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Heathrow Airport in London, England. (Photo: bbc.com)

Coronavirus reaches Europe’s busiest airport

Heathrow Airport in London, England. (Photo: bbc.com)

The coronavirus has reached Europe’s busiest airport, after two British Airways baggage handlers at London Heathrow tested positive for the disease.

South Korean soldier wearing protective suits spray a street in the Gangnam district of Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday, March 5, 2020.

The affected workers are recovering in isolation at home, British Airways parent IAG SA said Friday in an email. A small number of the luggage handlers’ colleagues are also being tested, a person familiar with the matter said.

The outbreak’s presence at such a heavily traversed junction is likely to escalate concerns about air travel after the virus’s spread from Asia caused consumers in Europe and the US to pull back. The International Air Transport Association warned this week that carriers may lose $113 billion in sales this year, almost four times greater than its estimate of the epidemic’s impact from just two weeks earlier.

Passengers wait with their luggage outside terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport in London, U.K., on Friday, December 23, 2016.

“The welfare of our passengers and colleagues is our top priority,” a Heathrow said in an emailed statement. A dedicated team from Public Health England, the health agency that confirmed the cases, is in place at Heathrow to respond to any incidents, the company said. The airport is also cleaning surfaces and providing hand sanitisers to workers “to protect themselves and our passengers.”

British Airways, the biggest operator at London Heathrow, has already scrapped all flights to China through April, and said it will pare back on destinations in Europe, Japan and South Korea. It’s also reduced services on its usually lucrative transatlantic route to New York, as companies restrict business travel and holiday makers postpone plans.