(Update 1: updates figures in par 5, adds governor statements in pars 5-6 from end)
Tokyo, Jul 17 (efe-epa).- The government of Japan announced on Friday that it has decided to exclude the Tokyo region from its campaign to promote domestic tourism, amid a spike in COVID-19 infections in the capital.
The Shinzo Abe-led government has opted for this modification in its initiative designed to revive the domestic tourism sector, which has suffered badly due to restrictions that practically prevent the arrival of foreign visitors, following growing criticism from regional authorities.
The panel of medical experts advising the government has given the green light to the “Go To Travel” campaign without including Tokyo, Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said at a press conference on Friday.
The minister added that this decision has been taken in view of the high number of coronavirus infections in Tokyo that account for almost half of the total cases in Japan, and said that the government’s priority is to take steps against the coronavirus.
On Friday, for the second consecutive day, Tokyo recorded a record number of new daily coronavirus infections, 293 cases, up from the 286 infections registered the previous day, taking the total number of people infected with COVID-19 in Tokyo to 8,933.
Of the remaining 46 prefectures, only one, Osaka, has more than 2,000 infections, while the vast majority of them have barely been affected by the epidemic with cases not even reaching the 200 mark.
The total number of cases throughout Japan has risen to 23,658 after the country recorded 623 new infections on Thursday, the highest figure in three months, according to the latest official data.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, referring to the new record of cases of COVID-19 in the capital, said in a press conference that 70 percent of the new infections in the last 24 hours are people between 20 and 39 years of age.
Authorities in the capital have been warning about the increasing risks posed by nightlife venues in crowded areas of the city, and how they are affecting younger people because they are not taking enough precautions to avoid contagion.
The “Go To Travel” campaign, which will be launched on July 22, consists of discounts for residents traveling within the country, which could subsidize travel and accommodation costs by up to 20,000 yen a day ($187).
The number of foreign visitors to Japan have plummeted in the last few months due to the country’s extensive border restrictions, which currently prohibits the entry of travelers from some 130 nations.
The campaign is in addition to other assistance offered by the government to individuals and companies with the aim of promoting the recovery of economic activity following the impact of the epidemic.
However, the unequal distribution of infections within Japan has led several regional governments, including that of Tokyo, to reject the implementation of the campaign due to the risk that it could cause infections to spread throughout the country. EFE-EPA