Passengers crowd the departure terminal at Haneda airport in Tokyo on Saturday. Photo: KYODO
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Gov't to suspend Go To Travel campaign in some areas

21 Comments

Japan will suspend its Go To Travel subsidy program in areas with a high number of coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Saturday, in a policy reversal from his approach already much criticized for focusing too much on stimulating the economy amid record numbers of infections.

The decision was made as Japan confirmed more than 2,500 new daily cases of the novel coronavirus, marking a record high for the fourth day in a row, and a day after a government panel of medical experts proposed reviewing the campaign aimed at promoting domestic tourism.

At a meeting of the government's task force on measures against the virus, Suga said accepting new bookings for trips to areas where infections are spreading rapidly through the campaign will be halted.

Suga also said the government will ask prefectural governors to consider stopping the issuance of Go To Eat discount coupons aimed at encouraging dining out at restaurants.

"To avoid situations requiring stronger measures, people's cooperation is indispensable," he said.

While calling on people to wear face masks when dining and take all other possible measures to prevent the further spread of the virus, he stopped short of saying when the suspension of the travel subsidy program will begin and in which areas.

Amid the resurgence, Tokyo confirmed on Saturday 539 new daily cases of coronavirus, rising above the previous record of 534 registered on Thursday.

Suga, who said "maximum caution" is required in the current virus situation, has sought to strike a balance between preventing the spread of the virus and revitalizing the battered economy.

Until Saturday, Suga and ministers in charge of the government's response to the pandemic had repeatedly denied the possibility of suspending the travel campaign.

After the task force meeting, Suga told reporters that the government is committed to covering the costs of virus tests for people staying or working at facilities for the elderly.

He also urged people to avoid the 3Cs -- confined spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings.

Not just Tokyo, but other urban areas also saw a sharp rise in new cases, with Osaka Prefecture hitting a record 415 on Saturday.

Medical experts have described the resurgence as a third wave of infections, attributing it to the arrival of cooler temperatures that have forced people to spend more time indoors, often in rooms without sufficient ventilation that can stop the virus from spreading.

Toshio Nakagawa, head of the Japan Medical Association, has said there is no concrete evidence to indicate the travel program is responsible for the recent spike in coronavirus cases, but "there is no mistaking that it acted as a catalyst."

Haruo Ozaki, who heads the Tokyo Medical Association, said it is very possible that people's movements have spread infections. "We would like (the government) to suspend (the program)," he said.

Despite such concerns, transport hubs around the country saw increased traffic on Saturday, the start of a three-day weekend, with travelers voicing confusion over the government's about-face on the travel initiative.

"Travelers no longer know what rules they should follow," said a 56-year-old man from Osaka Prefecture who was visiting a popular sightseeing spot in Kyoto, western Japan, with his wife. "(The government) takes too long to decide on anything."

Tokyo's Haneda airport was packed with families, with many people standing in long queues waiting to pass security checks.

"I did not expect such a rapid surge in infections," Setsuko Oishi, 60, said. On her way to Okinawa Prefecture with her family, Oishi said she would have canceled the trip if the third wave had come earlier.

In Hokkaido, Tetsuyuki Takeda, a 66-year-old fishmonger in Otaru, said possible restrictions to the scheme are "terrifying" to someone managing a business. Japan's northernmost main island recorded over 300 daily infections for the first time on Friday.

The Go To Travel program was launched in late July and effectively covers about half of domestic travelers' expenses.

So far, some 40 million trips have been taken through the program, with 176 people accessing the subsidy found to have been infected with the virus, according to the government.

© KYODO

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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 "The government takes too long to decide on anything,"

Maybe there should be a meeting to decide if this is true or not? But maybe I should call a meeting to ask if my question is acceptable or not first. I can't decide!!!

"Travelers no longer know what rules they should follow,"

Travelers could use their own common sense instead?

"I did not expect such a rapid surge in infections," Setsuko Oishi, 60, said. On her way to Okinawa Prefecture with her family, Oishi said she would have canceled the trip if the third wave had come earlier.

It helps to pay attention to the world, not just your local hood.

Haruo Ozaki, who heads the Tokyo Medical Association, said it is very possible that people's movements have spread infections. "We would like (the government) to suspend (the program),"

Suspend it. As in all of it. None of this partial stipulation garbage.

Among the ideas being floated are leaving it to prefectural governors in the affected regions to decide to no longer accept the coupons given to travelers through the scheme, the source said.

In other words, contradict their ideas? Best idea yet.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

Toshio Nakagawa, head of the Japan Medical Association, has said there is no concrete evidence to indicate the travel program is responsible for the recent spike in coronavirus cases, but "there is no mistaking that it acted as a catalyst."

I am confused. Does this mean he neither confirm nor deny that the travel program is responsible for the spike?

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Yes , it’s difficult... this time you can’t restrict everything of the GoTo campaigns for the whole population but at the same time insist in this Olympic Games project being held at all costs without any restrictions. A nice dilemma that idiots produced, to watch on a daily basis from now.... lol

5 ( +9 / -4 )

There have been numerous (talking head) news reports over the past week, stating that if the government does not do something NOW, this wave will have 1,500 to 2,000 people a day catching this virus.

Hospitals around the country are AGAIN being pushed to the limits and the government is doing squat!

GO TO HOME!

17 ( +21 / -4 )

No concern for human life, only money. A very sad reality. People here cannot think for themselves and only see "deals" over common sense (which is an oxymoron in this case).

This is all ridiculous. The big shutdown is coming and It's the hospitals that are most at risk.

sugaleadership?
13 ( +16 / -3 )

there is no concrete evidence to indicate the travel program is responsible for the recent spike in coronavirus cases, but "there is no mistaking that it acted as a catalyst."

I am confused. Does this mean he neither confirm nor deny that the travel program is responsible for the spike?"

That's exactly right ..that's the Japanese way.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

In some areas? Should it not be all or none?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Certainly needs to be suspended for a while.

I should think we're all infected by now, or have been infected, it's the death rate that's important and so far Japan seems to have been doing something right

0 ( +7 / -7 )

I should think we're all infected by now, or have been infected,

Why would you think that? If that were the case, there would be 100k dead already. I don't believe the reported number of deaths is even close to correct, but it's not 100k.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

The government is not going to give a rats poop in regards to your health, only their bottom financial line and which transfer to their pockets and not yours.

So people, you are going to have to step up stay at home, avoid crowds, take extra steps when getting on a crowded train get a mask with a filter and wear a shield so if someone were to cough or sneeze you just have a little extra protection. There are no guarantees these extra steps will work, however, if everyone would do this it sure would cut down the chances from the virus spreading further.

Stay safe all as you know the numbers are surely triple or more than what has been reported.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

It seems too late. Most people will go on whatever as they already made reservations, even money is back when travel is cancelled.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

A record of 2,500 new cases on Saturday.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Very wise move.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

“in some areas...” ...sighs...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Didn't he just yesterday say that the campaign is continuing?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

So far, some 40 million trips have been taken through the program, with 176 people accessing the subsidy found to have been infected with the virus, according to the government.

176 people out of how many people and out of how many test? As usual just a low number that sheds no light on anything.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

"third wave" we are still on the first wave! Wake up!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Most people have already made the reservation through the end of the year anyways.....will not be much difference.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"To avoid situations requiring stronger measures, people's cooperation is indispensable,"

So, what constitutes a situation that requires strong measures, if this is not one, and what "strong measures" would this incredibly weak government ever take?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The problem currently facing Japan people interviewed is that they lack being given enough information to make choice they will be proud of no matter if good or bad. You can not say to people GoTo travel/eat/work/... and in the same time restrain. That is unclear, so people just end up not knowing where to stand. I know even changing your politics on the way can be difficult for some, see the mask issue and for how long we had people going around about : "but they first say mask was not useful". Fortunately the majority can accept that kind of change as long as clearly explained (for the other one, I guess more explanation are needed perhaps a full review of how things can change along time like the Earth is flat, the Earth is round, the Earth is kind of round, which go through).

Same goes for countries with mask enforcement policy. This is not nanny state. You are thinking too highly of yourself if you think your government is trying to protect you as an individual. They do not really give a crap. They want to protect the whole society. It is the same for the seat belt, it is mandatory not because they will be so sad you die, just because it is a cost(money, time, ...) for society as they will have to produce in some way a replacement for you. If you do not die but are hurt, that also create a cost for the group and you could even turn out as a projectile which will end up harming/killing someone else which never asked for it and all the more cost. Same for the virus.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I think it’s commons sense that’s a huge problem right now. Not only in japan has these “go to travel” type of campaigns caused in most cases a spike in covid cases. As soon as they announced the campaign I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people were thinking it was a bad idea. However people have become impatient, seeking “normality” and have had enough. I get it, however this virus dosent care about that. We should wait to travel/ eat out, but at the same time we have to help those who work in travel/restaurants. It’s a hard thing.

these are all positive things however the government should wait until we have a solid vaccine in the country and announce GoTo again. I think people would feel safer and use the opportunity then.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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