The country's failure to sufficiently stem the spread of the coronavirus under a state of emergency has led to an unexpectedly sharp rise in the number of new cases in Osaka, forcing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to designate the prefecture and two others for stricter measures against COVID-19.

Suga was initially reluctant to designate the coronavirus semi-emergency status to the prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi, according to people familiar with his thinking.

He apparently feared such a decision would fan criticism that he was too quick to lift a state of emergency that finally ended in the Tokyo region on March 21 after more than two months.