THE Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has ordered the suspension of all flights linking Wuhan, China and the Philippines to protect the country from the spread of the new flu-like virus.

In a statement Friday, the aviation regulator said it ordered all airlines to cancel such flights indefinitely, except those operated by Royal Air Charter Services and Pan Pacific Air, which are only allowed “for the sole purpose of ferrying their charter passengers back to Wuhan.”

Royal Air has flights linking to Wuhan on Jan. 24 and 27, while Pan Pacific Air has one scheduled on Jan. 25. The CAB allowed these trips to proceed as scheduled, provided the return flight from Wuhan will have no passengers and the airlines will “exercise extraordinary vigilance in ensuring the health and safety of its passengers and crews.”

The CAB has raised the alert on passengers coming from Wuhan after a Chinese boy in Cebu City tested positive for the new coronavirus earlier this week.

As of Friday, the virus has killed 26 and affected over 800 in China, Reuters reported.

While the suspension of flights is currently limited to those connected to Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, CAB Executive Director Carmelo L. Arcilla said the agency is continuously monitoring developments in other Chinese cities.

Arlines are also directed to monitor events and take necessary precautionary measures to arrest the spread of the virus.

Airline operator Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said it is likewise “closely monitoring” passengers from China, with special attention to the Kalibo International Airport where direct flights from Wuhan land.

In a statement, CAAP said its preparedness procedures for communicable diseases have been activated in international airports in Puerto Princesa, General Santos, Zamboanga, Davao, Kalibo, Laoag and Iloilo.

“Protocols are already in place in the airports where airport frontline personnel have been advised to wear face masks, maintain proper hygiene and practice regular handwashing. Posting of public advisories informing about coronavirus infections and the strict monitoring of suspected passengers are now also being enforced,” it said.

The Manila International Airport Authority, which operates the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, has also required the provision of a quarantine with space for health examination and the availability of hand sanitizers in the four terminals of the airport. — Denise A. Valdez