China travel warning updated after coronavirus patient flew through Netherlands; KLM allows rebooking of China travel

A KLM plane at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam (Photo: David.gaya / Wikimedia Commons)A KLM plane at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam (Photo: David.gaya / Wikimedia Commons)

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated its travel advice for China on Monday night, warning that travelers should avoid the Hubei province except in cases of emergencies. The ministry cautioned that China has implemented many new and far-reaching measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. "This leads to significant consequences throughout China and limits possibilities for transport, tourism and daily life," the Ministry said.

Accessing the province of Hubei, which includes the city Wuhan where the coronavirus outbreak originated, is extremely difficult if not impossible, the ministry said. "Everyone is advised to stay indoors as much as possible," the travel advice stated. "The Chinese government has also asked companies and government organizations to stay closed for longer. Tourist locations and attractions are closed until further notice. This leads to considerable consequences throughout China and limits the possibilities for transport, tourism and daily life," the ministry said after China extended the Chinese New Year period through February 17.

Meanwhile, A 48-year-old Chinese man diagnosed with the coronavirus in France traveled from Wuhan, China to France, with a stop in the Netherlands, according to SOS Medecins. The man arrived in Bordeaux, France on January 22nd and went to the doctor the next day. The test results showing that he has the coronavirus came on on the 24th. The man showed no symptoms when he boarded the plane in China, Reuters reported.​

Minister Bruno Bruins for Medical Care said that good hygiene and avoiding sick people are better preventative measures than handing out masks to everyone arriving from China. With previous disease outbreaks, screening passengers at Schiphol proved not to be effective, which is why this measure hasn't been implemented now, he said. So far all those tested for the virus in the Netherlands have come back negative, according to ANP. 

Travelers who booked a KLM flight to China can cancel or rebook their tickets free of charge, the Dutch airline announced. In this way, KLM is responding to the Chinese Aviation Authority's demand to help  "get the coronavirus under control", the airline said. KLM has direct flights from Schiphol to the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing, Chengdu, Xiamen, and Hong Kong. 

A KLM spokesperson told that the airline is also giving masks to all staff working on flights to and from China. "They are not obligated to wear them. That is on a voluntary basis," the spokesperson said. He could not tell the newspaper whether passengers can also get masks upon request

The KLM spokesperson also did not no whether more travelers than usual are canceling flights to China. "We don't know the reason when people cancel a flight in any case."

A spokesperson for Schiphol airport told that there over a hundred passenger flights between the airport and China per week. Schiphol hasn't noticed any concerns about traveling to China, the spokesperson said. 

On its website, Schiphol informs travelers of the outbreak of the virus, that most patients are from Wuhan city or visited there recently, and that the Wuhan airport therefore took measures, including an exit screening for all travelers. "The World Health Organization has indicated that, for the time being, no additional measures are needed for travelers flying to China," the airport said. It will continue to follow all instructions issued by the WHO and the Dutch health agencies.