新型インフル 緊急事態法制に位置付けよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 21, 2012)
Parties should unite to pass flu epidemic legislation
新型インフル 緊急事態法制に位置付けよ(1月20日付・読売社説)

The outbreak of a new strain of influenza can take place anytime, anywhere in the world.

In the event of a new, virulent strain of flu becoming an epidemic, it is estimated that in the worst-case scenario as many as 640,000 people would die in this country alone.

To prevent such a situation from occurring, it is imperative for the government to take all possible measures in preparation for a flu epidemic.

The government plans to submit a bill for special measures legislation to the upcoming ordinary Diet session to deal with the possible future emergence of a new, highly virulent and infectious flu

Both the ruling and opposition parties must cooperate to ensure smooth passage of the bill.

The planned law will define the onslaught of a highly virulent new strain of flu as a "national crisis."

To prevent the spread of infection and public disorder, the law will empower the government to take strong, binding steps such as restrictions on or postponement of assemblies and securing the supply and distribution of goods.

Currently, the central government and prefectural governments have already worked out "action plans" to cope with the outbreak of a new strain of influenza.


Govt to declare 'emergency'

These measures, however, have no binding power. The central government and local entities can take no stronger steps than "requesting" people to stay home and cancel meetings on a voluntary basis.

When a new strain of flu broke out in 2009, there was no serious damage, since the virulence of the strain was weak.

If that strain had been deadly, the government might have been unable to take any effective steps, resulting in serious harm to the public.

Under the proposed legislation, if a virulent strain of flu becomes epidemic, the government's epidemic countermeasures headquarters will declare an "emergency situation" for affected prefectures.

While restrictions on going out and cancellations of gatherings under the planned law will be sought in the form of government "requests," as currently practiced, the law will make it possible for the government to issue stronger "instructions" if such requests are refused without sufficient justification.

The law will also make it possible for the government to requisition land and buildings needed to secure medical facilities when a flu epidemic occurs.

To prevent the spread of a deadly flu strain, the government may legitimately need to consider meting out punishments against violators of the law.

The invocation of the law, however, must be carried out as scrupulously as possible.

The Civil Protection Law, enacted to prepare this country for an armed attack, states that the curtailment of private rights should be kept to a minimum out of respect for the freedom and rights of the people.


Prepare for goods shortages

Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake, shortages of goods occurred across the country.

The shortages were attributed to panic buying as well as the disruption of distribution networks.

If a containment campaign is enforced in areas affected by a new strain of virulent flu virus, hoarding may occur in reaction to government requests for people to stay home, while local distribution networks may be snarled.

To deal with such a situation, the government, by means of the planned legislation, should enhance the power of administrative authorities to ensure sufficient supplies of goods at stable prices, in part by preventing merchants or suppliers from refusing to sell at the time of a deadly flu epidemic.

The lessons learned from the bitter experience of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami must be used to minimize the damage caused by a deadly flu strain.

The circumstances the planned law aims to deal with have much in common with various other emergencies.

The legislation should lead to the strengthening of preparatory measures for emergencies, such as coordination of communication between the central and local entities, securing local medical services and stockpiling daily necessities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 20, 2012)
(2012年1月20日01時15分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-01-21 06:37 | 英字新聞

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