The White House is considering pausing all flights between the U.S. and China, according to reports from CNBC, an unprecedented move to curb the rapid spread of a new coronavirus that has infected nearly 10,000 people worldwide.
President Donald Trump's administration recently told major U.S. airlines that it's considering the temporary flying ban. No final decisions have been made, and the White House was not expected to take that step immediately. CNBC cited several people familiar with the administration's planning who would not be named as the White House considers a range of options to contain the outbreak.
Coronavirus is the name for a larger family of viruses that includes the SARS virus, which killed more than 700 people in the early 2000s. And while the coronavirus is native to animals, it can spread to humans. These viruses cause symptoms that range from common cold-like issues to respiratory problems to pneumonia and even kidney failure and death.
The prospect of halting flights to China altogether marks a major escalation in the global response to the coronavirus. There are dozens of flights between the U.S. and China each day.
The new virus has now killed more than 200 people and infected 9,925 people and counting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initially urged travelers to exercise caution when traveling to Wuhan, China – where the outbreak originated. The CDC now warns travelers to avoid all “non-essential” travel to all of China – it's highest, level 3 warning.
The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory for China.
As alarm grows, U.S. health officials recently expanded additional screenings for coronavirus from five U.S. airports to 20. Meanwhile, airlines are making their own decisions. American Airlines, Delta and United have suspended all flights to China as far out as the end of April.
Whether the U.S. halts all flights to China or not, it's clear that this situation will get worse before it gets better.