By Sam Bridge
Dubai Airports is preparing to welcome thousands of Chinese travellers at Dubai International ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year weekend as fears grow over deadly virus outbreak
Dubai, which operates one of the busiest airports in the world, will conduct thermal screening on all passengers arriving on direct flights from China as a precaution against coronavirus.
“The screening will be conducted on secured, closed gates at the airport,” Dubai Airports said in a statement.
The statement came as Dubai Airports is preparing to welcome thousands of Chinese travellers at Dubai International (DXB) ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year weekend.
Figures from the 2019 DXB traffic report confirmed that nearly 3.7 million customers from the country travelled through the airport, a 5 percent increase year-on-year. There are more than 90 weekly flights to Chinese destinations from Dubai.
China has been an area of focus for Dubai Airports for a number of years and new products and services have been introduced across the airport to ensure DXB is well positioned to cater to the needs of the growing customer base from this region.
Measures include the installation of potable hot water dispensers, the roll out of Alipay by a number of concessionaires and the use of Mandarin language for communication – for restaurant menus as well as digital channels such as the airport’s Wi-Fi product.
This year, to welcome the year of the Golden Rat, Dubai International will be celebrating on Friday and Saturday with a range of activities around the airport, including an exclusive performance from Chinese pop superstar, Joey Jia and a live broadcast of the Chinese New Year Gala, courtesy of China Central Television (CCTV).
The plans were announced on the same day that China locked down two major cities in a province at the centre of a deadly virus outbreak, banning planes and trains from leaving in an unprecedented move aimed at containing the disease which has already spread to other countries.
The respiratory virus has claimed 17 lives since emerging from a seafood and animal market in Wuhan, infected hundreds of other people nationwide and been detected as far away as the United States.
Residents in Wuhan, a major port city in central Hubei province with a population of 11 million people, were told Thursday not to leave "without a special reason", and the order was backed by a transport shutdown.
Trains and planes out of Wuhan were indefinitely suspended, tollways on roads out the city were closed, leading to fear and panic for those who were trapped.
Hours later, authorities in neighbouring Huanggang announced that public transport and train services would be suspended at midnight, while people were told to not leave the city of 7.5 million.
All of Huanggang's cinemas, internet cafes, and the central market will close.
A third city, 1.1 million-population Ezhou, announced the train station had been temporarily closed earlier in the day.
More than 570 people have been infected with the virus across China - with most cases found in Wuhan, where a seafood market that illegally sold wild animals has been identified as the epicentre of the outbreak.
The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract.
The first case of the new virus was confirmed on December 31, and it has since been detected in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.
The 17 people who died in China were aged from 48 to 89, and had pre-existing health conditions, Chinese health authorities said Thursday.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday delayed a decision on whether to declare a global health emergency -- a rare instrument used only for the worst outbreaks.
* With AgenciesFor all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.