Passengers wait on the platform at JR Osaka Station on Friday. Photo: KYODO
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Health experts urge pause in Go To Travel campaign as COVID-19 cases surge

60 Comments

Japanese health experts said Friday the government should consider pausing its domestic travel campaign in some regions amid a record surge in COVID-19 cases and as the nation heads into a holiday weekend.

The expert panel recommended excluding regions from the government's Go To Travel campaign if conditions worsen. It also said local governments should ask restaurants and bars to shorten business hours for about three weeks to dent the spike in cases.

"Stronger measures will be taken in a short period of time and in high-risk areas to avoid the kind of situation that would require the declaration of a state of emergency," economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters after meeting with the experts.

New cases have surged to record levels in Japan this week, prompting Tokyo municipal authorities to raise the city's epidemic alert to the highest level.

The government declared a state of emergency in April as COVID-19 hospitalizations brought the medical system to the brink of collapse. It has resisted the recent calls to curtail its domestic travel push, aimed at reviving local economies.

The resurgence in infections comes as Japan starts an extended weekend due to a public holiday on Monday.

Compared to the previous wave, the current spike is affecting more older people, and infections are largely taking place within families and at facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Along with Tokyo, other hot spots include Hokkaido and the western prefectures of Osaka and Hyogo.

"Tokyo and Hokkaido are entering an exponential growth phase," said Kenji Shibuya, director of the Institute of Population Health at King's College, London. "If they do not control the infection, another SOE (state of emergency) would be inevitable and the economic consequences would be substantial."

In raising the capital's alert level on Thursday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike called for maximum caution as the year-end party season approaches.

Japan's tally of new cases reached a record 2,414 cases on Friday, according to public broadcaster NHK. Severe cases nationwide are also at an all-time high of 280, according to the latest data.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

60 Comments
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Darn health experts at it again, armed with their shameful logic and science!

27 ( +32 / -5 )

What about Go Eat!?

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Yeah, right .... never listen to the experts.

Why? Because they know "nada" and "we do it our way!

(sarcasm mode turned off)

12 ( +17 / -5 )

Restating the very obvious. I need to fly home from a project I had this week this morning and I am not looking forward to it!!

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Darn health experts at it again, armed with their shameful logic and science!

> Restating the very obvious. I need to fly home from a project I had this week this morning and I am not looking forward to it!!

How did these two comments get down voted? There are some willfully ignorant wools out there.

Tokyo-Eng: Be safe. Hope you enjoy your time back with your family.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Japan's tally of new cases reached a record 2,414 cases on Friday, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Actually, the total according to NHK is 2,425

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20201120/k10012723151000.html

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Thanks P. Smith. It’s a short domestic flight from Tohoku so should be ok. Back to US to see my mom will have to wait until next year unfortunately.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

they are daring hahaha, it won't take long and this panel of experts will be dismissed too. How dare they telling people the truth... ( sarcasm )

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Health experts urge pause in Go To Travel campaign as COVID-19 cases surge

Need health expert for that? Simple thinking would enough right. Less people mobility, less infection.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Health experts urge pause in Go To Travel campaign as COVID-19 cases surge

Welcome back Common Sense, its been a while.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Is it possible that the surge in new cases are due to the travel and eat out campaigns? The timing seems a little too coincidental

5 ( +9 / -4 )

consider pausing its domestic travel campaign in some regions........"SOME".....They just can't go all the way"

8 ( +8 / -0 )

As long as countries keep prioritizing the economy over controlling Covid spread, that spread will continue. As painful as it will be, controlling Covid first is what will allow economic recovery. Not the other way around. Go to Travel and Go Eat is something that should be implemented when Covid is under control. Right now it's all Go to Spread.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

Right now a reader poll on Yahoo JP has 83% agreeing that the travel campaign should be suspended, with 14% opposed; total just over 108,000 votes.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

The logistics of pausing the campaign in even one region are huge.

Are all trips now canceled with no refund?

Are consumers now bound to cover the amount funded by go-to?

Are cancelations or postponements encouraged?

What about hotels, jr, airlines, tour companies who pays for their loses?

Now is the slowest time of the year so expected a nov 30~dec 21 pause for Hokkaido only.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

I think that the lower temperature is primarily responsible for the latest surge. GoTo Travel has been launched since July, to which Tokyo later joined. We didn't observe a remarkable big surge despite many big public events/gatherings and active human mobility during late summer and Silver Week holiday season.

To date about 40 million people have used GoTo programs, of whom less than 200 have so far tested positive. The closest neighbor South Korea now has also a rising number of cases although they don't practice GoTo. The arrival of winter season and lower temperature are reasonable explanations.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Hopefully the new President will solve the worlds biggest problem like everyone expects.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Who would have thought encouraging people to travel around the country would spread the virus? Here is what should be an easy question: During a pandemic what should you do? Self isolate or move around the population?

Once more corruption and private interests trumps common sense.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Yeah, the government should suspend Go To Travel, but people should also use their brains.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

Japan's tally of new cases reached a record 2,414 cases on Friday, according to public broadcaster NHK.

@divinda

Actually, the total according to NHK is 2,425

Actually again, to correct myself, NHK has now upped that number for Friday to 2,426

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20201120/k10012723151000.html

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"Tokyo and Hokkaido are entering an exponential growth phase," said Kenji Shibuya, director of the Institute of Population Health at King's College, London. "If they do not control the infection, another SOE (state of emergency) would be inevitable and the economic consequences would be substantial."

Kenji Shibuya

Check his past records and remarks about the virus situation in Japan. And don't forget this latest "doomsday prophecy". Shibuya's earlier prediction turned out to be totally off the mark, but he has remained silent and unaccountable. We shouldn't call him a heath expert.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Ya think?!

that the govmint is pushing the Go To (let’s spread the virus everywhere) campaign shows:

a) they are so out of touch with reality

b) the economy is more important than the health of the nation; and/or

c) both of the above, which makes it criminally wilful.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

An elderly J friend just canceled his booking for a trip to the Japan Sea coast to eat crab and steak. After watching the numbers creeping up, he and his wife suddenly no longer relished the prospect of spending hours in a tour coach, however cheap the eventual bill might be. "Not worth it", he said. I listened to his story, and said nothing.

How many others must have cancelled like this, entertaining the same thoughts?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Tokyo and Hokkaido are entering an exponential growth phase," said Kenji Shibuya

this guy has always been wrong. I don't why the media keeps quoting him.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Panel of health experts will be fired in 3, 2, 1...

4 ( +5 / -1 )

They blame the eat out campaign more than go to travel as everyone removes their masks and talk while eating. thats the reason it was stopped suddenly, and not the run out of allocated funds that they said. It's them just trying to pull a blanket over their stupidity.

"Stronger measures will be taken in a short period of time and in high-risk areas to avoid the kind of situation that would require the declaration of a state of emergency," 

Even if a state of emergency is declared we already know that they have no power to do anything. They can't name establishments unless given permission, they can only ask nicely.

Those in power in this country never learn from the past or by looking at whats happening in other countries.

Countries where the virus is bad, no strong measures, countries who have had great success (NZ, Oz.) really strict but effective measures. Cross your fingers Suga, the vaccine will be here soon, it might be safe.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Maximum caution. "Please be on the lookout for the virus. It's really tiny. Carry on."

5 ( +6 / -1 )

What's the differ between the previous Abe admins n current Suga admins? Same old story

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I always thought the Go To campaign was a moronic idea, considering the pandemic. But what do I know? I’m not a politician.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Even if a state of emergency is declared we already know that they have no power to do anything. They can't name establishments unless given permission, they can only ask nicely.

And that is a huge part of the problem. Asking nicely is only wasting more valuable time when swift and firm action is required to curbstomp the problem.

Those in power in this country never learn from the past or by looking at whats happening in other countries.

The sad truth is that we have too many countries out there not even willing to learn and apply what is done in successful countries. In Japan's case, looking at Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia for examples of island nations doing well should not be too hard. By the way, NZ's motto in this pandemic is "Go hard, go early", which simply translates as "We may suffer for now with tough restrictions, but we will quickly return to normal after we succeed."

5 ( +5 / -0 )

2000 died yesterday from Covid in the U.S. The Map of Reality indicates that Japan's got it real good,if you only talking about 2414 nationwide cases, of a population around 126 mil.

In that Map of Reality, the US has so far tested 53% of its population, Japan so far has only tested 2.3% of its population..you will never know the actual nationwide cases in Japan. The countries which are aggresively testing are the ones where you get some idea of the nationwide cases, rest are simply not reporting or minimal testing.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Hahaha!

Sorry, but health experts have no power in Japan. There’s absolutely zero chance the national government would heed that advice. Go To campaign’s sponsors gave them too much money.

This expert panel will be dismissed if they dont retract this statement soon. Perhaps a few would be made “disappear” to set an example for the next expert panel on the consequences of not following the government line.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

The government declared a state of emergency in April as COVID-19 hospitalizations brought the medical system to the brink of collapse. It has resisted the recent calls to curtail its domestic travel push, aimed at reviving local economies.

But is that the real purpose? As COVID worries continue there are articles on the same page of JTB, hotels and airlines laying off workers. GoTo is a wealth transfer upward instituted by a government that cares not one whit about the welfare of the people.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

JTB, hotels and airlines laying off workers.

Without Chinese tourists, no amount of Go To campaign would save the overgrown travel industry in Japan.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

It's that time again. It's meeting time!

He will meet with the experts, then meet, meet, meet.

Let's start meeting after the holiday weekend. haha

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Is it possible that the surge in new cases are due to the travel and eat out campaigns? The timing seems a little too coincidental

I think that the lower temperature is primarily responsible for the latest surge. GoTo Travel has been launched since July, to which Tokyo later joined. We didn't observe a remarkable big surge despite many big public events/gatherings and active human mobility during late summer and Silver Week holiday season.

100% agreed. I remember when Tokyo was under the state of emergency, many Japanese were outraged that some pachinko parlors stayed open. It turns out that wearing masks and keeping your mouth shut presents low risk of spreading the virus and no major cluster has been reported (correct me if I am wrong cause I do not live in Japan).

With overseas tourist 99% down and the difficulties in handing money directly to businesses, the GO to Travel campaign is the only life line to many small businesses. With precautions it is relatively safe to travel. It is OK to raise the alert but do not panic. Covid has already done too much damage to the world, the last thing we need is unnecessary panic.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Without Chinese tourists, no amount of Go To campaign would save the overgrown travel industry in Japan.

True but it can save the travel industry from a complete collapse and keeps thousands of people making ends meet.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

 With precautions it is relatively safe to travel. 

The main ones being travelling in your own vehicle, and eating in your own room or outdoors with proper distancing. Unfortunately, those will not be done by most travelers. So, in general, GTT is most likely adding to the spread of Covid.

OTOH, Go To Eat is definitely worse, as most experts agree that indoor dining, drinking, and partying, is the most dangerous environment for contagion. GTE should be stopped or at the very least limited to take-out and delivery only.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Imagine if they were actually testing. I live in Iwaki, Fukushima and worse than not testing, they refuse to test. Zero test = zero cases.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Noria

Kenji Shibuya

Check his past records and remarks about the virus situation in Japan. And don't forget this latest "doomsday prophecy". Shibuya's earlier prediction turned out to be totally off the mark, but he has remained silent and unaccountable. We shouldn't call him a heath expert

Any links to the off-mark predictions that he made ?

Thanks

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yoshisan

It turns out that wearing masks and keeping your mouth shut presents low risk of spreading the virus and no major cluster has been reported (correct me if I am wrong cause I do not live in Japan).

Yes you are dead wrong, clusters have been occurring and still occur, wearing of mask has not curbed clusters.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Tokyo and Hokkaido are entering an exponential growth phase," said Kenji Shibuya

this guy has always been wrong. I don't why the media keeps quoting him.

Right and unlike him, you and our LDP daimyos had always been so wisdomspeakingly right ne ...okeydokey. ..Japan is doing so much better than the rest of the world.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Tokyo and Hokkaido are entering an exponential growth phase," said Kenji Shibuya

this guy has always been wrong. I don't why the media keeps quoting him

One of the few guys who doesn't say things to please the establishment and maintain appearance

I know, people prefer flattery words than the truth.

People like Professor Iwata won't be called upon because they might say it the way they see which

might contradict what the establishment has been saying or wants.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Two weeks ago, suggestions on JT that the Go To Travel (Trouble) campaign were responsible for an increase in infections were voted down. Minds have changed...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Interesting, they want people to travel, but want people to show extreme caution, so which is it?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

For selfish reasons,being the 27th is my 25th wedding anniversary,can they hold off suspending till Dec 1st please? The missus and I (with daughter!), are gonna spend a one nighter at a Go to Travel 5 Star hotel for free on Friday.Delaying to next year ain't the same!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

With overseas tourist 99% down and the difficulties in handing money directly to businesses, the GO to Travel campaign is the only life line to many small businesses.

What about handing money directly to the people and they can evaluate the risks and support businesses allowing the funds to trickle upward and providing a stable lifeline for families in this time of crisis?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I am flying out of Hannara tomorrow to visit Florida. I hope it goes well.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Haneda

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

no major cluster has been reported (correct me if I am wrong cause I do not live in Japan).

I think you may have confused Japan with Singapore. In Japan, they don't report the locations of clusters, so it's unknowable.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Weather (cold) triggers virus multiplication and the GoTo X is the operative event for its exponential growth.

It starts showing masks can only be a spread reducer but not stopper.

Check for Poland's Coronavirus stats to show what awaits Japan.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Actually we do share information cordially excluding you.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

As far as logistics for shutting down Go to Travel?

Seems pretty straight forward.

・Honor all deals that are paid for.

・Stop accepting new deals.

I heard that one of the cabinet members owns one of the major travel agencies. But, I can't find that reference. Anyone got better search skills than me?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just means stopping or reducing subsidies.

Personnaly my travels are not based on that program.

I go when I want

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Maybe they are having a meeting about the possibility of urging a meeting to discuss the chance that a meeting is needed?.. maybe

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I think you may have confused Japan with Singapore. In Japan, they don't report the locations of clusters, so it's unknowable.

Thanks, Zoroto. like I said I do not live in Japan and my understanding of Japanese is only limited to kanji. Finally some useful information about Japan's fight against covid. May I ask if there is any contact tracing done by any level of government in Japan?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What about handing money directly to the people and they can evaluate the risks and support businesses allowing the funds to trickle upward and providing a stable lifeline for families in this time of crisis?

The money will likely be spent on essentials like groceries, rents etc. It will not benefit those in dire situation like the tourism industry.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I am flying out of Hannara tomorrow to visit Florida. I hope it goes well.

Good luck, mate.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

We have booked GoTo hotels once a week for the next 2 months.

I'm lovin it!

clean and safe.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The money will likely be spent on essentials like groceries, rents etc. It will not benefit those in dire situation like the tourism industry.

I assure you that in the populace as a whole during this crisis there are a great many in more dire situations and more deserving than travel agency and hotel owners.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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