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Scientific and public support for the central government’s Go To Travel subsidy campaign is waning as the coronavirus continues to spread in urban centers nationwide, writes Ryusei Takahashi.

A nonpeer-reviewed study published Monday found that participants in the program had “experienced a higher incidence of symptoms indicative of the COVID-19 infection.” While critics and experts say the travel campaign most likely exacerbated the situation, central government officials continue to insist that no evidence supports the claim that the campaign caused or is causing the ongoing nationwide COVID-19 surge that began in late October.

On Tuesday, the Cabinet approved a fresh economic stimulus package worth ¥73.6 trillion that includes extensions of the Go To programs and others, which officials say are crucial to promoting domestic travel, spurring consumption and helping companies maintain employment.

Ninety-year-old Margaret Keenan receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Coventry, England, on Tuesday. Keenan was the first patient to get the vaccine outside of trials. | POOL / VIA AP
Ninety-year-old Margaret Keenan receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Coventry, England, on Tuesday. Keenan was the first patient to get the vaccine outside of trials. | POOL / VIA AP

As the government continues to debate the merits of the Go To Travel program, the country confirmed a single-day record 47 deaths linked to the coronavirus on Tuesday. The number of serious cases nationwide also hit a record, topping 530, the health ministry said, as the country confirmed more than 2,000 new infections.

Despite the surge in cases in Japan and worldwide, there was a bright spot Tuesday, as U.K. health authorities began rolling out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine. The first shot — given to grandmother Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week — came early in the morning at one of a network of hospital hubs around the country, where the initial phase of the U.K. program will be rolled out on what has been dubbed “V-Day.”

But nations across the globe must still convince people to be vaccinated against the deadly disease. The World Health Organization said Monday it opposed mandatory vaccinations, noting that persuading them on the merits of getting the shot would be far more effective, AFP-JIJI reports.

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