Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Monday to expedite the enactment of legislation needed to declare a state of emergency, in order to "minimize the impact on Japanese citizens' livelihood" from the rapid spread of COVID-19.

"It is critical to always anticipate the worst-case scenario, and be prepared to take measures if the coronavirus spreads exponentially in certain areas in the future," Abe told lawmakers during a meeting of the Upper House Budget Committee.

The prime minister said the government hopes the new legislative measures will be equivalent to those taken under a law implemented in 2013 aimed at tackling a novel influenza virus that became a pandemic in 2009.