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With coronavirus cases rising in Hokkaido, is the prefecture going into a lockdown?

The short answer is no – but there will be requests for self-restraint directed at businesses in the city and residents

Lim Chee Wah
Written by
Lim Chee Wah

The northernmost island in Japan, Hokkaido is a popular destination for local and international tourists, famed for its cool summer, abundant snowfall in winter and exceptional seafood. Since last Thursday (November 12), however, the prefecture has been making headlines for its rising coronavirus cases. It reported a record 236 new Covid-19 cases on that day and a daily tally of over 200 new cases through to Sunday. Yesterday, Monday November 16, there were 189 new infections.

When news of Hokkaido's upward trend in case numbers broke, there was speculation that the prefecture might be taken off the enticing Go to Travel domestic tourism campaign, which sees the government subsidising up to half of your travel costs. However, according to The Japan Times, Prime Minister Suga has said that the Go to Travel subsidy will continue as is.

If you’ve already made plans to visit Hokkaido, here are a few things to note:

  1. Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, is looking to raise its coronavirus alert to level four, the second-highest on the five-tier scale, to signal the spike in infection. This calls for new measures to be taken to prevent straining the medical facilities.
  2. No, there won’t be a lockdown. Nevertheless, Kyodo News reports that the Hokkaido government has urged Sapporo residents to stay home and refrain from non-essential outings.
  3. Food and entertainment venues in Sapporo’s nightlife district Susukino have been advised to not operate between 10pm and 5am. Those that abide by the request will receive a ¥200,000 compensation payment. Local authorities, however, plan to extend the request to the entire city. Food and drink establishments without proper coronavirus safety measures will also be urged to close.

The central government has said that it will offer financial support to restaurants and shops that have been requested to limit their opening hours due to the pandemic. According to The Japan Times, the government plans to earmark ¥50 billion for local authorities to implement this request.

Meanwhile, Tokyo and the rest of Japan are seeing a surge in coronavirus infections that started last week. Yesterday, Monday November 16, Tokyo registered 180 new cases, after six consecutive days of reporting more than 200 daily new infections since November 10.

For more updates on Covid-19 in Tokyo and across Japan, follow the news here.

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