Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of the government task force on preventing the spread of COVID-19 on June 17. (Koichi Ueda)

The government will create a Japanese agency similar to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of new measures to counter infectious diseases.

The decision was made at a task force meeting on June 17 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The measures also include establishing a “Cabinet agency for infection crisis management.” 

The new agency on infection crisis management will be a permanent body within the Cabinet Secretariat and report to the prime minister.

It will be staffed by officials from relevant ministries and agencies even in normal times.

When an emergency occurs, the agency will be staffed with more officials and will be solely responsible for handling the crisis.

The government is trying to address the negative aspects of its highly compartmentalized bureaucracy, which have been highlighted as a result of multiple ministries and agencies being responsible for handling the pandemic.

To enhance the government’s ability to address infectious diseases in normal times, however, a new “department for tackling infectious diseases” will be established in the health ministry.

The Japanese version of the CDC will be established under this new department by merging the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and the National Center for Global Health and Medicine.

With the establishment of Japan's CDC, the government aims to quickly collect information regarding studies on infectious diseases and data on clinical diagnoses or treatment of diseases, then utilize such information and data when devising policies.

Other measures include transferring some of the tasks performed by environmental health-related units within the health ministry to other ministries or agencies so the health ministry can focus more on medical administration.

The government plans to transfer tasks for food or water from the health ministry to other ministries.

It will also revise the Infectious Diseases Law to have local authorities and medical institutions form agreements in normal times to secure hospital beds or set up departments for outpatients with a fever in an emergency.

The government will consider enhancing prefectural governors’ powers to guarantee that these agreements will be implemented in an emergency.

It is expected to submit a bill to revise the law to the extraordinary Diet session this fall.

The government will also consider measures to enhance the effectiveness of a state of emergency on individuals or restaurants when one is in place during an infection emergency.