Expert Calls for Removing Stage 3 Areas from "Go To Travel"

Politics Lifestyle

Tokyo, Dec. 9 (Jiji Press)--The Japanese government should remove areas with surges in novel coronavirus infections from its Go To Travel tourism support program, leading public health expert Shigeru Omi said Wednesday.

Go To Travel should be suspended in areas in a situation equivalent to Stage 3, the second-worst level on the four-tier scale gauging the degree of the spread of the virus, Omi told an off-session meeting of the health committee of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, Japan's parliament.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference on the day, "No prefecture is currently regarded as being in a situation equivalent to Stage 3," suggesting that the government plans to continue the program.

Omi, chairman of the government's coronavirus panel of experts, has said he believes that the infection situations in Tokyo's 23 special wards and the western Japan city of Osaka are equivalent to Stage 3. "I've repeatedly suggested that the program should be stopped under the current infection situation," Omi, also head of the Japan Community Health Care Organization, said at the Diet committee meeting. "If we bring the situation to Stage 2 and control infections, and then run the program, I suppose we could gain the understanding of the public," he said, urging the government to reverse course.

In its additional economic stimulus package adopted Tuesday, the government included a plan to extend the Go To Travel campaign until the end of June next year from the currently scheduled expiration at the end of January. The government is reluctant to suspend the program apparently because it is pushed by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, sources familiar with the situation said. But the government may be forced to review the program if infections continue growing in winter, the sources said.

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