China's local health departments have been authorized by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to independently release reports of major epidemics and public health incidents from Tuesday.
Local health departments should implement the report-releasing plan made by MOH and provide timely and concise information to the public, said the ministry.
Health authorities in provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities should provide weekly or even daily updates to the public if required, it said.
Early warnings of public health incidents should be announced without delay, it added.
All the information to be released must be reported to MOH before being made public, so that it can inform neighboring regions, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan as well as international organizations, the ministry noted.
MOH used to be solely responsible for releasing information on epidemics and emerging public health events, such as SARS, HIV/AIDS and bird flu.
(Xinhua News Agency March 22, 2006)