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Wed 3 Feb 2016 12:18 PM

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Qatar Airways offers refunds to pregnant flyers as Zika crisis deepens

Etihad Airways says virus has had no impact on its services

Qatar Airways offers refunds to pregnant flyers as Zika crisis deepens

Qatar Airways has become the latest Gulf airline to offer refunds to selected passengers who have bought tickets to countries hit by the Zika virus.

Etihad Airways, meanwhile, said in a statement that it is “monitoring the situation”.

Qatar Airways said it is offering to refund tickets or change the travel date free of charge for pregnant women and their companions.

In a statement on its website on Tuesday night, the company said: “Qatar Airways is offering travel options to pregnant women and their travel companions who have been ticketed by 02 February 2016 for travel through 31 March 2016 to countries known to host the Zika virus, including one free change of date or a refund.

“Eligible passengers are encouraged to discuss options with Qatar Airways by contacting their travel agent or Qatar Airways’ 24-hour call centre on +974 4023 0000.”

It added that passengers considering travel to Zika-affected nations can find further information by visiting the websites of the World Health Organisation, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation.

Meanwhile, Etihad Airways said it is operating its normal schedule of flights to the Americas and Africa.

It said in a statement: “The Zika virus situation in South America has had no impact on Etihad Airways services.

“However, the airline will continue to monitor the situation.”

Earlier this week, Emirates Airline announced it was refunding tickets for all passengers who had intended to travel to Zika-hit regions. The airline currently services three South American cities, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires.

The World Health Organisation on Monday declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus a global public health emergency.

It told the first meeting of the International Health Regulations committee: “A coordinated international response is needed to minimise the threat in affected countries and reduce the risk of further international spread.”

The virus has been linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil and other countries in the Americas are likely to see babies with Zika-linked birth defects as the outbreak spreads.

Countries affected by Zika are Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, US Virgin Islands, Venezuela, Samoa and Cape Verde, according to official reports.

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