Published on : Friday, February 7, 2020
The coronavirus outbreak in China has propelled an unparalleled clampdown on travel to and from the world’s second-largest economy, leaving thousands of people stranded across the globe and dealing a major blow to the international aviation industry. At least 14 countries and territories, from the U.S. to India and Hong Kong, have now introduced some form of China-related travel restrictions as policymakers try to contain the spread of a virus that has killed more than 560 people and infected nearly 30,000. Most of the international airlines has suspended 26% of scheduled services in and out of the country from January 23 to February 3.
The abrupt and sometimes chaotic implementation of the curbs has left travelers like Neren Gaffud stuck in limbo. The 39-year-old, who works as a housekeeper in Hong Kong, was visiting her family in the Philippines when President Rodrigo Duterte banned travel to the financial hub, along with mainland China and Macau.
The restrictions were announced Sunday, the day Gaffud flew from her home province to Manila. While she worried about her trip back to Hong Kong, she was told it wouldn’t be a problem. That changed by the time she tried to check in for her Monday morning flight operated by Cebu Pacific. Gaffud said that it was a total shock to all of us. There were many overseas workers on that flight who needed to get back to Hong Kong. It was very frustrating. All some of us could do was cry.” “We had to sit and sleep on the pavement. We were also worried we might catch the virus because it was so crowded,” she said, adding that some people were panicking about losing their jobs.