SAS cancels flights to China as coronavirus spreads

Scandinavian airline SAS is cancelling flights to and from mainland China over fears of the potentially deadly coronavirus.

SAS cancels flights to China as coronavirus spreads
SAS said it had decided to ground all flights to and from mainland China. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
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“The safety of our passengers and employees is our highest priority. After evaluating the situation in China regarding the coronavirus, SAS has decided to suspend all flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing,” said the airline in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

The cancellations affect flights from Copenhagen – the main international airport used by people based in Denmark and southern Sweden – between January 31st and February 9th.

SAS said it was also closing sales for flights to Shanghai and Beijing until February 29th.

Flights to and from Hong Kong are not affected by the cancellations.

Passengers who were due to travel to, from or via Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong would be allowed to change their reservation and rebook their flight to another travel date, or receive a refund, said SAS.

Here's a link to more information about changing your flight or requesting a refund.

READ ALSO: Norwegian hospital debunks 'fake news' coronavirus rumour

Meanwhile in Europe, a cruise ship carrying 6,000 passengers was placed on lockdown off the coast of Italy as a Chinese couple were being tested for the coronavirus.

The outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan – which is an international transport hub – at a fish market in late December and since then 170 people have died, with about 7,700 confirmed cases.

Outside China, Macau and Hong Kong there have been at least 80 infections reported, including one person in Finland, but none in the rest of the Nordic region.

The large extent of international travel means that individual cases of people contracting the virus cannot be ruled out, but health authorities believe the risk of catching the virus in Scandinavia is very low.

What you need to know about the coronavirus in Sweden, Denmark and Norway

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Norwegian police urge travellers not to book holidays without a valid passport 

The public has been warned by the Norwegian Police Directorate, which issues travel documents, to not book any foreign holidays without a valid passport due to long waiting times for travel documents.

Norwegian police urge travellers not to book holidays without a valid passport 

Due to long waiting times, the public has been cautioned against making holiday plans without a valid Norwegian passport as travel documents may not arrive in time for the trip. 

“We would strongly encourage people to wait to book a holiday abroad before they know that they have their travel documents in order,” Bjørn Vandvik from the Norwegian Police Directorate said in a statement on Wednesday

Previously the police said that those travelling within the EEA this summer should instead order a national ID card which allows for travel within the Schengen area because that form of travel documentation was subject to shorter waiting times. 

Those wishing to travel during fellesferie, the collective holiday period in Norway, have been advised to order new travel documents by the end of May or the beginning of June at the latest. 

Despite the measures put in place by the police to try and ensure that supply meets demand, waiting lists are growing longer, and the authorities don’t expect the backlog to be cleared until the autumn.

The current waiting time for passports is around seven weeks. However, the police have said they expect this to increase to 10 weeks by July. 

READ MORE: How do Norway’s slow passport processing times compare to Denmark and Sweden?

So far this year, the police have received 560,40 passport applications. In contrast, the police registered 270,000 applications in 2019. 

A mixture of the pandemic and war in Ukraine has made getting the materials used to produce national ID cards and passports more difficult.