According to a recent report by The Associated Press, citing data it obtained regarding travel from the U.S. Commerce Department, as many as 8,000 Chinese nationals and foreign residents of Hong Kong and Macao have entered the U.S. over the last three months.
More than 600 flights brought in travelers from these areas after Trump announced his travel ban in late January and it was enacted Feb. 2.
Trump’s initial travel ban included any non-U.S. travelers coming from China, and excluded anyone coming from Hong Kong or Macau in late January.
Travelers from Hong Kong and Macao also did not face the same scrutiny or screening processes as Americans or any foreign nationals coming into the U.S. after having been in Wuhan -- where the coronavirus outbreak started.
Flight records from FlightAware provided to The Associated Press showed that 5,600 Chinese and foreign nationals from Hong Kong and Macau arrived in the U.S. in February. More than 2,000 passengers from the same administrative zones arrived in March and an additional 150 in April, according to The AP report.
There is no sufficient evidence to show people from these flights transmitted the coronavirus, but the National Security Council, the State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would not publicly comment on why these territories were exempt from the China travel ban.
One administration official told The AP that the travel ban was instated after more than 12,000 people arrived in the U.S. through the two territories in January, according to Commerce records.
The Trump administration said it would also require any Americans who have traveled through China and back into the U.S. to undergo a 14-day quarantine period.
But according to data collected by The Associated Press, the system that was meant to track and monitor the people undergoing quarantine lost track of at least 1,600 Americans.
Trump has touted his border closures, first from China, then European nations and Brazil, as the U.S.’s first line of defense against the coronavirus.
In a tweet last week. the president said: “We did a great job on Coronavirus, including the very early ban on China.”
“We saved millions of U.S. lives! Yet the Fake News refuses to acknowledge this in a positive way,” he added.
Trump’s travel ban on China went into full effect on Feb. 2, at which time 15 people had already been confirmed with coronavirus in Hong Kong and seven people in Macau.
The cases from Macau were later linked directly to Wuhan, the origin of the outbreak.
The U.S. has reported more than 2.7 million cases of the coronavirus and nearly 130,000 deaths during the pandemic.
Hong Kong has since banned all travelers from the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.