Japan It withdrew the cities of Osaka and Sapporo from its controversial Go To Travel campaign, which was launched in July to help the country’s COVID-affected economy.
Pressure is mounting on the government to rethink the plan, which offers generous discounts on travel and accommodation, after experts said it contributes to the recent spike in coronavirus cases in parts of Japan.
“We have agreed to temporarily exclude flights to Sapporo and Osaka from the travel campaign,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters.
“Although we tried to balance the economic recovery with containing viruses, we took this decision at the request of local rulers.”
The decision represents a blow to attempts by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to support regional economies during the pandemic.
Osaka and Sapporo will be banned until Dec. 15, but a regional governors association said the new restrictions should also apply to residents of those cities planning to travel to other parts of the country.
“Many governors are concerned about arriving from contagion areas. I want (the government) to consider comprehensive measures,” Tokushima Prefecture Governor Kamon Izumi told Nishimura, according to Kyodo News.
However, international travel received a boost after Japan and China agreed to resume business trips, with travelers exempt from a 14-day quarantine period on the condition that they test negative for Covid-19 and present their flight path. Japan agreed to similar arrangements with Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.
About 9.6 million Chinese visited Japan last year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization, including 370,000 business travelers.
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