Japan is considering adding teeth to voluntary restrictions on hours for bars and restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic by fining establishments that don’t comply with instructions to close early.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Friday that unease is growing as the country faces rising daily infections. A record of 3,745 new cases were identified through 6 p.m. Friday, broadcaster NTV reported. Suga renewed a call for the public to spend the New Year’s holidays quietly at home.
The premier told a news conference that the government is mulling adding both incentives and fines to a law on virus management known as the Act on Special Measures, which could be debated when parliament convenes in January.
Japan has had the lowest infection and death rates among Group of Seven nations, mostly relying on its residents to show self-restraint and businesses to comply with voluntary measures. Its postwar constitution provides strong protections for civil-liberties that prevents a forcible lockdown.
Suga told reporters that Japan has begun tests on available vaccines and is planning to compile the data in February, while government agencies are preparing to begin distribution.
Local media have reported that vaccines will be rolled out in Japan from late February, and Suga said earlier this week that medical workers and the elderly will be first in line to receive shots.