Japan is considering lifting the COVID-19 quasi-state of emergency for 18 prefectures upon its expiration next week as the number of infections in those areas has been decreasing, a government source said Monday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government plans to make a final decision Wednesday on the possible lifting ahead of the emergency's expiration on March 21, the source said.

Officials hope the downward trend of daily coronavirus infection tallies will be enough for Tokyo, Osaka and 16 other prefectures to meet the government's criteria for lifting the emergency.

People walk in Tokyo's Ginza area on a warm day on March 14, 2022, wearing face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

However, the government will keep a close eye on the number of infections in such areas as some authorities might ask for an extension.

On Monday, a total of 32,471 new infections were reported in Japan, a drop of around 4,600 from a week earlier.

Of those, the Tokyo metropolitan government confirmed 4,836, falling below 5,000 for the first time since Jan. 17.

The Kishida government eased the criteria last week, citing an increase in the number of vaccinated people, the low risk posed by the Omicron variant of causing severe illness and the need for fully resuming economic activities to boost the economy.

The new criteria will allow the government to lift the emergency if the burden on health care seems poised to decrease despite new infections remaining at high levels.

Kishida said Monday at a ruling Liberal Democratic Party meeting the number of infected people in the 18 prefectures "has decreased significantly" and that the government "would like to move the economy and society forward as much as possible."

The quasi-emergency, in place in 18 of Japan's 47 prefectures, puts restrictions on the business hours of restaurants and bars and requests that the public refrain from nonessential travel between prefectures.

Besides Tokyo and Osaka, Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Aichi, Kyoto, Kagawa and Kumamoto are among the 18 affected regions.