Passengers on a SriLankan Airlines flight which has been suspended by China after some on board were found to have had the coronavirus, are Chinese nationals.
SriLankan Airlines today confirmed the temporary suspension of its Colombo-Shanghai operation by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) for a period of four weeks.
The airline said it operated a charter flight with 223 Chinese national onboard from Dubai to Shanghai via Colombo on the 7th of August 2020. Prior to this flight SriLankan operated two similar flights from Dubai to Shanghai with zero COVID positive cases.
For the charter flight on 7th August, the charter operator insisted for all passengers to take the COVID PCR test from the local professional testing facilities which is also used by other prominent international airlines and carried out PCR tests on each of the 223 passengers.
This testing process was carried out 72 hours prior to boarding the flight and all passengers boarded the flight with negative test results shown at the time of operation of the special charter flight.
These tests were carried out as a pro-active safety measure for the passengers and the crew at a time the PCR test was not considered as a mandatory requirement for China -bound flight out of Dubai.
Despite these measures taken, 25 passengers who were in this charter flight were found positive for COVID upon their arrival in China.
In the wake of the COVID outbreak, The Civil Aviation Authorities in China (CAAC) had introduced a new policy referred as the five one policy, which restricts an airline to operate to one point to China per week. In line with this new policy, SriLankan Airlines had engaged in operating 15 such charter flights repatriating over 3000 Chinese passengers from United Kingdom and Dubai to China without any incidents.
As per the CAAC policy, temporary flight suspensions are given to airlines, if only more than five COVID positive cases are found on a flight. The particular special charter flight operated on 7 August had 23 passengers tested positive for COVID, thus CAAC temporarily suspended SriLankan Airlines for four weeks as per the new regulations in place.
SriLankan Cargo operation remains unaffected and will continue to fly to China when required. (Colombo Gazette)