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We protest against amendments to anti-infectious diseases special measures law which imposes fines for non-compliance; we demand full compensation for temporary business closures and funds to help medical institutions make up for falling revenue

Kurosawa Koichi
Secretary General
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
February 5, 2021

Bills to amend COVID-19 related bills, including the Act on Special Measures for Pandemic Influenza and New Infectious Diseases Preparedness and Response, became law on February 3 after passing the House of Councilors. It will take effect on February 13.

The bill, which was approved by the Cabinet, included provisions of criminal penalty for breaking law. But those provisions were revoked after the ruling and opposition parties discussed amending the bill. As a result, provisions on fines were replaced with non-penal fines. But this does not change the heavy-handed approach of the government to force the citizens to obey. It could violate people’s lives and rights to live or do business. People’s concern that the legislation may cause divisions, discrimination, prejudice, and mutual surveillance will never go away.

As experts say, the proposed penal provisions are feared to discourage people without symptoms of coronavirus from receiving PCR and other viruses, and therefore will not help stop the spread of infectious diseases. The infectious diseases law provides that patients’ human rights must be respected, drawing lessons from unjustified discrimination and prejudices that existed against leprosy and other infectious disease patients. Amending the law with penal provisions as fait accompli contravenes the aim of the infectious diseases law. We cannot approve of the measure.

When the bill was submitted in the Diet, it was pointed out that there were a number of serious concerns about possible violation of the constitutional rights. But it took no more than four days for both houses of the Diet to discuss the bill. The government of Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide declared the start of a “decisive three-week period” while pushing ahead with “Go To” travel promotion campaign, which led to a surge in infections and to the hospital breaking point. The government had to declare another state of emergency. The government decided to pay 60,000 yen (about 570 US dollars) to each business that has been forced into temporary business closure. Many business owners say this amount of money falls short of being able to keep their business going. The third supplementary budget for fiscal 2020 (ending March 2021) did not include money to help maintain businesses or pay rents.

Under an amended law, the authorities will make public the names of medical institutions that have failed to comply with recommendations for setting aside beds for coronavirus patients. This is how the government is trying to take a firm grip on the medical service system by means of social sanctions. This is unacceptable as it will enforce the escalation of the government policy of cutting back healthcare services and destroying local healthcare systems by putting the economy first and pursuing greater efficiency.

The revised legislation has legally defined “home healthcare” for those people who are infected but unable to be hospitalized. But we must not shelve the necessary measures to prevent infected people from dying at home. The government’s anti-coronavirus measures put the economy before people’s lives. They have always been too late. Some of them have missed the point and failed. The latest amendments to the infectious diseases-related special measures law is shifting the government’s responsibility to protect the lives of the people onto the citizens. We lodge a strong protest about it.

The Diet has begun discussing the budget for fiscal 2021. A far-reaching recompilation of the proposed budget bill is necessary in order to provide compensation or benefits for business closure, help medical institutions make up for shortfalls in earnings, secure expenditure for protecting people’s living, employment and businesses. We urge the government to take necessary steps in this regard. Zenroren is committed to working closely with other organizations in the fight to realize politics that protects people’s livelihoods.

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