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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 January 13 - 19  > Medical community: Adoption of penalties harmful to fight against pandemic
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2021 January 13 - 19 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Medical community: Adoption of penalties harmful to fight against pandemic

January 16, 2021
Japan’s largest academic organization in the medical field, the Japanese Medical Science Federation (JMSF), on January 14 released an urgent statement opposing the government’s move to revise the Infectious Diseases Act in order to incorporate penal regulations in anti-coronavirus measures. The statement points out that the use of punitive measures will hamper efforts to prevent and control infectious diseases.

The government intends to revise the Infectious Diseases Act so that patients and infected people who are against involuntary treatment and those who refuse to cooperate in COVID-19 contact tracing will be subjected to criminal penalties, including imprisonment. As a reason for the revision, the government explains that imposing disciplinary action will make anti-coronavirus measures more effective.

The statement also points out that in countries which adopted penal regulations and other forcible measures to combat infectious diseases and AIDS, people, in fear of receiving criminal punishment, tended to be unwilling to have tests and hid their test results, which caused difficulties in infection control. The statement stresses that the use of penal regulations will obviously place a serious disadvantage to public health practice.

The JMSF in its statement demanded that the government secure a sufficient number of medical facilities that accept COVID-19 patients; provide adequate compensation to those who comply with hospitalization instructions and a government request to quarantine at hotels; and implement measures to prevent discrimination and prejudice against infected persons and their close contacts.

The statement stresses that public understanding and cooperation are essential for the prevention and control of infectious diseases. It points out that people refuse to be hospitalized mainly because of concern about possible negative impact on their work and family responsibilities as well as possibly having to put up with discrimination and unfair treatment. The statement emphasizes that it is morally unacceptable for the government to blame individuals for being uncooperative in preventing the spread of the coronavirus while failing to take measures to ease their concerns.

Of 136 JMSF member societies, the Japanese Society of Public Health and the Japan Epidemiological Association on the same day published their statements opposing the government move.

* * *

On the following day, Japanese Communist Party Policy Commission Chair Tamura Tomoko at a press conference in the Diet building referred to the JMSF statement and criticized the government’s intent to take punitive action for stirring up divisions among people and working negatively in the ongoing fight against the pandemic. She expressed her determination to oppose the planned revision of the law on special measures to deal with the coronavirus, the Infectious Diseases Act, and the Quarantine Act.

Furthermore, Tamura stated that the revision of legislation on infectious diseases will strengthen municipal authorities’ power so that they can force hospitals to accept COVID-19 patients and make public the names of hospitals which refuse to comply with such a request.

Tamura pointed out that the reason for hesitation in accepting COVID-19 patients is that the acceptance of these patients will deliver a serious blow to hospital earnings. She said, “Under a situation where the strengthening of cooperation between healthcare settings becomes an urgent task, the government should not implement a policy of punishing hospitals for rejecting a request to accept COVID-19 patients and instead should provide sufficient aid to medical institutions.”

Past related article:
> JCP: Not fines but consent and grants are needed to fight COVID-19 pandemic [January 11, 2021]
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