Two days after halving its weekly nonstop flights to China, Delta Air Lines Inc. has now suspended all service to the country through April 30 amid heightened concerns over the novel coronavirus outbreak.
When cutting back on service Tuesday, Delta had left open the possibility that it would make additional changes — they came quickly after the World Health Organization Thursday declared the growing outbreak a global health emergency.
The U.S. government followed suit, with the State Department promptly upgrading its warning to its highest level: Do Not Travel. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services labeled the outbreak a public health emergency Friday, despite the fact that only six cases have been detected in four American states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is keeping some 195 Americans who returned from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, in a rare 14-day quarantine from the time their flight left China.
Additional Americans coming back from China’s Hubei province will undergo health screenings and will be quarantined for two weeks starting Sunday. Those U.S. citizens who have traveled elsewhere in China will reportedly be subject to health checks and monitoring in “self-quarantine.” The U.S. will also suspend entry temporarily for foreign nationals who have traveled to China, with the exception of immediate family members of Americans.
Delta said its last flight into China will leave the U.S. Monday, Feb. 3, while its last flight into the U.S. will depart China Feb. 5. American Airlines and United Airlines have also suspended all flights to China, and the U.S. is funneling remaining China flights into three U.S. airports, according to The New York Times.
The moves came as cases spiked by 26 percent overnight Thursday to nearly 10,000. Of those, just 143 have been diagnosed in 25 countries or regions outside mainland China, where the virus has killed 213 people.
Delta is waiving change fees with passengers whose flights depart before Feb. 5. Those with other bookings can visit the My Trips section of the Delta website or mobile app to see options for moving a flight beyond April 30, requesting a refund or contacting Delta.
Delta operates 42 flights between the U.S. and China. From Atlanta, it has served Shanghai with a daily flight since it returned July 2018 after a decade-long hiatus.
Markets were down on concerns over how the outbreak will affect the world’s second largest economy and the supply chains that rely on it.