Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga talks about measures against the novel coronavirus at the prime minister’s office on the morning of Nov. 19. (Kotaro Ebara)

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Nov. 19 said the government is on “maximum alert” after Japan set a record for new COVID-19 cases, but he would not address criticism about the “Go To Travel” campaign.

A daily record 2,202 new novel coronavirus infections were confirmed nationwide as of 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 18, the first time the tally has exceeded 2,000.

Suga asked the public to thoroughly take basic measures to prevent infections, such as wearing masks and avoiding the “three Cs” of closed, crowded and close-contact settings.

He also asked people to have “silent meals with masks” by keeping the facial coverings on during conversations and removing them only for eating and drinking, citing the high infection risks pointed out by experts.

“I will also do so myself,” he said.

Suga said he instructed Yasutoshi Nishimura, the state minister of economic revitalization who is also in charge of Japan’s response to the pandemic, and health minister Norihisa Tamura to implement additional measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Those measures will be discussed by the health ministry’s advisory board on Nov. 19 and by the government’s subcommittee on Nov. 20.

Despite the recent surge in infections, the government has shown no indication that it will end its “Go To” programs aimed at stirring economic activity in struggling sectors.

At a news conference on Nov. 18, Toshio Nakagawa, president of the Japan Medical Association, said “there is no doubt” that the Go To Travel campaign “triggered” the sharp increase in new infections in recent days.

Reporters asked the prime minister if he intends to review the government’s Go To Travel campaign, which encourages domestic travel to help the pandemic-battered tourism industry.

Suga left the prime minister's office without responding to the question.

Tokyo confirmed a record 493 new infections on Nov. 18. Kanagawa, Saitama, Nagano and Shizuoka prefectures also reported their highest daily figures.

Officials confirmed 273 new COVID-19 cases in Osaka Prefecture and 233 in Hokkaido, both close to their record levels.