(Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s approval ratings fell five percentage points to 58%, with many unhappy with his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a poll taken over the weekend by the daily Nikkei newspaper.
The dip in ratings follows criticism over his hesitation to suspend a domestic travel campaign as new coronavirus infections rise, and potentially threatens the chances of his premiership extending beyond next autumn, when his current term ends.
Suga’s approval ratings were at 63% in the previous poll conducted in October.
Respondents who disapproved of the government’s coronavirus countermeasures rose 13 percentage points to 48%, topping the 44% who thought the government was doing well, according to the same poll.
In the survey of 993 people, 61% agreed with the government’s decision to partially halt the domestic ‘Go To’ travel campaign, while 25% said the government needed to do more.
Although Japan has been spared the high incidence of the disease seen in Europe and the United State, infections rates are rising as the cold season approaches, with the nation reaching record numbers of daily cases in recent weeks.
New daily infections surged to an all-time high of 2,684 people on Saturday, according to public broadcaster NHK. The number of deaths stands at over 2,100.
The government has been attempting to keep the coronavirus under control while boosting Japan’s hard-hit economy with a national travel campaign that subsidises tourism.
With new cases rising, the government scaled back on the tourism campaign last week by excluding the two cities of Osaka and Sapporo, but has not suspended the programme in Tokyo, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases.