China threatens death penalty for fake coronavirus meds

Anyone convicted of producing or distributing falsified or substandard medicines amid the coronavirus outbreak could face the death penalty under new legislation in China.

The update to China’s criminal code was revealed by Beijing as the number of cases of infection with the new Covid-19 strain of coronavirus reached 71,000 worldwide, mostly in China, with around 1,800 deaths.

All told, the update to the criminal code – which includes stricter penalties up to the death penalty in severe cases – covers 21 coronavirus-related crimes.

That includes deliberately infecting other people by violating quarantine, harming healthcare workers who are caring for people infected with the virus, and corruption involving products and funding intended to fight the epidemic.

“We must maintain high-pressure momentum, severely crack down on illegal and criminal activities that disrupt social order, such as price-gouging, hoarding, and looting by taking advantage of the epidemic,” commented Chinese President Xi Jinping at a briefing earlier this month, reported by Reuters.

“We also must resolutely crack down on the production and sale of counterfeit drugs, medical apparatus and sanitary materials,” he added.

A new analysis of 44,000 cases in China has revealed an overall risk of death with the virus of 2.3 per cent. That’s significantly less than the 9.6 per cent seen with the SARS epidemic of 2002-3, but the number of cases of Covid-19 already far exceeds SARS, which is a related coronavirus.

There have already been reports of counterfeit face masks being sold to members of the public, although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not actually recommend their use for the general public.

And while face masks may be the first phony product to crop up in the coronavirus outbreak, it will likely not be the last, according to the US-based Better Business Bureau, which notes that the promotion of unapproved and fraudulent remedies was prevalent during the recent Ebola virus outbreak.’s editors are surely not alone in regularly receiving spam emails offering products for coronavirus, including prescription medicines.

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