Prague, Czech Republic – The first direct flights between Prague and Hanoi, originally set to start in April, have been postponed due to fears regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19.
Prague-Hanoi flights postponed over fears of coronavirus spread
According to local media citing sources from Prague Airport, Vietnamese airline Bamboo Airways decided to delay by at least one month the launch of the first direct connections between Prague and Hanoi due to a drop in demand linked to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.
The original plan unveiled in January after years of negotiations was to launch direct flights twice a week between the two capital cities.
“Based on our estimates, the new Prague-Hanoi service with two frequencies a week could be used by more than 50,000 passengers per year in both directors”, Vaclav Rehor, head of Prague Airport’s board of directors, said in a statement at the time.
Truong Phuong Thanh, deputy-general director of Bamboo Airways, a low-cost carrier that started operations in January 2019, had also hailed the Czech Republic as “the new gateway to this old continent”.
The Czech Republic has one of the largest Vietnamese communities in Europe (and biggest per capita), with over 100,000 Vietnamese nationals living in the country. The historical ties between the two countries date back to the 1970s and 1980s, when then-Czechoslovakia and Vietnam struck an agreement to send thousands of Vietnamese as guest-students or workers in the Soviet satellite state – many of whom eventually stayed after the fall of communism.
Coronavirus spreads in Central Europe
The spread of the coronavirus has for now put these plans on hold. With 40 confirmed cases of the infection at the time of writing – although none of the patients are said to be in a serious condition – the Czech Republic has taken measures to try to contain the spread of the virus in the country.
After banning flights between the Czech Republic and China, the government announced last week that flight connections with regions in northern Italy and with South Korea were cancelled.
Last week, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis hosted an ‘exceptional’ V4 summit with his counterparts from Slovakia, Hungary and Poland and vowed to “use all measures” and coordinate their governments’ actions to fight the viral outbreak. After reporting its first case the day after the Visegrad Group meeting, Slovakia now has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection, while Poland and Hungary have 18 and 12 respectively.
Fake news and disinformation are spreading as quickly, if not quicker, than the virus itself, which across the world is taking over the political agenda and used by some governments, including in Hungary, for domestic political purposes.
In that regard, it’s important to battle the panic with facts, stay informed and, most importantly, maintain good hygiene and use common sense as always during flu season:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Main photo credit: Luong Thai Linh/EPA