The Management of Ethiopian Airlines has re-assured its Ghanaian clients that it has stepped up passenger screening and aircraft disinfection process at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport per the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
The recent Coronavirus outbreak has raised concerns among the traveling public and airlines around the world, which tend to deter people from traveling overseas to protect themselves from possible infection.
Despite these concerns, the WHO recommended that imposing a travel ban to/from China was not a solution to contain the outbreak. Likewise, the African Union’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention advised that African airlines should not stop flying to China.
Madam Genet W. Michael, the Area Manager for Ethiopian Airlines in Ghana told the Ghana News Agency that directed by the guidelines of WHO and the Ministry of Health of Ethiopian has continued its flights to China.
She said Ethiopian Airlines flies to all five Chinese cities, namely, Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, operating a total of 35 weekly flights for most of the year.
On average, Ethiopian carries around 4,000 passengers daily between China and Africa, while 30 percent of those passengers enter Ethiopia as their destination, the remaining 70 percent use Addis as a transit point.
There are thermoscan machines deployed at both Terminals I and Terminal II at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, enabling incoming passengers to walk through the thermoscan machines, which identifies persons with a high fever.
Passenger with high fever will be taken to the isolation center and further examination conducted on them with the travel history of the passenger assessed.
The Area Manager said due to the outbreak of the virus, there had been a decline in patronage, even though they continue to ply all their routes to China.
She said some of the Airline’s clients would rather postpone their flights to a different date.
At KIA, Madam Michael said the authority has also initiated measures to make sure that passengers were properly screened.
Ethiopian does not fly to Wuhan – the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei province – the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier, Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Officer Tewolde Gebremariam defended the company’s decision to maintain flights to China, arguing that suspending flights to the country would not end the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
"As WHO clearly, stated that suspending flights to China would not end the coronavirus outbreak as victims of the virus are located in other countries," Tewolde said.
He said if the Airline stop flying to China, it could still bring passengers from Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand and that originated from China, so the most important thing was to strengthen the passenger screening mechanism and follow the WHO procedures.
"We should not isolate China. We should not marginalize Chinese passengers. What we should do is screen passengers in accordance with the WHO guidelines," he added.
Other information from the Airline indicated that as a socially responsible airline, it was collaborating with the Ministry of Health and Public Health Institute in Ethiopia to put in place a robust screening system at Bole International Airport and prevent the disease from entering Ethiopia.
It said the quarantine facility set up around Bole was well equipped with the required professionals and equipment and the Airline also provided its crew with all the equipment they need to protect themselves and passengers from possible infection.
"Rigorous screening is also conducted at the origin at the airports in all the Chinese cities Ethiopian serves," it said.
It said suspending flights to/from China does not make Ethiopia immune to Coronavirus infection unless effective prevention efforts are made.
The information indicated that besides Ethiopian, there were airlines with several daily flights from China to their hubs and connection flights to Addis Ababa.
Chinese airlines were also still flying to all parts of the world including Europe and the Middle East, connecting passengers from China to other airlines including Ethiopian, which then transport the passengers to Addis Ababa and other African destinations.
Ethiopian Airlines will continue to work closely with all the stakeholders including the Ministry of Health, Public Health Institute, and WHO and will remain extra vigilant and continuously monitor developments and advise recommended by the WHO to adopt appropriate measures.