Laws to better deal with health emergencies
By CAO YIN in Beijing and ZHAO RUIXUE in Jinan
China Daily

China will increase its efforts in making and amending public health laws this year to further improve people's safety and provide them with high-quality lives, China's top legislature said last month.

Members of the disinfection team work at a shopping mall in Suihua city, Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, Jan 18, 2021.[Photo/Xinhua]

Based on last year's legal achievements in pandemic control, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has decided to accelerate its public-health-related legislative pace in 2021 to continuously fight the ongoing outbreak and effectively prevent health risks.

"We plan to revise the Infectious Disease Prevention Law and the Frontier Health and Quarantine Law, and we are also considering drafting a law to help the nation better deal with public health emergencies," Yue Zhongming, spokesman for the NPC Standing Committee's Legislative Affairs Commission, said in early February.

"The safety of people's lives will always be the top priority in making and revising laws, and our aim is to ensure that people can have high-quality lives and to promote their sense of fulfillment, happiness and security by legislation," he added.

In 2020, Li Zongsheng, an NPC deputy and lawyer from Liaoning province, attended several legislative activities relating to public health and shared his views with the public.

"All the measures contributed, in my opinion, to helping alleviate public concerns at the critical moment in the epidemic prevention and to building a legal system in the public health sector," Li said.

In late February last year, as COVID-19 flared in China, the top legislature promptly passed a measure to comprehensively ban the wildlife trade and unhealthy practice of consuming wild animals.

In April, the NPC approved a legislative work plan on promoting public health that would resolve shortages in the health sector and problems exposed during the outbreak.

It was the first time the top legislature created a work plan for a special sector, and it accelerated the building of a legal system on public health in China.

Sun Jianbo, an NPC deputy from Shandong province, also shared his ideas of promoting public health through legislation last year.

As the legislature approved of the decision on illegal consumption of wildlife, Sun suggested it amend the Wildlife Protection Law to update in a timely manner or further clarify which animals must be safeguarded, "because the rule of law is a good remedy that can protect both wild animals and people's lives," he said.

However, as some wildlife farmers could be affected by the ban, he also called on the top legislature to make policies to assist them in transforming their businesses and prevent them from suffering economic losses.

Key issues

Sun is preparing to travel to Beijing to attend the upcoming annual session of the 13th NPC, which has been scheduled to open on March 5.He said he will continue following public health-related issues, especially those on farming development amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

"These issues are not only close to people's lives, but also related to improving village revitalization and high-quality development," he said.

According to the work plan unveiled in April, the top legislature will make and revise 17 laws in the health-related sector. So far, six have been finished, including the amendment to the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law, which was passed in January and will take effect in May.

In addition, the NPC's Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee earlier released that preparatory work for amending laws on livestock and entry-exit quarantine of animals and plants has also been underway.