The governor of Osaka Prefecture has warned that he may need to ask the central government to declare a state of emergency if current measures to quell the coronavirus outbreak are deemed insufficient.

The effect of stricter measures imposed earlier this month could start emerging in the week of April 19, and authorities will decide then if an emergency declaration is needed, Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said in a television program late Saturday. If declared, measures stronger than those taken during a state of emergency earlier this year would be required, he said.

Osaka, Japan’s third-largest prefecture by population with 8.81 million people, is seeing a steep rise in the number of infections, exceeding that of the capital Tokyo. It registered a daily record of 918 new virus cases on Saturday, compared with 570 in Tokyo, amid growing signs of a fourth wave of the pandemic driven by new variants.

The daily figures in Osaka have topped those of Tokyo for 12 consecutive days.

The central government on April 5 designated Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures as areas needing stricter measures to contain outbreaks. The government said on Friday that the quasi-state of emergency would be applied to Tokyo, Kyoto and Okinawa prefectures from Monday.

The National Institute of Infectious Diseases estimated that new variants were responsible for about 70% of new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures earlier this month, which likely pushed up a recent surge in infections. That compared with about 10% in Tokyo, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures, but the government is worried that there could be a spike in the greater Tokyo area as well.

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