Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura indicated Tuesday he would ask the central government to extend the current COVID-19 state of emergency in the western Japan metropolis beyond its May 11 end date as the number of infections has not shown a significant decrease.
"My understanding at the moment is that it would be difficult to relax or lift the current measures," Yoshimura told reporters, just over a week since the state of emergency took effect in Osaka and its neighbors Kyoto and Hyogo, as well as in Tokyo.
Osaka on Tuesday logged 884 new daily coronavirus cases. The prefecture has experienced a spike in infections driven by highly contagious variants of the virus, putting a serious strain on its medical system.
Tokyo reported an additional 609 infections while Hyogo and Kyoto confirmed 337 and 113 cases, respectively. The nationwide tally of new infections also reached about 4,200 the same day, during the country's annual Golden Week holiday period.
The Osaka prefectural government plans to have a meeting later this week to decide whether to request Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for an extension.
"We are not in a situation where I can mention any specific criteria (to end the state of emergency) or an exit strategy," Yoshimura said.
The governor also said he will consult with the governors of Kyoto and Hyogo if Osaka decides to ask for an extension.
Suga on Tuesday held discussions about the state of the pandemic with Nobuhiko Okabe, a Cabinet adviser and a leading member of a government panel on the issue.
"I think (Suga) is having a difficult time deciding (on whether to extend it) and he is asking for opinions," Okabe, who heads the Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health, told reporters after the meeting.
Suga recognized the number of cases is not decreasing as fast as earlier expected, according to Okabe.
The number of people moving through the country during the Golden Week holiday period that started Thursday has increased compared with the same period last year, when the entire country was under a state of emergency, which was fully lifted in late May.
According to data compiled by mobile carrier NTT Docomo Inc., more people were out at over 90 percent of the country's 95 key train stations and entertainment districts as of 3 p.m. Monday, compared with May 3, 2020.
In the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, people formed a line to take photographs at the Sapporo Clock Tower, a major tourist spot.
"I know people would not like it if I told them I came from Osaka, but I want to have fun by taking enough anti-virus steps," said a man in his 30s visiting from the western prefecture.
In Nagoya, a woman in her 50s made a trip from Fukuoka to visit her family. "I couldn't come last year. I was so worried about my parents that I couldn't stand it any longer," she said.
Citing its subscriber data, NTT Docomo said holiday outings in the four prefectures currently under the emergency also increased.
Japan has been struggling with a resurgence of the virus, with just under three months to go until this summer's Tokyo Olympics.
The country's medical system is also struggling to cope with the increase in cases. On Monday, Japan had 1,084 COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms, hitting an all-time high for the second straight day.
Suga declared a fresh state of emergency in Tokyo and the three western prefectures, effective from April 25 through May 11.
Under the state of emergency, authorities have imposed stricter anti-virus measures including requiring restaurants serving alcohol and large shopping facilities to close.