Top Chinese cargo airline suspends flights to India
The largest cargo flight operator from China to India, the Chinese state-owned Sichuan Airlines has suspended its services to India for 15 days because of the surge in Covid-19 cases.
It is likely to disrupt frantic efforts by Indian private companies to import medical supplies including oxygen concentrators to fight the pandemic from China.
The suspension comes despite Beijing’s repeated offers of “support and assistance” to India to fight the pandemic.
The airlines operated 10 flights on six routes to four India cities comprising Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.
In a letter to the sales agents on Monday, the Sichuan Chuanhang Logistics Co. Ltd, part of the Sichuan Airlines said the airline has suspended its cargo flights on all six routes - Xi’an-Delhi, Xi’an-Mumbai, Chengdu-Chennai, Chongqing-Chennai, Chengdu-Bangalore, and Chongqing-Delhi - for 15 days,
The airlines said “…in the face of sudden changes in the epidemic situation (in India), in order to reduce the number of imported cases, it is decided” to suspend the flights.
The airlines added the India route has “always been the core strategic route for Sichuan Airlines” but added that the Indian Covid-19 outbreak had not only caused “…a record number of deaths but also caused a surge in imported cases in China, many places in the world have grounded flights to India.”
The Chinese foreign ministry, however, did not offer any comment on the suspension of cargo flights from the Chinese mainland to India.
“With regard to the operation of airlines, I will refer you to the relevant airlines for more information,” foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin said when asked to comment on the development.
The ministry also did not confirm or deny a tweet by the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka, which said 800 oxygen concentrators have been airlifted from Hong Kong to Delhi with another 10,000 to be dispatched in the coming week.
“800 Oxygen Concentrators have been airlifted today from #HongKong to #Delhi; 10,000 more in a week. #China is keeping in touch with #India for urgent needs. Stay Strong,” the tweet published by the Chinese embassy in Colombo early on Monday said.
When asked to comment on the tweet, Wang only said: “As I said, China is willing to provide necessary support and help to India in its fight against the virus. If India raises specific demands, we will provide help and support to the best of our capability.”
“We have stated that we are ready to help India fight the virus in the first opportunity available. (The) two sides are in communication regarding this,” Wang said at the ministry briefing.
“China has been following closely the epidemic situation in India. We show our sincerest sympathies to the worsening situation in India,” Wang said.
“About India’s readiness to buy medical supplies from China, I understand this is a commercial activity. If India raises specific demands, China is ready to provide help and support to the best of capability,” he added.
To a question on three other Quad members (the US, Australia, and Japan) not helping the fourth member, India, during this crisis, Wang said countries should work together to fight the virus.
“With regard to some mechanisms that you mentioned, we hope we can also follow this principle and work towards building a community with a shared future and to provide support and help to other countries in their fight (the) virus and show their true responsibilities and obligations.”
Wang reiterated that the Covid-19 outbreak is a common challenge for mankind.
“On this issue, countries should work together. We have to fight the virus together. We also made it clear that China stands ready to provide support and help to India in fighting coronavirus. We hope that all countries should unite as one, to defeat the virus, which is a common enemy for mankind.”