Israeli airline El Al on said it will suspend all flights to China starting Thursday for a period of at least two months, due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in the country.
The death toll from the virus currently stands at 170. The figures released early Thursday cover the previous 24 hours and represent an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases for a total of 7,711. Of the new deaths, 37 were in the epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei province and one in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
“After assessing the situation, El Al decided to suspend its flights to China until March 25,” said the company in a statement. "The severity level of the disease remains unchanged.”
The company added the spread of coronavirus among humans is lower than the spread of other diseases, such as measles, although the symptoms of the virus might only appear two weeks into being infected.
“We want to reiterate guidelines for prevention: maintaining personal hygiene, avoiding contact with animals, eating unprocessed animal foods and avoiding crowded places when travelling to China.”
In addition, Chinese company Hainan Airlines also said it has suspended flights from Tel Aviv to Beijing until March 28, leaving Israelis wishing to travel to China’s capital with no option of a direct flight.
“As of this hour, the company will continue to operate its from Tel Aviv to Shenzhen twice a week, in accordance with the developments and instructions of the authorities,” said the company in a statement.
The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.
The death rate of the new virus currently stands at 2%, but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.
In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10% of people who caught it. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.
Associated Press contributed to this report