All scheduled direct flights from China to Hawaii have been suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.
China Eastern Airlines informed government officials today about its decision to suspend flights to Hawaii starting Monday in response to the deadly virus, said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
It is the only airline providing direct flights between China and Hawaii and does not have any more flights to the island today.
“It’s a good thing that China Eastern has suspended their flights, but we still need to be vigilant about any passengers that are redirected through other countries to our state,” he said.
Federal officials announced Friday that Honolulu will be one of seven airports where all flights to the U.S. from China will be funneled starting today — amid growing fears over the rapid spread of the disease.
The U.S. declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak in China, placing a temporary ban on foreign nationals who recently traveled to the country — other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The federal government also ordered an unprecedented 14-day quarantine of those who visited Hubei province within two weeks.
There is only one direct flight from Shanghai to Honolulu, on China Eastern, which runs six days a week. The airline had planned to reduce the flights to two days a week in March. American, Delta and United airlines already have suspended service from China, and others are anticipated to follow suit.
But it is unknown how many flights may be diverted to Honolulu and whether the state has the capacity, in the worst-case scenario, to quarantine large numbers of ill travelers.
There are 3,000 U.S. citizens potentially returning from China, but most live on the mainland and will require self quarantine, Green said.
“Very few Americans are returning from Wuhan but the virus is dynamic and we have to be very careful,” he said, adding that state officials expect to have a military quarantine site on Oahu and are “applying some pressure to the federal government to rethink their choice of Honolulu.”
“It makes more sense to have it be in larger states that have larger military installations that can quarantine people,” Green added. “We are hopeful that very few individuals that need to be quarantined come to Hawaii. We don’t appreciate the federal quarantine mandate, but we will do what’s necessary to keep all Hawaii citizens safe.”