By Tsering Choephel
DHARAMSALA, 2 Dec: Amidst a rise in respiratory illnesses and a cluster of pneumonia cases in China, with children as the main victims, five US Republican senators, led by Marco Rubio, wrote a letter on Friday asking President Joe Biden to impose a travel ban between the US and China, as reported by Hindustan Times today.
Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for immediate travel restrictions between the two countries “until we know more about the dangers posed by this new illness.” Photos and video clips circulating on social media showing crowded hospitals with children receiving intravenous drips as the illness spiked attracted global attention and speculation.
On 23 November, the World Health Organisation (WHO) asked China for more data on the illness and later reported that the illness was caused by known pathogens, such as mycoplasma pneumonia, as Reuters reported yesterday.
The letter, signed by Senators Rubio, JD Vance, Rick Scott, Tommy Tuberville, and Mike Braun, alleged that “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a long history of lying about public health crises. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCP’s obfuscation of the truth, and lack of transparency, robbed the United States of vital knowledge about the disease and its origin.”
It also questioned the WHO’s integrity, especially in its dealings with the CCP, stating, “We should not wait for the WHO to take action given its track record of slavish deference to the CCP.”
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi asserted that the rise in respiratory illness isn’t particular to China but prevalent across the globe and that Chinese authorities have the situation under effective control.
“China’s interactions with the international community will not be affected by any factors, and we welcome more visits from friends from across the world,” Wang Yi said.
Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, and Francois Balloux, a computational biologist at University College London, nodded to the WHO’s statement last week that common winter infections from known pathogens have seen a particular spike due to the first winter China is entering following long, stringent Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, according to a report from nature.com.
Cowling said the winter flu “is happening slightly earlier this year, perhaps because of increased population susceptibility to respiratory infections resulting from three years of COVID measures.” Balloux attributed the long nationwide lockdowns in China as the cause of a lack of immunity buildup against these microorganisms, leading to a very high number of respiratory illnesses, with kindergarten and primary school children, in particular, being hit the hardest.
Masks are back in use on Beijing’s subway trains, and authorities in the city have urged parents not to send their kids to school if they display any symptoms. The most common antibiotic used to treat mycoplasma infections faces higher drug resistance in China compared to elsewhere in the world, according to a report from Time.
Yin Pudong, an infectious disease doctor at Chaoyang, China, is cited by the report as saying that up to 60% to 70% of adult cases and up to 80% of cases in kids don’t respond to the drug azithromycin and others in tackling the current illness.
China’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) at local branches in Beijing and nearby Tianjin reported peaking mycoplasma infections and rising flu illnesses of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, as China’s state media