Americans who stay in China should 'consider stocking up on food,' State Department says
Posted February 3, 2020 5:39 p.m. EST
CNN — The State Department is recommending US citizens who remain in China take precautionary measures, including "stocking up on food," in the face of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak that has spread worldwide.
Last week the US raised its travel advisory for China its highest level -- Level 4: Do Not Travel -- and continues to urge citizens to "attempt to depart by commercial means." However, for those remaining in the country, the State Department is suggesting steps like avoiding crowds and stockpiling foods.
"We strongly urge U.S. citizens remaining in China to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others, including large gatherings. Consider stocking up on food and other supplies to limit movement outside the home," a security alert posted by US Mission China on Monday notes.
"In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to U.S. nationals within China may be limited," it says.
Tens of millions of people are on lockdown in Chinese cities, including in the Hubei province, where the virus originated. The State Department ordered non-emergency personnel and their families to leave the provincial capital city of Wuhan. They were among the approximately 200 Americans who were transported back to the US on a chartered flight arranged by the State Department last week.
A second flight to bring US citizens back from Wuhan was delayed, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there were plans for more repatriation flights.
"We have a handful more flights that will be heading to China to bring Americans back home from Hubei province," Pompeo said at a press conference in Uzbekistan. "The exact timing of those we're still coordinating with the Chinese government, but we anticipate that they will happen in the next handful of days and we'll return those American citizens."
"We may well end up bringing some citizens back from other countries as well. We're working through the details on that. We hope also to bring some medical supplies in the context of those aircraft traveling into the region," Pompeo noted. "We're working closely and hand-in-hand with the Chinese government to try and resolve what is now this global epidemiological challenge."
The Chinese government has criticized the United States' response to the coronavirus outbreak, including the newly implemented travel restrictions. Under those restrictions, which went into effect on Sunday evening, the US will temporarily deny entry to foreign nationals who visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival to the United States and will subject US citizens who have been to the Hubei Province to a mandatory quarantine of up to 14 days.
"Most countries appreciate and support China's efforts to fight against the novel coronavirus, and we understand and respect them when they adopt or enhance quarantine measures at border entry. But in the meantime, some countries, the US in particular, have inappropriately overreacted, which certainly runs counter to WHO advice," Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday. "The US government hasn't provided any substantial assistance to us, but it was the first to evacuate personnel from its consulate in Wuhan, the first to suggest partial withdrawal of its embassy staff, and the first to impose a travel ban on Chinese travelers. All it has done could only create and spread fear, which is a bad example."