Governments to cooperate to reduce biosecurity risks

Updated: Oct 19, 2020 China Daily Global Print
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Research workers disinfect after finishing a test at a biosafe laboratory in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, in April. [Photo by Yang Di/China News Service]

Coordinated supervision at both national and local levels will be adopted to minimize biosecurity risks in China, with the approval of a new law accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Biosecurity Law, approved by China's top legislature on Oct 17, counts biosecurity as an important element of China's national security effort and includes detailed regulations on the prevention and control of biosecurity risks. It mandates the establishment of 11 basic systems, including those for providing early warning of biosecurity risks, information sharing and emergency response to major biosecurity incidents.

The law, which will take effect on April 15, specifies the responsibilities of various central government departments and local authorities in ensuring biosecurity.

In cases of outbreaks of major new infectious diseases or animal or plant epidemics, central government departments will join control and prevention efforts immediately. In addition, local governments must perform epidemic control and prevention duties within their jurisdictions, including organizing and mobilizing the public, the law said.

More efforts will be made to intensify epidemic control and prevention at borders, including establishing international cooperation networks to identify epidemics and bring them under control, according to the law.

Yuan Jie, an official with the National People's Congress Standing Committee, which approved the law, said it will have a far-reaching effect on the protection of people's lives and health and will improve China's national security.

China had existing laws and regulations related to certain areas of biosecurity risks, but they were either inadequate or failed to meet evolving demands, Yuan said.

"The new law will regulate all sorts of biosecurity risks, specify basic systems and fill in the legislative gap in biosecurity," she said.

The law was formulated to make up for the shortfalls in the public health system exposed by the COVID-19 epidemic in China, and it encourages the healthy development of biotechnology and related industries, she said.

Public opinions on three drafts of the law were solicited over the past year. The first draft of the law was reviewed by the NPC Standing Committee in October last year, and legislation was accelerated after the COVID-19 epidemic emerged in China at the end of last year.

Zhang Guangrong, a member of the NPC's Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee, said the new law will be important in protecting national security and people's health, and responds to people's major concerns following the outbreak.

Lyu Wei, a member of the NPC Standing Committee and an economic researcher at the State Council Development Research Center, said that following the adoption of the law, related regulations and policies should be updated to aid its implementation.

Meanwhile, continued research is needed over the next few years to improve the law so it matches the rapid development of biotechnologies and emerging biosecurity concerns, she said.

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