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Antivirus probes under nightlife business law raise questions

02 Aug 2020
People gather at an
People gather at an "izakaya", or Japanese-style bar, in Tokyo on late May 27, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 02 Aug 2020
02 Aug 2020

TOKYO: Some police officials and experts are questioning the advisability of the Tokyo metropolitan government and police conducting on-site inspections of nightlife establishments under the law governing adult entertainment business to check for coronavirus prevention measures.

The application of the law to the fight against the virus has been approved by the central government, but some officials say the probes under the law do not serve the purposes of the law.

Speaking on television on July 19, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga unveiled plans to conduct on-site inspections of establishments in nightlife districts, where an increasing number of coronavirus infection cases have been found, under the law governing nightlife-related businesses.

At the request of Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, the Metropolitan Police Department inspected so-called host clubs for female customers and hostess bars in Kabukicho in Shinjuku as well as in Ikebukuro, two major entertainment districts in the capital, on the night of July 24.

Metropolitan government personnel who accompanied police officers urged operators of such establishments to implement thorough steps to prevent infection.

But some police officials said the adult entertainment business law cannot be the basis for such on-site inspections. Checking if coronavirus countermeasures have been in place is not among the purposes of inspections under the law, one official said.

There are also concerns that police officers may be infected as a result of on-site probes.

The MPD mobilized backup personnel from outside the section in charge, while officers who took part in the inspections were told to work from home for a week after the probes in a precautionary step.

Operators of entertainment establishments are also worried about the inspections.

Maki Tezuka, chair of Smappa! Group, which operates host clubs and other outlets in the Kabukicho district, expressed concerns that establishments that are operating properly may be regarded as violating the adult entertainment business law.

Kaori Koga, chief representative of the national association of nightlife businesses, questioned why only facilities governed by the adult entertainment business law have been targeted. The three Cs of closed, crowded and close-contact settings, believed to boost virus infection risks, are seen at some conventional restaurants, she said.

Sho Wakabayashi, a lawyer familiar with the night life business law, noted that on-site inspections under the law should be limited to the minimum necessary.   

“The latest probes squarely violate the purposes of the law and could lead to an abuse of power under the pretext of (the fight against) the new coronavirus,” Wakabayashi said.

JIJI Press

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