Legal Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Comparison of Japan and the United States

Japan and the United States have taken distinct approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan has relied more on voluntary action by the public than on coercion to promote compliance with measures like vaccines and masking. The United States, by contrast, has increasingly relied on legal requirements at the federal and state/local levels for vaccination and masking (although these requirements have varied widely at the state/local levels). In the United States, legal mandates have generated political opposition and constitutional challenges. This presentation will compare the approaches taken by Japan and the United States. It will examine how each country utilizes its legal system to tackle a public health crisis like COVID-19 and also draw some broader comparisons between the two countries and their respective constitutions.

Controlling Pandemic or People?: Some Constitutional Issues in the Countermeasure Against Covid-19 in Japan

All states have the duty to protect citizen from a spread of infectious disease. Each government responds to Covid-19 pandemic. However, the methods of response to Covid-19 depends on the country. There are three different models in the case of Covid-19: the mandatory model, the self-restraint model, and the hands-off model. Although each countries attempt to strike a balance between freedom and safety, freedom is sacrificed for safety during pandemic. The self-restraint model seeks to find balance in these models because this approach attempts to protect safety and security while maintaining freedom as much as possible. Japan is a typical country using the self-restraint model. Considering this model, it has some problems such as being de facto mandatory. I examine the cost and benefit of the self-restraint model in Japan, comparing it to other methods in foreign countries.

Oita Local Model Comparing South Dakota Model

Japan has taken self-restraint model to response Covid-19 pandemic. Under that national legal scheme, each local government has taken somewhat different approach according to their own policy. Oita Prefecture, located in Kyusyu region, is one of the local governments that have taken most moderate approach. Unlike other prefectures in Kyusyu, such as Miyazaki and Kumamoto, Oita hasn’t declared a local state of emergency, and it hasn’t asked the central government to approve emergency or quasi-emergency measures until recently. But, with or without authorized law, Oita prefecture has used various measures to tackle with Covid-19 pandemic relying on voluntary action by the prefecture’s resident. On the other hand, United States have generally taken mandatory model, but some states like South Dakota have resisted this model for protecting freedom. This presentation will examine Oita local model in terms of the rule of law and compare it to South Dakota model.

COVID-19 Pandemic a Emergency Declaration in Local Government : A Comparison of Japan and the Canada

Some Japanese local governments issued emergency declarations to respond the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, Aichi local government declared original emergency declaration and some unique declarations. However, they were not based on national law. Despite that the law gives only central government the power of declaration of emergency, the Aichi local government did it. By contrast, in Canada, where provincial governments are the main responders to the Covid-19 pandemic, all provinces have issued emergency declarations. Because the national law directly authorized that power (but with stronger methods than Japan, such as lockdowns and mandatory vaccinations).I will compare Aichi local government 's non-legal declaration approach with the Canadian approach. I will also analyze it from the perspective of the rule of law.

Constitutional Problems in the Decision-Making Process Under Pandemic: Precautionary Measures Against Covid-19 in Japan and Germany

Japan has taken various measures against COVID-19, most of which are different from other countries. Germany, for example, has codified much more coercive regulations (obligation to show vaccination certificate, obligation to wear mask, etc.) compared to Japan. To pursue these measures, German law stipulates the organization responsible for providing information which the later decision by government will be based on, while in Japan, the decision-making process is not clear, that interferes with freedom of citizens, including the request to refrain from providing alcoholic beverages. In this presentation, I will first compare the preventive measures of these two countries from the perspective of legal system and draw both the similarities and differences. Finally, I will introduce some recent decisions by the Federal Constitutional Court and other courts, and give suggestions on a way to reconcile freedom and safety during the pandemic.