Resumption of flights to China: The economy trumps Egyptians’ health

EgyptAir announced in a statement last Thursday that it will resume some flights to and from China starting this week. The company suspended all flights to China in early February due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. “EgyptAir decided to operate one flight per week, every Thursday,” the statement said. The company decided to resume flights due to an increase in the number of passengers wishing to travel. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a letter of thanks and appreciation to the Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for sending a message of solidarity and support to confront the coronavirus, and for the medical assistance provided. The Chinese ambassador to Cairo, Liao Lichiang, said at a press conference yesterday that Xi Jinping was happy Egypt has decided to resume flights to and from China (Cairo-Beijing-Guangzhou) starting from February 27. But EgyptAir’s decision to resume flights has fueled public concerns and widespread anger at the decision, which came amid global concerns about the spread of the new, highly contagious virus.

Egyptian activists described the decision as a “disaster” that reflects the Egyptian regime’s lack of concern for the health and safety of Egyptians. The Egyptian decision to resume flights to China is contrary to the decision taken by many airlines including Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa and other major international companies. MP Mona Mounir submitted an urgent request for a briefing on EgyptAir’s decision to resume flights to and from China: “China is still suffering due to the damage related to the deadly virus, and it is likely that China will be more isolated from the world against the background of the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which has so far claimed the lives of 300 people, and accordingly more international airlines have suspended or reduced their flights to China, while countries closed their borders with China.” However, she added that she was “surprised by a decision issued by [EgyptAir] to resume its flights to China.” She described the decision as “strange” at a time when “countries are moving away from the source of the virus, the Egyptian National Company is returning airlines to China, especially since the virus is still active, and there is no cure until now, and cases of infection are still increasing.” Egypt also needs to do business with China in order to import cheap Chinese products that Cairo relies on for most of its needs. But the problem is that this decision comes at a time when the Chinese authorities announced, on Saturday, that the death toll from coronavirus hit 2,345, while the number of infected people exceeded 76,000.