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Over 100,000 sign petition against Japan tourism subsidy campaign amid infection spike

This screenshot of a Change.org site shows a signature-collecting drive opposing the Japanese government's tourism subsidy program called "Go To Travel Campaign."

TOKYO -- An online signature-collecting drive opposing the government's tourism subsidy campaign to combat the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic has collected signatures from more than 100,000 people, with the petitioners calling for the suspension of the program amid a spike in the number of new infections.

The petition opposing the government's "Go To Travel Campaign" was launched on Change.org on July 11. While the number of petitioners stood at around 20,000 on the morning of July 14, the figure spiked to over 80,000 by the following morning. As of 1 p.m. on July 16, the number of signatories had topped 109,000.

"To go ahead with the travel aid program now could end up spreading the novel coronavirus across the country, which is preposterous," the organizer of the signature drive said. "The campaign should be canceled and its budget should be diverted to medical institutions, the areas affected by the rain disaster in the Kyushu region (in southwestern Japan) and small and midsized tourism-related business operators."

One of the people who signed the petition commented, "I want the campaign to be implemented someday, but not now!" Another complained, "(The government) is making light of the lives and health of the public." Yet another petitioner called for the program's budget to be "directly allocated to the tourism industry and medical sector."

In Tokyo, more than 100 new daily infections have been reported since July 2, except for July 8. On July 15, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government raised its coronavirus alert to its highest level on a scale of 4 -- indicating a status where "infections are spreading."

Nevertheless, the national government aims to launch the Go To Travel Campaign on July 22. In a bid to spur further discussion in the Diet over the issue, the organizer of the petition is planning to submit the collected signatures to lawmakers.

"Even though I can understand the purpose of the (travel aid) campaign, it should not be carried out at a time like this when infections are spreading. If people travel to regional areas from Tokyo and end up spreading infections, the tourism industry and restaurants in the destination areas will be dealt a severe blow," said the organizer of the signature drive.

(Japanese original by Asako Takeuchi, City News Department)

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