Japan's government is considering lifting its coronavirus state of emergency for Osaka, Kyoto and 3 other prefectures at the end of this month.
Tokyo and nine other prefectures across Japan are currently under the state of emergency, which is in effect until March 7.
Five of them -- Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Aichi and Fukuoka -- are asking the government to lift the measure earlier in their areas.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu said on Thursday that the government will make a decision based on the infection situation and the healthcare system, while consulting an advisory panel of experts.
Officials say the state of emergency could be lifted for Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Aichi and Gifu, which neighbors Aichi, at the end of February. They say they are carefully examining the level of strain on Fukuoka's medical system.
The officials plan to call on people in Tokyo and three of its neighbors to continue to take preventive measures so that the state of emergency can be lifted on March 7 as scheduled. Residents are being asked to avoid non-essential outings.
The government plans to hold a meeting of the advisory panel on Friday before deciding where and when to lift the state of emergency.
Any decision to lift the measure is to be finalized at a coronavirus task force meeting after deliberations by the Diet.