British Airways suspends flights to and from China
Flights suspended: BA will not be flying to China
British Airways said it has suspended bookings to Beijing and Shanghai until March, as the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rises.
A BA spokeswoman says the airline is “assessing the situation”.
The airline, which operates daily flights to Shanghai and Beijing from Heathrow, said it was halting the flights with immediate effect after the Foreign Office warned against “all but essential travel” to the country because of the virus outbreak.
British Airways said: ‘We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel.
“We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority. ‘Customers due to travel to or from China in the coming days can find more information on ba.com.”
Lufthansa later became the latest airline to scrap flights to and from China. The German carrier has cancelled all its flights to the region.
United Airlines has cancelled 24 US flights to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai between 1 and 8 February because of a sharp drop in demand.
Cathay Pacific said it would halve its number of flights to China from 30 January to the end of March, while Air Canada has also reduced flights.
The death toll in the country has risen to 132, with confirmed infections surging to nearly 6,000. Four cases have been confirmed in Germany, making it the second European country to report cases after France.
Hong Kong also said on Tuesday it would ‘temporarily’ close some of its borders with mainland China and stop issuing travel permits to mainland Chinese tourists.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said officials are working urgently to finalise arrangements for an assisted departure from Hubei Province for British nationals this week.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has called for people who have returned from Wuhan to ‘self-isolate’ even if they have no symptoms.
Consumer group Which? said people with trips planned to China should be covered for cancellations by their travel insurance.
Markets ‘try not to over-react’
The FTSE 100 index opened higher after recovering on Tuesday from steep falls in previous sessions. It closed at 7,483.57, up 2.88 points or 0.038%. The FTSE 250 ended the day 35.93 points or 0.17% higher.
In mainland Europe, the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.1% in early trade while the DAX 30 in Frankfurt was also 0.1% higher.
“The virus outbreak marches on but markets are trying hard not to over-react,” said Kit Juckes at Societe Generale.
In Asia on Wednesday, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo closed down 0.7%. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong closed 2.8% lower as the market re-opened from the Lunar New Year holiday, while financial markets elsewhere in China remained closed.
Louis Vuitton closes shops
LVMH, owner of luxury brands including Fenty, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, has temporarily closed some stores in Wuhan, source of the coronavirus.
Speaking as he revealed the company’s results, chairman and chief executive Bernard Arnault said: “The first reaction is ‘don’t panic, let’s calmly analyse the situation’.”
He said that based on information from Chinese authorities, the peak of the virus could pass within weeks.
“If it dies out in two months or two months and a half, it’s not terrible. If it takes two years, that’s a different story.”