Egypt expresses dismay to UK envoy over British Airways flight suspension

File photo shows British Airways planes parked at Heathrow Airport in London. On Saturday, July 20, 2019, British Airways said it is canceling flights to Cairo for a week for unspecified security reasons. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2019

Egypt expresses dismay to UK envoy over British Airways flight suspension

  • British Airways suspended flights to Cairo on Saturday for seven days “as a security precaution”
  • The British embassy in Cairo could not immediately be reached for comment

CAIRO: Egypt’s aviation minister on Sunday expressed his dismay over British Airways’ decision to suspend flights to the Egyptian capital to the UK’s ambassador to Cairo.
International Airlines Group’s British Airways suspended flights to Cairo on Saturday for seven days “as a security precaution” as it reviews security at the city’s airport.
Later on Saturday, Germany’s Lufthansa said it had canceled services from Munich and Frankfurt to Cairo but it resumed flights on Sunday.
Air France, Emirates and Etihad Airways continued to operate flights to Cairo.
Younis Al-Masry “expressed his displeasure at British Airways taking a decision unilaterally concerning the security of Egyptian airports without referring to the competent Egyptian authorities,” the aviation ministry said in a statement released after a meeting between the Egyptian aviation minister and British Ambassador Geoffrey Adams.
The statement went on to say that Adams had apologized for not informing Egyptian authorities before the decision was made and cited him as saying the flight suspension was not related to the security measures at Egyptian airports.
The British embassy in Cairo could not immediately be reached for comment.
A spokesman for Air France, in a statement sent to Reuters, said the airline had decided to maintain its service to Cairo after liasing with French and Egyptian authorities.
An Emirates spokeswoman said its flights were operating to schedule.
“We are closely assessing the situation and are in contact with the relevant aviation authorities with regards to our flight operations to Egypt,” the spokeswoman said.
The website for Abu Dhabi’s Etihad showed its services were also operating and a spokesman said the airline was monitoring the security situation in Cairo.
Tourism, a key source of foreign revenue for Egypt, has been recovering after visitor numbers dropped in the wake of a 2011 uprising and the 2015 bombing of a Russian jet, which killed all 224 people on board shortly after takeoff.
That attack, which was claimed by Islamic State, prompted Russia to halt all flights to Egypt for several years and a number of countries including Britain to cease flights to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh, which have yet to resume.


Middle East health authorities on alert amid coronavirus outbreak

Updated 26 January 2020

Middle East health authorities on alert amid coronavirus outbreak

  • King Abdullah II ordered an aircraft to be sent to evacuate Jordanian nationals from Wuhan
  • WHO representative in Egypt commends efforts taken by officials to screen incoming travelers for infection

DUBAI: Countries across the Middle East have taken swift steps to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus 2019-nCoV following an outbreak that began in China’s Hubei province.

From Jordan and Lebanon all the way to Egypt, governments are on high alert to ensure the safety of their citizens.

The infection with pneumonia-like symptoms was first detected on December 31, 2019, in Wuhan city in Hubei.

Wuhan is one of at least 10 cities placed under lockdown by Chinese authorities to control the outbreak.

In Jordan, King Abdullah II has ordered an aircraft to be sent to evacuate Jordanian nationals from the Wuhan “as soon as possible,” according to a statement.

The statement said the government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, had obtained the consent of Chinese authorities for the evacuation from Wuhan.

The Jordanian embassy in Beijing said it was in contact with Chinese authorities and Jordanian nationals to complete the evacuation as soon as possible.

Earlier, John Jabbour, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Egypt, confirmed that no cases had been reported in the country.

“The Egyptian Health Ministry has taken all necessary preventive measures,” he told the state news agency on Thursday.

“We are keeping daily contact with Health Minister Hala Zayed and the ministry’s preventive-medicine sector to follow up on any developments.”

Jabbour commended the ministry’s efforts to deal with the situation by screening incoming travelers at all harbors and airports.

He said advisory preventive guidance measures have been issued to all health directorates for educating citizens about the outbreak.

The Egyptian Embassy in Beijing said on Saturday night that there were no infections among the Egyptian community in China, adding that it was monitoring conditions in Wuhan city, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Hamad Hassan, Lebanon’s Minister of Public Health, said on Friday no 2019-nCoV cases had been reported in the country. “(There was some) concern over the spread of the H1N1 flu,” he said, adding that “there is no need to panic over the spread of this or any other disease.”

He said patients with suspected coronavirus infection will be offered treatment immediately after diagnosis free of charge, adding that the ministry’s epidemiological surveillance unit would be deployed in the field.

In neighboring Syria, the Health Ministry also said no 2019-nCoV infections had been detected in the country, although strict measures were being taken at border crossings.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the ministry said that strict measures were being taken at harbors, land border crossings and at Damascus International Airport to detect suspected coronavirus infections.

Turkish authorities have not reported any 2019-nCoV cases during screenings of aircraft passengers from China using thermal cameras, according to news agencies.

Announcing on Friday that thermal cameras had been installed at all airports in the country, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca disclosed that one suspected infection had been detected and action taken.

“A Chinese national, who had a complaint of nausea, headache and uneasiness in Istanbul’s Buyuk Cekmece district, was isolated from other patients as a precaution on Wednesday night after (we learnt) she came from Wuhan,” he said.

“Although the general condition of the patient was good, her case was considered as suspicious due to her travel history. We sent her back to China this morning upon her request.”

Although no cases have been proven or confirmed yet in the Middle East, the WHO wants travelers with symptoms to seek medical attention and share travel history with their healthcare provider.

The WHO wants public health authorities to provide travelers with information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections, via health practitioners, travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry. 

“Coronavirus infections are highly contagious, and symptoms are usually similar to that of the flu,” Dr Ali Mohammad, specialist pulmonologist at Aster Clinics in Dubai, told Arab News.

“Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands, touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands, as well as, rarely, fecal contamination.”