Tokyo dropped from 'Go To' tourism program after backlash

Cheryl Sanders
July 16, 2020

This "red" alert in the huge capital of 11 million inhabitants inserted in a megalopolis of some 37 millions, the most populated in the world, does not mean that the municipality will ask for closings of shops or event reports. The government has struck a harsher tone in recent days though, with Koike saying she may issue business closure requests to a narrow target of shops if needed, and urging residents to avoid businesses that aren't following virus prevention guidelines.

The number is the most for a single day, Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters, and comes after the city conducted a record number of tests on a single day, with more than 4,000 conducted.

The government made a decision to exclude Tokyo from the "Go To Travel" campaign after local government officials and medical experts raised fears that the tourism program would spread novel coronavirus infections from the capital.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, however, said on Wednesday the government would proceed with the so-called "Go To" travel aid campaign, which includes offers such as discounts for shopping and food, but move cautiously.

'Obviously we will consider the thoughts of many of our people, while monitoring the situation ahead, Nishimura, who leads the government's coronavirus policy, told parliament.

The program, among the government's top initiatives to stimulate economic activity and set to start this month, has also come under fire over costs as it subcontracts back-office work to a private contractor.

Koike urged the government on Wednesday to reconsider the timing for the campaign. That marks the highest number of daily cases there since April 20.

Commuters and residents of Tokyo expressed worries about the resurgence of COVID-19 cases Thursday when the capital reported yet another record figure of 286 cases and a day after Tokyo raised its alert to the highest level of four.

Japanese health authorities are particularly anxious about the increasing number of untraceable cases as the weekly average has nearly doubled.

Although officials have called for increased caution against Covid-19, they have so far maintained that there is no need for a broad request to close businesses because the medical system isn't strained and a majority of new cases are young people in their 20s and 30s.

"I don't see why it can't be delayed a bit, or it could be limited to certain regions", said Ryuta Ibaragi, governor of Okayama in the west of the country, which has had just 29 infections out of Japan's total tally of 23,000 cases.

A man wearing a face mask makes his way at the Kabukicho district, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo, Japan, July 14, 2020.

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