Japan will review its long-standing administrative custom requiring official documents be stamped with personal seals — a tradition that has been a major bottleneck in containing the spread of COVID-19, sources close to the matter have said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will instruct related government ministries to review the laws at Monday’s meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. The practice requiring hanko personal seals has prevented telework from being fully implemented as it requires employees to visit offices to get documents stamped, the sources said Saturday.
Private-sector members of the governmental council will also make an emergency proposal to review the custom at the upcoming meeting, as they have found that most of the economy-boosting measures implemented in Japan require the stamps on documents to apply for them, the sources said.
In Japan, hanko are widely used for signing contracts, business transactions and in administrative procedures.
The council will also review another administrative custom of requiring a resident to report to a city office to directly request a service. The face-to-face requirement is proving a hindrance to government requests that people to stay home amid the nationwide state of emergency declared to curb the pandemic.
A think tank survey from April 10 showed that about 60 percent of company employees in Tokyo and six other prefectures were still commuting to offices despite the emergency declaration.
The declaration was later expanded nationwide as Japan aims for an 80 percent reduction in person-to-person contact.
As of Saturday, Japan had confirmed more than 13,900 cases of coronavirus infection and 373 deaths as a result of COVID-19.
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