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China Threatens Death Penalty for Intentional Spread of SARS - 2003-05-15


China is threatening drastic measures, including execution for anyone who intentionally spreads Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. As there have been several reports of people in China breaking out of quarantine or escaping medical care. And in Taiwan things are getting worse. Brian Purchia has the latest.

Chinese legal officials say execution or life in prison is an appropriate punishment for someone who flees quarantine and deliberately spreads SARS.

The new law shocked many Chinese. Frank Lu of the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.

FRANK LU OF THE INFORMATION CENTER OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT IN CHINA
"This is ridiculous behavior. Many countries have already condemned China for its death penalty. China already executes more people than any other country in the world."

The World Health Organization’s Dr. Henk Bekedam says the new rules were harsh but said people had to take responsibility for their actions.

DR. HENK BEKEDAM, THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
"I think it sounds very tough. But I think what I do believe in that people have a certain responsibility.”

The warning comes as China takes new steps to keep SARS from spreading into rural areas. China's health ministry announced four new SARS deaths, as well as 52 new cases.

In related news the Russian government has ordered the closure of almost 60 per cent of its border checkpoints with China and Mongolia in a bid to protect the country against SARS.

In Taiwan an outbreak of hospital infections has fueled fears the worst is yet to come, 26 new probable cases of SARS were reported Thursday.

The island's biggest one-day rise in cases so far. 10,000 people are under quarantine in Taiwan because of contact with SARS patients, and the government has installed video cameras in some residences to make sure people stay home.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has removed the Canadian City of Toronto from its list of areas where SARS is spreading.

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