Shanghai disease control officer lays down law defending quarantine measures

COVID-19 outbreak in Shanghai
A worker in a protective suit helps an old man with a wheelchair during lockdown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 5, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

SHANGHAI, May 11 (Reuters) - An official with Shanghai's disease control centre defended the strict imposition of COVID quarantine measures, rejecting accusations from critics that officials were overstepping their authority.

In a battle to stifle China's largest COVID-19 outbreak, Shanghai has forced neighbours of positive cases to move into central quarantine facilities, even if they have tested negative, spurring outrage and raising questions of legality among residents and experts.

"The policies we are implementing right now are in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations," Sun Xiaodong, the deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told a media briefing,

Sun said a clause in China's infectious disease law says that every individual was obliged to comply with measures adopted by the CDC and other health care agencies to prevent the spread of disease.

"These obligations include complying with epidemiologial investigations, testing and sampling and obeying quarantine requirements," he said. There are also clear provisions in China's emergency management regulations, he added.

Social media has been flooded with accounts of Shanghai authorities not only forcing neighbours into quarantine hospitals but even demanding that they hand over the keys to their homes so they can be disinfected.

China is concerned that the virus can spread through shared sewage or ventilation channels.

Asked about the measures at a briefing on Tuesday, Sun said people who shared kitchens and bathrooms with positive cases were deemed "close contacts". He said the measures were not being implemented in a "one size fits all" manner and would depend on a building's particular circumstances.

Tong Zhiwei, professor of constitutional law at Shanghai's East China University of Political Science and Law, said the measures were illegal and should be "stopped immediately".

Tong said local leaders formed a "bad habit" of "using power to the extreme" during emergencies. His comments were widely circulated on China's closely watched social media on Sunday but were subsequently deleted.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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