SEOUL – The Japanese government announced on Saturday the suspension of “Go To Travel,” a campaign to promote domestic tourism, after the country registered daily records of COVID-19 cases for four days in a row.
During a meeting of the Japanese committee in charge of the government’s pandemic response, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga explained that, under the subsidies program, reservations will no longer be accepted for trips to areas that are suffering from increased infection rates.
The decision, based on the recommendation of the panel of doctors advising the government, comes after Japan reported more than 2,500 new cases in 24 hours on Saturday, a record number for the fourth consecutive day. Tokyo recorded 539 infections on Saturday, also the highest daily figure for the Japanese capital since the pandemic began.
Other regions, such as Osaka and the northern island of Hokkaido, both of which are popular tourist destinations, are also registering record numbers of new cases each day.
With the onset of winter and the arrival of cooler temperatures forcing people indoors, Japanese health experts are bracing themselves for a third wave of the pandemic.
The “Go To Travel” subsidy program, endowed with 1.35 trillion yen (about $13 billion), is designed to finance discounts of up to 50 percent on the price of tourist packages and travel and accommodation expenses for domestic Japanese tourists until January.
Representatives of Japanese medical associations have pointed out that the tourist campaign has probably acted as a catalyst for the increase in contagion in certain regions.
So far, some 40 million trips have been made through “Go To Travel” since the campaign was launched in July, and according to government data, 176 people who traveled using these discounts were infected with COVID-19.