‘Go To Travel’ on hold due to COVID third wave . . .
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced a two-week nationwide suspension this holiday season of the Go To Travel campaign, a domestic travel subsidy program designed to help stimulate the economy. The announcement came Monday after a tripling of nationwide coronavirus cases over the last month. Over this same period, various opinion polls have shown a significant drop in the Suga administration’s general approval ratings, with one opinion poll from Sunday finding a decline of 17 percentage points to 40 per cent between November 7 and December 12. Meanwhile, the percentage of people that disapprove (49%) of the administration surpassed support for the first time since Suga became prime minister in September.
Subsidy and travel suspensions . . .
Japan’s central government earlier excluded Sapporo and Osaka from the campaign over their growing COVID case numbers in late November. At the time, Suga was adamant that he wouldn't pull the plug on the entire program. But a nationwide suspension will now be in force from December 28 to January 11, a period that typically sees significant domestic travel as people visit hometowns for New Year’s celebrations. Other subsidy programs facing similar suspensions include Tokyo’s “Motto Tokyo” and the central government’s Go To Eat campaign. But not all jurisdictions think restrictions on year-end activities are enough. Sapporo recently announced that it will cancel its annual Sapporo Snow Festival for the first time since its inception 70 years ago. The festival, which usually attracts around two million visitors, will be turned into an online event.
Slow vaccination rollout . . .
Japan’s health ministry is working on securing thousands of freezers, vaccination sites, and creating a reservations system to ensure the smooth distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of March. While this is a slower rollout than other advanced economies, the Japanese government will provide the vaccinations for free. But a survey conducted for The World Economic Forum from October shows skepticism of COVID vaccines in Japan. Only 69 per cent of respondents said they would get one if available, and 62 per cent of those who said they would not be vaccinated expressed concern about potential side effects. Japan’s dealings with COVID’s third wave shows that balancing public health, economic recovery, and politics remains problematic nearly a full year into the pandemic.