China will continue to divert all international flights bound for Beijing to designated airports as their first port of entry, said China's top aviation regulator.
Shanghai, which used to handle international flights bound for the capital, will no longer serve as the first port of entry, with four provincial capitals－Chengdu of Sichuan, Changsha of Hunan, Hefei of Anhui and Lanzhou of Gansu－added to the list, according to a notice issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China late on Monday.
Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, will also become the first backup city to receive international arrivals, the administration said.
The aviation authority said that all incoming international flights to Beijing will land at one of 15 designated airports, where passengers will be screened. Wuhan will serve as the backup for those cities. Passengers who are cleared will then be permitted to reboard the plane, which will take them on to Beijing.
In terms of making Wuhan a backup city, Wang Guangfa, a respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital, said that the move shows that Wuhan, once hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, is now very safe and capable of handling sporadic imported cases.
The city revealed no new confirmed COVID-19 cases after testing almost its entire population recently, and the 300 asymptomatic carriers it identified are not infectious, he added.
As the infection risks in Wuhan remain very low, and since Beijing lowered its emergency response to the epidemic from the second highest level to the third highest, flights between the two cities also resumed on Tuesday, with one round-trip flight operated by China Southern Airlines per day from Wuhan Tianhe Airport to Beijing Daxing International Airport, according to Wuhan's transportation bureau.
Other companies including China Eastern Airlines and Air China are also working on resuming flights between the two cities, it added.
Lin Zhijie, an aviation industry analyst and columnist at Carnoc, a Chinese civil aviation website, said that as the country eases coronavirus restrictions to allow more foreign carriers to fly to the country, Shanghai, also an aviation hub itself, will likely witness a surge in resumed international flights. Though it will not serve as the first point of entry for Beijing-bound flights, it will keep receiving international flights that have Shanghai as the final destination.
With the increase of flights expected and the still-unfolding epidemic situation abroad, Shanghai will be overwhelmed by the anti-epidemic pressure if the city still needs to handle diverted flights that are supposed to land in Beijing, he added.
The latest statistic from the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission shows that a total of 337 imported cases had been reported in Shanghai as of Monday.