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Businesses in Japan violating shutdown orders could face fines up to $4,800

This May 1, 2019 file photo shows the Japanese prime minister's office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Businesses in Japan that violate orders to suspend operations amid an expected state of emergency over surging coronavirus cases could face fines of up to 500,000 yen ($4,855), according to a government draft to strengthen a special measures law.

    The beefed-up steps include allowing prefectural governors to issue legally binding orders to businesses to suspend operations under a declared state of emergency, rather than the current requests to temporarily close.

    The Japanese government and the ruling coalition are aiming to enact the amendment to the Act on Special Measures for Pandemic Influenza and New Infectious Diseases Preparedness and Response in early February. The draft will be presented at a government meeting to be attended by ruling and opposition parties on Feb. 8.

    According to the draft, "priority measures to prevent the spread of the disease" will be established before the government declares a state of emergency. Once the national government adopts the new measure, prefectural governors can request businesses to temporarily close. If they do not comply with the requests without a valid reason, governors can then order them to shut for a certain period, and if they don't comply, they can be subject to a fine of up to 300,000 yen.

    Furthermore, once under the state of emergency, a fine of up to 500,000 yen can be imposed if a business does not comply with the order to temporarily close. There is also a provision for the national government to provide financial assistance to prefectural governments to pay "cooperation money" to businesses that temporarily shut their doors.

    However, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party are cautious about establishing such penalties, and the ruling and opposition parties' discussions on Feb. 8 are likely to focus on how the government should take financial measures and whether penalties should be imposed.

    (Japanese original by Yoshitaka Koyama, Political News Department)

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