Saturday’s Asahi front-paged a report saying that a panel of experts approved on Friday a proposal by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) to revise the Infectious Disease Prevention Law to give prefectural governors more power to secure hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. The paper said that although the health minister and prefectural governors can currently only “request” that healthcare professionals cooperate in preventing the further spread of the virus, the proposed change would upgrade the “request” to an “advisory,” and medical institutions that refuse to cooperate without a compelling reason would have their names disclosed. The daily wrote that about 60% of hospitals established by public entities are accepting COVID-19 patients, but only about 20% of private hospitals are doing so. Since private facilities make up about 70% of all hospitals, the GOJ is reportedly hoping that the legal revision will prompt more of them to cooperate and make beds available to COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s Yomiuri reported that the legal revision would also allow governors to penalize COVID-19 patients who refuse to be hospitalized or respond to surveys of their behavior. The paper said the MHLW is considering imposing one-year jail sentences or fines of one million yen or less for people who refuse to be hospitalized and fines of 500,000 yen or less for people who refuse to respond to the surveys. The paper noted, however, that some members of the panel expressed reservations about penalizing people because doing so would strongly impinge on citizens’ rights.