Japan’s Cabinet approves bill enabling Abe to declare state of emergency amid COVID-19 outbreak 

Tokyo Japan, Mar 11.  The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a special bill to enable better provisions to be made to combat the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, outbreak and empowering Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare a state of emergency if necessary as the infections continue to rise.

The bill, which will be effective for a period of up to two years, is a revision of an existing law on novel influenza and has been made applicable to COVID-19. It will be valid until February 2022 as COVID-19 was officially classified as a designated infectious disease in Japan in February.

The bill is likely to clear the lower house of parliament on Thursday and the upper house a day later as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition holds a majority in both chambers.

Under the newly amended law, the government would have extended powers once a state of emergency has been declared for particular parts of the country.

Regional governments will be able to instruct local people to stay at home, issue closures to schools and restrict the use of locations that facilitate large groups of people gathering together or cancel large scale events altogether.

Local governments will also have the authority to demand that supplies deemed essential to combating the spread of COVID-19 be sold to them or requisitioned and authorities will also be able to temporarily commandeer private land or facilities for the purposes of providing medical care.

“Given that individual rights would be suppressed after an emergency declaration, I would thoroughly examine its potential impacts when making a decision,” Abe told a budget committee session on Monday.

Under the current law, the prime minister does not have the legal grounds to forcibly close schools or cancel events, although the Japanese prime minister has requested such measures to be taken.

As the new law will restrict some rights of the people, opposition parties have been concerned that checks and balances be maintained to ensure citizens’ freedom as much as possible.

The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People, to this end, are of the opinion that Abe should seek the approval of parliament before being allowed to declare a state of emergency. Xinhua/ANI