People like this are giving foreigners in Japan a bad name.

A number of countries around the world have strict quarantine laws in place at the moment, where new arrivals from abroad are required to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks–three weeks if you’re in Hong Kong–with heavy fines placed upon those who leave their hotel during this time period.

Here in Japan, however, quarantine laws are far less stringent, as people are trusted to abide by requests from the government, even now when the country is in a state of emergency. The requests include: undergoing a PCR test upon arrival at the airport, quarantining at a hotel or one’s own residence for 14 days, and pledging to refrain from using public transportation.

▼ Because public transport hubs in Japan can get really crowded.

Japan’s quarantine guidelines attempt to preserve the rights of the individual while keeping the public at large safe at the same time. However, some individuals have shown no respect for the rights given to them, nor the rights of others, by breaking quarantine, even after returning from countries where mutant strains of the virus have been found.

One such case of an individual breaking quarantine made news recently, as weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun revealed that a foreign reporter working at Reuters Tokyo spread the mutant strain of COVID-19 after attending a party within 14 days of arriving in Japan from the U.K.

The foreign reporter had returned to England temporarily for a vacation in mid-December and tested negative at the airport upon returning to Japan. Despite being asked to quarantine at home for two weeks, the reporter went out during this period to attend a party with nine friends at a pub in Tokyo’s Minato Ward on 25 December.

▼ Home to a number of embassies and foreign corporations, Minato has one the largest foreign populations in Tokyo.

After the party, a male friend who was at the party, and the reporter’s partner, who did not attend, contracted coronavirus. After undergoing a formal test, all three were confirmed positive. The two close contacts were found to be infected with the mutant strain of corona.

The Reuters reporter admitted to breaking quarantine, telling Shukan Bunshun:

“Yes, I was there for about an hour. I was negative (when I returned to Japan), so I thought it was safe. It was a mistake to break the two-week home-waiting period. I broke Japanese guidelines and went out. I only went to that pub once.”

A Reuters spokesperson said:

“We weren’t aware of the situation and are currently investigating. We strictly adhere to travel restrictions for all staff, including in Japan, and staff are instructed to comply with local quarantine regulations and inspections.”

A day after Shukan Bunshun published the story, Reuters’ PR department sent the same statement out on Twitter, adding:

“After discovering this issue this Monday, we immediately began investigating. The employee is no longer working for us.”

The actions of the reporter and their employer stirred up heated debate amongst Japanese Twitter users, who commented with:

“I wonder if Reuters ignored the issue all this time.”
“Japanese show self-restraint from going out, but Westerners break the rules as much as they want without penalties.”
“Foreign nationals should be prohibited from entering the country.”
“So many of us are sacrificing seeing families right now and this person went to a party???”
“I’m sure there are Japanese people doing this too, especially when the government had its ‘go-to’ campaigns.”

“Maybe the government needs to have strict quarantine laws like overseas.”

It’s true that placing so much trust on individuals to follow guidelines without any threat of punishment can be a dangerous juggling act. However, grown adults should have a sense of responsibility when it comes to following guidelines designed to protect themselves and those around them.

That sense of responsibility should be even more profound when you’re a foreigner in Japan who has the potential to give other foreigners a bad name, particularly during the pandemic when foreign nationals have been mentioned in the news as potential spreaders of the virus. And that sense of responsibility ought to be even more important when you work in the news industry yourself and travel around the world as part of your job.

While the foreign reporter has now lost their job, they’re probably thanking their lucky stars they weren’t caught out during the current state of emergency, because the Japanese government has since added some more stipulations to their quarantine guidelines. Now, Japanese nationals who violate quarantine requests from the government may have their names made public, while foreign nationals residing in Japan run the risk of having their names and nationalities publicised and their visa revoked, resulting in deportation.

▼ Bye! Nurses working in Japan’s overburdened system won’t miss you.

So if you’re arriving in Japan from overseas, do the right thing and stay indoors for fourteen days. A negative test result at the airport doesn’t mean you won’t come down with coronavirus days later, and just because the government isn’t monitoring your every move doesn’t give you permission to act out like an irresponsible child breaking the rules at school.

Plus, fourteen days is a very short time compared to a lifetime of living with guilt over having infected someone with a potentially life-threatening illness. Japan isn’t going anywhere, and if you’re worried about missing out on fun with friends for a fortnight, trust us, they’re more likely to remain your friend if you don’t put their lives at risk by exposing them to coronavirus.

Source: Shukan Bunshun via Hachima Kiko, MOFA
Top image: Pakutaso
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