Japan’s domestic travel campaign linked to increased COVID-19 symptoms

December 10, 2020

There is a higher incidence of COVID-19 symptoms among Japanese who have participated in a domestic travel campaign promoted by the government, according to researchers from the University of Tokyo and the University of California, Los Angeles, US.

Researchers and health experts suggest the travel campaign backed by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is contributing to a spread of the coronavirus, as the infection travels from major cities to the countryside. Suga has defended the travel campaign, saying it was needed to stop many small businesses in the hospitality sector from going bust due to the lack of customers as a result of the virus scare.

Japan is now suffering a third wave of COVID-19: new cases are reaching record levels in central Tokyo while clusters that are straining medical systems continue to grow elsewhere in the country.

In an internet survey of more than 25,000 adults, 4.8% of users of the travel campaign reported high fever compared with 3.7% for non-users. Survey participants also had higher rates of throat pain, cough, headache, and a loss of the sense of taste or smell.

Neighbouring South Korea is similarly combating a third COVID-19 wave; authorities are scrambling to build temporary shipping container hospital beds at some 150 locations across the capital city of Seoul. The latest surge of infections is driven by smaller clusters popping up around Seoul whereas the earlier two waves were centered on a handful of groups or regions.

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