Airspaces could be shut down, Citi strategist says

Countries may consider closing their airspaces in the next few weeks if the coronavirus continues to spread across borders, a market strategist told CNBC on Friday.

In an interview with “Squawk Box Europe,” Mark Manduca, managing director and associate director of research for EMEA at Citi, compared coronavirus to other “blind corners” in aviation’s history.

“There are a couple of instances in history you can look at here that have some sort of resonance. One would obviously be the SARS event going back six years, the other would be the ash cloud event of 2010,” he said, referring to the effects of a volcano eruption in Iceland.

“And believe it or not, the government backing of airlines in 9/11 is something I think carries a lot of resonance in this case,” Manduca added. “Will governments step in, not just to back their airlines, but actually shut airspace down at some point in the next few weeks?”

Governments and aviation authorities have in the past closed airspaces completely or selectively in response to certain events.

U.S. airspace shut down following the 9/11 attacks, with the Federal Aviation Administration halting all flights, while the U.K. closed its airspace for six days following the eruption of an Icelandic volcano in 2010.

Pakistan closed its airspace to India for five months last year as political tensions between the neighboring countries intensified.

A number of countries have introduced travel restrictions in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Lebanon’s Transport Ministry said Friday it had halted flights for nonresidents from countries where outbreaks had been reported, including China, Italy and South Korea, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Australia, Russia and New Zealand have restricted travel for foreign nationals traveling from China to their countries.

China’s National Health Commission reported 327 new cases and 44 additional deaths as of Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases on the mainland up to 78,824.

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