Employees of two Chinese state-owned companies in Iraq are blocked from returning to China for two months after 14 coworkers flew home with the coronavirus, Beijing’s embassy in Baghdad said Friday.
China has repeatedly suspended the rights of airlines to fly certain routes after infections were found among their passengers. But a decision to target Chinese citizens working for state-owned companies abroad is unusual.
The 14 employees who flew home with the virus in April worked for China Power Construction Corp. in Rumaila and for the China Machinery Engineering Corp. in Basra, the Chinese Embassy said on its social media account.
Beijing suspended issuing health codes to other employees on those projects for two months, the embassy said. That blocks them from boarding flights to China.
Failure to detect the virus before the employees boarded two Iraqi Airlines flights “caused a serious risk of importing the epidemic,” the statement said. It gave no details of whether they passed the virus to anyone in China.
The ruling Communist Party has lifted most restrictions on travel and business within China since declaring the virus under control last March. It is gradually easing controls on travel into and out of the country.
Health codes, carried on smartphones, are used in China to track whether individuals have been infected or have visited high-risk areas.
Once the suspension is lifted, the employees in Iraq will be required to undergo virus tests within 48 hours of boarding a flight, the embassy said.
Also Friday, the Chinese air regulator said Iraqi Airlines’ flights from Baghdad to Guangzhou would be suspended for two weeks due to the incident.
The air regulator also announced two-week suspensions of routes flown by Air France, Rwanda Airlines and Bangladesh’s US-Bangla Airlines because infected passengers were found on their flights.