Japan will consider resuming its subsidy program to promote domestic tourism only in parts of the country, even if the current state of emergency over the novel coronavirus is completely lifted, Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said on Thursday.
The idea of potentially restarting the “Go To Travel” campaign comes as Japan decided to end its second state of emergency for five prefectures west of the Tokyo metropolitan area at the end of this month, because the number of coronavirus infections is no longer considered serious.
A street in Osaka’s famous tourist spot, Shinsekai, is quiet on December 28, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Japanese government on the same day extended the suspension of its travel promotion program for the virus-hit domestic tourism industry across the country until January 11 in response to a recent notable increase in infections. (Kyodo) == Kyodo
The five prefectures are Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi and Gifu, officials said, adding that the plan will be finalized by the government’s virus measures task force on Friday after hearing advice from health experts. .
Fukuoka also called on the government to exclude the southwestern prefecture from the list, but no decision was taken, with some medical experts stressing the need to further assess the situation as the occupancy rate of the beds of hospital remains high.
Japan’s second state of emergency was first declared for one month on January 7, and then extended until March 7. Unlike the first one last spring, it only covered the Tokyo metropolitan area and some other areas of the country that have seen a resurgence in infections.
The government has yet to decide to end the state of emergency for Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama on March 7, officials said.
Although the infection situation in Tokyo has improved in recent days, it still registered 340 new cases on Thursday, bringing its cumulative total to 11,740.
During a parliamentary session, Akaba, referring to the travel campaign – which has been blamed by critics for triggering the resurgence – said the government did not intend to restart the program immediately after the lifting of the emergency.
Akaba said the government must carefully analyze the infection situation in each region before restarting the campaign, which was halted nationwide on December 28.
“It is not an all or nothing, black or white (decision)”, declared the minister, who had previously mentioned the possibility of resuming the subsidy program by authorizing travel only in the respective prefectures which have relatively low infection figures.
Some government officials said parts of the program should be overhauled, such as lowering discount rates and asking people to use the campaign only for weekday travel.
The government is also seeking to gradually ease restrictions on events in targeted prefectures once the emergency is lifted, after a one-month observation period.
The relaxation could include increasing the spectator limit from the current 5,000 or 50% of a venue’s capacity to a maximum crowd of 10,000. It can also allow a full house for places like movie theaters where people don’t speak loudly.