Prime Minister to be Given More Power to Handle Disease Outbreaks

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida

The prime minister will be empowered to issue instructions to prefectural governors at earlier stages of an infectious disease outbreak, according to an amendment to the law on special measures for new types of influenza, which the government will submit to the current Diet session.

According to the law, the government will set up a task force in the Cabinet to deal with “new types of influenza and other infectious diseases,” including the novel coronavirus, when they are reported in Japan.

Under the current law, the prime minister, who serves as the head of the task force, can instruct prefectural governors to take appropriate measures against infectious diseases only after a state of emergency has been declared or quasi-emergency priority measures have been designated. The amendment would allow the prime minister to use his authority at the time the task force is established, enabling the government to take prompt measures at its own discretion in the early stages of the spread of infection.

The government sometimes took a backseat in its response to the pandemic. It aims to strengthen the prime minister’s authority in preparation for a new infectious disease crisis.

In order to strengthen the capabilities of the command center for measures against infectious diseases, the government plans to establish a new agency in the Cabinet Secretariat to oversee infectious disease crisis management in fiscal 2023.

The amendment is expected to include a provision that the agency will be responsible for the affairs of the task force.