National

Japan governors urge firmer stance on Golden Week travel in pandemic

Kyodo

Prefectural governors on Friday urged the central government to be firmer in asking the public not to travel during the upcoming Golden Week holidays after it expanded a state of emergency to cover the entire country.

During an online meeting, members of the National Governors’ Association said people should be requested to refrain from traveling during the holidays starting in late April to avoid spreading the coronavirus further.

“There is a high chance that a massive migration will occur during Golden Week,” Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi, head of the association, said a day after the state of emergency, which is due to be in effect through May 6, was extended to cover the entire country.

“We are at a critical phase in preventing the virus from spreading. All governors would like to overcome these difficult times by uniting,” he said.

Some called for stricter measures, with Tochigi Gov. Tomikazu Fukuda saying, “Traveling across prefectures should be strictly limited, and we also need to consider developing legislation.”

The governors urged the central government to compensate businesses that close and proposed that it also extend special subsidies totaling ¥1 trillion ($9.3 billion) for local governments as part of steps to financially aid companies complying with requests for operation closures.

After initially declaring a state of emergency for just Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Hyogo prefectures on April 7, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe extended the emergency to cover the remaining 40 prefectures on Thursday.

That decision will play an important role in “ending the spread in a short time by stopping people’s movement all at once,” Ibaraki Gov. Kazuhiko Oigawa said.

“We’ve seen people coming from the metropolitan area. If it just targeted certain prefectures, people would just go outside of the areas,” he said.

Iwate Prefecture was also placed under the state of emergency, even though it remains the only prefecture with no confirmed cases as of Thursday. Gov. Takuya Tasso said in a statement that the prefecture will “take appropriate steps to prevent the spread of infection.”

“The declaration we’ve been waiting for will be enacted at last. I will do my work properly as more power and responsibility will be given,” Kyoto Gov. Takatoshi Nishiwaki said.

“We’re in tough times but this is a great chance. The next focus will be on whether activities by adults will stop,” said Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi.

Department store operators are likely to be heavily impacted by the decision.

A spokesperson at Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. said the company will have to review operations of its stores nationwide.

“The impact will be severe. We’re just at the mercy of government decisions,” said an official of another major retailer.

Hiroyuki Ikeda, a co-chairman of the Kansai Association of Corporate Executives, a regional business association, said the decision came “too late” and that the government needs to provide support to businesses in a timely manner.

Your news needs your support

Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.

Coronavirus banner