Japan's Diet unites, on surface at least, to pass coronavirus emergency bill
Japan Times -- Mar 14
After a whirlwind week of coronavirus developments and setbacks that have placed much of the world on edge, the Upper House on Friday approved legislation authorizing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency.

The approval marks a rare occasion of unity — at least on the surface — in Japanese politics, which has been dominated in recent years by fierce clashes between Abe’s ruling coalition and opposition parties.

The law passed with support from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito as well as the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People, the two largest opposition parties.

Still, both sides are seeking to score political points. Castigated by critics over his initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, Abe is in damage control mode and is desperately trying to cast himself as a strong leader capable of steering the country in a time of crisis.

The opposition parties, united in their determination to take down Abe but also at odds with each other on certain issues, used the prime minister’s plea for cooperation as an opportunity to project an image to the public that they are a check and balance against overreach by the administration.

“The opposition parties don’t want to get in the way (of the amendment) and be seen as undermining the Japanese people’s health in a time of national emergency,” said Mieko Nakabayashi, a political science professor at Waseda University and a former Lower House lawmaker with the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan.The state-of-emergency legislation is an amendment to a law covering influenza and new infectious diseases passed in 2012, when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power.

Abe wanted to expand the law to include COVID-19 so that the government could declare a state of emergency to mitigate repercussions from a surge in infections. His administration argued the amendment was necessary because coronaviruses have been familiar to health authorities for years but were not included in the original law.

Under a state of emergency, prefectural governors would have the authority to request that residents stay inside. They would also be able to call for the temporary closures or downscaling of schools, offices and other public facilities. If such facilities refuse to comply with a request, prefectural governments would be able to disclose their names as a way to ensure measures are enforced.

Prefectural governments would also be able to expropriate land in order to build temporary medical facilities to treat a surge in patients.

Under the provisions, the prefectural government would be able to order medicine and food suppliers to sell their goods to authorities and forcibly procure items from any companies that refuse.

新型コロナウイルスの感染拡大に対応するための改正特別措置法が参議院の本会議で与党と立憲民主党など野党の賛成多数で可決し、成立しました。  この法律は14日から施行され、2年間の時限措置で新型コロナウイルスの感染拡大に対応できるようになります。総理大臣が国民生活や経済に甚大な被害を及ぼすと判断した場合に緊急事態の宣言が可能で、都道府県知事が外出の自粛要請や映画館など人の集まる施設の利用制限を指示できるようになります。法律を担当する西村大臣は「緊急事態宣言は伝家の宝刀だ」と述べ、宣言をせずに済むよう収束に全力を挙げる考えを強調しました。
News sources: Japan Times, ANNnewsCH
May 25
Japan's government plans to lift the state of emergency remaining in place for five prefectures. It will present the decision to its coronavirus advisory panel on Monday. (NHK)
May 25
Japanese medical institutions are seeing a lightening in their coronavirus caseload, health minister Katsunobu Kato said Sunday, in yet another indication the government is set to imminently lift a state of emergency over the Tokyo metro area and Hokkaido. (Japan Today)
May 25
The Japanese capital suffered more than 200 excess fatalities from pneumonia and other coronavirus symptoms early in the outbreak, dwarfing the period's officially recorded 16 from the new disease. (Nikkei)
May 25
The local government in the city of Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, has announced that a person who traveled from the Philippines had developed rabies — the first case in Japan in 14 years. (Japan Times)
May 25
Over 40 percent of the coronavirus-linked deaths in Osaka involve hospital infections, sources in the prefectural government told Jiji Press on Saturday. (Japan Times)
May 24
The sumo world is grappling with its latest crisis as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed the life of a 28-year-old wrestler and forced the cancellation of the sport's showpiece May tournament. (Japan Today)
May 24
Japanese tennis player Osaka Naomi earned more than 37 million dollars in the past year, becoming the highest-earning female athlete ever. (NHK)
May 23
A Japanese business daily apologized Friday after it erroneously reported that this year's Fuji Rock Festival, one of the largest outdoor music events in Japan, has been canceled. (Kyodo)
May 23
The government has set an additional criterion for foreign students hoping to receiving cash handouts of up to Y200,000 ($1,900) for students struggling financially amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, making only those in the top 30 percent of grades eligible. (Japan Times)
May 23
Three Japan Railways Group firms said Friday they plan to scale back cancellations of regular bullet train services ahead of a recovery in travel demand expected from the government's lifting of the state of emergency in many areas of the country. (Japan Times)