Pandemic Preparedness Legislation Introduced
New Zealand's work to prepare for possible flu pandemic has been significantly progressed by the introduction of new legislation in Parliament today.
The Law Reform (Epidemic Preparedness) Bill will improve the government's ability to respond to an outbreak of pandemic flu or a similar highly infectious disease capable of becoming an epidemic in New Zealand.
Health Minister Pete Hodgson said the bill was an important part of the whole-of-government work programme that is currently underway.
"The government has a responsibility to New Zealand families to do all we can to prepare for possible flu pandemic," Pete Hodgson said. "If a pandemic reaches New Zealand, we will have to be ready to deal with some of the most serious social and economic challenges we've faced in over a generation.
"The legislation introduced today will strengthen the government's ability to respond to a pandemic. While its provisions will only be used in a major emergency, it clarifies a number of important issues for businesses, government agencies and the wider community."
Last year Cabinet asked a number of departments to examine existing legislation and to identify any gaps that would hamper the government's ability to respond to the outbreak of pandemic flu or a serious epidemic.
The main issues addressed by the Bill involve amendments to the Health Act. The amendments mostly cover the need to update and clarify quarantine powers.
There are also a number of amendments to non-health legislation, including changes to the Social Security Act and Holidays Act.
"The Bill's introduction to the House provides an opportunity for all parties in Parliament to show leadership on pandemic planning. The government is open to all constructive suggestions about how this Bill can be improved and how our preparedness can be advanced."