Japan govt. decides on comprehensive measures for future pandemics

The Japanese government has decided on comprehensive measures to brace for possible future pandemics, including some that carry penalties.

The decision was made on Friday at a meeting of the government's headquarters dealing with the coronavirus.

Under the measures, prefectures will sign an agreement with hospitals serving as each region's core healthcare provider and mandate them to treat patients in the event of an infectious disease outbreak. This comes amid lessons learned from the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has overwhelmed the healthcare system and led to shortages of hospital beds.

Core healthcare providers such as academic medical centers will have their special status revoked if they do not follow the measures they agreed to.

The new measures will allow the government to order drug and medical equipment providers to manufacture necessary items in case of emergency.

The government and prefectures will also be allowed to request individuals including dentists and clinical laboratory technicians to administer vaccines. Under Japanese law, vaccinations can only be done by doctors and nurses.

The measures will also permit authorities to order people suspected of being infected to self-isolate to stop infections spreading. Such people who refuse to report their conditions to the authorities may face penalties.

The government plans to submit relevant draft legislation on the new measures to an extraordinary Diet session in autumn.

Officials at the meeting also decided to set up a government agency charged with infectious disease responses during the next fiscal year ending in March 2024.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, who attended the meeting, urged relevant Cabinet ministers to accelerate efforts toward the enactment of necessary laws to prepare for the next possible pandemic.