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Is the US Overreacting?

Is the US Overreacting?
Jennifer Billock

As the new coronavirus continues its spread throughout the world, Chinese officials are concerned that the United States may have overreacted to news of the virus, leading to restrictions on travel and Chinese citizens that could jeopardize the new trade deal that was just hashed out over two years.

The world is alight with fears of the new coronavirus that appears to be rapidly spreading around the globe. But officials in China, where the virus originated, fear that the United States has overreacted, causing a panic and dearth of travel that could jeopardize the trade agreement that the two countries recently spent nearly two years figuring out.

The Past

Chinese officials believe they rightly think the United States is taking it too far. When H1N1 broke out in 2009, it began in the United States. But no other country turned away travelers from the U.S., stopped flights, or quarantined passengers, as the U.S. is doing to Chinese citizens and foreigners who have recently traveled to the country.

“The United States’ comprehensive ban on people coming and going between China … will bring some difficulties to implementing this agreement,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Reuters, reported by the South China Morning Post. “I hope that the US will consider this problem, and continue to prevent the spread of this epidemic while not taking unnecessary limitations on trade and people.”

Health Officials Disagree

Even with the problems travel restrictions could cause for the new trade agreement, health officials in the United States still believe this is the best course of action. They note that coronaviruses are unpredictable, and if they mutate, there’s no cure—and that could lead to an even deadlier problem.

“With coronaviruses, it’s difficult for us to predict whether it’s going to die out, whether it’s going to mutate again, from the secondary mutation are we going to see a third mutation, is there going to be a tertiary mutation that’s going to make this completely unsolvable,” Kate Zaiger, an epidemiology master’s degree candidate at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the South China Morning Post.

We can’t take the chance of it mutating and us being unable to stop it, agreed Gary Whittaker, a professor of virology at Cornell University.

“The new coronavirus is much more of an unknown and so is getting much more attention – it has the potential to be a combination of both more widespread than Sars and more deadly than the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and we are much further away from any medical countermeasures for coronaviruses,” he told the South China Morning Post. “As a population we can accept and understand the flu and – with the exception of the 1918 influenza pandemic – basically deal with it, whereas the Sars and Mers coronaviruses have very high mortality rates and in general coronaviruses are much more unpredictable, hence the reaction.”

View Comments (4)


  1. jjmoore

    February 19, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    And why would we believe anything the Chinese government tells us? I am pretty certain that the US is acting exactly the way it needs to in order to contain this thing.

  2. minhaoxue

    February 19, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    Russia just added the Chinese to their ban list. Wonder if they will say the same to their comrades.

  3. FEasy

    February 20, 2020 at 6:59 am

    There is very little that can be labelled overreacting here. There are now two deaths and three more cases in Iran, of all places, in a provincial town with some important religious shrines. These victims did not have any contact with Chinese nationals. Iran believes they contracted the disease from Pakistani pilgrims. In my limited experience Iran has a pretty decent healthcare infrastructure. Or maybe it was just chance that the virus was detected. Either way, this news seems to indicate the virus is already travelling widely and below the radar, but will only get detected once it hits a place where people are actually testing. Frankly, I would not travel at all (and especially not to Indonesia or Pakistan).

  4. sddjd


    February 20, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    “When H1N1 broke out in 2009, it began in the United States.”

    Wrong. It originated in an obscure area of central Mexico as a version of the virus present for at least ten years before a series of reassortments allowed it to jump to humans. The first infections were seen in Mexico before spreading to the US.

    The stupidity of the Chinese argument lies in the logic of “last time 17,000 people died but no restrictions were put in place”. So, their argument is that we should NOT learn from the past? Ironic coming from a country that now has twice the population of the US under house confinement/limited movement rules due to its inability to honestly identify and react to a situation.

    Further, I crossed the Pacific several times during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, and EVERY time I entered a country on a connection following a flight from the US I was pulled (politely) aside and (politely) questioned by individuals clearly trained to look for symptoms. Once or twice even had the thermal imaging used.

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