Statement : For Anti–Novel Coronavirus Measures Jichiroren calls for provision of accurate information, practical steps, emergency funding to Gov’t – to keep people safer and protect their living
Hiroshi Maeda secretary general
March 3, 2020
Jichiroren, on February 25, submitted a written request for drastically stepping up anti-infective measures including a novel coronavirus to the health ministry, calling for practical steps in: (1) information disclosure, (2) new quarantine procedures, (3) the establishment of a treatment for the disease, (4) the increase of beds for coronavirus patients and the improvement of curing systems, (5) the safety and the health of staff working in the front line, (6) the increase of the number of health care workers, and (8) funding.
The government decided on a basic policy against the Covid-19 on February 25, which was, however, not good enough to meet public expectation. On the 28th, the Abe Cabinet forced its fiscal 2020 budget bill, which will not spend just a yen for anti-novel coronavirus measures, through the Lower House plenary session by force of numbers, after rejecting a joint motion proposed by opposition parties, which called for the cost of combating the outbreak in the budget.
On February 27, Prime Minister Abe made a sudden statement by saying, “The government asks all elementary, junior high and senior high schools including schools for special needs education to close temporarily from March 2,” without providing any reasons for his decision, practical steps and funding. Reportedly, this decision, without any consultation with concerned parties or experts, wrong-footed people in the front of local governments and after-school childcare, including parents and parental guardians. Local authorities are taking different attitudes toward the government request. The TOKYO Shimbun quoted Abe’s remarks at his news conference on February 29 as saying, “A catalogue of measures, lacking details,” or, “It takes a toll on people on the job.” Abe, as is shown, fails to respond to the concern of people at all.
All elementary, junior high and senior high schools are told to close its doors, for the purpose of preventing the spread of infection among children, according to the health and welfare ministry. Meanwhile, day care centers for children and after-school facilities for elementary school children are not subject to the request, which would work directly against the reason it gave. This is a knee-jerk reaction that ignores the fact that children in childcare settings are in close contact with their friends and staff members.
With the blanket closure for schools having its pros and cons, local authorities are facing a mountain full of tasks to be done, such as how to meet their duties of care to children and to staff after schools are temporarily closed, and how to provide after-school care services as well as to secure staff members with their working conditions maintained. The central government throws all the important jobs into the laps of local authorities, without any consultation with them or giving preparation time. Its unilateral, no evidence-based decision cannot avoid blame for its irresponsibility.
The ministry of internal affairs, on February 28, requested every administrative organ to “pay attention to parents with children at school, as well as to shape a favourable environment for staff to take holidays,” by “providing flexible work arrangements and taking staff using annual paid leaves into consideration.” Its bidding, however, lacks practical measures to improve difficult working conditions in which such consideration cannot be taken into account, like workplaces where working excessively long hours became fairly common, due to chronic staff shortages
Non-regular workers’ pay and leave entitlements vary widely according to the local governments for which they work. For these workers, the central government should institute practical measures with an immediately impact, including a necessary funding increase to local governments.
Jichiroren is determined again to make every effort for the increase of the staff at work as well as for better working conditions and workplace environments for workers who can dedicate themselves to keeping their communities safe and secure, as well as to protecting life and living of residents.