Tokyo likely to be suspended from travel campaign to curb Covid-19: media

Japan's travel campaign has come under fire because of concerns it may be linked to a surge in Covid-19 infections. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Tokyo is in talks with the Japanese government for the city to be temporarily removed from a nationwide travel subsidy programme, Asahi Shimbun reported.

Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters she discussed the issue with Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura on Sunday (Dec 13) afternoon, the newspaper said.

The government wants Ms Koike to temporarily stop people from visiting the city under the programme, and is asking Tokyo to encourage residents to hold off travel to other parts of Japan, the report said, citing a government official familiar with the matter.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet has seen its approval rating drop to 40 per cent because of dissatisfaction with the way the government has handled the coronavirus crisis, according to a Mainichi Shimbun opinion poll conducted on Saturday.

The health ministry reported Japan had more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, which local media said was a record.

Mr Suga's government has doubled down on its bet that promoting domestic tourism will help shore up the economy through the pandemic. The "Go To" national travel subsidy campaign, which aims to boost the economy by discounting travel, has come under fire because of concerns it may be linked to a surge in Covid-19 infections.

Japan may halt its national travel subsidy campaign in the cities of Tokyo and Nagoya because of rising coronavirus cases in those cities, local media reported on Sunday. The government is considering suspending the two areas from the programme until Dec 25, Fuji News Network reported, without saying where it got the information.

"We've been discussing the issue and measures with governors of cities with areas designated stage three," Minister Nishimura, who is in charge of coronavirus policy, told NHK on Sunday.

Asked whether he was considering a suspension of the travel subsidy campaign nationwide, Mr Nishimura said he does not think there are risks in regions where infections have not risen, such as the prefectures of Shimane and Tottori.

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 under the travel subsidy campaign until Dec 17.

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