Air Canada extends flight suspension to Chinese cities, citing virus

Air Canada announced Monday it would temporarily lay off nearly half of its employees and reduce activity by up to 90 percent in the second quarter due to the coronavirus

Air Canada announced Tuesday it is extending its suspension of flights between Canada and the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai until April 10 due to the new coronavirus epidemic. 

Flights from Canada to the two cities had been temporarily suspended from January 30 to the end of February after the foreign ministry advised Canadians against non-essential travel to China in light of the virus's rapid spread there. 

The Air Canada website says the company and health authorities "will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely" and "will adjust its schedule as appropriate."

The airline usually offers direct flights from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to Beijing and Shanghai. 

And the company also extended the suspension of daily flights to Hong Kong from Toronto until April 30, citing "reduced market demand."

Flights to and from Taipei "remain unaffected," according to the company's website.

Air Canada estimated that its first quarter net profit would be approximately Can$200 million (138 million euros) less than in the same period the previous year, thanks to coronavirus travel restrictions and the recall of Boeing 737MAX planes. 

COVID-19 -- the disease caused by the novel coronavirus infection -- has killed more than 2,600 people and infected almost 80,000 others, mainly in China, according to the World Health Organization. There have been 11 cases confirmed in Canada.