Japan govt will not ask people to forgo summer travel due to virus

Japan is under a nationwide state of emergency but appears to have avoided the large-scale coronavirus outbreaks seen in parts of the world Photo: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Aug 3, 2020, Kyodo. Japan’s top spokesman said Monday the government has no intention to request people refrain from traveling to their hometowns and elsewhere during the upcoming Obon holidays despite the novel coronavirus’ continued spread in parts of the country, Kyodo News reported.

“We are not asking people to refrain across the board. We are just asking them to be very cautious,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a press conference.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of the coronavirus response, said the previous day the matter should be handled carefully while expressing concerns about the likelihood of increased contact between those who return to their hometowns and elderly people who are at a higher risk of developing serious symptoms.

But Suga said Nishimura’s comments merely meant the government will hear experts’ opinions on the matter and the risk can be minimized if people take thorough anti-virus measures, such as wearing face masks and washing hands.

The remarks came as the government struggles to balance the need to reopen the economy while keeping the spread of the coronavirus in check.

Japan has seen more than 39,000 cases of coronavirus infections as of Sunday, including 712 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Yokohama in February. The tally has been increasing by a thousand or more every day since Wednesday.

Tokyo confirmed a total of 6,466 cases in July, the highest level for any month.

On Monday, it reported 258 new cases, marking a second day below the record-breaking numbers registered late last week.

The capital logged 292 cases on Sunday, and a record daily increase of 472 on Saturday.

The daily figures announced by the metropolitan government reflect the most recent totals reported by health authorities and medical institutions in the capital.

Tokyo has requested that karaoke venues and establishments serving alcohol close by 10 p.m., effective from Monday through the end of August, to mitigate the spread of the virus.

It plans to pay 200,000 yen ($1,900) to each business abiding by virus-prevention guidelines.

The metropolitan government has raised its alert for the pandemic to the highest of four levels, meaning “infections are spreading,” with Gov. Yuriko Koike warning Tokyo city authorities may declare an emergency.

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