Courts come down hard against outbreak prevention violations

( Updated : 2020-04-16

Chinese courts have demanded increased efforts in hearing criminal cases where people disturbed prevention of the novel coronavirus by hiding their health condition and traveling, in a bid to keep the outbreak control in order, China's top court said on April 15.

As of Monday, courts across the country have heard 1,946 criminal cases of disturbances relating to the outbreak. Of these 1,196 have been concluded, according to statistics provided by the Supreme People's Court, the nation's top court.

It also revealed eight influential cases as a threat to the public, showing how serious the disturbance was and clarifying what criminal punishments the defendants were given.

On March 17, for example, a defendant surnamed Gou was sentenced to one year in prison by Huangzhong County People's Court in Qinghai province for disturbing the prevention of infectious diseases after he did not truthfully report his travel from Wuhan, the city hardest-hit by COVID-19 in Hubei province.

Gou, with his son, went back to a township in Xining, capital of Qinghai after taking a train from Wuhan on Jan 16. But the next day, he did not register his travel to his residential committee in line with provincial prevention rules.

On Jan 24, the township hospital called to learn his health condition and ask if he had been to Wuhan recently, but he did not tell the truth. A day later, when doctors from the hospital asked, he continued intentionally hiding his travel to Wuhan, adding he had been home for more than 40 days.

On Jan 30, Gou was confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, but he still denied his travel and refused to say what he did after returning.

Due to his behavior, more than 900 people who had close contract with Gou had to be quarantined, and some of his relatives were also confirmed to have contracted the disease after medical observation.

"Gou knew he should truthfully report his Wuhan-related travel to local health authority, but he did not do that. Instead, he hid the facts, causing many others to be quarantined or even infected, which has brought serious effects to the public health security," the court said, adding this was why he was given a prison sentence.

The top court ordered courts at all levels to harshly crack down such criminals, "as their cover-up not only harms others, but also brings great risk of the virus spreading". Given the country is still fighting the battle against COVID-19, such offenders must be given criminal punishments.