5 GOP senators want to cut travel from China due to illness uptick

There has been an uptick in respiratory illnesses in China, and although the illnesses aren't new viruses, several senators want to restrict travel.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Posted at 2:15 PM, Dec 01, 2023

Reports of an outbreak of respiratory illnesses from China has prompted five Republican senators to call on the Biden administration to restrict travel from China. 

While the senators were trying to draw upon lessons learned from COVID-19 and called the illness "mysterious," there are some noteworthy differences. The World Health Organization says the illnesses are tied to an uptick in influenza, COVID-19 and common bacterial infections. 

While the WHO has suggested those within China take additional precautions against becoming ill, such as social distancing measures, the WHO advises against broad travel bans. 

"WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions based on the current information available on this event," the organization said in a recent statement. 

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When asked about the situation in China on Thursday at a House committee hearing, Dr. Mandy Cohen, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agreed with the WHO's assessment. 

"They are seeing an increase in their respiratory illness in the northern part of the country and their pediatric population," Cohen said. "We do not believe this is a new or novel pathogen, we believe this is existing — meaning COVID, flu, RSV, mycoplasma — but they are seeing upsurges. The CDC has an office in China and officials have been in touch with our counterparts to make sure we understand the situation. They were sharing with us and again, not a novel pathogen."

But Sen. Marco Rubio has cast doubts on the WHO's ability to give an accurate assessment of the situation. 

"We must take the necessary steps to protect the health of Americans, and our economy," Rubio said. "That means we should immediately restrict travel between the United States and the [People’s Republic of China] until we know more about the dangers posed by this new illness. A ban on travel now could save our country from death, lockdowns, mandates, and further outbreaks later.”

Republican Sens. J.D. Vance, Rick Scott, Tommy Tuberville and Mike Braun joined Rubio in signing the letter.