Etihad Airways and Emirates said on Thursday they are continuing to operate all flights to China, after a growing number of major global airlines scrapped or reduced operations to the country where the deadly coronavirus has claimed 170 lives.
Abu Dhabi's Etihad will continue to comply with directives and take all appropriate measures, based on the guidance of national and international health authorities and regulators, the airline said.
"As there are no travel or trade restrictions at this time, Etihad is continuing to operate flights as normal," it said. "Etihad Airways continues to work closely with key stakeholders in China and Abu Dhabi to help prevent the spread of the virus."
Emirates said flights are operating as per its normal schedule.
The UAE, a major global air transport hub, on Wednesday became the first country in the Middle East to confirm cases of coronavirus infections when a Chinese family of four were diagnosed with the infection. The novel coronavirus has not resulted in deaths outside China, but the latest strain of the virus is spreading faster than Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), prompting airlines to cancel flights to and from one of the world's fastest-growing markets for air travel.
As the virus spread to countries from Australia to Germany, concerns about the global economic impact of the infectious disease are growing.
"Countries that depend on Chinese tourism, such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia, will be the most impacted," the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a report on Thursday. "Commodity exporters to China will also have to deal with slowing Chinese demand in the coming weeks as the Chinese economy decelerates as a result of the various quarantine measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus."
The World Health Organisation said its Emergency Committee is meeting on Thursday to decide whether the outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, it said on its website.
The UAE and China's medical and aviation authorities have taken measures including thermal screening of passengers and crew prior to departure from airports in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Hong Kong, as well as on arrival in Abu Dhabi through dedicated gates.
"The Etihad Aviation Group stands ready to take more actions based on informed advice," the company said.
It also extended its waiver policy for passengers seeking to cancel or rebook their flights to or from mainland China and Hong Kong.
"The safety and well-being of its passengers and employees is the highest priority of Etihad Airways, which continues to collaborate with authorities and industry partners on this important issue," the airline said.