TOKYO – The Japanese government urged people on Friday to spend a “peaceful” end to the year after daily coronavirus infections hit a record, but said it would continue to provide subsidies to promote tourism despite media reports that it could pause the campaign.
“The reports are not true, we will continue to manage them appropriately, trying to prevent the spread of infections,” said Katsunobu Kato, the government’s chief spokesman, at a regular press briefing.
New coronavirus infections in Japan reached 2,848 cases on Thursday, the most in a day since the pandemic began.
Media reports say Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration has been considering a hiatus in the “Go To Travel” campaign for about two months at the end of the year and into the New Year, as public opinion has shifted to supporting the stop.
Shuga’s government has so far defended subsidies needed to maintain hotels and airlines and strengthen the pandemic-affected economy that has kept people at home.
This week’s report by researchers from the University of Tokyo and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found a higher incidence of COVID-19 symptoms among people participating in the tourism campaign compared to the general public.
Experts say colder, drier winters that keep people inside and help with transmission could mean more infections, while traditional end-of-year and New Year celebrations with family and friends put people at greater risk.
“It is important that citizens cooperate a little by spending a peaceful end to the year and the New Year.” Kato said.