Japan is suspending domestic travel in two cities with the spread of COVID

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan has suspended its “Go To Travel” promotion campaign in two cities after a sudden rise in COVID-19 infections, a government minister said Tuesday that struck Prime Minister Joshide Suga’s plan to support regional economies.

Critics of the program said the risk of the infection spreading from larger cities to the countryside.

“We have agreed to temporarily exclude travel to Sapporo and Hokkaido from the travel campaign,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Tuesday.

“While we tried to balance both the economic recovery and the reduction of viruses, we made this decision at the request of local governors,” Nishimura told reporters after talks with Prime Minister Suga and Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Aqaba.

Akaba said the two cities will initially be excluded until December 15, during which time no new bookings can be made under the program, which offers discounts on fares and hotels.

Suga said on Saturday that the government will suspend new reservations under the program for travel to severely affected areas.

The western city of Osaka reported 171 new cases on Monday after seeing a record 286 cases the day before, a city official told Reuters.

North Sapporo reported 140 cases a day on Monday, a record of 197 cases recorded last Thursday, a city official said.

In Tokyo’s capital, the number of new daily infections has risen to over 500, with serious cases reaching 51 on Tuesday, the most since the state of emergency was lifted in May.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters that the number of infections among the elderly has increased, including cases where people became infected with the virus while eating and brought home to their relatives.

(Report by Daniel Leussink, Chris Gallagher, Jack Tarrant and Rocky Swift; edited by Kim Coghill, Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Nick Macfie)