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A central government campaign to spur domestic tourism has drawn both enthusiasm and ire, with some social media users telling urbanites to stay away from rural areas after COVID-19 cases hit a record high in Tokyo.

The government aims to subsidize as much as half of eligible domestic travel costs through discounts and coupons during its Go To Travel campaign starting July 22 ahead of a four-day weekend. Tourism minister Kazuyoshi Akaba announced Friday that the campaign would be moved forward from August, adding that the government is aware that “despite the impact of the coronavirus crisis, people have passionate expectations for travel.”

Despite the government’s push, “please don’t come here” was a common theme in tweets from those outside the capital. Others questioned whether official assurances that the health system still has room to handle new cases would still apply if infections spread outside major cities.

The spread of the pandemic differs across the 47 prefectures. Tokyo confirmed 243 new virus cases on Friday, a fresh daily record, before ebbing to 206 new cases on Saturday. Meanwhile, Okinawa Prefecture had no new cases for 69 days until two were found on Wednesday. Tohoku’s Iwate Prefecture, offering the prospect of cooler summer weather than the capital, has had no confirmed cases at all.

“I know it’s painful if we don’t get the economy moving, but my prefecture’s been at zero this whole time,” tweeted a user on Friday. “Rethink the Go To campaign.”

The campaign is the tourism component of a broader initiative to aid local

economies sapped by the pandemic’s effects. Japan had targeted 40 million visitor arrivals in 2020, before border controls prompted by the virus saw the country’s international tourism boom of the past several years abruptly vanish. Just 1,700 foreign visitors arrived in May, down 99.9 percent year-on-year for the second month running.

While kicking off cheaper travel during a holiday period sounds like an effective economic tonic, “it shouldn’t be applied to trips to and from areas where community spread is feared at the moment,” Izuru Makihara, a professor of Japanese politics and public administration at the University of Tokyo, said by email.

The government is keeping plans to reopen the economy despite the recent spike in infections. Officials have stressed the situation has changed since April, when rising cases triggered a nationwide state of emergency that lasted into May.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan’s coronavirus response, said at a news conference on Saturday that Japan must balance economic and social activity as it deals with the pandemic.

“The most important thing is for each and every individual and business to take thorough steps to prevent the spread of infection,” he said.

Warm up

One minute chat about your plans for the summer.

Game

Collect words related to travel, e.g., vacation, airplane, food, etc.

New words

1) enthusiasm: excitement, e.g., “The audience was full of enthusiasm.”

2) ire: anger, e.g. “The politician’s comments raised the ire of environmentalists.”

3) urbanite: a person living in a city, e.g. “Urbanites must deal with crowded trains on a regular basis.”

Guess the headline

Japan urges ur_ _ _ _ _ _s to tour country, sparking fear of virus’s spread in

cou_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Questions

1) What is the aim of the Go To Travel campaign?

2) When was the original starting date of the campaign?

3) What is the reaction from people living in tourism destinations?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think about the campaign?

2) If you were working in tourism, what would you think of the campaign?

3) What do you think is needed to travel safely at the moment?

Reference

去年とは違う夏休みが始まります。再びコロナウイルスの感染拡大が懸念される中、夏休みの旅行促進による旅行業界の活性化を目的としたキャンペーンについては、その恩恵を受けるはずの観光地からの懸念や反対の声があがっているようです。春休み・ゴールデンウィークと続いた自粛期間で旅行業界が大きなダメージを受けていることは明白であり、旅への欲求が高まっている人も多いかもしれません。それでも手放しにこのキャンペーンを喜べないのは、それによるリスクがぬぐいきれないからでしょう。長引くことが予想されるこれからの時代の旅をどのようにとらえればよいのか、朝英語の会に参加し皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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