Shanghai scraps hundreds of inbound and outbound flights as travellers skip city amid a resurgent Covid-19 outbreak

Date: Tuesday, March 15, 2022
Source: SCMP

Hundreds of flights to Shanghai were cancelled on Monday amid a resurgence in the city’s Covid-19 infections, even as local authorities remained tight-lipped on the possibility of a complete lockdown of China’s commercial hub.

All inbound and outbound travellers through Shanghai’s airports and railway stations must present negative nucleic acid tests taken within 48 hours of their journeys, the city’s transport commission deputy director Wang Xiaojie said during an online press briefing, advising residents to avoid “unnecessary” travel.

About 800 arrivals and departures via Shanghai’s Pudong airport were cancelled as of 4pm on Monday, compared with 825 flights every day last month, according to VariFlight Technology, a Chinese provider of aviation data. At Hongqiao, nearly 500 services were cancelled at an airfield that handled 575 daily flights in February.

“The outbreak has sent a chill down the spines of passengers and tourism industry employees,” said Franco Feng, CEO of Shenxiaokou, a Shanghai-based travel service firm. “People are worried about a citywide lockdown in Shanghai too.”

About 900 infections had broken out since the beginning of March all over Shanghai, a city of 25 million residents, threatening to upend the city’s ability to keep Covid-19 at bay, where only 400 infections and seven deaths were recorded in the two years since the coronavirus broke out. Shanghai had often been lauded for eschewing the over-the-top quarantine measures adopted by some other Chinese cities.

On Sunday night, Shenzhen announced it would go into lockdown, suspending all subway and bus services while restricting residents’ movement in communities.

Most of the Omicron infections in the latest outbreaks were asymptomatic, with mild symptoms reported in fewer than 120 of the cases.

Still, Shanghai officials were taking few chances. Long-distance passenger coaches and bus services between Shanghai and neighbouring cities and counties stopped operating over the weekend. Schools, public parks and indoor entertainment venues were shut, while restaurants in selected areas like the Putuo district stopped allowing dine-in customers.

“We request local residents to avoid unnecessary travel out of Shanghai,” Wang said. Residents who must undertake critical travelling are “advised to arrive at the airports and railway stations earlier to have the negative test reports reviewed”, he said.

Walt Disney Company, which operates the biggest of its three Disneyland resorts in Pudong, is operating the theme park at “controlled” and “reduced” capacity while its theatre shows have been suspended, according to its website.

Shanghai’s stock market, the largest of mainland China’s three exchanges, kept transactions going, forcing traders, brokers and bankers to work from home or find their way to secure systems in their offices.

Hundreds of neighbourhoods and housing estates were sealed off, with residents kept indoors, as the city went into a partial lockdown to undergo three rounds of mass testing.

“Given the state leadership and local officials’ determination to contain the outbreak, tightening measures such as suspending part of the flights and trains from or to Shanghai could be carried out in the coming days,” said Li Wenjie, chief executive of Shanghai Yaheng International Travel. “But it would not be easy to enforce an entire lockdown.”

Pudong airport is the home base of China Eastern Airlines, the country’s third-largest carrier. China Eastern’s stock fell 6.3 per cent in Hong Kong to HK$2.68 (US$0.34) on Monday, dropping 5.6 per cent in Shanghai to 5.09 yuan.

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