Exclusive — Tom Cotton Urges Trump Administration to Consider Banning Travel from China over Coronavirus

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 18: People arrive to Los Angeles International Airport after touchdown of an Air China flight from Beijing, which serves as a connector from Wuhan, China to Los Angeles, on the first day of health screenings for coronavirus of travelers from Wuhan on January 18, 2020 …
David McNew/Getty Images

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is urging President Donald Trump’s administration to consider implementing a ban on travelers from China to the United States over the Chinese Communist Party’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak that has left more than a dozen people dead.

In a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar obtained exclusively by Breitbart News ahead of its public release, Cotton raises serious public health concerns over the coronavirus and in particular the disease making its way to America’s shores through weak screening that could cause an outbreak here.

“I write to you today about the continued spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, which has now arrived on American soil,” Cotton wrote in the Wednesday letter, which came after the first U.S. case of coronavirus was confirmed in Washington state earlier this week. “Once again, a deadly virus is emanating from the People’s Republic of China. The Wuhan coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in China, killing at least seventeen individuals so far. The disease has now spread to Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. At least one case has been confirmed in the United States. I’m confident that the United States Government is undertaking all possible measures to contain the spread of the disease, but I’m deeply concerned that waging an efficient and successful campaign against this virus depends on the trustworthiness and transparency of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), an organization with a horrendous history in these matters.”

A Cotton aide told Breitbart News that the Chinese Communist government’s history with such disease outbreaks—pointing specifically to the SARS outbreak—is “terrible,” especially when it comes to transparency. The outbreak origins of the Wuhan coronavirus, the Cotton aide noted, is “eerily similar” to the SARS outbreak—something even the New York Times agrees with. Cotton, the aide told Breitbart News, wants to be sure that HHS and the whole U.S. government approach the Chinese Communists’ handling of this disease scare with “extreme skepticism” and “prepare for the worst.”

“The numbers we have now are almost certainly underreported, and in the event that this continues to grow rapidly, we have to prepare the strongest possible measures to protect Americans: screening people arriving from China, and possibly a travel ban,” the Cotton aide told Breitbart News.

Sen. Cotton noted in his letter to Azar that the Chinese Communist Party has a history of providing misleading and false information on public health scares.

“As you know, in the past the CCP has lied, falsified statistics, and suppressed information about the outbreak of disease in order to protect its political standing and cover for its own incompetence,” Cotton wrote. “In 2002 and 2003, the SARS virus killed nearly 800 people and infected over 8,000 worldwide after the CCP denied there was even a health crisis. During the outbreak, CCP officials imposed a months-long blackout on media coverage of the disease. The CCP, with its totalitarian Marxist-Leninistideology, reflexively covers up scandals that could threaten its power.”

He urged Secretary Azar to immediately brief Congress if the administration becomes aware of misinformation from the Chinese Communists with regard to the coronavirus.

“For these reasons, the CCP’s calls for transparency about the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus are deeply suspect,” Cotton wrote. “I urge the Department of Health and Human Services to carefully vet any information being passed from its contacts in Beijing. If you have reason to believe that U.S. officials are being provided with false or misleading information about the disease from Chinese government officials, I ask that you notify Congress immediately.”

Cotton then noted that the administration should be considering banning travel from China to the United States to prevent spread of the disease to America’s shores.

“Moreover, given China’s dismal record on these matters, your Department and all relevant agencies of the U.S. Government must be proactive in planning for scenarios where this infection continues to spread,” Cotton wrote. “Measures such as screening all travelers from the People’s Republic of China and, if necessary, banning entry to those traveling from China must be contemplated and prepared in order to keep Americans safe. It is imperative that the United States, China, and other relevant governments and international bodies cooperate to prevent this virus from becoming a pandemic. This cooperation must be conducted on the basis of facts, not the CCP’s political fiction.”

President Trump’s travel ban issued at the beginning of his administration banned travel into the United States from several countries, including North Korea, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. The ban was challenged by Democrats, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it. Trump has considered in recent days expanding the travel ban to several other countries, including reportedly Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, and Myanmar—also known as Burma.

The president could expand the travel ban on a temporary basis to China, as Cotton is urging consideration of, if the Chinese cannot get control of the coronavirus.


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