TOKYO: The Japanese government is expected to keep trips to Sapporo and Osaka ineligible for discounts under its Go To Travel tourism promotion program, officials said.
The exclusion of the two cities is set to expire on Tuesday. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will convene a meeting of his coronavirus response task force on Monday to discuss whether to extend the measure.
Officials see an extension unavoidable because it is uncertain when the pandemic will be brought under control. New coronavirus cases in Tokyo hit a daily record of 621 on Saturday.
An extension of about a week is possible, a senior government official said. “Municipal officials may want to see the situation for a week,” the official said.
Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said on television Saturday that he has asked economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura to keep trips to the city of Osaka out of the discount program.
“Now is the time to apply a brake,” Yoshimura said, adding that the exclusion is expected to be extended until Dec. 25 or 28.
Another focus of the meeting will be whether to suspend the Go To Travel program altogether.
A panel of experts advising the government on its coronavirus response Friday called for halting the program in areas where the virus is spreading.
But the government is reluctant to suspend the program entirely and impose across-the-board movement restrictions.
The Tokyo metropolitan government has called on elderly people aged 65 or over and those with underlying health conditions to refrain from using the program for trips to and from the capital until Thursday.
The central government task force is also expected to discuss the handling of Tokyo and neighboring prefectures under the program.
Support for strained medical systems will also be high on the agenda. Suga will visit officials at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine on Monday.
Wednesday is the final day of the government-designated three-week period during which people are being asked to make intensive efforts to contain the pandemic. The experts’ panel may call for stricter measures, based on the outcome of the three weeks.