Japan approves bills to penalize COVID-19 rule-breakers
Tokyo, Jan 22 (efe-epa).- The Japanese government approved a series of bills on Friday to penalize individuals and businesses that fail to comply with COVID-19 measures at a time when the country is going through its third and worst coronavirus wave so far.
The legislation provides for prison sentences for patients who refuse to be hospitalized as laid out by the country’s infectious diseases law and fines for businesses that ignore orders to close or limit business hours on account of the pandemic.
The bill are expected to be passed by parliament in February given the ruling coalition’s majority in both houses.
Japan is experiencing its third and worst wave of the coronavirus outbreak having recorded around 50 percent of the total cases – 351,020 until Thursday – and deaths from the virus – which stand at 4,830 – in the last month and a half alone.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has declared a second state of emergency in 11 of the country’s 47 prefectures, including Tokyo, which is expected to last until Feb. 7.
The emergency measure does not legally obligate Japanese residents to remain at home but recommends that all but essential trips outside the household be avoided. Bars, restaurants and shops must now all close by 8 pm.
No penalties for non-compliance are currently in place.
One of the bills, which reviews the country’s infectious diseases law, includes prison sentences of up to one year and fines of up to one million yen (about $9,660) for people who test positive for the virus but refuse to be hospitalized.
Imprisonment for refusal to be hospitalized is one of the most controversial points of the proposed legislation and the one expected to generate the most debate.
The legislation also gives the central and local government more power to issue warnings to hospitals to accept COVID-19 patients and to be able to name and shame those that do not.
The other bill, which will amend the Special Measures Law for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, will allow local authorities to restrict businesses hours or order their temporary closure even when a state of emergency has not been declared.
Businesses that fail to comply with the orders could be slapped with fines of up to 300,000 yen, which could go up to 500,000 yen in case a state of emergency is in place, among other measures. EFE-EPA