By Javier Triana
Beijing, Mar 20 (EFE).- China on Friday began diverting international flights to Beijing amid an upsurge of imported coronavirus infections in the country's capital.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said Thursday that, in accordance with the country's quarantine and civil aviation laws, Air China and Hainan Airlines flights from Moscow, Paris, Tokyo and Toronto due to arrive in Beijing between March 20-22, would be diverted to the "first points of entry into China" where the passengers would go through quarantine inspection.
While Air China flights CA910 and CA934, coming from Moscow and Paris respectively, will have a stopover at Tianjin, flight CA926 from Tokyo will land at Hohhot and Hainan Airlines' Flight HU7976 from Toronto at Taiyuan, the agency explained.
"Passengers on the above-mentioned international flights shall go through quarantine inspection and customs clearance formalities and claim baggage at the first points of entry," the Chinese aviation authority said in a statement posted on its website.
"Passengers who passed quarantine inspection can fly to Beijing on the original flight. Customs clearance for belly-held cargo shall be conducted in Beijing," it added.
The statement did not specify what would happen to passengers who did not pass the inspection nor give details of the duration of the quarantine, which in China, is mostly imposed for a period of 14 days.
In the last five days, the Chinese capital has recorded 43 imported cases of the new coronavirus.
Although for the second consecutive day, China on Friday recorded no new local coronavirus infections, the number of imported cases continued to rise, with 39 new infections nationwide (up from 34 the day before), while the number of deaths dropped to three - the second day in a row of a single-digit death toll, after eight the previous day.
The total number of coronavirus cases in China is 80,967, with 3,248 deaths and 71,150 people discharged from hospital.
The authorities are now working to prevent a recurrence of the coronavirus outbreak, especially in big cities such as Beijing.
Recently, both Beijing and Hong Kong tightened restrictions on foreign visitors to these cities due to this surge in the imported cases.
All passengers arriving in Beijing or Hong Kong are required to undergo a compulsory 14-day quarantine, most of the times at a government-designated facility, with few exceptions.
On Friday the low-cost Hong Kong airline HK Express, owned by Cathay Pacific, announced it would suspend all its flights from Mar. 23 to Apr. 30 due to collapse in demand and the increasing imposition of restrictions on travelers due to the pandemic.
The company plans to resume operations on May 1 and will continue to sell tickets for flights that take off from that date.
Meanwhile, China on Friday left the new benchmark lending rate the country's central bank announced in August unchanged at 4.05 percent with the aim of reducing borrowing costs for companies and cushioning the economic impact of the pandemic, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
The one-year loan prime rate had been lowered to 4.05 percent in February, down 10 basis points from the 4.15 percent that had remained unchanged in the previous three months. EFE
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