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Pandemic legislation passes unanimously

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Health

13 December 2006

Pandemic legislation passes unanimously

New Zealand's internationally praised preparation for a possible flu pandemic has taken another step forward today with the passage of the Law Reform (Epidemic Preparedness) Bill in Parliament, Health Minister Pete Hodgson said.

The bill - which gives the Government the powers necessary to respond to a major outbreak of an infectious disease - passed its third reading today with unanimous support.

"New Zealanders have an expectation that their government can and will respond effectively to major health emergencies," Pete Hodgson said. "Today's passage of the Epidemic Preparedness Bill should reassure the public that their confidence is not misplaced.

"As part of our work to prepare for a flu pandemic, the Government identified a number of gaps in previous legislation, including the Health Act 1956. We know from diseases like SARS that outbreaks of infectious diseases pose different challenges today than they did 50 years ago.

"We need legal powers that reflect modern realities. That's what this legislation delivers.

"I thank all parties in Parliament for their constructive contribution to this bill. In particular, I'd like to thank the Government Administration Select Committee for their thoughtful work - this is a better piece of legislation because of their efforts.

"While the media spotlight on avian influenza appears to have gone off, it's important that no one becomes complacent. It is not a question of if we will one day face a pandemic, but when.

"The Government will continually review and update our preparedness and I'm confident that businesses, communities and families will do the same."

ENDS

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