Breaching China’s COVID rules could get you up to four years in prison

January 12, 2022, 3:18 AM UTC

China has sent three people to prison for up to four-plus years over breaches of rules that led to a virus outbreak, in one of the harshest punishments for lapses in enforcing the government’s strict COVID-zero policy.

The violations at a cargo company in Dalian, a port in the northeast, included failing to ensure employees wore masks, avoided visiting public venues after hours, and were properly quarantined and tested, the Global Times reported late Tuesday, oversights that allowed four people to infect 83 others.

The episode involved a cargo ship bringing frozen goods into Dalian in mid-November 2020, the state-run news website said. The company’s controller, its legal representative and a supervisor were given prison terms from 39 to 57 months last week. The company was fined 800,000 yuan ($125,500), according to the news website, which didn’t give the full names of the company or the individuals, or name the court.

In late 2020, China saw virus flareups in Liaoning, whose second-largest city is Dalian, and in Beijing. Chinese authorities are especially protective of the nation’s capital, often requiring negative COVID tests to enter by plane or train, and strictly tracking people’s movements around town with a mobile app.

China claims that the coronavirus can persist in conditions found in cold-chain food and packaging, and authorities have been testing imported meat and seafood for traces of the virus. International health authorities downplay the likelihood of such transmission. 

Dalian handles about 70% of the total imported cold-chain products in the world’s No. 2 economy. In November last year, the city linked a flareup that led to placing tens of thousands of university students under lockdown on the cold-chain industry.

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