, 2020," it further said.
Amid high alert, thousands of passengers arriving in India from China have been screened at different airports across the country in the last few days. As a precautionary measure, the thermal screening facilities have been extended to 21 airports now including Gaya, Guwahati, Vizag, Varanasi and Goa.
Scores of people are under watch in different states including Kerala where over 400 people are under observation.
In a fresh advisory, centre today urged travellers across the country: "Please refrain from travelling to China".
On Tuesday, the central government said it has launched the process of evacuating Indian nationals stranded in China's Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak of SARS-like coronavirus.
A growing number of governments, including the United States, Britain and Germany, have in recent days advised their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China over concerns about the viral outbreak. China has itself urged its citizens to delay trips abroad, with at least 15 countries having confirmed cases of the disease.
British Airways was the first major airline to announce a total suspension of flights to and from China, citing the travel advice of the foreign office. "We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority," BA said in a statement on Wednesday.
Cathay Pacific also cut flights, citing low demand and the Hong Kong government's response plan against the virus.
(With inputs from AFP, PTI)