Japan plans to place limits on large gatherings a day after recalling the main domestic travel campaign.
Japan’s daily tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases hit a record for day four and a senior official said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government may reimpose limits on sports and other major events to stem the outbreak.
Japan’s health ministry reported 2,508 cases on Sunday, the second time the daily tally has exceeded 2,500. In the Japanese capital, Tokyo, the daily infection rate was a record 539 cases.
Japan has so far seen fewer than 2,000 coronavirus-related deaths – avoiding the toll of hardest-hit countries – but fears are growing of a new surge and local media say hospitals are being tested in the areas. the hardest hit, as a growing number of patients are occupying fewer and fewer available beds.
Economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told state broadcaster NHK on Sunday that the government was considering reimposing participation limits at large gatherings in areas of the country experiencing a sharp increase in cases.
He said the government was also considering reimbursing customers who booked travel through a partially suspended domestic tourism campaign on Saturday.
The end of the GoTo program – which encouraged travel and dining with discounts – marked a change of direction for Suga, who attempted a balance between revitalizing Japan’s hard-hit economy while keeping the coronavirus under control.
Critics say the move was too little, too late, as many people had already booked a trip for a three-day Thanksgiving weekend in Japan.
Airports and restaurants are crowded, and some say the government should have offered to pay for cancellations, or step up PCR testing instead, if the goal is to keep the economy in the midst of a pandemic.
Tutorials are circulating online on the correct way to eat and drink in restaurants while wearing masks.
Meanwhile, NHK said on Sunday that “Japanese hospitals are under strain,” with bed occupancy rates exceeding 30% in seven of the country’s 47 prefectures, including Hyogo, Osaka, Hokkaido, Aichi and Tokyo.
In the last week alone, the number of hospitalized patients increased by 32%, NHK said.