• Kyodo

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The health ministry decided Monday to include measures to respond to infectious diseases and natural disasters for the first time in a planned revision of the nation's basic guidelines on nursing care programs run by local authorities.

The revised guidelines, coming in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters caused by July's torrential rainfall, call for more training for care workers and for stockpiling face masks and disinfectant to better respond to dangers faced by nursing care facilities in Japan.

The revisions were approved at a meeting of an advisory panel of the minister of health, labor and welfare.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will request that local governments reflect the changes in their nursing care plans — drawn up every three years depending on their circumstances — for the next period starting fiscal 2021.

Outbreaks of cluster infections in nursing homes across Japan have resulted in the deaths of many residents at such facilities, while 14 died when a nursing home in Kumamoto Prefecture was flooded in July due to torrential rain.

As older people are prone to developing severe symptoms once infected with the virus, and many lack the physical strength to evacuate by themselves during natural disasters, the ministry has deemed that local governments need to spell out measures to protect such vulnerable citizens.

The revised guidelines stipulate that city, ward, town and village governments should promote tie-ups with nursing home operators to provide education on virus prevention measures and alternative services.

Specifically, the ministry has deemed it necessary for local governments to periodically check to determine if nursing facilities can continue operating during a spike in infections.

The guidelines call for boosting training for workers, procuring and stockpiling disinfectant and personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns, and securing a system to deliver such supplies.

As caregivers will be in isolation if in-house infections occur, the ministry is requesting prefectural governments organize a backup system between nursing establishments to supply substitute workers.

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