With Tokyo’s number of coronavirus cases stubbornly high compared with the rest of the country and fears lingering over a potential third wave, the Metropolitan Assembly is meeting to discuss possible countermeasures.
One such idea that will be up for discussion is the establishment of a standardized ordinance to discourage people from going out while infected.
Of course, there have been recorded cases of people diagnosed with COVID-19 disregarding orders to stay home and infecting others as a result. However, they are all handled legally on a case by case basis, with the existing laws applying to each circumstance.
Instead, Yu Ito of Governor Yuriko Koike’s party Tomin First no Kai is suggesting “rather than imposing punishments on each case, we ought to promote self-restraint through punishable ordinances,” as a more proactive approach.
To accomplish this, they hope to build on the existing national Act on Special Countermeasures Against New-Type Flu and Other Novel Infections that was established in 2012 but expanded this year to include COVID-19. This law holds people liable with fines of up to 50,000 yen for ignoring government-mandated restrictions and infecting others. It also penalizes businesses through fines and publicly naming them.
Ito and others in his party would like to apply similar kinds of fines on Tokyo residents who knowingly go into public places while infected with COVID-19 and as a result cause infections in others. Business owners who force COVID-19 patients to go to work or perform any other task that is hazardous to others would also be held accountable.
According to an online survey by Tomin First no Kai, a majority of residents support the idea, with 54.6 percent saying such people should be penalized. However netizens were quick to point out issues with the plan, namely that it is hard to enforce and smells of government overreach.
“What? How do you prove this? This is crazy.”
“I think the idea is alright, but it’s virtually impossible to prove someone infected a certain person.”
“This will just make people hide their cases more and make infection routes harder to trace.”
“I thought a lot more than 54.6 percent would be behind this.”
“Don’t base legislation on online polls.”
“It’s kind of overkill, but I guess it’s okay.”
“This will make discrimination against infected people worse.”
“Thanks to some stupid people, everyone in Tokyo will have to be suspects.”
Overreach and enforcement difficulties didn’t stop Tokyo from enacting a wide-reaching anti-smoking ordinance a few years ago, which even restricted smoking in people’s homes under certain circumstances. In fact, fellow Tomin First no Kai lawmaker Koki Okamoto is now citing that very ordinance as a successful example which was effective at modifying people’s behavior within the city.
However, a bigger hurdle of this ordinance is that it’s putting the cart before the horse. While setting out to punish those who do not adhere to Tokyo’s guidelines, opponents were quick to point out that Tokyo currently doesn’t have clearly defined guidelines for people to violate.
Up until now, various industries have largely been self-regulating, such as the prohibition on screaming while riding roller coasters that was set up by East and West Japan Theme Park Associations rather than any government body.
For Tokyo to bring in their own set of guidelines at this point would mean having to navigate the existing framework of guidelines that the private sector has already come up with without them. This brings the argument right back around to whether it is worth putting in all the money and effort into setting up such a law – just to dissuade people from knowingly infecting each other with COVID-19.
Sources: FNN Prime Online, Hachima Kiko
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