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Police struggling to prevent virus infection among detainees

  • May 10, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 7:39 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, May 10 (Jiji Press)–Japanese police are beefing up efforts to prevent infection with the novel coronavirus among detainees, after some held at a police station in Tokyo contracted the virus last month and its detention facility was closed temporarily as a result.


Concerned about the possibility of a similar thing happening elsewhere in the country, the National Police Agency is calling for one detainee to be given one cell, but this looks difficult due to limited capacities.


At the Shibuya police station of Metropolitan Police Department, a detainee was confirmed to be infected with the virus on April 8 and another on April 12.


Polymerase chain reaction tests conducted later on people at the police station in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, including officers in charge of the management of the detention facility, found infection among five more inmates on April 18.


The MPD temporarily closed the detention facility at the Shibuya station while relocating all detainees there to other facilities. “We take the infection of the seven detainees seriously,” a senior MPD official said.


Detention facilities, including prisons, tend to constitute closed, crowded and close-contact settings.


In April, the Justice Ministry released guidelines calling for, among other things, confining each of new detainees in one cell for 14 days and checking their body temperature twice every day during the period.


The NPA in February instructed police departments across the nation to try as much as possible to have one cell confine only one inmate.


But an MPD executive admits that capacities of the detention facilities at police stations are limited. Two of the seven infected detainees at the Shibuya police station were sharing a cell, which was also used by a different inmate at the same time.


As of April 2019, there were 1,128 detention facilities at police stations across the nation that can hold up to 21,605 people, according to the NPA.


The occupancy rate is relatively low, averaging about 37 pct. But an NPA official cited “regional imbalances,” indicating that some regions have more detainees than others. The official also said, “It is not easy to allocate one cell to one inmate at large and midsize police departments.”


The Japan Federation of Bar Associations, in a statement released under the name of its president, Tadashi Ara, in April, called on law-enforcement authorities to avoid arrests as much as possible. It also said that suspects in detention should be released and investigations should be carried out at home.


While showing an intention to examine whether the proposed measures are necessary, the NPA official said: ” In some cases, arrests are needed. We’ll deal with issues regarding detention by thoroughly implementing current measures to prevent infections.”



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