Coronavirus: Woman in China detained for hiding contact with someone from outbreak area

A security guard wearing a protective face mask stands guard at a compound with a banner reminding people to wear masks and wash hands in Beijing, on Feb 1, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Police in China have detained a woman for "deliberately concealing" her contact with someone from an area stricken by the coronavirus and jeopardising efforts to stop its spread, the Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday (Feb 4).

China has imposed sweeping measures to try to halt the virus, including virtually locking down the central province of Hubei, where the virus emerged in December, and asking anyone who had visited there to isolate themselves for 14 days.

The death toll in China from the newly identified virus has risen to 425 with more than 20,000 cases of infection, the authorities reported.

The detained woman, a 36-year-old identified by her surname, Liu, had hurt virus prevention and control work through her action, and public security authorities in the northern municipality of Tianjin took her into custody for "administrative detention".

The state news agency gave no details of what she had done, nor if or when she would be released.

The authorities in some places have threatened dire punishment for anyone violating the law in connection with efforts to battle the virus.

A high court in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang said people who intentionally spread the virus could face the death penalty, according to a Jan 31 court notice.

Police in Qinghai province in the north-west were investigating a man infected with the virus who "severely disrupted virus containment and harmed public health", Xinhua reported, without elaborating.

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