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Public health nurses in Japan oppose legal revision's virus penalties as counter-effective

The National Diet Building (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- The Japan Academy of Public Health Nursing and three other organizations released a Jan. 26 statement voicing their opposition to a legal revision bill that would impose penalties on COVID-19 patients who refuse hospitalization.

    The Japan Academy of Public Health Nursing, the Japan Association of Public Health Nurse Educational Institutions, the public health nurse activities research group, and the Japan Association of Nursing Academics expressed their objection to the bill to revise the infectious disease control law, which the national government aims to enact soon in the regular Diet session.

    Many have voiced opposition to the bill, including public health center officials who say imposing penalties "would increase the number of people who refuse to take tests, and lead to a spread of infections."

    While reflecting on past measures against leprosy and other infectious diseases, which brought about patient discrimination and human rights violations, the statement emphasized that compulsory orders will fuel fear and anxiety, and lead to discrimination. The organizations expressed concern that the penalties risk provoking certain behaviors, such as test or hospital examination refusals, or the hiding of symptoms, which will "lead to a large setback for coronavirus countermeasures."

    Furthermore, the groups said that among the factors behind hospitalization refusals are "issues related to child-rearing or nursing care, as well as economic difficulties resulting from temporary leave from work," and demanded the improvement of both consultation services for infected people and the support system for hospitalized and recuperating patients.

    (Japanese original by Hitomi Tanimoto, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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