China has condemned the United States for issuing a travel warning against for virus-stricken country, calling the US action “truly mean.”
“The World Health Organization urged countries to avoid travel restrictions, but very soon after that, the United States did the opposite,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement. “It’s truly mean.”
On Friday, the US State Department issued its highest-level travel warning, advising citizens: “Do not travel to China due to novel coronavirus.” The warning also advised those currently in China to “consider departing using commercial means.”
Earlier, the World Health Organization urged countries not to restrict travel.
The US warning came a day after the World Health Organization labeled the outbreak of the SARS-like Wuhan coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern.” Since the virus broke out in Wuhan – a city of 11 million people – last month, it has spread to every region of China and at least 25 other countries, killing at least 213 people and infecting just under 10,000, mostly in China. Despite issuing its strongest warning, the WHO recommended that countries avoid implementing travel or trade restrictions.
The US is not the only country advising its citizens to avoid China. Britain, Germany, Russia, Japan and others have all issued their own travel warnings, and China’s neighbors have locked down their borders. Singapore banned all arrivals and transfers from travelers from Chinese airports. Mongolia banned all arrivals from China by air, train and road. Vietnam suspended all tourist visas for Chinese citizens and foreigners who have been in China in recent weeks, and Russia closed its far east border with China.
At least seven major airlines, including Air France, KLM, British Airways, American Airlines and Lufthansa, have all stopped flying to mainland China, and several governments, including the US, Britain and Japan, have chartered flights to evacuate their citizens from the Wuhan area.