Vietnam bans all flights to and from China over coronavirus

FEBRUARY 1, 2020 / 11:14 PM /
HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus epidemic on Saturday and said it would halt all flights to and from China.
Tourists wear protective masks while visiting Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi, Vietnam January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Kham

The government said it would also stop issuing visas for foreign visitors who had been in China in the past two weeks.

All permits granted for flights between Vietnam and China, including Hong Kong and Macau as well as self-ruled Taiwan which China claims as its territory, have been revoked until further notice, the government said in a statement.

But Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said in a later statement that it had spoken to the Vietnamese government and had the ban on flights to the island lifted.

Taiwan’s largest carrier, China Airlines, also said flights had returned to normal after it was forced to cancel a service to Hanoi on Saturday.

Vietnam’s civil aviation authority confirmed that carriers could still operate flights to Taiwan, but flights to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau were still suspended.

Taiwan is a major investor in Vietnam, investing some $32 billion in the past three decades.

Taiwan is also upset that Italy has canceled flights by China Airlines between Taipei and Rome as part of Italy’s ban on flights from China, though China Airlines will be allowed to carry back stranded passengers on Monday.

Johnson Chiang, head of the Taiwan Foreign Ministry’s Europe department, told reporters in Taipei that was because the World Health Organization, which follows Beijing’s guidance and considers Taiwan part of China, had included the island in its warnings about the extent of the virus in China.

Taiwan has only reported 10 cases of the virus, compared to almost 12,000 in China, including 259 deaths.

Budget carrier Vietjet Air and the national firm, Vietnam Airlines, earlier said they would suspend all flights to and from China from Feb. 1.

(This story corrects first name of the head of the Taiwan Foreign Ministry’s Europe department in paragraph 9)

Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard in Taiwan; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Nick Macfie

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