Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (C), Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (L) and Finance Minister Taro Aso (R) attend a cabinet meeting in Tokyo. AFP
Japan’s cabinet approved draft laws to toughen coronavirus restrictions on Friday, a move that could threaten rule-breakers with fines and prison sentences for the first time since the outbreak began.
With just six months until the virus-postponed Tokyo Olympics are due to begin, the capital and other regions are currently under a state of emergency in an attempt to quell a record spike in Covid-19 infections.
But unlike strict lockdowns seen elsewhere in the world, the measure has no means of enforcement — with people urged rather than ordered to stay home, and no fines for businesses who ignore requests to close early.
While some observers have praised Japan’s soft approach, which tries to balance infection control with economic impact, recent surveys show approval ratings for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government have plummeted over its handling of the latest wave.
The new laws would allow authorities to punish and even imprison people for up to a year if they test positive but refuse hospitalisation.
Japan court upholds ban on dual citizenship
UAE announces 3,529 new COVID-19 cases
They would also penalise bars and restaurants that continue evening service when instructed not to with fines of up to 500,000 yen ($4,800).
Suga said his cabinet had given the green light to the draft bills and urged lawmakers to “swiftly” debate and revise them.
The bills are expected to pass parliament next week, but reports said the opposition will push for an amendment to the section on forced hospitalisation following criticism that it impinges on civil liberties.
Despite the recent spike, Japan has seen a comparatively small Covid-19 outbreak, with around 4,700 deaths overall.
But doctors warn hospitals are being overwhelmed in the hardest-hit areas, partly because private hospitals can refuse to accept coronavirus patients.
The draft laws would allow local governments to name and shame medical facilities that flout requests to admit Covid-19 patients.
The Saudi interior ministry said in a statement early on Thursday that entertainment activities and events as well as in-restaurant dining would be suspended for 10 days, open to renewal.
Japan placed 11 of its 47 prefectures under a state of emergency in January as a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation. One of those prefectures, Tochigi, has already emerged early from the emergency restrictions.
Saudi Arabia will partially lift its suspension of international flights as of Sept.15 to allow "exceptional categories" of citizens and residents to travel, the state news agency SPA said on Sunday.
Sources familiar with the details of the accident said that it occurred on Monday afternoon, as a result of a malfunction in the bus's brakes, which led it to collide with a bridge, according to local media.
Mariam Al Kaabi, UAE Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt and Permanent Representative of the UAE to the Arab League, represented the UAE during the signing ceremony.
They prayed to Allah Almighty to perpetuate the blessings of security and stability, and to revisit the fasting month with more goodness, progress, and prosperity for the UAE and its people.
Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter, “Today, I was briefed, accompanied by my brother, the President of the State, may God preserve him, on the ongoing preparations in the country to host the COP28 Conference of the Parties, in which 70,000 people from 198 countries are expected to participate. Our national team is ready. Protect the planet.”