Split over Japan's virus law between cities and government widens
Japan Times -- Jul 31
The power of words is being tested in Japan, where efforts to fight the novel coronavirus — bound by a law tailored to a different disease — remain strictly voluntary.

But that may soon change, after a nationwide surge in new infections triggered debate at all levels of government on not only how the law should be changed but when.

“Revising the law is necessary for our intended results to become reality,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said during an interview with The Japan Times. “Legal authority and financial resources — the central government needs to define and clarify these things.”

Earlier this month, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to revise the law in a way that would give municipal leaders legal authority to order businesses to close should they disobey virus countermeasures.

In a news conference less than a week later, Yasutoshi Nishimura, the Cabinet minister in charge of the country’s response to the virus, said that discussions concerning revision of the law should take place after the virus has subsided.

“The fire is happening now — it’s pointless to take action after the situation has passed as the fire will have spread by then,” Koike said.

The nation’s response has been shaped largely by the New Influenza Special Measures Act, which relies on residents and businesses to voluntarily isolate themselves, practice social distancing and temporarily suspend operations. It’s based on the characteristics of influenza, a disease for which a vaccine is readily available and the rate of spread and death rate is considerably lower than for COVID-19.

The Abe administration already revised the law to allow a state of emergency to be declared in early April over Tokyo and six other prefectures, a move that authorized prefectural governors to issue business closure requests and ask residents to isolate themselves.

News source: Japan Times
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