China has said it will ban mandatory hepatitis B tests for employees joining companies and students enrolling in schools in an effort to stamp out discrimination against the nation's millions of carriers.
"Health institutions face punishment if they are found administering hepatitis B tests to education applicants or job candidates for ordinary professions," health ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an said in a statement.
Advertisement"The Ministry of Health will strengthen the supervision of medical and health institutions to ensure they comply ... with the adjusted regulation and investigate and prosecute those who violate the rules."
Mao did not specify in the statement, posted on the ministry's website on Tuesday, when the rules would take effect.
Applicants for jobs in professions where the virus could be spread, such as blood collection, would still face restrictions, the spokesman said.
More than 90 million people in China have hepatitis B, which is transmitted through sexual contact, childbirth and blood transfusions, according to the World Health Organization.
The new rules follow a Beijing district court ruling in May last year that the tests amounted to illegal discrimination.
A design company was ordered to pay a job applicant around 20,000 yuan (2,950 dollars) after it withdrew an offer because he had hepatitis B, according to the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin.
The court judgement was the first time a hepatitis case was successfully litigated in China, according to the group, which monitors the protection of rights of mainland workers.
Previous cases were settled through court-ordered mediation or private agreements.