Tokyo Hits Virus Record as Japan Rethinks Tourism Campaign
Pedestrians holding umbrellas walk past stores as rain falls in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Soichiro Koriyama/Bloomberg)

Tokyo Hits Virus Record as Japan Rethinks Tourism Campaign

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Tokyo reported a daily record of coronavirus cases Thursday, heightening concerns that the latest infection is spreading in the broader community and spilling beyond the capital.

The city saw 286 infections, public broadcaster NHK reported, the most for a single day. Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters earlier that the city had conducted more than 4,000 tests. The growing number of infections also caused the national government to backtrack on a widely panned campaign aimed at promoting regional tourism.

While the initial flare-up in Tokyo came from nightclubs, which saw increased daily numbers coming from more aggressive testing of bar workers, authorities have expressed concern that more cases are now coming from everyday locales such as restaurants, bars and workplaces. Only a handful of the cases reported in Tokyo on Wednesday were traced to such host or hostess clubs.

Tokyo Hits Virus Record as Japan Rethinks Tourism Campaign

The virus is not only spreading more widely across sectors, but across the country. Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, which both border Tokyo, saw the most infections since the lifting of the state of emergency, while Osaka, the country’s second-largest economic area, had more than 60 cases for a second consecutive day, according to NHK. A tally by broadcaster TBS counted 502 infections nationwide as of 6 p.m. local time.

Campaign Scrapped

A nationwide campaign to spur domestic tourism set to start next week will now exclude visitors to and from Tokyo, Transport Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba announced, amid public concern the campaign will help spread the virus around Japan. Officials had for days been adamant that the program, which gives tourists discounts and coupons to boost regional spending, would go ahead as planned in an attempt to support the industry devastated by the drop in foreign visitors to nearly zero.

Many regional politicians had urged the government to rethink the campaign, fearing visitors from the capital Tokyo would end up spreading the virus to regions so far almost untouched.

Although officials have called for increased caution against Covid-19, they have so far maintained that there is no need for a broad request to close businesses because the medical system isn’t strained and a majority of new cases are young people in their 20s and 30s. In Tokyo, there were 721 hospitalizations as of Wednesday, with just eight of those listed as serious. The city also reported its first death in three weeks on Wednesday.

The government has struck a harsher tone in recent days though, with Governor Koike saying she may issue business closure requests to a narrow target of shops if needed, and urging residents to avoid businesses that aren’t following virus prevention guidelines.

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