US politicians have urged Joe Biden to slap China with a travel ban after a mysterious surge in pneumonia cases among children in part of the country.
While public health officials have said the uptick in pneumonia is due to known diseases, Republican senators said a travel ban was prudent because of China’s “long history of lying about public health crises”.
They also slammed what they said was the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “slavish deference” to China’s rulers.
Chinese officials told the WHO in a teleconference that the spike in respiratory illnesses was caused by the bacteria mycoplasma as well as several seasonal viruses including flu and RSV.
CDC Director Mandy Cohen told a House subcommittee that the agency did not believe the outbreak was due to a novel virus.
She said: “What we do know as of, again, as of today, is we do not believe this is a new or novel pathogen. We believe this is all existing – meaning COVID, flu, RSV, mycoplasma. But they are seeing an upsurgence.”
The theory is that China – which is heading into its first winter without major COVID-19 restrictions – is experiencing what many Western nations did when they lifted Coronavirus restrictions: an upsurge in seasonal diseases.
Still, Taiwan has called on vulnerable citizens not to travel to China. The WHO has not advised any travel ban.
GOP senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Braun of Indiana, JD Vance of Ohio and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, however, argued that the WHO and China could not be trusted.
The letter read: “A ban on travel now could save our country from death, lockdowns, mandates, and further outbreaks later.”
The letter continued: “History and common sense show his decision was the right one.”
While no high-profile Democrats have called for a travel ban, US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel urged China to be more transparent when it came to infectious diseases.
In a post on X last week, he wrote: “It’s time to abandon COVID deception and delays as transparent and timely information saves lives.”
While Beijing says it has the situation under control, local reports suggested that hospitals in Beijing were overwhelmed with patients.