• Bloomberg, Jiji


Japan may exclude Tokyo and Nagoya from its national travel subsidy campaign because of a surge in coronavirus cases in the cities, local media reported on Sunday.

The government plans to hold discussions with governors of regions experiencing increases in the number of infections on whether to suspend some cities from the Go To Travel program, economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told NHK on Sunday.

Nishimura, who is in charge of coronavirus policy, said the government has been discussing the issue with governors with cities that have a level three COVID-19 designation. He said he’s planning to have more talks with them, including Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, on Sunday afternoon.

The campaign, which aims to boost the nation’s economy by discounting travel, has come under fire because of concerns it may be linked to a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Japan logged over 3,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus for the first time on Saturday, while the country’s death toll from the virus rose by 28 to 2,595.

Asked whether he was considering a suspension of the travel subsidy campaign nationwide, Nishimura said he doesn’t think there are risks in regions where infections rates have remained stable, such as Shimane and Tottori prefectures.

An expert panel on Friday that advises the government called for a temporary halt to the campaign in areas where the outbreak is most severe.

The government is considering suspending Tokyo and Nagoya from the program until Dec. 25 as the number of coronavirus cases rises in those cities, Fuji TV reported on Sunday, without saying where it got the information.

The central government is also expected to maintain the ban excluding Sapporo and Osaka from the discount program, officials said.

The exclusion of the two cities is set to expire on Tuesday. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will convene a meeting of his coronavirus response task force Monday to discuss whether to extend the measure.

An extension of about a week is possible, a senior government official said. “Municipal officials may want to see the situation for a week,” the official added.

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said on television Saturday that he has asked Nishimura to exclude trips to the city of Osaka from the discount program.

“Now is the time to apply the brakes,” Yoshimura said, adding that the ban is expected to be extended until Dec. 25 or 28.

Another focus of the meeting will be whether to suspend the Go To Travel program altogether.

But the government is reluctant to suspend the program entirely and impose across-the-board movement restrictions.

Tokyo has already asked people aged 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions to refrain from making trips to or from the capital using the travel subsidy campaign until Dec. 17.

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