The Japanese government's advisory panel of virus experts on Tuesday approved a plan to expand COVID-19 quasi-emergency measures to 18 more prefectures with the tougher restrictions coming into effect from Thursday.
The quasi-emergency measures will be in effect until Feb. 20, with 34 of Japan's 47 prefectures subject to more stringent anti-virus measures.
Okinawa, Yamaguchi and Hiroshima prefectures, the first to be placed under the emergency measures, have seen COVID-19 cases threaten to overburden healthcare facilities, said Hitoshi Kikawada, the Cabinet Office's state minister in charge of coronavirus measures.
The quasi-state of emergency allows prefectural governors to impose stricter anti-viral measures, such as requesting eateries and bars to close earlier and refrain from serving alcohol.
The latest emergency measures come as the highly-transmissible Omicron strain of the coronavirus has led to COVID-19 cases spiking nationwide, with more than 44,000 new daily infections reported on Monday, with 8,503 new cases confirmed in Tokyo.
Kikawada said the expansion of the emergency measures has been provisionally granted at the request of the 18 prefectures themselves to curb the spread of the virus, warning that if the infection and hospital occupancy rate continued at the current pace, healthcare facilities could become overwhelmed.
The central government will officially announce the decision later in the day after appraising parliament of the advisory panel's approval.
The 18 additional prefectures to be placed under the emergency measures are Hokkaido, Aomori, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Ishikawa, Nagano, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Shimane, Okayama, Fukuoka, Saga, Oita and Kagoshima.