Japan's Go To Travel review is too little, too late, infectious disease experts say

Japan Times -- Nov 23
Infectious disease experts have weighed in on Saturday's decision by the government to review its Go To Travel tourism promotion campaign, criticizing the move as too late and likely to have little effect in preventing the further spread of COVID-19.

"The review came late. It should have been conducted at least two weeks ago," Yoshito Niki, a visiting professor of infectious disease at Showa University, said Saturday.

"At present, Hokkaido and Tokyo are in Stage 3 situations in which infected people are sharply increasing," Niki said, referring to the second-worst level on Japan's four-tier scale for measuring the spread of the deadly virus.

On Sunday, Tokyo reported 391 new cases of COVID-19, dipping below 500 for the first time in four days.

As part of the review, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Saturday that the government had decided to suspend new reservations of trips under the Go To Travel subsidy program to areas where infections are soaring.

The country’s virus task force had earlier recommended that the government consider reviewing the program. About 40 million people took advantage of the campaign from July 22 to Oct. 31, according to the tourism agency.

But Suga and government officials have not said when the suspension of the travel campaign will begin and which areas will be affected.

The decision, made without working out the details in advance, has led to confusion among local authorities, the tourism industry and the general public.

The government will try to unveil specifics in the next few days about how it will partially suspend the campaign, a senior government official said Sunday.

- Japan Times