A video has emerged of the often outspoken chief executive of Qatar Airways casting doubt on the contagiousness of the COVID-19 Coronavirus and saying “a fear factor” was blocking aviation for no reason. His comments appear to have been made at an aviation conference held in February when the outbreak was largely confined to the Chinese mainland.
“During the incubation period, they say that this virus can be transmitted. There is no scientific evidence for that. It is just, you know, a fear factor,” Akbar Al Baker told a Bloomberg journalist.
“For them to do what they did to the Chinese cabin crew … whoever goes to China cannot now go anywhere else in these countries for the next 14 days. They don’t realize the operational impact it would create on an airline,” he continued.
Al Baker’s comments were made in response to several travel bans enforced by governments that prevented anyone who had been in mainland China from visiting certain countries for at least 14-days – the believed incubation period for the Coronavirus.
The restrictions were cited by Qatar Airways for its decision to halt all flights to mainland China, with Al Baker complaining that to continue operating to China would cause the airline “operational difficulties”.
However, the comments were apparently made before the virus took a hold in Italy and several other European countries. The virus has now been detected in at least 126 countries and more and more draconian travel restrictions are being introduced by the hour.
Qatar has now registered over 250 cases of COVID-19, primarily from an accommodation block shared by foreign workers. The small Persian Gulf country has introduced its own travel ban on 14 countries including India.
The Qatari government has also announced school closures and other restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“What evidence you have that on every single airplane you do not have three or four people with contagious disease sitting next to you?” Al Baker questioned.
Watch the video below:
However, ill-informed Al Baker’s seem to be, it’s worth noting that the World Health Organisation generally disapproves of travel bans as a method of containing a virus.
In the past, the colorful chief exec has been criticized for his choice of words – including a time he likened flight attendants at U.S. airlines to grandmothers.