Video of a woman refusing to follow China’s coronavirus quarantine rule recently went viral, and it drew wide criticism as the country works to contain a new wave of infections coming from abroad.
On Tuesday, Bayer’s China operations confirmed the woman as its employee—and said a drastic measure was called for.
“The company has decided to fire that employee according to relative corporate rules, effective immediately,” the German pharma and crop science conglomerate said in a statement posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like forum.
Chinese authorities recently put in place a new rule that requires all people who come to China from abroad to be quarantined for 14 days.
According to several local media reports and clips of videos circulating online, a Chinese-Australian woman was seen jogging on the street without a mask when she was supposed to be quarantined at home. When confronted by community workers, the woman insisted she needed exercise.
Fed up by the workers' insistence, she started yelling in Chinese, “Help! I’m harassed!”
Beijing police later paid her a visit. The woman, speaking off-camera, said she understood local staffers were tasked with enforcing the rules and played down the significance of the unhappy encounter. After the police warned her about a crackdown if she’s seen out again, the woman agreed to stay home.
The brouhaha came as China, the first country to report infections of the novel coronavirus, has seen a significant drop in new cases. As strict prevention methods take effect from within, the country has started to wrestle with imported cases carried by international travelers.
Just a few days ago, a Biogen exec in the U.S. went back to China after developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. During her flight back to Beijing, she allegedly lied to the crew about her health status and took antipyretics beforehand to cover up her fever. According to local authorities, she also initially hid the fact that she was traveling with her husband and son on the same flight.
The Biogen staffer, surnamed Li, and her husband have since been confirmed with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Beijing police launched an investigation of Li for potential obstruction of prevention of infectious disease. If convicted, Li could face prison time of less than three years, according to Chinese laws. If serious consequences were caused, the toughest sentence could reach seven years in prison.
In its Tuesday statement, Bayer China urged all its employees to strictly abide by all anti-coronavirus measures adopted by local governments.