March 18, 2020 12:06
Chinese and Korean expats in Europe are fleeing to their home countries as the coronavirus epidemic spreads quickly on the continent.
Reservations on flights from Paris to Incheon this week have been fully booked. Plane tickets sold out as Korean residents in Italy and Spain flock to Paris to fly home since direct flights from those two countries have been stopped.
The Korean Embassy in France has asked Asiana Airlines to resume flights to Paris after they were temporarily halted until next month, while asking Korean Air to send an Airbus A-380 jumbo plane to ferry Korean residents back home. But the two carriers are bristling at the request.
It is unclear if even the remaining flights can continue, with the French government halting all incoming flights from non-EU countries from Tuesday. Adding to the confusion, the French government has not decided whether to allow Koreans from third countries to transfer through airports in Paris to return to Korea.
Korean residents in Italy are considering asking the government here to send chartered planes to airlift them back home.
Infection rates are soaring in Europe amid mounting fears that proper medical care may not be available due to overstrained resources there.
Europe is now reporting more confirmed cases than Korea. Outside China which still has the highest number of infections with 80,895, Italy has reported 31,506 patients so far followed by Iran (16,169), Spain (11,826) and Germany (9,367).
According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, total cases of coronavirus in Korea increased to 8,413 with 84 deaths by Wednesday morning. New infections have dropped to double digits for about a week, although concerns remain about sporadic group infections.
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