4th December 2023 – (Washington) Five Republican senators have urged President Joe Biden to impose travel restrictions to and from China in light of a recent rise in pneumonia cases there. This call to action comes despite reassurances from U.S. officials who argue there is minimal cause for alarm.
The senators, including Marco Rubio and Rick Scott from Florida, J.D. Vance from Ohio, Tommy Tuberville from Alabama, and Mike Braun from Indiana, sent a letter to President Biden on Friday. They advocated for a travel ban, citing China’s “long history of lying about public health crises” and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) perceived “slavish deference” to Beijing.
This development follows reports of a significant increase in respiratory illnesses and pneumonia cases among children in China, which led the WHO last month to request information on the outbreak. A subsequent teleconference with Chinese authorities confirmed that the pneumonia was caused by a common bacteria, mycoplasma, alongside seasonal viruses including respiratory syncytial virus, adenovirus, and the flu. Public health experts consulted by POLITICO suggested that China is likely experiencing a resurgence of seasonal respiratory diseases, similar to what the U.S. and other nations have recently witnessed.
Nevertheless, the GOP senators expressed their distrust of both the WHO and Chinese authorities.
The senators’ letter was issued shortly after Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), informed House Republicans during a hearing that the CDC had been in contact with both its staff in China and Chinese health officials. These officials assured the CDC that no new virus had been detected, an assertion corroborated by European health officials.
An administration official disclosed to Pulse on Sunday that France and Denmark have also reported an upswing in pneumonia cases. Moreover, other countries in the northern hemisphere have reported increased medical visits for common respiratory illnesses typical for this time of year. The official stated that the U.S. is observing normal seasonal trends, and there is no evidence of a connection between China’s outbreak and respiratory illnesses in the U.S.
On Friday, Dr. Cohen informed reporters that reports of a similar increase in pneumonia and respiratory illnesses among children in Ohio and Massachusetts are consistent with what the agency usually sees at this time of year. She added that most children recover with home-based medication.