At a time when international airlines like British Airways and American Airlines are cancelling flights to China to mitigate the risks of spreading the deadly coronavirus, national carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has maintained that it will continue flying to the Asian country.
Kenyans, however, have not taken this move kindly and have accused the airline of prioritising profits over the dangers it was exposing the country to.
It did not help KQ’s situation that there’s a Kenyan student from China who arrived aboard its flight that is currently quarantined at Kenyatta National Hospital because he had coronavirus-like symptoms.
Kenya Airways said on Wednesday evening that in liaison with the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs, it would continue to monitor the developments in China regarding the epidemic in Wuhan Province.
“The airline remains in consultation with the Ministry of Health and would like to assure our customers that we are evaluating all options and we will communicate the next steps of action at the appropriate time,” KQ said.
“In the meantime, we have implemented additional precautionary measures to ensure that our staff and customers are safe. These include screening of all passengers at the Guangzhou Airport,” it added.
It said passengers from Wuhan and surrounding districts would only be accepted on its flights after clearance by the Guangzhou Airport health authorities.
“In addition, our crew have been trained and sensitised on how to handle the situation. We would like to reiterate that the safety and security of our staff and passengers remain our highest priority,” the airline said.
But Kenyans on social media are not buying this explanation.
“If British Airways can cancel flights to and from China, who are you not to follow suit? Don’t you care about the well-being of your passengers and staff?” Mr Robert Kiplagat asked.
“Other big airlines from countries with a good health infrastructure have stopped this route. But you are risking the health of Kenyans?” Lorna Wakio wondered.
On her part, Ms Mumbi Josphene wondered how KQ will be able to use screening to prevent the spread given that symptoms in victims may take some time before they manifest.
“The gestation period of the virus is 10-14 days. The virus is transmittable by touch. Even before the signs manifest themselves. Be serious. The UK has cancelled flights to China. It is simply too risky. Make a patriotic decision too. Kenyans’ lives matter,” Chrispine Were wrote.
The virus has seen more than 7,700 cases confirmed in China with at least 170 fatalities.
It has spread from the epicentre of Wuhan to over 15 countries. There are about 60 cases in Asia, Europe, North America and, most recently, the Middle East.
China has become a very important trade ally of Kenya, and is currently funding and building major infrastructure projects in the country which has seen a surge in the number of Chinese nationals travelling to the country.
A number of Kenyan traders also frequently fly to China to import goods, mostly electronics and household merchandise, for sale in Kenya and the region.