Tens of thousands of people have arrived in the United States from China since President Donald Trump restricted travel to the country following the coronavirus outbreak, The New York Times reported Saturday.
All told, 430,000 people have arrived in the U.S. since the Chinese officials disclosed the deadly virus in January, the report notes, citing an analysis of data collected in both countries. The virus originated in Wuhan, China, and has killed tens of thousands of people.
Passengers continued traveling from Beijing to Los Angeles and New York under rules exempting Americans from the clampdown, which took place Jan. 31. Roughly 279 flights arrived in the U.S. from China, according to the report, noting also that the screening process was lax.
Trump often argues the move to restrict travel likely stalled the virus’s advance.
“I do think we were very early, but I also think that we were very smart, because we stopped China,” the president said at a press conference Tuesday. “That was probably the biggest decision we made so far.”
Trump issued the restrictions one day after the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global health emergency. The president banned foreign nationals from entering if they had been in China the past two weeks, while exempting American citizens and green-card holders to prevent family separations.
NYT’s report also suggests the screening process was permissive in areas, according to interviews with passengers.
“I was surprised at how lax the whole process was,” Andrew Wu, who landed at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Beijing in March, told NYT. “The guy I spoke to read down a list of questions, and he didn’t seem interested in checking out anything.”
WHO officials were not recommending travel restrictions at the time of Trump’s decision. Chinese officials pushed back against the move and scientists criticized it. Democratic officials in New York and California, as well as lawmakers warned that the restrictions could create an uptick in xenophobia.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, for example, suggested Trump’s move could create a toxic atmosphere.
The U.S. should not “fall back on xenophobia. Labeling COVID-19 a ‘foreign virus’ does not display accountability for the misjudgments that have been taken thus far by the Trump administration,” Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, said in a March 12 address.
Neither the White House nor the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention have replied to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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Image: A firefighter in protective suit disinfects Wuhan Tianhe International Airport before the airport resumes its domestic flights on April 8, in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicentre ofChina's novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, April 3, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS