China revokes punishments for breaking COVID rules

Passengers prepare to board a train in Shenzhen North railway station in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province, Jan 7, 2023, as the Spring Festival travel rush begins. (MAO SIQIAN / XINHUA)

BEIJING – Starting Sunday, people who violate COVID-19 prevention measures will not be convicted or punished for obstructing the control of infectious diseases by the authorities in China, according to a notification issued on Saturday.

Those who violate border health quarantine regulations will not face criminal punishment, said the notice.

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Suspects and defendants in custody for such violations should be promptly released from detention in accordance with the law, and assets involved in the cases, including those being sealed, seized or frozen, also need to be timely lifted, the notice added.

The document came just ahead of the planned move on Sunday to downgrade the management of COVID-19 from Class A to Class B, and was jointly issued by five authorities — the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice and the General Administration of Customs.

The authorities said the adjustments in handling criminal cases concerning COVID-19 were made after comprehensively considering the harm of the behaviors to the society, and aim to adapt to the new situations of the epidemic prevention and control.

Passengers wait for train in Urumqi railway station in Urumqi, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Jan 7, 2023. (DING LEI / XINHUA)

However, the notice also states that those who infringe upon personal safety of medics, disturb normal medical order and seriously obstruct the control measures of nursing homes and social welfare institutions will be strictly punished.

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It also clarifies that people who produce or sell fake drugs or testing products involving epidemic, smuggle relevant goods or make price gouging, causing serious consequences, will be harshly punished.