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Japan to Suspend Domestic Travel Campaign in Virus Hotspots

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 2 days ago Chikafumi Hodo, Grace Huang and Takashi Nakamichi
a group of people standing in front of a building: Passengers line up waiting to aboard an East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) Shinkansen the bullet train on a platform of Tokyo Station in Tokyo, Japan, on Aug. 7, 2020. Mid-August is a traditional time for many Japanese to leave the densely populated cities and travel to meet family in rural areas. But reservations of the bullet trains over this year’s Obon period are at just 16% of last year’s, according to JR East. © Bloomberg Passengers line up waiting to aboard an East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) Shinkansen the bullet train on a platform of Tokyo Station in Tokyo, Japan, on Aug. 7, 2020. Mid-August is a traditional time for many Japanese to leave the densely populated cities and travel to meet family in rural areas. But reservations of the bullet trains over this year’s Obon period are at just 16% of last year’s, according to JR East.

(Bloomberg) -- Japan will partially suspend the country’s “Go-To” domestic travel campaign in areas where coronavirus cases are increasing, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.

Suga didn’t specify the places where the campaign will be suspended. About 40 million people used the Go-To-Travel program between July 22 to Oct. 31, according to the tourism agency.

Suga and cabinet members gathered on Saturday to discuss the effort, which had been a boost to the local economy with subsidies provided on travel and dining. The country’s virus task force had earlier recommended that the government consider reviewing the program, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Friday.

“We need to act as swiftly as possible,” Suga told reporters, adding that he has instructed relevant ministers to take measures on the virus infections.

The premier said he suggested that no new reservations should be accepted under the campaign, and requested local governments to stop issuing new “Go-To Eat” food coupons.

Suga also said he plans use national funds to conduct Covid-19 tests for some elderly people in medical and nursing facilities.

The government will finalize details over the coming few days on how it will partially suspend the campaign designed to spur domestic traveling, the economy minister said.

“We will set a direction in a matter of a few days, and then act in coordination” with municipal governments, said Nishimura during a Sunday talk show by the public broadcaster NHK. “We can’t afford to wait for a week or two.”

Japan can’t rule out calling a state of emergency if the virus outbreak worsen, Nishimura told a news conference after Saturday’s meeting. New virus cases in Tokyo reached a daily record of 539 on Saturday.

Mitsumaru Kumagai, chief economist at Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd. and an adviser to Suga, estimated that the campaign could give a 4.9 trillion yen ($47 billion) boost to the economy over time. That forecast may need to be scaled down if the program is downsized or withdrawn.

(Updates with comments from minister in seventh and eighth paragraphs.)

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