The Chinese foreign ministry has expressed concern about the US government’s decision to keep out foreign nationals who have recently visited China. As governments and scientists everywhere struggle to stop the new coronavirus outbreak, the US decided to impose new travel restrictions, targeting foreign nationals coming from China. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said US efforts are “certainly not a gesture of goodwill,” and pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO) had advised against travel restrictions. Hua Chunying stated:
“As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Many countries have offered China help and support through various ways. In contrast, the US comments and actions are neither based on facts nor helpful at this particular time. While the WHO has only just specifically advised against any travel restrictions, the US has decided to act in the opposite way. This has set a bad example. It is certainly not a gesture of goodwill.”
The remarks were published on the ministry’s website after the US State Department announced a highest-level warning against traveling to China. Chinese officials compared the measures with those imposed by the US for travel in Iraq and Afghanistan.
US Government Actions
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared the new 2019-nCoV coronavirus a public health emergency for the US. He went on to say that foreign nationals who traveled to China in the last 14 days and have no immediate family of US citizens will be barred from entering the US, while US citizens returning from China’s Hubei Province will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine. “The American public can be assured the full weight of the US government is working to safeguard the health and safety of the American people,” Azar said.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also actively following the case. CDC is cooperating with WHO, as well as other healthcare partners, reacting to new challenges as they appear. The declared the goal of all American public health institutions to contain the outbreak of the virus that made its way across the US borders. Many public health agencies around the world are involved in ongoing research in order to learn more about 2019-nCoV. Scientists are working on determining the actual spread of the new coronavirus and assessing its risks. They are also providing people with proper recommendations on how to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus.
Chinese response to coronavirus
Although Chinese authorities have reacted sharply to US restrictions, Alex Azar actually praised the country for its prompt response. The Health and Human Services Secretary said that China made endeavors to collaborate with public health officials worldwide. He also pointed out that transparency is needed in order to fight the outbreak. While Chinese authorities assure the public that their government has continuously shared information with the international community, new evidence seems to point to the contrary.
One of the first Chinese doctors to warn about the new coronavirus was actually pressured by officials to stop sharing information about the new disease. Doctor Li Wenliang was working as an ophthalmologist in Wuhan, China when the first cases of coronavirus appeared. He was one of the eight public informants who would later be admonished by the Chinese police for spreading false rumors about a new coronavirus. Officials accused Li of making false claims that had “severely disturbed the social order”. Evidence seems to show that the Chinese authorities tried to silence Li and other doctors who had made efforts to warn about a new condition that seemed similar to SARS.
While the US decided to take action and enforce travel restrictions, China points to the fact it has actively cooperated with the World Health Organization and other international public health agencies. Moreover, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus actually praised China’s prevention and control efforts after a visit to Wuhan. As the Chinese authorities also indicate, WHO safety measures do not currently include any specific instructions for travelers. The agency simply encourages travelers to seek medical attention in case of respiratory disease symptoms, either during or after travel. However, one of the most important goals for WHO now is preventing the further spread of the new coronavirus from China by proposing efficient public health measures.