Beijing Discloses Latest Protections for Health Emergency Whistleblowers

Beijing, China’s capital is going to protect whistleblowers who unveil information about public health emergencies, it announced on Sunday. The decision is in part of the country’s efforts to rectify some of the systemic faults that restrained its initial response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rewards for Whistleblowers!

The Beijing city government stated that it would provide rewards to health workers who unveil crucial information regarding any impending health emergency and will also make sure their safety and legal rights are conserved.

In urgent situations, workers could skip the chain of command and report health risks directly to the local government, it said, and as far as their intention was not “malicious”, they would not be subjected to any punishment in case of the information.

Beijing also stated that it would bolster its monitoring network, set up specialist infectious disease hospitals, and institute “sentries” at the community level to keep track of symptoms such as fever.

The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the COVID-19 outbreak started for the first time, has been criticized for its heavy-handed treatment of medical staff who first tried to unveil the details of a new and unknown pneumonia-like disease at the end of 2019.

“Systemic” Flaws

Li Wenliang, one of the doctors warned by local police, later became one of the most high-profile victims of the coronavirus, resulting in nationwide outrage.

Chinese officials have acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak revealed “shortcomings” in their ability to handle epidemics, and they have decided and promised to take action to improve early warning systems and free up the flow of information.

The government stated in May that it would strengthen local disease control centers to take prompt and early action in the event of any latest outbreak, though experts pointed out that the measures were not enough to counter “systemic” flaws.

They say China’s top-down political system does not provide local governments the authority or the funding to take the timely action needed to combat outbreaks.

Last month, the city government of Shenzhen also disclosed new guidelines enabling medical workers to disclose information regarding infectious diseases. They also gave local authorities powers to take emergency action more quickly.