Photo/Illutration An izakaya restaurant in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward closes at 8 p.m. following the metropolitan government's request to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic on Jan. 21. (Yoshikatsu Nakajima)

Businesses will not be penalized for customers refusing to leave after closing time under new rules that would introduce fines for not complying with local restrictions amid the pandemic, a government official said.

“In a case where a business complies with the government’s request to change operating hours but deals with a customer who won't leave, that business would be totally exempt from a non-criminal fine,” said Motohiro Nao, a deputy director-general of the Cabinet Secretariat.

He made the comment at a Feb. 3 joint meeting of the Upper House’s Cabinet Committee and the Committee on Health, Welfare and Labor, called to examine proposed revisions to a special measures law regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Nao made the remark in response to a question from Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, regarding the central government’s request for bars and restaurants to close at 8 p.m. to contain the pandemic.

“Diet members are staying at an Italian restaurant until 9 p.m.,” Fukushima said. “Are you saying that under the revised law, the customers will not be punished but businesses will be sanctioned with an administrative penalty?”

After Nao answered, Fukushima replied, “Then, if a business says it cannot close ‘because a customer is staying,’ it will be exempt from the administrative penalty.”

Under the proposed revision of the special measures law regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic, businesses will be required to pay a non-criminal fine if they do not comply with the request from the local governor to shorten their business hours amid a state of emergency.

It also proposes to penalize non-complying businesses even when a state of emergency is not issued, as a measure to prevent the virus from spreading.