[The following is the gist of interpellations at the Upper House plenary session and the Lower House meetings of the cabinet and judicial affairs committees on March 11, 2020.]
Upper House plenary session
Gaku Ito (Japanese Communist Party): Why did the government decide to provide 4,100 yen a day in subsidies to freelance workers who are forced to give up work (due to measures taken to combat the new type of coronavirus)?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: There is great variety in work styles and compensation levels. We took into consideration the need to provide support swiftly and the balance with benefits paid to non-regular workers.
Hirofumi Yanagase (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): The government should ask patients with mild symptoms to isolate themselves at home and concentrate resources on patients in serious condition.
Abe: If there were a surge in the number of patients, we’ll ask patients with mild symptoms to stay home to recuperate in principle.
Lower House Cabinet Committee
Yasuyuki Eda (Komeito): The government needs to clearly define the Diet’s involvement in declaring a state of emergency (which is stipulated in the revised law concerning special measures to tackle novel influenza viruses).
Minister in Charge of Economic Revitalization Yasutoshi Nishimura (Minister in Charge of the Act on Special Measures for Pandemic Influenza and New Infectious Diseases Preparedness and Response): We’ll explain [this matter] as carefully as possible to the Diet. Declaring a state of emergency is really a “last resort.” We’ll work hard to curb the spread of infection so that we don’t have to take the step of declaring an emergency.
Yuichi Goto (Democratic Party for the People): (The spread of infection) is currently within a certain level of predictability. We’re not in a situation where the government has to declare a state of emergency.
Nishimura: We’re not in such a situation, given the current pace of the spread of infection. I think (declaring a state of emergency) would be unavoidable if infection were to spread rapidly going forward.
Kazuhiko Shigetoku (Independent, opposition joint parliamentary group): Do you understand why the opposition bloc has been calling on the government to give prior notice to the Diet if it decides to declare a state of emergency?
Nishimura: We’ll make appropriate decisions by seeking opinions from experts to dispel the opposition parties’ concerns (about extensive restrictions on citizens’ rights).
Lower House Judicial Affairs Committee
Shiori Yamao (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): If a state of emergency were declared, would commercial TV stations be specified as “designated public institutions” that would receive necessary instructions from the prime minister?
State Minister of Cabinet Office Ichiro Miyashita: Legally speaking, they can be designated. But in actuality, they won’t be designated in light of the discussions when the law concerning special measures to tackle novel influenza viruses was enacted.
Yamao: Is it legally possible for the government to give instructions about media coverage?
Miyashita: We’ll not do that this time, but the legal framework allows us to ask [commercial TV stations] to change or replace their coverage.