Japan scraps plan to imprison disobedient coronavirus patients
Written by tokyoclub on January 28, 2021
Japan’s ruling and main opposition parties agreed Thursday to scrap a plan to introduce imprisonment for coronavirus patients who refuse to be hospitalized, in response to criticism that it was too excessive.
The government had been seeking a legal revision to introduce imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of up to 1 million yen ($9,500) for such patients, as well as a fine of up to 500,000 yen for those who do not comply with epidemiological surveys by health authorities.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (R) speaks at a House of Councillors budget committee session in Tokyo on Jan. 28, 2021, with a transparent acrylic screen set in front of him to prevent coronavirus infection. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
The Diet affairs chiefs of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Liberal Democratic Party and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan decided to scrap the idea of a criminal punishment but agreed to introduce administrative fines for such people.
The parties are also negotiating another legal revision that would allow authorities to fine businesses that do not comply with orders to shorten their operating hours. However, there is disagreement over whether the proposed penalty amounts are too high.
The government had been planning to slap fines of up to 500,000 yen on such businesses under a state of emergency and up to 300,000 yen on those in a situation categorized as just below a state of emergency.
Hiroshi Moriyama, Diet affairs chief of the LDP, admitted that there had been disagreement even within the ruling party over whether the proposed criminal punishments were appropriate.
“We decided to withdraw (the plan) after asking for a judgment by the prime minister,” Moriyama told reporters following a meeting with Jun Azumi, his CDPJ counterpart.
CDPJ chief Yukio Edano welcomed the decision. “We took a big step forward,” he told a meeting of the opposition party.
Amid a recent resurgence of coronavirus infections in Japan, Suga declared a second state of emergency covering Tokyo and three adjacent prefectures on Jan. 7 and expanded it to seven other prefectures six days later.
Under the declaration, the government has urged people to stay at home as much as possible, and asked bars and restaurants to cut opening hours, although there is currently no penalty for not complying with the requests.
On Thursday, Tokyo logged 1,064 new infections, bringing the cumulative total in the capital to 97,571.