Global ports operator DP World halts staff travel to China in response to coronavirus

The state-owned ports operator joins global companies such as HSBC, LG Electronics and Facebook in restricting staff travel to China

The container ship Xin Yan Tian, owned by China Shipping Container Lines Co. Ltd., sits at Jebel Ali Port, with the skyline of the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates in the background, on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007. Jebel Ali Port, owned by DP World Ltd., the fourth-biggest port operator, is the largest in the Middle East. China Shipping Container Lines Co. Ltd., the second-largest in Asia, owns and operates container vessels for the international and domestic container marine transportation services. Photographer: Charles Crowell/Bloomberg News
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Global ports operator DP World directed its staff to halt all travel to China as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus outbreak in the Asian nation.

“All travel to China is suspended until further notice, unless for emergency purposes," a DP World spokesman said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. "We continue to monitor World Health Organization (WHO) and government advice."

DP World operates terminals at Tianjin Port, located 160km southeast of Beijing, as well as in Qingdao and Yantai, according to its website. The state-owned ports operator joins global companies such as HSBC, LG Electronics and Facebook in restricting staff travel to China, as the death toll from the virus rises to more than 100 people.

A DP World spokesman confirmed that Chinese citizens would be allowed to travel to China if they wanted to return home.

"All our ports are complying with the official government health ministry directive for operations, staff health precautions and risk mitigation plans," the spokesperson said.

Dubai-based Emirates said it is reiterating health safety precautions to its cabin crew and is monitoring the situation closely.

“Our crew are trained, and have been reminded, to follow best practices in hygiene as defined by experts and authorities, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Air Travel Association (Iata)," a spokeswoman said. "We are providing masks and hand sanitisers to all crew on our flights to China. Our crew who serve passengers with any symptoms have been advised to wear masks onboard. We... will follow the guidelines and directives from health authorities in China and the UAE, WHO and IATA.”

The UAE civil aviation authority said it is monitoring the outbreak of the flu-like virus in China and will "modify" its precautionary measures accordingly.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi international airports said last week they will conduct thermal screening of passengers on direct flights from China as a precaution against the respiratory coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

"If the case gets worse, then we will have different measures as well," Saif Al Sowaidi, director general of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said. "That may include reducing the flights if necessary."

Mr Al Sowaidi said he does not have major concerns regarding the impact of the outbreak and is satisfied with China's response to the emergency.

"I think China is capable of containing this situation," he said, adding he is not expecting any change in air traffic between the UAE and China.

The virus has so far killed more than 106 people in China, infected 4,500 people and spread to more than 10 countries, including France, Japan and the US, raising concerns about global air travel safety.