'This truly is a nightmare': How one businesswoman's flight to China ended in coronavirus quarantine
- The Aeroflot flight she boarded on Friday in Moscow had two passengers infected with the virus. As a result, she is now quarantined in a Beijing hotel.
- The case of this Aeroflot flight shows how the problems of the coronavirus are becoming truly global, disrupting people's lives in places and ways that can be difficult to anticipate.
Businesswoman Bian Jingjing has a message about the coronavirus for the world: be more prepared.
The Aeroflot flight she boarded on Friday in Moscow had two passengers infected with the virus. As a result, she is now quarantined in a Beijing hotel.
"I was pretty cautious and now I'm here. It's not fair," she said over WeChat.
The case of this Aeroflot flight shows how the problems of the coronavirus are becoming truly global, disrupting people's lives in places and ways that can be difficult to anticipate.
After a month in Europe, Bian was flying home through Russia where there have been only two cases reported in the entire country. But as it turned out, the two infected passengers were transiting from Iran, which is experiencing one of the world's most severe outbreaks. Bian said she saw no health screening or precautions taken by Sheremetyevo International Airport or by the airline before passengers boarded her flight SU 204.
"How could they allow everyone to get on the plane without any testing?" She fumed. "Other countries, other governments, should do more — require all airports to conduct temperature checks at least."
In a statement on its website, Sheremetyevo airport says as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, as of January 31, it has transferred flights including Aeroflot for destinations in China to one terminal. The statement says all terminals have thermal imaging cameras and medical centers are equipped with protective gear such as masks and anti-plague suits.
The airport told CNBC in response to the growing epidemic, sanitation and passenger screening measures have been strengthened for flights from China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. Aeroflot said it is in "constant contact" with relevant authorities and it "goes without saying" that passenger safety is its number one priority.
Upon landing in Beijing, the two infected passengers were pulled off the plane. At a press briefing Sunday, the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control announced that the two passengers were known to be in close contact with another Chinese national who had traveled from Iran and was previously confirmed in China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region to have the virus.
"The two cases were under strict control once they entered China and have undergone checks and tests at the hospital. No residential areas were affected," Pang Xinghuo, deputy chief of the Beijing center said.
Bian says she was stuck on the plane for more than seven hours as health authorities checked temperatures and asked that the roughly 400 passengers fill out health forms. At least some, if not all of the passengers, have been quarantined, she said.
Beijing has become extremely concerned that new outbreaks in the country could be caused by visitors from other infected areas. The Chinese government has been waging a multi-week campaign to try to contain the world's largest outbreak of coronavirus cases.
Bian is now in the Beijing Huiqiao hotel with about 40 other passengers. She was placed in a room alone with two beds. The authorities don't allow the passengers to leave their rooms but she feels she is being treated very well. She said she can order whatever she wants online for delivery to the reception desk and her meals are left promptly outside her door.
"I was sending pictures to my family of my lunch and dinner to make them feel comfortable — that I was safe," she said.
Bian and the other passengers have been getting their temperatures checked twice a day. She assumes she will be in quarantine for at least 14 days.
Her biggest worry now is that she may have contracted the virus during the trip.
"I am anxious because of my family. I don't want them to worry," she said. "This truly is a nightmare."