Photo/Illutration Products are unloaded from a cargo flight which arrived at Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture from Wuhan city in China on May 19. (Naoyuki Takahashi)

ANA Holdings Inc. resumed air cargo service connecting Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture and Wuhan city in China on May 19 following a lull in economic activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Services to and from Wuhan began operating for the first time since the Japanese government dispatched chartered flights to repatriate stranded Japanese nationals from Wuhan in mid-February.

“It is still difficult to resume passenger planes, but economic activity is expected to become more active around the world, so demand for cargo will grow further,” said ANA Cargo Inc. board director Akio Katsube. “We hope to meet that demand by using cargo flights.”

The first cargo flight arrived at Narita Airport from Wuhan on the evening of May 19, and about 20 tons were unloaded, including auto parts and medical supplies like masks.

On May 21, when the aircraft departs for Wuhan again, auto parts and electronic equipment will be loaded.

By May 31, the cargo flight is expected to shuttle between the airports three times a week. The airline company will decide the number of flights from June based on demand.

Wuhan city was ground zero of the novel coronavirus pandemic and placed under strict "lockdown." That was lifted for the first time in about two and a half months on April 8.

Local automobile factories resumed operations and the demand for auto parts from Wuhan has been restored in Japan and China, while China is now exporting more medical supplies to Japan.

Air cargo is normally not only carried on specialized cargo flights but in the storage holds of passenger aircraft. But because of the pandemic, the number of passenger flights in May decreased by 90 percent from initially planned.