Fearing a second wave of infections spreading from Tokyol, local municipalities, opposition lawmakers and social media users have asked the central government to suspend a major Go To travel aid campaign that aims to boost domestic tourism.
Leaders of some rural towns say that driven by the campaign, travel in and out of high-risk regions like Tokyo may lead to widespread community transmissions.
There were reports in local media of Tokyo residents being asked to stay away from parents and relatives living in rural towns that have reported fewer coronavirus cases.
The pandemic in Japan will turn into a "man-made" disaster should the travel program go ahead, Soichiro Miyashita, mayor of the city of Mutsu in Aomori Prefecture, warned.
But Japan's economy minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, said the government will cautiously proceed with the campaign, which includes discounts for shopping and food.
"Obviously we will consider the thoughts of many of our people, while monitoring the situation ahead," Nishimura, who leads the government's coronavirus policy, told parliament.
The program, among the government's top initiatives to stimulate economic activity and set to start this month, has also come under fire over costs as it subcontracts back-office work to a private contractor.
The city reported 165 new cases of infection on Wednesday.© Thomson Reuters 2020.