Japan's PM Suga Calls for a 'Silent' New Year as Cases of Coronavirus Continue to Mount

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called on citizens on Friday to spend a “silent” New Year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which has been breaking infection records almost on a daily basis.

Suga also announced a fresh package of 270 billion yen ($2.61 billion) for institutions treating coronavirus patients.

Earlier Japan’s Imperial Household Agency announced that it was cancelling an annual New Year’s event set for Jan. 2, at which Emperor Naruhito and other imperial family members were to greet well-In wishers, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have decided not to hold (the event) from the viewpoint of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus,” the agency said on its website in November.

Events are not the only things that Japan is suspending in wake of the raging Covid-19 virus, a new strain of which has now been detected in the United Kingdom.

Earlier in December, PM Suga had said Japan's travel subsidy programme dubbed “Go To Travel” would be suspended nationwide around the New Year to contain mounting COVID-19 cases, as his approval rating plummets over the handling of the pandemic.

Speaking at a coronavirus meeting on December 14 to discuss plans for the much-criticized travel campaign, Suga had said he would temporarily halt the programme from Dec. 28 to Jan. 11.

The premier also said the capital Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo and Nagoya, where infections have been rising, would be removed as eligible destinations for the travel campaign until Dec. 27.

He even urged those departing these cities to refrain from using the travel subsidy campaign.

“We will take the utmost measures to prevent further spread of infections at the year-end and the New Year, to ease the burdens at medical institutions and to make sure everyone can spend a calm new year,” he told the meeting.

Earlier in the week, Japan also banned entry of non-Japanese people from Britain from Thursday after the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus variant, as daily infections hit a record high.

(With inputs from Reuters)