Govt must Prioritize Prevention of Coronavirus Infections, Reassure Public

It is only natural that the government has decided to suspend the tourism promotion campaign based on the surge in novel coronavirus infections. The government must make efforts to prevent confusion caused by the suspension of the campaign and take all possible measures to contain the pandemic.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced a revision to the Go To Travel campaign. The government plans to suspend the campaign nationwide from Dec. 28 to Jan. 11 next year.

The government has excluded travel to Tokyo and Nagoya from the subsidy project through Dec. 27, and has called for restraint regarding travel from Tokyo and Nagoya until then. It has decided to extend the suspension of trips to the cities of Sapporo and Osaka.

Tallies of new coronavirus cases are at record-high levels. The increase in the number of patients with serious symptoms and deaths has not stopped. The government’s subcommittee on coronavirus countermeasures has repeatedly called on the government to suspend the travel campaign.

The suspension was likely decided after taking these circumstances into consideration. It is important for the prime minister to demonstrate a strong stance of prioritizing infection prevention and to reassure the public, both of which should lead to economic recovery in the medium to long term.

Many people plan to return to their hometowns or go on trips during the year-end and New Year periods. However, it is necessary to reduce opportunities for movement and contact to contain the spread of infections.

There is expected to be a series of cancellations of travel reservations. The government is urged to closely cooperate with businesses so that those who have reserved trips can go through a procedure smoothly to cancel them.

The subcommittee has called for the year-end and New Year parties to be held in small groups of people. It has also urged people to avoid crowded times during shrine or temple visits during the New Year period and to be cautious about returning to hometowns.

The government must share the awareness with experts and local governments, and thoroughly explain the situation to the public to gain understanding.

Healthcare systems are becoming increasingly strained in areas where coronavirus cases have spiked.

The central government dispatched Self-Defense Forces medical personnel to Asahikawa, Hokkaido, and Osaka Prefecture at the request of the local governments. However, SDF nurses would ordinarily be treating coronavirus and other patients at SDF hospitals across Japan. The extent to which personnel can be utilized will be limited.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has revised its policy of requiring elderly patients to be hospitalized, making it possible for them to receive treatment at home at the discretion of doctors in areas where hospital beds are tight. The ministry needs to make appropriate arrangements to ensure sudden changes in patients’ conditions are not overlooked.

The burden on medical workers has been huge. There is an urgent need for generous support for them.

Many prefectures are calling on dining establishments and other businesses to shorten operating hours, offering financial relief packages to those that respond to requests to do so.

The prime minister has announced a support measure to raise the upper limit of the financial relief to ¥1.2 million a month. The government and the private sector must strengthen cooperation to prevent further infection spikes.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 15, 2020.