European airlines slip amid fears of spread of COVID-19 cases in China

By Scott Kanowski — Shares of European long-haul airlines fell on Thursday as concerns grew over the impact of the spread of COVID-19 cases in China.

German carrier Deutsche Lufthansa (ETR:LHAG), along with rivals Air France KLM (EPA:AIRF) and International Consolidated Airlines Group (LON:ICAG), all fell to the bottom of the pan-European STOXX 600.

On Thursday, the European Union’s Health Security Committee – an informal council advising high-level European officials – called for joint action to deal with a possible increase in COVID-19 cases as China begins to lift its longstanding strict pandemic restrictions. Beijing previously announced it would scrap quarantine rules for arrivals on January 8, raising hopes that the world’s second-largest economy could outgrow an era of tough coronavirus regulations. But that optimism is showing signs of waning as cases rise across the country.

“Coordinating national responses to serious cross-border health threats is crucial,” the EU health and safety committee said in a tweet.

The statement comes after the United States and Italy on Wednesday joined a list of countries – including Japan, India, South Korea and Taiwan – requiring proof of negative COVID tests for inbound air travelers from from China.

Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said the move was necessary to “ensure surveillance and detection” of any possible variant of COVID-19. He also urged Brussels to institute a bloc-wide testing rule for inbound travelers from China, arguing that many Chinese passengers enter the country through the EU’s free travel zone.

Health officials in Italy’s northern Lombardy region said high infection rates were found on two recent flights to Milan Malpensa airport from China. One of the flights saw 52% of the 120 passengers on board test positive, as did 38% of another flight with 92 passengers.

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