By Health / 2021-02-04

With the numbers of infections not slowing down despite introduction of a second state of emergency last month, the much acclaimed goodwill and cooperation of the Japanese people seem not to be enough to stop the spread of the virus after all. To encourage better track record for compliance with the various ‘requests’ and ‘suggestions’ from the authorities, Japanese lawmakers enacted legislation that will put some teeth to the existing laws. The renewed laws will enter into force from mid-February. Read on to learn more about Japan’s renewed anti-COVID legislation.

What will change with the renewed penalty laws?

Compared to other Western countries, Japan’s legislation is still relatively mild, even after the recent upgrade. The February 3 revision concerns three laws, the special anti-coronavirus law, the infectious disease control law and the quarantine law. 

Here is the gist of the changes:

  • The new law will let officials levy fines against individuals or businesses that do not comply with the anti-virus laws.
  • Local governments will have to help affected businesses financially.
  • Prefectural governors will be able to introduce anti-virus measures during a Stage 3 alert (even before a state of emergency is declared for their prefecture) and impose fines on business that refuse to shorten their hours.
  • Authorities will be able to ‘demand’ that people entering Japan stay in isolation for 14 days, either at home or in designated locations.
This means that you may face punishment
  • if you refuse to cooperate with officials taking tests, refuse to answer the health officials’ questions or lie (up to 300,000 yen);
  • if you test positive but refuse to check into a hospital despite heath officials’ requests or if you leave the hospital before full recovery (up to 500,000 yen);
  • if your bar or restaurant does not stick to the 8 p.m. closing time (up to 300,000 yen).
The COVID-19 pandemic is still far from over, even though the government is planning to start vaccinations at the end of February. How much the renewed legislation will actually help bring the numbers down? The commentators and experts in Japan are sceptical. Personally, I’ll just keep doing my part by maintaining social distance (as much as possible) and avoiding unnecessary outings… 

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MARTA TAKAHASHI
Photographer and explorer with 10 years of experience leaving and working in Japan

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