TOKYO • Japan has paused its domestic Go To Travel promotion campaign in two cities following sharp rises in Covid-19 infections, a minister said yesterday, in a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's plan to help prop up regional economies.
Critics of the programme had said it risked spreading the infection from major cities to the countryside.
"We have agreed to temporarily exclude trips destined for the cities of Sapporo and Osaka from the travel campaign," said Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura. "Although we have tried to balance both economic revitalisation as well as virus containment, we have made this decision at the local governors' request," he told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Suga and Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba.
Mr Akaba said the two cities would initially be excluded until Dec 15, during which time no new reservations could be made under the programme, which offers discounts on fares and hotels.
Mr Suga said last Saturday that the government would suspend new reservations under the travel programme for trips to hard-hit areas as new coronavirus cases have continued to rise nationally.
He has been attempting a balancing act of revitalising the hard-hit economy while keeping the spread of the coronavirus under control.
Osaka city reported 171 new cases on Monday after seeing a record 286 cases the previous day, a city official told Reuters. The city of Sapporo reported 140 daily cases on Monday, below a record 197 cases reported last Thursday.
Tokyo has seen new infections soar past 500 in recent days, and serious cases reached 51 yesterday, the most since a state of emergency was lifted in May.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said there was a rise in infections among older residents.