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China May Execute SARS Quarantine Violators
Wed May 14, 2003 10:45 PM ET
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has said it will execute or award a jail sentence of up to life imprisonment for anyone violating quarantine and intentionally spreading SARS.
The supreme court and the country's top prosecutor laid down the punishment in an interpretation of laws on hindering the prevention or treatment of sudden disease outbreaks and other disasters, the Xinhua news agency said late on Wednesday.

"Intentionally spreading sudden contagious disease pathogens, endangering public security or serious personal injury, death or heavy loss of public or private property will be punishable by from 10 years to life in prison or the death penalty," the state agency said.

The interpretation is part of a tough government push to tackle the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) after a slow start in handling the flu-like disease that first appeared in the southern province of Guangdong last year.

Several reports have surfaced in China, home to the worst outbreak of SARS on earth, of people busting out of quarantine or escaping medical care for fear of the disease.

People with such contagious diseases, or suspected of having them, who refuse medical exams, isolation or treatment and pass on the illness unintentionally can get three to seven years in jail, the interpretation said.

Health officials found guilty of negligence and allowing a disease to spread can be imprisoned for up to three years, the interpretation said.

Hundreds of officials, including a health minister and a Beijing mayor, have been fired for mishandling or covering up the disease.

Those found guilty of producing and selling fake drugs may be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison if their actions result in heavy losses, the report said. If they kill someone or cause serious physical damage, it is 10 years to life.

Using violence or threats to prevent state or Red Cross workers from doing disease and disaster prevention and control work could result in up to a three year sentence.

State-owned companies or state employees who handle outbreaks or disasters irresponsibly, or misuse their powers, leading to heavy losses or bankruptcy are liable to serve up to three years in prison, it said.

Other crimes, like taking advantage of an outbreak to raise prices of goods, misusing aid funds, illegally administering medical care, false advertising, raising false alarms and fabricating news of attacks, can also result in prison terms.
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