Jun 02, 2021 07:55 PM

South China Covid-19 Outbreak Cancels Flights, Slows Seaborne Freight Handling

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport appears empty on Tuesday as the local government updated restrictions to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: IC Photo
Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport appears empty on Tuesday as the local government updated restrictions to curb the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: IC Photo

Hundreds of passenger flights were canceled in China’s southern metropolis of Guangzhou on Wednesday and handling of seaborne freight was moving at a fraction of normal speed in the world’s third-largest port of Shenzhen, as local governments tightened measures to contain the latest Covid-19 outbreak.

By Wednesday evening, 63% of more than 1,350 scheduled flights to and from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport were canceled, according to VariFlight, an aviation data services provider. The airport is ranked among the nation’s top three busiest together with Beijing and Shanghai. Local thunderstorms contributed to the cancellations.

The city government rolled out travel restrictions, banning people from leaving the city by rail, road or air unless they can present a negative test result for the virus conducted in the preceding three days, after the Health Commission of Guangdong province reported 36 locally transmitted cases since May 31. As of Wednesday, there were 85 (link in Chinese) cases of hospitalization in Guangdong.

While a large number passenger flights were canceled, cargo planes have not been affected, a person at China Southern Air Holding Co. Ltd. told Caixin. But it is unclear how air freight will be affected by the grounding of passenger flights, as they also carry cargo.

Handling of seaborne freight at one of the world’s busiest ports Shenzhen has been delayed amid disinfection and quarantine operations. A.P. Moller — Maersk, the world’s largest container shipper, estimated Monday that congestion and delays at Shenzhen’s Yantian International Container Terminal would continue for the coming seven to eight days.

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“Operation in the eastern area of the terminal where mother vessels mainly berth continues to experience the low productivity which is about 30% of its normal level,” it said in a statement.

Yantian, which is part of the Shenzhen port, ranked as the third busiest terminal globally in 2019 by the World Shipping Council, had suspended export laden container gate-in for a few days as Covid-19 infections were found linked to (link in Chinese) the port operations late last month. The gate-in was resumed Monday.

Air and sea freight prices remain high as the pandemic’s disruptions to container shipping intensified, analysts at Shenwan Hongyuan Securities Co. Ltd. wrote in a Saturday note.

Passengers holding railway tickets out of Guangzhou had trips canceled Tuesday and offered refunds after the restrictions took effect Monday, according to railway staff.

Like Guangzhou, Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport imposed restrictions requiring passengers with Guangzhou or Foshan identity cards to present negative Covid-19 test results from within the preceding three days as well as a green “health code” before boarding. The requirements took effect on Wednesday.

Contact reporter Guo Yingzhe ( and editor Flynn Murphy (

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