British Airways has suspended all flights to and from mainland China after the Foreign Office (FCO) on Tuesday (28 January) advised against all but essential travel amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
BA has apologised to customers, but stressed the safety of customers and crews was always its priorities.
“Customers due to travel to or from China in the coming days can find more information on ba.com,” said the airline in a statement.
The airline flew direct to Shanghai and Beijing from Heathrow. No direct flights to China are currently listed on the BA website through to the end of February.
China Southern, which operated a three-times-weekly service between Heathrow and Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus is understood to have originated, has already been forced to suspend its operations after Chinese authorities enacted nationwide transport bans to halt spread of the virus.
The FCO updated its travel advice on Tuesday evening, advising against all but essential travel to mainland China, excluding Macao and Hong Kong, and all travel to China’s Hubei province where Wuhan is situated.
“The Chinese government continue to impose further restrictions on movement within China in response to the coronavirus outbreak,” said the FCO.
“It may become harder over the coming weeks for those who wish to leave China to do so. If you feel that you may want to leave China soon, you should consider making plans to do so before any further restrictions may be imposed.”
The FCO said due to increasing travel restrictions and difficulties accessing medical assistance, it was “working to make an option available for British nationals to leave Hubei province”. This, the FCO has warned, “may happen quickly and with short notice”.
The British government is understood to be discussing a repatriation effort with several hundred British nationals thought to be essentially stuck in China owing to the country’s own travel restrictions, the BBC reports. The US, Japan and a number of EU countries have already started repatriating their citizens.
More than 100 people are now known to have died across China as a result of the virus, which has spread to more than a dozen countries. Nearly 6,000 cases have been confirmed according to China’s national health commission.