Japan is reportedly looking to pay for tourists to visit the country once they are allowed to.
The Japan Times reported on Thursday that the Japanese government is considering subsiding a portion of tourists’ travel expenses once the COVID-19 outbreak is under control.
It comes after the country reportedly recorded a 99.9 per cent drop in arrivals in April (2,900 internationals) from the year earlier.
According to the outlet, this is the first time that the monthly figure has slipped below the 10,000 mark since 1964, when the Japan Tourism Agency began compiling such statistics.
The percentage decrease was reportedly “the largest ever”.
Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Hiroshi Tabata told a press conference that details of the $19 billion travel subsidy scheme were now being debated, and that it could start in July, depending on the country’s number of coronavirus cases.
One of the options said to be under consideration includes Japan paying half the cost of a tourist’s flight, The Japan Times reported.
It remains unclear how long the scheme would last, or whether it would be limited to countries that have also contained COVID-19 outbreaks, such as Australia and New Zealand.
It’s no surprise that Japan is debating the travel subsidy scheme, with the country forced to wait until next year to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
The news comes as Japan emerges from a nationwide state of emergency, thanks to the country’s “unique” approach to coronavirus, according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan’s disaster declaration, which mostly relied on voluntary compliance, has now been lifted in all 47 of the nation’s regions after coming into effect on 7 April.
According to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, Japan – which reportedly has the world’s oldest population – has recorded 846 deaths due to COVID-19 from 16,623 cases and a population of 126 million people.
Prime Minister Abe said a unique approach that involved asking citizens to work from home, schools stay closed and non-essential businesses shut their doors or limit trading hours, with almost no penalties for non-compliance, had contained the spread of coronavirus, ABC News reported.
The lockdown was gradually lifted in 42 of Japan’s 47 regions. However, after six weeks of falling infections, the government on Monday night lifted the state of emergency in Japan’s remaining five regions, including Tokyo.
ABC News reported that public health experts could not agree on exactly how Japan has managed to avoid a larger outbreak.
However, they believed a combination of factors helped, including excellent contact tracing, mask wearing, good hygiene and a high-quality healthcare system.
Abe has now warned his citizens to prepare for a “new normal” as they entered the pandemic’s next phase, adding people should continue to avoid the “three Cs”: closed spaces, crowded places and close contact with others.
“If we lower our guard, the infection will spread very rapidly,” Prime Minister Abe said, as reported by the national broadcaster.
“We need to create a new lifestyle. From now on we need to change our way of thinking.”
Individual regions will now reportedly be allowed to impose their own measures as they see fit.
Featured image: iStock/Sean Pavone