Coronavirus: Queen's University charters plane for Chinese students

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QatarImage source, AFP
Image caption,
The flight will be operated by Qatar airlines and leaves Beijing on 18 September

Queen's University in Belfast (QUB) has chartered a jet to take hundreds of students from China to NI in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Chinese students offer a vital source of income at a time when Covid-19 has triggered fears about huge losses, the Irish News reports.

Queen's said new and returning students would be offered places on the direct flight from Beijing on 18 September.

Students will pay a similar rate to comparable commercial flights.

The university also set out guidelines to reassure families about safety.

"With international travel badly impacted by the pandemic, and with many people still wary of travelling via London and other major airports, flying students from China to Belfast is seen as reassuring to both students and their families, while helping reduce fuss and anxiety levels for those making the trip," the university said in a statement on its website.

Image caption,
Queen's said strict safety protocol was in place

There are currently about 1,200 Chinese students studying at Queen's. At the beginning of February, the university stopped any travel to China because of the pandemic.

The September flight is strictly for QUB students travelling to the university.

A member of the university staff will be on the flight to answer any questions.

In a statement, QUB said: "Passengers will be required to provide evidence of a recent negative Covid-19 test and must also not be displaying symptoms at the time of travel.

"The students will be transported directly to campus from the airport and provided with quarantine accommodation if these measures are still required at that time."

It added that the flight had been arranged for students from China, in the first instance, as the country or region with the greatest demand.

Additional flights may be arranged from other regions, depending on demand, it said.

'Spike in demand'

In February, private jet operators across the UK saw a big spike in requests from passengers wanting to charter their own planes during the coronavirus outbreak.

With airlines scaling back flights in and out of China, some travellers were stuck inside or outside the country.

The wealthy ones are turning to private jet operators to ask them to arrange flights, despite the huge costs.

But the companies had to turn them away due to travel bans and a lack of available planes and crews.