Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's abrupt decision to partially pause a domestic travel campaign amid rising COVID-19 cases — after insisting it would go ahead — looks likely to cost him support, and may cloud his prospects for a long-term tenure.

Suga, who took the top job in September after Shinzo Abe resigned citing illness, has enjoyed solid approval ratings of over 50%, buoyed by an image as a down-to-earth leader pushing popular policies such as lower mobile phone rates.

But critics said his reversal on the Go To Travel campaign he has backed to bolster the economy even as new cases rose rapidly was too little, too late, and risked leaving the image of a leader both stubborn and indecisive, without due care for public health.