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New Health Regulation Spurs Emergency Response Mechanism
China's newly-issued regulation on public health emergencies is a critical step leading to the construction of a comprehensive mechanism for public emergencies, an official with the State Council told Xinhua Friday in an exclusive interview.

Song Ruilin, deputy head of the Department of Education, Science, Technology, Culture and Health Legal Systems of the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, said the regulation has legalized the effective measures in combating SARS and provided a theoretical basis for dealing with future emergencies.

Sun Chengye, an official with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of China, said the new regulation has six new characteristics compared with the earlier more than ten related laws.

First, the lawmaking procedure is significant as this regulation was directly drafted by the State Council, rather than the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Second, the regulation has, for the first time, clearly stated that the deadline for reporting a major epidemic situation should be within "one" and "two" hours, rather than using words like "immediately" or "in time" in other related laws.

Third, the regulation has, also for the first time, set a national reporting telephone number, strengthened the national information network and enabled non-infected areas to take prevention measures in time.

Fourth, an emergency response organization system was established according to the regulation. In the past, the MOH dealt with health emergencies, but now it is the State Council which has organized related departments and established an emergency headquarters.

Sun said health problems require not only the health department, but also the department of security and transportation and so the regulation clearly divides the responsibility of every related department.

Fifth, the regulation stipulates that the country should pay for poor patients, showing a lawmaking concept of "taking the people as most important".

Sixth, the regulation details clear rewards and punishments.

Song said the regulation reveals a trend in China's lawmaking and conforms with the international trend of emergency response.

China is making counterplans for public health emergencies and will startup different levels of plans according to the seriousness of the epidemic situation.

If the epidemic situation covers more than one province, the national counterplan will be started.

This means that China has incorporated public health into the national security system, Sun said.

(Xinhua News Agency May 17, 2003)

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