• Kyodo


The Cabinet on Friday approved bills to penalize people who do not comply with antivirus measures as Japan struggles to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Among other measures, the legislation would introduce imprisonment for those who refuse hospitalization, a move opposition parties say is excessive.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito are expected to start talks with opposition parties on the pair of bills next week, aiming to have them pass the Diet early next month.

In addition to penalizing those who refuse hospitalization, they would impose penalties on business operators who ignore orders to cut operating hours.

Amid a recent resurgence of the virus, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three adjacent prefectures on Jan. 7 and expanded it to seven more prefectures six days later.

Under the declaration, the government has asked people to stay home as much as possible and bars and restaurants to cut opening hours, although there is currently no penalty for not complying with the requests.

One of the two bills, to revise the law on special measures against the novel coronavirus and other infectious diseases, would allow local authorities to take “intensive measures” in a situation less severe than a state of emergency.

Under such measures as well as a state of emergency, prefectural governors would be able to request business operators to shorten operating hours and then, if such a request is refused without a valid reason, to issue an order.

Operators failing to comply with orders could be subject to a fine of up to ¥300,000 under the intensive measures to prevent the spread of the virus, rising to up to ¥500,000 under a state of emergency.

If operators refuse on-site inspections, they could be hit with a fine of up to ¥200,000.

The second bill, for revising the law on infectious diseases, would impose imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to ¥1 million for people who refuse to be hospitalized.

The bill also gives more power to the state and prefectural governors to issue advisories to medical facilities to accept people infected with the novel coronavirus and allow them to make public the names of the facilities that do not obey.

The ruling coalition is willing to make adjustments to the bills as some of its own members are also wary of introducing imprisonment for those refusing to be hospitalized.

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