Japan to revise laws for future pandemics, require hospitals to provide beds

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a task force meeting to discuss measures against the novel coronavirus at the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday.

The government on Friday discussed measures to combat a potential future pandemic and decided to revise relevant laws to make it mandatory for core hospitals to provide medical services and beds to patients when infectious diseases break out or spread.

The government will submit legislation including a bill to revise the Infectious Diseases Control Law to an extraordinary Diet session scheduled for autumn.

“We’ll ensure that medical care will be provided in the event of a contingency by developing a system in a planned manner in normal times,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the Prime Minister’s Office during the task force meeting to discuss measures against the novel coronavirus.

Under the bills, the Tokyo metropolitan and other prefectural governments will make arrangements with medical institutions on hospital beds and facilities that treat outpatients who have fevers. When infectious diseases break out or spread, it will become mandatory for such facilities to provide medical care and beds to patients with the diseases of concern.

Local governments will issue advisories or instructions to hospitals that do not respond in line with the agreed arrangements or release their names.

If any special functioning hospitals or regional medical care support hospitals, which play a central role in local medical services, do not follow instructions, they will have their status revoked. Subsequently, they will lose preferential remuneration and other treatment that they are given for medical services.

To secure medical supplies, medical equipment and masks, the revision will also enable the central government to request the production of such items, give relevant instructions and provide support to businesses in the event of an emergency. This is aimed at establishing a framework to require companies to report the status of their operations in normal times.

Regarding border control measures, the Quarantine Law and other legislations will be revised to allow arrivals who may be infected with COVID-19 to stay at home or elsewhere as well as impose penalties if they do not report as required while in quarantine.

The government will also submit to the ordinary Diet session scheduled to convene in January relevant bills aimed at creating a stronger control tower function for infectious disease measures and a bill to revise the special measures law to combat the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

For a stronger control tower function, the government will establish within the Cabinet Secretariat a crisis management supervision agency in fiscal 2023. The envisaged agency will be headed by an official at the level of deputy chief cabinet secretary who will be in charge of the initial response in the event of an emergency.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will have a new infectious disease control department in fiscal 2024. Also, some ministry work will be transferred to the Consumer Affairs Agency and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

The government aims to create a Japanese version of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in fiscal 2025 at the earliest, by integrating the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and the National Center for Global Health and Medicine.