According to reports, the woman, who has only been identified by her surname Li, became sick with symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus while living in Massachusetts. After being denied coronavirus testing three times at a local hospital, she flew from Massachusetts to Los Angeles and then to Beijing, where she tested positive upon arrival.
The Beijing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the woman took fever-reducing medication before boarding the plane and lied to flight attendants about not having any symptoms, the Los Angeles Times reported.
According to Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the Beijing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the woman started getting sick on March 1 and flew to Beijing several days later with her husband and son. A health declaration card that was filled once she arrived in Beijing revealed that she was experiencing a fever, fatigue and a dry cough. Her husband was feeling fatigued, while her son did not exhibit any symptoms, The Independent reported. In addition, Chinese authorities said that the 37-year-old woman started experiencing symptoms of the virus after attending a leadership conference hosted by Boston biotechnology company Biogen. Around 100 coronavirus cases in Massachusetts have been linked to the conference.
The woman is currently hospitalized and is being treated in Beijing but could be tried with “impeding prevention of infectious diseases” under Chinese law, which could see her sentenced to between three and seven years of imprisonment if convicted, the Los Angeles Times reported. Her husband also tested positive for COVID-19, but it is not clear if he will be investigated or charged.
Even though the pandemic in China - ground zero of the deadly disease - has slowed down, the Chinese government is still enforcing strict rules to prevent additional cases of the disease from arising. Passengers arriving to multiple cities in China from abroad, including Beijing, must be quarantined in government centers for two weeks.
“We need to be highly alert toward imported infection cases,” Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese doctor and government advisor, said at a news conference in Guangzhou on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported. “For this first wave of imported cases from highly affected countries, we should not just look at their symptoms; we should test them.”
Wang Jun, China’s director-general of customs policies and regulations, has also said that crimes such as not following quarantine orders, reporting false health information or concealing symptoms are very dangerous threats to public safety.
“Those who try to test their luck and evade customs and quarantine not only will bear the whole society’s shaming and condemnation, but will also face the scourge of imprisonment,” Wang is quoted as recently saying by the Los Angeles Times.
At least 25 other people in China have either already been punished or are being investigated for concealing symptoms or lying about travel history.
Globally, there are more than 235,000 cases of the coronavirus, and it has caused almost 10,000 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.