The combined number of coronavirus patients in the neighboring prefectures of Osaka and Hyogo is expected to reach 3,374, including 227 in serious condition, between March 28 and April 3, the health ministry warned.

The estimate was included in a draft emergency package of measures that was proposed to the prefectures by the ministry.

In the package, shown at Friday’s meeting of Osaka Prefecture’s task force on the virus, the ministry said infections in Osaka and Hyogo appear to be increasingly rapidly, with clusters expanding gradually throughout the two prefectures.

Patients with untraceable infection routes are rising, it said, noting that in Hyogo, an infected individual seems to transmit the virus to more than one person on average.

Infections are expected to surge and it may become difficult next week to treat those with serious symptoms, it cautioned.

The ministry asked citizens in Osaka and Hyogo to refrain from nonessential travel between the two and called for schools to be closed for the next three weeks. It also proposed that requests for restraints on events be kept intact and that the use of facilities with high infection risks be restricted.

If the situation worsens, both prefectural governments would need to consider declaring a state of emergency and instructing citizens to refrain from going outside, the ministry said.

Following the ministry’s warnings, Osaka decided to extend the restraints on prefecture-sponsored events to April 3. Facilities owned by the prefecture will also remain closed until April 3.

“The figures presented by the ministry are concrete and realistic, so we need to take them seriously,” Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura told reporters after the meeting, calling on citizens to refrain from nonessential outings during the three-day weekend including Friday, a national holiday.

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