Japan’s Ruling Party Approves maximum Fine of ¥500,000 for Uncooperative Businesses

The Yomiuri Shimbun
LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Hakubun Shimomura, center, addresses a joint meeting of the party’s coronavirus task force and other groups at LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Monday.

Prefectural governors will be able to order businesses to close in areas where a state of emergency has been declared, and impose a fine of up to ¥500,000 on those that do not comply, according to a draft amendment to the special measures law to cope with new strains of influenza that has been approved by the Liberal Democratic Party.

The draft amendment was approved Monday at a joint meeting of the LDP’s coronavirus task force and other groups held at its headquarters. The meeting also approved a draft amendment to the Infectious Diseases Law that would impose penalties on infected people who refuse to be hospitalized.

Although some members of the ruling and opposition parties were cautious about introducing penalties, the LDP is giving priority to increasing the effectiveness of measures against the virus. The government hopes to submit both amendments to the Diet by the end of the week, have them enacted in early February, and have them take effect in the same month.

The amendment to the special measures law allows governors to implement new measures to prevent the spread of infection even before a state of emergency is declared. Under these measures, governors can request or order businesses to shorten their business hours and impose a fine of up to ¥300,000 if they do not comply.

The draft amendment clearly states that the government and local governments will “effectively take measures to support” businesses that comply with such requests and orders. It also includes financial support from the central government for local authorities.

The proposed amendment to the Infectious Diseases Law establishes penalties for infected people who refuse to comply with their governor’s recommendation for hospitalization, stating that the penalty shall be a maximum of one year in prison or a fine of up to ¥1 million.

Also, a fine of up to ¥500,000 will be imposed for refusing an investigation by a public health center. Another provision allows the health, labor and welfare minister and governors to recommend that doctors and other officials secure hospital beds.

Komeito largely approved the draft amendments at another joint meeting on Monday. However, there were some comments regarding the introduction of penalties, such as “we should take a cautious approach” and “we should clearly specify the cases where penalties will be applied.”

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan accepts the introduction of penalties in the proposed amendment to the special measures law, but plans to demand “adequate compensation” for stores that cooperate in shortening business hours.

Tetsuro Fukuyama, the CDPJ secretary general, told reporters in the Diet on Monday: “Even though [we] loudly call for the introduction of penalties, the public may not cooperate readily. The government’s stance should be to ask for cooperation while providing sufficient compensation.”