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Japan: New Flu Special Measures Act Moved Up

(Apr. 15, 2013) Japan’s Special Measures Act to Counter New Types of Influenza was promulgated last year, on May 11, 2012 (Act No. 31 of 2012). The effective date was required to be within one year from the promulgation date. (Id., Attached Provisions, art. 1.) Usually, in such cases, the effective date would be set at one day before the anniversary of the promulgation date. However, the Cabinet decided to move up the effective date to April 13, 2013. (Order to Set the Effective Date of the Special Measures Act to Counter New Types of Influenza, Order No. 121 of 2013.) The decision was made in order to prepare to counter the recent outbreak of the H7N9 virus (“bird flu”) in eastern China. (Press Release, Chief Cabinet Secretary, Special Measures to Counter New Types of Influenza [in Japanese] (Apr. 10, 2013).)

Under the new Act, in the event of an outbreak of a new strain of influenza, the government will set up a task force (Special Measures Act, art. 15) and, if necessary, strengthen quarantine measures at airports and seaports (art. 29). The government may also vaccinate medical doctors and staff (art. 28). The Prime Minister will declare a state of emergency if an outbreak of a highly contagious and lethal flu is recognized in Japan (art. 32); the government also may consider vaccinating the general public (art. 46). Prefectural governors may instruct residents to minimize outings, and they also will have the authority to close schools and restrict events and business activities that involve large gatherings of people. (Id. art. 45; see also Special Law on New Flu Enforced, THE JAPAN TIMES (Apr. 12, 2013).)