Japan to suspend domestic travel campaign in two cities, minister says

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk on the street, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

(Reuters) – The Japanese government is preparing to pause its domestic travel campaign in two cities following sharp rises in COVID-19 cases, the minister handling the government’s coronavirus response said on Tuesday.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said he hoped a final decision on the temporary exclusion of western Osaka city as well as Sapporo in northern Japan could be made later in the day.

“Infections are spreading and medical care is becoming tense, so I think it’s good to act as soon as possible,” Nishimura told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

Nishimura said the exclusion would initially be for three weeks, during which there would be a halt of new reservations under the programme.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Saturday the government would suspend new reservations under the Go To Travel programme for trips to hard-hit areas as new coronavirus cases have continued to rise nationally.

Suga 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.

Sapporo’s daily infection rate stood at 140 cases on Monday, below a record 197 cases reported on Thursday last week, a city official said.