Israel's El Al suspends Beijing flights over coronavirus fears
Israel's national carrier El Al announced on Thursday it was suspending flights to Beijing over China's new coronavirus epidemic, a spokesman said, as fears of a global contagion grew.
El Al said its flights to Beijing would be halted until March 25, with a spokesman confirming to AFP it was over the virus, which according to the World Health Organisation has already killed 170 people.
El Al flights to other destinations in China would continue as usual, the spokesman said, adding that a flight scheduled to arrive in Israel from Beijing on Thursday will go ahead as planned.
There have been no recorded incidents of the new coronavirus in Israel yet, but the health ministry said Wednesday it was "a matter of time".
The ministry said it was considering urging passengers arriving in Israel from China to refrain from being in public for a number of days, "even if they are healthy".
Major airlines that have suspended or pared back services to China include British Airways, German flag carrier Lufthansa, American Airlines, KLM and United.
A growing number of governments - including Britain, Germany and the United States - have advised their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China.
Chinese authorities have taken extraordinary steps to arrest the virus's spread, including effectively locking down more than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.
The contagion has spread to nearly every corner of China, with remote Tibet reporting its first case on Thursday.
It has triggered fears in part due to its striking similarity to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-03, which also began in China and eventually killed nearly 800 people worldwide.