China passes biosecurity law to prevent infectious diseases, protect whistleblowers

WION Web Team Beijing, China Oct 18, 2020, 03.08 PM(IST)

Infectious diseases in China Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

According to state news agency Xinhua, the National People's Congress Standing Committee voted to adopt the law on Saturday, and it would come into effect on April 15, 2021.

China's top legislative body has passed a new biosecurity law aimed at preventing and managing infectious diseases.

According to state news agency Xinhua, the National People's Congress Standing Committee voted to adopt the law on Saturday, and it would come into effect on April 15, 2021.

The law would establish systems for biosecurity risk prevention and control, including risk monitoring and early warning, risk investigation and assessment, and information sharing. It would also have provisions to prevent and respond to specific biosecurity risks, including major emerging infectious diseases, epidemic and sudden outbreaks, and biotechnology research, development and application.

China had announced in May that it aimed to fast-track the passing of the biosecurity law by year-end, following the global coronavirus outbreak which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

China has managed to nearly stamp out domestic transmissions of the coronavirus following aggressive measures to curb its spread. New infections detected last week in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao however ended China's run of about two months without reporting a local case.

China's approval of the law comes in the face of Western criticism on the coronavirus, over accusations that it covered up the initial outbreak and silenced early whistleblowers.

But China has been trying to reshape this narrative, with authorities seeking instead to model the country as a vanguard in the pandemic fight.

Also, under the new law, those who conceal information, omit making reports or prevent others from reporting infectious diseases could be given warnings or suspended.

The new law also calls for systems including to regularly monitor biosafety risks, and to trace the origins of incidents.

Disease prevention agencies are also to help predict the occurrence and prevalence of emerging diseases. 

Based on these predictions, authorities should announce warnings and adopt prevention measures.

Although Beijing established an information system after the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak that allowed for real-time reports of outbreaks, provincial authorities came under fire during the coronavirus outbreak for perceived incompetence, including delays in announcing the public health emergency.

The new biosecurity law also takes aim at the management of research facilities, flagging the need for emergency plans for biosafety incidents.

China's health commission last reported 13 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for October 17, bringing the mainland's total number of confirmed cases to 85,672.

(with inputs from agencies)

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