Tokyo is considering fines and even prison terms for coronavirus-infected individuals who refuse to be hospitalized and cooperate with the authorities. The move comes as the country faces a major spike in Covid-19 cases.
The new penalties proposed by PM Yoshihide Suga’s administration were discussed at a meeting with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Friday. The new restrictions come as a package of amendments to the infectious disease law, which is expected to be introduced to the parliament next week.
Under the revised rules, coronavirus patients refusing to be hospitalized would face a fine of up to 1 million yen (over $9,600) or a prison term of up to one year. Those who refuse to cooperate with the health authorities in tracing their contacts to determine the infection route would be penalized as well, facing a fine of 500,000 yen ($4,800) or six months behind bars.
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While the proposed measures were largely approved of by the health experts present at the meeting, some expressed doubt over the effectiveness of the penalties in actually fighting the coronavirus, local media reported. Some said it would place more of a strain on healthcare workers rather than help them, as they would have to do the paperwork to determine who should be punished for non-compliance.
The proposed measures come as Japan faces a major spike in new cases. So far, the nation of 126 million has registered just over 300,000 Covid-19 patients, with more than 4,000 succumbing to the disease. The spread, however, accelerated greatly in early January, with the daily tally reaching well past the 7,000 mark, prompting an emergency to be declared for Tokyo and other areas across the country.
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Despite the surge, Japan lags far behind the worst-affected nations which have had millions of cases and tens of thousands of deaths. Worldwide, nearly 94 million people have been infected during the pandemic, which has been raging since early 2020, while more than 2 million people have succumbed to the virus.
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