• Kyodo

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday that the government has no intention to request that people refrain from traveling to their hometowns or elsewhere during the upcoming Obon holidays — despite the spread of the novel coronavirus in many parts of the country.

“We are not asking people to refrain across the board. We are just asking them to be very cautious,” said Suga, the government’s top spokesman.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister in charge of the coronavirus response, said the previous day that the matter should be handled carefully while expressing concern about the likelihood of increased contact between those who return to their hometowns and elderly people who are at a higher risk of developing serious symptoms.

But Suga said Nishimura’s comments merely meant the government will hear experts’ opinions on the matter and that the risk can be minimized if people take thorough anti-virus measures, such as wearing masks and washing hands.

The remarks came as the government struggles to balance the need to reopen the economy while keeping the spread of the coronavirus in check.

Japan has seen more than 39,000 cases of coronavirus infections as of Sunday, and the tally has been increasing by a thousand or more every day since Wednesday.

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