As countries and airlines have started to limit or terminate travel to China, after the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, South Africa’s Flight Centre Travel Group has urged travellers to reconsider all non-essential travel to China.

Wuhan China Image Credit: Pixabay

Numerous airlines, including British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa and American, have suspended flights to Beijing and Shanghai. The World Health Organisation called the outbreak an emergency but said there was no reason to limit travel as a result.

More than 170 people in China are reported to have died from the virus, which has reached at least 21 countries, according to a statement released by Flight Centre. The countries include France, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the USA and Vietnam.

Two South African expats living in Shanghai report that they have not left their apartment for a week, and that schools have been closed until February, and they are working remotely. They also said that health masks are in short supply.

Various tourist attractions in China, such as parts of the Great Wall of China, Beijing’s Forbidden City palace complex and Shanghai Disneyland, have been closed to visitors.

“Some airlines are allowing clients to refund or make changes to their travel at no additional cost, such as Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, Air Canada, Emirates and British Airways,” said says Kim Taylor, Customer Experience Director at Flight Centre, which continues to monitor the situation and update as communication is received from airlines.

For travellers already in affected areas, FCTG strongly advises:


  • Avoid all travel to Hubei province, as it is under lockdown by Chinese authorities.
  • Practice advanced hygiene measures, including frequent hand washing and sanitising.
  • Wear a face mask or respirator in public if travelling in Chinese cities with reported infections.

Strict health screening is being performed at various airports worldwide. All travellers should allow for sufficient travelling time in case of any delays at the airport.