New rules spell out strict punishment for violations that threaten public health China could impose the death penalty on people who deliberately spread Sars under new rules which took effect yesterday. The Supreme People's Court and the nation's top prosecution office said people who spread infectious diseases, endangering public safety, causing death or injury and resulting in severe loss of public or private property would receive penalties ranging from 10 years in prison to death. The rules, announced in state newspapers, also spell out strict penalties for a range of crimes involving Sars, including spreading false information and neglecting official duties. The rules were aimed at 'protecting the health of the people and the safety of lives', Xinhua said. The legal bodies based the rules on interpretations of existing laws. People who spread Sars by evading health checks, breaking quarantine or refusing treatment would be sentenced to three to seven years in jail, Xinhua said. State media has already reported numerous cases of people fleeing from quarantine. Those who try to prevent health officials from carrying out their duties can be jailed for up to three years. People who create disturbances in public or 'seek provocation' would also be punished, the rules stated. Villagers in several parts of the mainland have protested, beaten officials or destroyed health facilities and equipment out of fears that Sars patients would be quarantined nearby. Police have detained the ringleaders in some cases. Officials who neglect their duty in prevention work can be sentenced to three to seven years in prison. China has removed the health minister and Beijing mayor for their handling of the crisis, and sacked or disciplined more than 120 local officials. People who spread false information about Sars can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, according to the rules. Authorities have already cracked down on those using mobile phone text messages and the Internet to spread rumours about Sars, detaining 105 people in several provinces, official media have reported. In a recent case, Shanghai punished two people, one for posting a rumour on a university's electronic bulletin board and another for sending e-mails, the Liberation Daily said. The new laws may soon have their first test case. Authorities in Linhe, Inner Mongolia, are preparing to charge a doctor, Li Song, with allegedly violating quarantine and starting an outbreak that infected more than 100 people. Dr Li is the first person known to have been arrested for infecting others. A health official for the region surrounding Linhe said Dr Li was infected while attending a training programme at a Beijing hospital, but returned to Linhe after receiving only basic treatment.