On Tuesday, White House officials briefed U.S. airlines regarding the Trump administration’s consideration to suspending flights from China to the U.S. amid heightened fears of the new coronavirus that has infected thousands around the world, people familiar with the matter conveyed.
The U.S. health officials told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that government is aiming to introduce a wide variety of measures to limit the scope of the fast-spreading virus.
A short-term ban on China flights is on the table, said people familiar with the conversations that took place between the White House officials and executives at major U.S. carriers on Tuesday.
As of Tuesday evening, the Trump administration hadn’t implemented that step, and there was no conformity that it would do so.
Two of the people said the White House communicated them it doesn’t immediately plan to suspend China air travel, but administration officials are persistently evaluating the situation.
United Airlines, which undertakes most service of the U.S. airlines with about a dozen daily flights to Hong Kong and mainland China, announced Tuesday it would halt most of its flights coming month to mainland China and Hong Kong as the coronavirus outbreak gets worse.
The Chicago-based airline claimed it went through a “significant drop in demand for travel to China.” It and its rivals American and Delta are waiving halt and change fees for passengers booked to China.
The suspensions could affect flights into and out of China, as well as airports around the U.S., administration officials said. They refused to be named, citing no final decision has been made yet.
A meeting of senior staff took place at the White House on Monday during which discussions have been made over travel restrictions for China.
Updates on New Coronavirus Outbreak
The new coronavirus plague has killed 106 people and infected over 4,700, according to Chinese health officials.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on Tuesday expanded its warnings for travel to China, now asking all the United States travelers to avoid China until the outbreak gets under control.
Previously, the health agency had told against nonessential travel to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the origin of the outbreak.
The Department of Health and Human Services informed that CDC is widening its virus screening process from five to 20 U.S. airports.
“It’s important not to take anything off the table,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar when asked about the potential for any further travel restrictions.
On Monday, markets fell noticeably after concerns that the new virus could have an impact on worldwide growth. The major indexes returned to normal Tuesday, fueled by gains in the tech and financial sectors.
President Trump said last week the U.S. has new coronavirus “under control.”