Japan’s governors seek flexibility in Go To Travel program if virus spreads further

Prefectural governors decided on Sunday to ask the central government to consider excluding more areas from a travel campaign if necessary to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The governors said they hope the ¥1.35 trillion subsidy initiative aimed at sparking domestic tourism and travel will help revive their virus-hit economies.

But “we have to avoid causing the virus to spread,” they said in proposals to the central government compiled during an online meeting to discuss responses to the coronavirus.

The central government said Thursday that it will launch the Go To Travel campaign on Wednesday as planned, but is excluding travel to and from Tokyo after a recent spike in cases in the capital.

“We are facing a critical phase where we have to deal with the movement (of people) in wider areas and prevent the spread of the virus at the same time,” Tokushima Gov. Kamon Iizumi, president of the National Governors’ Association, said in the opening speech, referring to the rise in nationwide infections.

Tokyo remains the hardest-hit area with its new cases accounting for about a third of the nationwide tally. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government was expected to report at least 180 new infections later Sunday, Gov. Yuriko Koike said at the meeting.

Tokyo saw the figure reaching nearly 300 for three straight days through Saturday including a single-day record of 293 cases on Friday.

The daily figures reflect the most recent totals reported by health authorities and medical institutions in the capital.

The governors urged the central government to run the campaign over the long term, as some areas in the Kyushu region are not able to accept tourists any time soon in the wake of devastating floods caused by torrential train.

They also asked the government for timely disclosures of information about infections at U.S. bases in Japan as an increasing number of new cases have been reported by the U.S military.

In Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, 143 military personnel have tested positive, according to the prefectural government.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Fumio Kishida said Sunday the Japanese government appears to be considering paying compensation in response to a series of cancellations of travel bookings under the Go To Travel campaign.

“It seems that the government is mulling some measures in regard to cancellation fees” over the travel promotion measure, Kishida said in a television program.

The exclusion of Tokyo from the tourism campaign triggered a series of cancellations of travel bookings.

On a separate TV program Sunday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested the possibility of on-site inspections being carried out on nightlife establishments over the novel coronavirus epidemic under the law on regulating adult entertainment business.

“On-site inspections are possible under the adult entertainment business law, so we need to act decisively” against uncooperative stores, the top government spokesman said in a television program after cluster infections were found to have occurred at such facilities as cabarets and so-called host clubs.

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Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/07/19/national/japan-governors-go-to-travel-campaign-coronavirus/