• Kyodo

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The country’s main opposition party criticized the government in the Diet Wednesday for its delay in declaring a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic and opposed its plan to penalize those infected with the virus who refuse to be hospitalized.

After Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged Monday at the start of an ordinary Diet session to bring the pandemic under control in Japan, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano said the country’s medical system is “not just strained but has already collapsed” due to the government’s slow response.

“The government should admit a delay in making the decision and reflect on it,” said Edano, noting a state of emergency for Tokyo and its vicinity was declared on Jan. 7, although his party had proposed one on Dec. 18 amid a resurgence of virus infections.

Yukio Edano (front), leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, speaks during a House of Representatives plenary session in Tokyo on Wednesday. | KYODO
Yukio Edano (front), leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, speaks during a House of Representatives plenary session in Tokyo on Wednesday. | KYODO

Suga rebutted, saying his decision was based on expert opinions.

The premier declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures on Jan. 7, the second following one last spring, and expanded its scope to seven more prefectures including Osaka, Aichi and Fukuoka six days later.

The government is now planning to make a legal revision to penalize those who reject hospitalization with imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of ¥1 million ($9,640).

But Edano voiced opposition to the plan, calling the introduction of penalties “extreme.”

“We cannot tolerate this,” Edano said, adding the government needs to secure enough facilities for the treatment of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, before introducing any penalties, as well as providing support to medical workers so their work conditions improve.

The CDP has submitted a bill to the Diet that would provide up to ¥200,000 per medical worker.

Edano urged the government to focus on containing the spread of the virus instead of balancing social and economic activities with anti-virus measures and stressed the need to provide financial support to people whose living has been affected by the pandemic.

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