A woman is being investigated by Chinese authorities and is facing time behind bars after she allegedly concealed symptoms of the coronavirus and boarded an airplane from California to China last week.
The Los Angeles Times reported a 37-year old Chinese citizen and Massachusetts resident tested positive for the virus in Beijing after traveling to the country on a flight from Los Angeles.
According to Chinese authorities, the woman, identified only as Li, took fever-reducing medication in an attempt to conceal her symptoms in order to get to China.
Li had attended a conference in Boston that has been linked to a February conference in the same city held by the Cambridge-based biotechnology company Biogen.
WCVB reported more than 100 cases of coronavirus in the United States have been linked to the conference.
Cases of coronavirus potentially linked to the Biogen conference have been reported in Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and even Europe.
The company told FiercePharma it believes “Ms. Li is a U.S.-based Biogen employee who made a personal decision to travel to China,” where the Chinese government is handing out harsh punishments to anyone suspected of endangering public health.
Li is being investigated by authorities in China for the crime of “impeding prevention of infectious diseases,” and she could face up to three years in prison with a possibility of forced labor, the Times reported.
The newspaper added that her punishment could also become more severe “if there are ‘serious consequences,'” the newspaper said.
In that case, she could face up to seven years in prison.
Li is currently hospitalized in China with the virus, the Times reported.
“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,” Chinese customs official Wang Jun said.
The Times added that “at least 25 other people in China have been punished or investigated for concealing their coronavirus symptoms or travel history.”
While China has been accused of underreporting the number of cases and fatalities related to the coronavirus, the number of confirmed cases reported in the country does appear to have gone down.
China on Thursday reported only 34 new cases of the virus and eight deaths.
Up to this point, China has officially identified more than 81,000 cases of the virus and reported 3,245 deaths since the outbreak of COVID-19 began in December in Wuhan, the capital city of China’s Hubei province.
Europe, meanwhile, has become the epicenter for cases of the coronavirus.
As of Thursday, Italy had reported 41,035 cases and 3,405 deaths, while reported cases in Spain have reached 17,963 with 830 dead.
Germany, meanwhile, has reported a lower mortality rate in its reported coronavirus cases than its neighbors on the continent.
More than 15,320 cases of the virus had been reported in the country as of Thursday, resulting in 44 deaths.
The number of coronavirus cases reported in the U.S. reached 11,611 on Thursday, while 174 American deaths have been attributed to the virus.
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