NEW DELHI :
IndiGo airlines said on Wednesday that due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, it has decided to suspend its flights on the Bengaluru-Hong Kong route from February 1 and on the Delhi-Chengdu route from February 1 to 20.
Similarly, Air India spokesperson said the national carrier is suspending its flights on Delhi-Shanghai route from January 31 to February 14.
Meanwhile IndiGo also clarified that for now, it will continue to operate the Kolkata-Guangzhou flight which it is "monitoring on a daily basis".
"And for our operating crew, we are ensuring that they return to India on the inbound flights without any layover in China," the low-cost carrier said in a statement.
According to a source, India's largest airline — Indigo — has also told its crew members — who are working on flights connecting India with East Asian countries like Thailand and Singapore — to wear N95 masks at all times when they are on ground.
"However, these crew members have been asked not to wear the mask when they are flying. They have also been told to avoid public places, meat from unverified sources and uncooked meat in East Asian cities. They have also been told to wash their hands frequently," the source added.
According to an Air India official, all crew members working on flights between India and South East Asia have been asked to wear N95 masks.
In India, many people are under observation in hospitals for suspected coronavirus infection including in Maharashtra, Goa, Odisha and the national capital. People returning to the country after visiting China are being regularly screened for the deadly virus at airports across the country.
Novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a large family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from common cold to acute respiratory syndromes. The virus, which has killed 132 people and affected at least 6,000 others in China, is a novel strain not seen before.
In its statement, IndiGo said on Wednesday, "After carefully assessing the current coronavirus situation in China, IndiGo is taking some safety measures for its customers, crew and staff. Due to China travel restrictions, we have seen a high number of cancellations from China on our Delhi-Chengdu route and vice versa."
"Therefore, we are suspending our flights between Delhi and Chengdu from February 1 until February 20. We are also suspending our Bengaluru- Hong Kong flight effective February 1," it added.
The low-cost carrier stated that these are purely temporary and precautionary measures.
"We understand that these measures will cause inconvenience to our customers and we will be refunding the full amount to the impacted passengers," it clarified.
Wuhan is the capital of China's Hubei Province.
As India started the preparations to evacuate over 250 Indians, mostly students, stuck in the Hubei province, its embassy in Beijing said these nationals will have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on their return.
The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday asked Indians to refrain from travelling to China where the novel coronavirus has claimed over 100 lives. The ministry issued a fresh travel advisory and also urged people travelling to China to monitor their health closely.
It asked people to use 24×7 helpline (011-23978046) for queries related to respiratory infection.
"In the view of the spurt of cases being reported in China and travel related cases appearing in many countries….all non-essential travel to China to be avoided," it said.
As part of the preparedness, India has also increased the number of airports from seven to 21 where thermal screening of passengers is being done for a possible exposure to the deadly nCoV.
These include airports at Gaya, Guwahati, Visakhapatnam, Varanasi, Goa, Bhubaneswar and Lucknow besides the seven designated airports identified earlier.
The health ministry also has established four more laboratories apart from the NIV-Pune for testing samples.
The four labs for the testing samples have been made functional at Alleppey, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai.
India is also planning to evacuate its nationals, mostly students, stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of the viral outbreak.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba had on Tuesday reviewed the preparedness to deal with the deadly virus after which the government said India has made a formal request to China for facilitating evacuation of Indians from Wuhan.
The Civil Aviation Ministry will make necessary arrangements for evacuation after the approval of Chinese authorities is received.
Asserting that there was no confirmed case of the nCoV, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had on Tuesday said India was making all efforts to detect and check the spread of the virus even as more than a dozen countries around the world have confirmed cases.