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Updated Feb 5, 2020

The World Health Organization formally declared the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan a global health emergency, which kicked in a number of travel restrictions from Australia, Japan, and the United States. African countries have increased screenings at ports of entry as well, save for one rather large exception: Ethiopia. The African country with the second-largest population has not suspended flights to and from China, which has greatly irked Ethiopians fearful of the outbreak reaching the East African country.

Ethiopian Airlines operates close to half of the 2,616 annual flights between Africa and China. Their decision to continue receiving flights coming in from Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shanghai, and Beijing, carrying on average 1,500 passengers, has been called out on Ethiopian social media as a grave risk for the country’s health system, with some accusing the government of putting business interests ahead of public health and safety. No confirmed case has been found in Africa as of February 3, although Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Botswana have quarantined suspected carriers and ordered tests to confirm if the virus has in fact reached the continent, which is still battling an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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