China has suspended the majority of flights from the United States to Shanghai in response to an increase in the number of inbound visitors with COVID-19, the state-run Shanghai Daily said Wednesday.
China's Civil Aviation Administration announced on Wednesday that it would block two United Airlines flights between San Francisco and Shanghai beginning Jan. 24 as a result of seven passengers testing positive for the virus during a recent travel.
Delta Airlines said it canceled flights from Detroit to Shanghai on Friday and January 14 in response to China's directive forcing "all affected airlines" with customers diagnosed with COVID-19 to comply.
CAAC has also grounded at least 22 other Chinese airlines' flights to the United States since December following positive COVID-19 testing, including eight operated by China Southern Airlines.
The United States is experiencing an outbreak of infections caused by the extremely contagious Omicron variant, with 132,646 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, breaking the January 2021 record of 132,051.
The seven-day average for new cases has more than doubled to 704,000 in the last ten days.
Five American, United, and Delta Airlines flights to Shanghai, as well as one operated by China Eastern Airlines, will be suspended for two to four weeks beginning next week, according to the Shanghai Daily's website.
Since the end of 2021, more than 50 people on these flights have tested positive at Shanghai Pudong International Airport - the city's primary international airport, according to the publication, citing the CAAC.
Additionally, SD reported that China Eastern's MU-588 flight from New York to Shanghai and United Airlines' UA857 flight from San Francisco to Shanghai will be suspended for 14 days beginning next week.
The suspension comes soon before the Chinese New Year holiday and the opening of the Beijing Olympics.
In recent weeks, China's aviation regulator ordered the cancellation of over 60 scheduled flights from the U.S.
China and the U.S. have been at odds over air services since the pandemic broke out. In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation restricted four flights operated by Chinese carriers to 40% passenger capacity for four weeks, after Beijing's imposition of similar restrictions on four United Airlines flights.
China informed United in August that it was placing restrictions on some flights following claims that five passengers traveling from San Francisco to Shanghai on July 21 tested positive for COVID-19.
A long-standing agreement between the Washington and Beijing provides for the operation of over 100 weekly flights between the two countries, but only a handful of those are currently operational.