Editorial Notes

Japan's Diet debates over Go To Travel tourism campaign: Yomiuri Shimbun

The paper says that while support measures should be provided to the tourism industry, Tokyo should prevent society from lowering its guard against surging Covid-19 cases.

The paper says that while it is highly important for the government's support measures to underpin the tourism industry, it may not be appropriate for the government to continue encouraging the public to travel amid surging coronavirus cases. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Debate in the Diet between the ruling and opposition parties over issues related to the novel coronavirus pandemic did not go well. The government should present clear guidelines to the public about how to overcome this crisis.

The budget committees of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors held intensive deliberations. When it came to measures against infection, the opposition parties focused on the government's Go To Travel tourism promotion campaign.

Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called for the campaign to be suspended, saying, "Infections spread when more people travel."

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga countered, "There is no evidence that (the Go To Travel campaign) is a major cause of the spread of infections. It is a powerful measure that can bolster the economy."

It is highly important for the government's support measures to underpin the tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. There must be many companies that can keep operating thanks to the positive effects of the campaign.

However, is it appropriate for the government to continue encouraging the public to travel even when the number of cases is surging?

While calling for restraint regarding trips to destinations where infections are spiking, the government still continues to provide subsidies for residents of those areas to travel to other places. It is hard to ignore the inconsistency in this approach.

Asked why the number of cases is surging, Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura said, "More people are travelling without sufficient measures against infection in place."

In a bid to prevent society from lowering its guard, the government should once again urge the public to thoroughly follow basic protocols, such as wearing masks and avoiding the so-called Three Cs of closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings.

The number of seriously ill patients in Japan has been hitting record levels, with the occupancy rate of hospital beds also rising in urban areas. There is an urgent need to expand PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and medical services.

Regarding the government's refusal to appoint six of the candidates recommended as new members by the Science Council of Japan, Mr Suga only said, "I made an appropriate judgement to ensure balanced activities by the council."

The inconsistency remains unaddressed between Mr Suga's remarks and the statements made by past administrations, which described the government's appointments of new council members as merely a formality.

It is essential for Mr Suga to explain in detail why he refused to appoint the six and what led to his decision.

Regarding parties organised by a supporters association of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the eve of cherry blossom-viewing events that he hosted as prime minister, it has been learned that Mr Abe's side covered the gaps between the actual cost of the parties and the amount of participation fees paid by attendees.

It has been said that covering the gaps could have been a violation of the Political Funds Control Law, among other laws.

Last year, Mr Abe spoke at the Diet about the parties, saying, "My supporters association did not make any revenue or expenditures." If his supporters group actually did cover the gaps, that would be in contradiction to the statements Abe made.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party have demanded that what actually happened be revealed.

As a person who held the nation's top administrative position, Mr Abe is called on to have a high degree of ethics. It is hoped that the former prime minister will sincerely respond to the suspicions against him and properly fulfil his obligation to explain.

The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.