Beijing: China said on Thursday that it has lodged diplomatic protests with countries whose airlines have cancelled flights to Chinese cities alleging that they are spreading panic in the wake of deadly coronavirus.
The death toll in China's novel coronavirus outbreak went up to 563 as 73 people died on Wednesday, the highest single day fatalities so far, while total confirmed cases rose sharply to 28,018, Chinese health officials said on Thursday. The deadly virus has spread to more than 25 countries, including India.
Several international airlines, including Air India and IndiGo, have cancelled flights to China over fears of the virus spreading across the world, a move which Beijing described was against the WHO guidelines. Several countries, including India and the US, have also announced travel bans.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told the media briefing online on Thursday that the Chinese government is acting with openness, transparency and a high sense of responsibility in sharing information enhancing international cooperation in dealing with the virus.
"WHO lauded China's strong measures and stressed many times that it does not recommend and even opposes imposing restrictions on travel.
"As some countries have taken such excessive steps as suspending flights, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) has also issued bulletins and encouraged all countries to follow WHO recommendations," she said.
"We deplore and oppose those countries who went against WHO's professional recommendations and ICAO's bulletins and have lodged stern representations with them," she said.
"Their actions, which sowed panic among the public, will not help prevent and control the epidemic. They have gravely disrupted normal personnel exchanges, international cooperation and order of the international market of air transportation," she said.
Hua said China's civil flights will not be suspended, and the Chinese government will take its nationals home wherever they are.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China has taken effective measures to minimise the possibility of virus spreading in airplanes and to ensure travellers' safety and health on international flights, she said.
"We hope all countries can assess the epidemic situation and China's efforts in a calm, objective and rational manner and do not overreact," she added. Hua urged the countries not to restrict the flights.
"We urge the relevant countries to think carefully, not to overreact, nor restrict flights operated by airlines of the two sides, with bilateral relations and cooperation in mind. They should immediately correct their policies and wrongdoings in reference to recommendations of the WHO and ICAO and take concrete actions to support China's battle against the epidemic," she said.