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Epidemic control to enter national plan
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-06-23 00:18

The prevention and control of infectious diseases is expected to be written into the country's economic and social development plan for the first time.

The requirement comes from a revised version of the draft amendment to the country's 1989 Law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases.

The draft amendment is being considered at the latest session of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) in a second round of deliberation.

The newly added clause aims to ensure adequate financial support in the fight against epidemics, regarded as a key to oiling the wheels of disease prevention and control, said Hu Guangbao in a report to the legislature on Monday.

Hu, vice-director of the NPC's Law Committee, said the revised version also lays a new obligation on the central government -- providing medical aid to low-income groups and reduces or cancels their treatment charges.

According to the latest draft amendment, local governments above the county level also have new tasks, such as ensuring special funds for contagious disease prevention in townships, villages and urban communities.

Hu said the second version of the draft amendment, pooling the opinions of lawmakers, experts and officials concerned, makes several major improvements over the preliminary review made by the legislature in early April.

Besides enforcing financial support, the new draft amendment also underscores the build-up of contagious disease prevention systems at the grass-roots level, especially in the vast rural areas. They are another long-time Achilles' heel of China's epidemic prevention system.

The governments at township levels are expected to assume more responsibilities than before by organizing local efforts in disease control and prevention, according to the draft amendment.

And the latest draft also extends its tentacles to the country's ground floor -- residents' and villagers' committees, requiring them to mobilize people to participate in the fight against epidemic.

Experts point out that the draft amendment, clarifying the duties of governments at various levels in contagious disease prevention and control, will help to improve the co-ordination between the central and local authorities such as epidemic reporting.

The latest draft amendment also writes off the clause that the State Council has the right to add or remove infectious diseases at Class One, the highest rank of communicable disease.

Other revisions include specifying the non-discrimination rule of patients suffering infectious diseases, protecting individual's privacy, and strengthening virus controls in labs.

The country's lawmakers yesterday also deliberated on a revised draft law on electronic signatures. It is aimed at giving online signatures the same legal status as those penned on paper.

An online signature is an electronic signature that can be used to authenticate the identity of the sender of a message or the signer of a document.

Experts say the law on electronic signatures, if passed, is expected to further regulate the use of online documents and electronic signatures in China.

As Internet trade requires a reliable third party to identify the signers, the credibility of the online certifying organizations is significant for transaction security.

The draft law stipulates that institutions who want to provide identification services for online signers need to get the nod from related government organizations.

Meanwhile, the latest version changed the retention period for electronic signatures to five years from the previous two.

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