Japan’s tourism promotion will continue despite virus resurgence: PM

Yoshihide Suga. PHOTO: EPA-EFE. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Nov 20, 2020, Kyodo. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Friday the government will continue its “Go To Travel” domestic tourism promotion campaign despite growing worries about a resurgence of the novel coronavirus in Japan, Kyodo News reported.

A day after the country logged a new record of 2,385 daily coronavirus infections, Suga said in parliament Japan should be on “maximum alert.”

But he suggested he has no plans to scrap the Go To Travel program, saying, “We have been reviewing the program by listening to the opinions of experts and businesses involved. We will continue to operate it appropriately.”

The daily nationwide tally rose as Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido and five other prefectures logged record-high figures. On Friday, the capital reported 522 new coronavirus cases, down from 534 cases the previous day but surpassing 500 for the second consecutive day.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a regular news conference the government does not believe the current situation calls for a state of emergency, saying government panel members share that view.

The “Go To Travel” subsidy program, which effectively covers half of a traveler’s expenses, was launched in late July to support the tourism industry after it was severely affected by the pandemic.

So far, some 40 million trips have been covered by the scheme, with 176 users found to have been infected with the virus, according to the government.

Toshio Nakagawa, head of the Japan Medical Association, has said while there was no concrete evidence to indicate the program was responsible for the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the country, “It is no mistake that the scheme acted as a catalyst.”

Meanwhile in Tokyo, coupons under the government’s “Go To Eat” campaign, which promotes dining out and supports the restaurant industry, became available Friday. Most prefectures in the country have already launched such coupons.

The number of new cases in Tokyo surpassed 500 on Thursday for the first time, and the metropolitan government raised its virus alert to the highest of four levels. The level four alert was last in place in the capital on Sept. 10.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has urged people to avoid eating in large groups and to spend less time together. The central government has called for measures such as limiting groups to four or less.

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