Pollak: Trump Took Decisive Action with China Ban 40 Days Before Coronavirus Pandemic

President Donald Trump said the U.S. has achieved "tremendous progress" in trade negotiations with China, but added there were no plans to extend the March 1 tariff deadline as China looks to set up a meeting with President Xi Jinping. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI
Mike Theiler/UPI

President Donald Trump has announced a 30-day suspension of travel to and from Europe, following up on his ban in January on travel to and from China.

Scientists have since praised the president for his early action, with the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that “such restrictions may have helped slow the spread of the virus.” The president took action on Jan. 31, 40 days before the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a “pandemic.”

At the time, President Trump faced wide criticism. World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Feb. 3 that such bans “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade” and could harm international cooperation.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), a doctor who chairs of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, said that the travel ban “probably doesn’t make sense” and that the U.S. needed to work with China.

Both of President Trump’s potential opponents in November opposed the China travel ban. Former Vice President Joe Biden accused Trump of “hysteria, xenophobia … hysterical xenophobia … and fear-mongering” with the ban:

Likewise, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) told a Fox News town hall last week that he would not close the borders to stop the spread of coronavirus, saying that Trump’s policy was driven by ” xenophobic, anti-immigrant sentiment.

Some academic critics also offered criticism, albeit well-intentioned. “From a public health perspective, there is limited effectiveness. And then there are a host of other reasons why they can actually be counterproductive,” said one expert from the University of Maryland. A former CDC official who had served during the Obama administration said that there was “no reason to put undue burdens on people around travel” due to coronavirus.

There were a few Democrats who offered surprising support for the ban. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), an early proponent of impeaching the president, praised the administration and criticized China for complaining about the travel ban, saying the U.S. was only doing what China itself had done to slow the spread of the virus internally.

Whatever other criticisms might be made of the administration’s message or policy, the China ban was the right call.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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