Japan's coronavirus state of emergency might become longer and stricter and cover more areas if the outbreak doesn't show signs of abating, a minister and a government health chief said Thursday.
If the number of coronavirus cases remained flat or decreased fractionally only it would be "impossible to maintain the current state of emergency declaration and stronger measures will be needed," Shigeru Omi, the head of the government's pandemic task force, said according to the Kyodo News agency.
"Requesting business closures is an option," Omi said.
"More prefectures could be added to the state-of-emergency area depending on the infection situation. "We are thinking of various measures by considering the worst-case scenario and a situation in which the number of infections doesn't turn to a decline," Kyodo News quoted Nishimura as saying.
Also Thursday, Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said the economy was in a "severe" situation and the pace of recovery would be moderate.
Meanwhile, Japan is denying entry to nonresident foreign travelers in a temporary suspension of a provision allowing business travelers from 11 Asian countries. It has expanded its coronavirus state of emergency to seven more prefectures.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said late Wednesday the government had changed its position on admitting business travelers as new COVID cases continue to increase. He said the government would be taking additional steps to mitigate the spread of the disease.
"To protect people's lives and livelihoods, and to remove potential risks, I have decided to temporarily suspend the entry of foreign business travelers," Suga said.
Suga described the recent rise in new domestic cases as "deeply troubling." Japan recently confirmed the existence of a cluster of new cases involving a new variant of the coronavirus. Officials said that the infection was traced from a person traveling from the UK and several individuals returning from Brazil.
The banning of entry for business travelers will take effect starting Thursday through Feb. 7.
As a precaution, Suga said that the government will be extending the country's state of emergency to seven more prefectures. A state of emergency was previously declared in the capital city of Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures.
Japan will be extending the state of emergency to Aichi, Gifu, Fukuoka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Osaka and Tochigi. The extension will cover most of Japan's Honshu Island. The new order brings the total number of prefectures under the state of emergency to 18.
Companies and individuals will have to comply with restrictions that include work-from-home arrangements and the reduction of physical-office by 70%.
Restaurants and other establishments will be barred from selling alcohol after 7 p.m. Residents will need to avoid all nonessential outings.
Japan has recorded more than 300,000 positive cases and more than 4,150 deaths. Around 61,500 of those infected are in hospitals across the country. Tokyo is one of the worst-hit areas with 77,133 confirmed cases.