The approval rate for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet stands at 36.0 percent, the second lowest since he returned to power in late 2012, at a time when he is facing public criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday.

The result, down from 38.8 percent a month ago, was released a day before Abe is set to become Japan's longest-serving prime minister in terms of consecutive days in office.

The two-day survey from Saturday found 58.4 percent have been discontent with the government's handling of the pandemic, while 70.8 percent think Abe should convene an extraordinary parliamentary session as soon as possible, as requested by opposition parties to discuss measures to stem the spread of the virus.

The disapproval rate came to 49.1 percent, up from 48.5 percent in the previous telephone survey.

Although a simple comparison cannot be made due to different survey methods, the latest approval rate is very close to the lowest level of 35.8 percent recorded in July 2017.

On Sunday, Abe marked his 2,798th consecutive day in office, tying his great uncle Eisaku Sato, who served as prime minister between 1964 and 1972.

Asked about Abe's long-running administration, 43.9 percent said it had more negative aspects than positive ones, while 49.6 percent answered the other way around.

Opinion polls in recent months have shown lackluster support for Abe, partly because his government has not succeeded in lowering the number of new cases of the novel coronavirus, while many people are struggling with economic difficulties.

The Tokyo metropolitan government on Sunday confirmed 212 new cases of virus causing the COVID-19 respiratory illness, surpassing the 200 mark for the fourth straight day.

In the survey that collected about 1,000 valid responses, 47.5 percent said the government should again declare a state of emergency in response to a resurgence of infections.

Members of Japan's Democratic Party for the People earlier this month agreed to disband and merge with the country's largest opposition party in an attempt to mount a united front against Abe's ruling coalition.

But only 22.0 percent of the respondents said they have hopes of a new opposition party to be created with its merger with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Asked about the most appropriate time for a general election, 58.5 percent replied either when the four-year term of House of Representatives members ends in October 2021 or near the term's termination, followed by 17.7 percent saying it should be held in the first half of next year.

The survey, covering 710 randomly selected households with eligible voters and 1,361 mobile phone numbers, obtained responses from 505 and 511 people, respectively.