By Staff Reporter
March 20, 2020 (Ezega.com) -- Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday announced that the Ethiopian Airlines will suspend international flights to over 30 countries due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The flag-carrier has been facing low demand for its travel services even though it introduced various prevention techniques including the disinfection of its airplanes before take-off, after landing and onboard.
Abiy did not mention the names of the countries nor spoke about the duration of the suspension and if the ban has to do with those high-risk countries affected by the coronavirus.
Announcing his cabinet decision, Abiy also said all passengers arriving in Ethiopia from other countries will be kept in separate rooms for at least 14 days until their status was known for the virus.
So far, Ethiopia has reported nine infections of COVID-19 since last Friday, March 13, 2020, after a Japanese citizen was tested positive for the virus.
Abiy said the government did not suspend flights because it was difficult for landlocked Ethiopia to do so before the necessary supplies including medicines and test kits were imported.
Speaking to local media, CEO of the Ethiopian Airlines Tewolde Geberemariam claimed the infections of nine people in Ethiopia have nothing to do with flights to China because several African countries reported the virus even though there were no direct flights between them and China.
He said Nigeria was the first African country to confirm COVID-19 even if it did not have direct flights with China.
The CEO said Al Arabia, India, Thailand, Singapore, and Japan Airlines still fly to China like the Ethiopian does.
According to the CEO, more than 20 countries have banned flights of Ethiopian to their territory and the majority of them are in Africa.
“There are countries like South Africa and Dubai, India Thailand which did not ban flights but denied visa service while European countries allow us only to transport their citizens,” he said.
Tewolde said the airliner has lost over $190 million due to the pandemic. He said the loss is the highest ever and the flag-carrier flight frequencies have decreased by 30 percent.
Tewolde noted that Ethiopian is forced to ground 30 percent of its total airplanes due to the spread of the virus. “We are in very challenging times and never encountered such kinds of crisis.”
As to the CEO, Ethiopian Airlines will continue flying to different parts of the world with at most prevention, care, and disinfection services.
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