Japan mulls harsher punishments for violators of COVID-19 restriction measures

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Tokyo, January 15: Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on Friday held a meeting to discuss introducing harsher punishments for violators of coronavirus rules as the country sees a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, media reported.

According to the Kyodo news agency, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga earlier floated a revision of infectious disease law to crack down on flouters of restrictions measures. The ministry held the discussion before the revisions are set to be forwarded to the country’s legislature, the National Diet, next week.

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The health officials largely approved the rules proposed by the Suga government: those refusing to be hospitalized would face a maximum fine of 1 million yen ($ 9,600) or a prison sentence of up to one year while people who hamper contact tracing effort can expect a maximum fine of 500,000 yen or jail time of up to six months, the agency reported.

Businesses that refuse to abide by government-mandated opening hours can also be slapped with hefty fines, as reviewed at the meeting.

Some officials voiced concern that the measures may infringe on personal freedoms and can increase the workload for health care workers.

Japan is in the midst of an unprecedented wave of COVID-19 transmissions, having posted over 5,000 new infections daily since January 7. The current nationwide tally stands over 302,000 cases and 4,233 deaths.