BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday threatened execution for people who knowingly spread the SARS virus and cause death or serious injury, as the government attempted to force compliance with quarantines and other measures to stop the disease.
The warning from the country's Supreme Court came as the Health Ministry reported 52 new cases of SARS infection on the mainland — the lowest daily increase since April. Four new fatalities were also reported, raising the mainland's death toll from severe acute respiratory syndrome to 271.
Taiwan, however, marked its biggest yet one-day jump in infections: 26 new cases announced Thursday. Two more hospitals on the island — one in Taipei and one in the south — were forced to seal off wards to contain outbreaks.
Taiwanese officials have already issued stay-at-home orders to 10,000 people because of contact with SARS patients — and have installed video cameras in some residences to make sure they comply.
China reported the first person known to be arrested for spreading the disease: Dr. Li Song, who is a doctor accused of breaking quarantine and bringing the virus from Beijing to his home city of Linhe in northern China, starting an outbreak that infected more than 100 people.
"He is just irresponsible and a bad man," a health official in the region, who identified himself only as Chen, said, when asked if he believed Li acted deliberately. Li's father died in the outbreak.
China is trying to prevent its outbreak — the worst in the world — from spreading from the capital, Beijing, to the vast, poor countryside, where many of China's 1.3 billion people live but where so far only a fraction of the country's more than 5,100 SARS cases have arisen.
The Supreme Court warning, reported by the official Xinhua News Agency, appeared to be an effort to force compliance with quarantines and other restrictions. It cited existing laws, many of which include a possible death penalty for even nonviolent offenses, though it often isn't imposed.
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