The contradiction of messages from the Tokyo metropolitan government, which has asked citizens to limit non-essential travel, in the face of the central government's “Let's travel” campaign worth 1680 trillion yen ($ 15 billion) which aims to encourage local tourism, have put Japan in a “double bind” with the virus.
On Wednesday, July 22, the governor of Tokyo, Koike Yuriko, asked the inhabitants of the capital to “behave as if a second wave (of COVID-19) was already here.” With a population of 15 million people, Tokyo remains the epicenter of the latest increase in COVID-19 cases in Japan. The metropolitan region has identified at least 5,000 cases in July, with 45% of all infections since the start of the pandemic.
During the week of July 20, Tokyo experienced its highest daily rate of confirmed cases in its history, with more than 200 infections daily for six days in a row. There are fears that there may be a strong rebound of COVID-19 in Tokyo in August.
Other major cities in Japan, such as Osaka and Fukuoka, also experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases in July, while the isolated Sado island community saw its first case of the disease. Yoron, a small island community in the far west of Japan, popular with tourists, has so far had 34 cases, five in the last week of July.
Despite the daily increase in COVID-19 cases, on Friday, July 24, shortly after starting a four-day long weekend, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ignored government policy And followed refusing to declare a state of emergency. He stated that the situation remained “under control”. Japan had declared a state of national emergency once before, in April and May, which managed to reduce the number of daily infections.
On the first day of a 4-day weekend for which the government has been forking out much-opposed traveling coupons to boost inter-prefectural travel, Tokyo records its worst ever number of new infections.
Many other prefectures broke records yesterday. Commonly sense 💩 https://t.co/qIDESp8E30
– Lana Sinapayen (@sina_lana) July 23, 2020
(LAST MINUTE) Only Tokyo, more than 300 recently confirmed infections of the new coronavirus.
On the first day of a four-day weekend in which the government has been giving up much-criticized travel coupons to encourage travel between prefectures, Tokyo has its worst number of new infections.
Many other prefectures broke records yesterday. Common sense … 💩
Instead, the Abe Shinzo government followed through with its plans to launch the “Let's Go to Japan” campaign on Thursday, July 22 and the start of a four-day long weekend. This campaign offers travelers various subsidies covering travel and accommodation of up to 20,000 yen ($ 200) per person per night for tourists in 40 prefectures across Japan.
Due to its high number of infections since the beginning of the pandemic, Tokyo has been excluded as a tourist destination. However, this has not stopped tourists from Tokyo from traveling all over Japan, including Iwate prefecture, which has not had any COVID-19 cases.
Many GoTo tourists flocking to Iwate. “They haven’t had any cases so it seemed the safest place to visit” 【GoTo】 観 光 客 が 感染 者 ゼ ロ の 岩手 に 集結 「岩手 は 安全 な イ メ ー ジ」 https://t.co/bpSk7VDBpG
– Hikosaemon (@hikosaemon) July 24, 2020
“Let's Go to Japan Campaign” travelers descend on Iwate Prefecture, which, until now, has had no cases of COVID-19.
Many GoTo tourists crowd into Iwate. “He has not had a case and it seems the safest place to visit”.
The reaction of the public has been diverse. A July 24 poll suggested that many Japanese believed that a future state of emergency is only necessary in certain regions where COVID-19 is a serious problem, and not across the country. Other surveys have shown strong opposition to the COVID-19 plan.
There are also emerging reports of corruption, including bribes to politicians who supported the “Go To Japan” campaign worth 1680 trillion yen ($ 15 billion). Management of the plan has been delegated to a major travel agency, rather than being internally managed by the Government.
Meanwhile, there is puzzlement over how the slogan “Let's Travel” was chosen:
Asahi report on how the government's campaign “Go To Travel” slogan has English speakers wincing. Spokesman says it was chosen because “Go”, “To”, and “Travel” are all easily understood words in Japan. https://t.co/eTwtxmEdnK
– Mulboyne (@Mulboyne) July 23, 2020
Is “Go To Travel” grammatically incorrect? “Well, these are the English words that most Japanese people know.”.
Asahi reports on how the Government's campaign slogan Go To Travel (NdT: the campaign uses English words, which translate to “Let's travel”) makes English speakers grimace. The spokesperson says he has been chosen as the words “Go”, “To” and “Travel” are easy words to understand in Japan.