The State Department has provided notice to Congress on their intent to reopen the U.S. consulate in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“The State Department recently sent up a notification for their plans to reopen the U.S. consulate in Wuhan,” a congressional aide told The Hill on Tuesday. “We are actively asking them to share with Congress all the protocols to assure the safety of our people.”
The consulate closed in January and diplomatic staff and their families were evacuated by the State Department as the city went into a strict quarantine and lockdown.
There are over 7.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases world-wide, the disease name for the novel coronavirus, and over 408,000 deaths globally, according to the latest statistics from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Over 3.3 million people have recovered from the virus globally.
The first cases of the novel coronavirus were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, and the city of 11 million people instituted a strict, quarantine-lockdown that lasted nearly four months.
In May, the city reported a small cluster of COVID-19 cases and instituted a massive testing regimen of nearly 9.9 million people, to identify and isolate any cases.
At least 300 people were found to be asymptomatic carriers of the disease, Chinese officials said last week, according to Reuters, but that these cases were not infectious. The testing revealed no new infectious carriers.
The reopening of the U.S. consulate comes amid a historic low point in relations between Washington and Beijing, with President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE blaming China for the spread of the virus, pushing for the Chinese government to be held accountable and criticizing it for not being more forthcoming about the evidence of the viral spread.
Both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoTrump administration mulled kidnapping, assassinating Julian Assange: report Republican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services WashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal MORE have suggested the novel coronavirus could have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and pushed for an investigation in the lab.
The overwhelming scientific consensus and supported by U.S. intelligence agencies is that the virus originated in nature. The first cases of the novel coronavirus were identified in vendors and sellers associated with a wet market in Wuhan.
Tensions between the U.S. and China are strained further over China’s moves to exert more control over semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which the U.S. opposes, and China’s criticism of police brutality in the U.S., saying it reflects American hypocrisy in its calls to respect human rights around the world.
The State Department did not return a request for comment.