Despite the new Coronavirus outbreak in Beijing, China has agreed to resume flight operations to the U.S. and New Zealand from June 22. Air New Zealand will have a return flight every week for now while Delta and United Airlines from the U.S. will have two flights a week.
For now, only Chinese city of Shanghai will allow flights from the U.S. and New Zealand with strict safety measures in place. Air New Zealand will have its first flight from Auckland to Shanghai on June 22 with a return flight the same week.
Delta will resume operations on June 27 from San Francisco to Shanghai with two return flights scheduled while United will resume flights from July 6 with two return flights. Delta and United Airlines have received clearance from the Shanghai authorities on Monday, June 15.
There were about 325 flights a week between the U.S. and China before the travel ban was imposed in February due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
"We welcome this action by the Chinese government, as an important first step, to fully restore air travel. The change announced on Monday is further indication that both the U.S. and China are backing down from a standoff over airline service that threatened to halt scheduled passenger service between the two countries," the U.S. Transportation Department said in a statement.
New Zealand, which has already resumed flights to Japan, Australia and several other countries, reported two new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, June 16. But Scott Carr, Air New Zealand General Manager said that the "volume of passengers will be limited by the capacity to quarantine arrivals" and it will need strict border controls.
"The new COVID-19 cases reinforce the ongoing need for stringent border controls, strictly enforced quarantine, and testing of all arrivals during and before exiting quarantine," he said.
Strict Rules to Apply
Although the resumption of flights is a welcome move, strict safety measures will apply for each country involved. Flights from the U.S. entering China will undergo mandatory COVID-19 test. If five or more passengers test positive, the airline will be banned for a week while the ban will increase to four weeks if 10 ore more are positive.
The number of flights will increase if there are no positive cases for three consecutive weeks. However, the U.S. airlines are still waiting for clarity on the testing and quarantine measures in China.
But the U.S. airlines have already made wearing mask mandatory for its customers. If rules are flouted, passengers can even face a ban. For New Zealand, where the two new cases are travelers from the U.K., the rules remain the same.