The Bank of Japan is discussing phasing out a COVID-19 loan program if infections in the country continue to dwindle, sources have said, potentially setting the bank up to exit a key crisis-mode policy sooner than investors expect.

Markets have been anticipating a third extension of the scheme, set to expire in March. Policymakers have not reached a consensus as discussions are preliminary, said three people familiar with the central bank's thinking, and a decision is unlikely before December.

But with corporate funding strains easing, infections falling sharply and the world's third-biggest economy reopening, some policymakers are contemplating ending the emergency program in March, the sources said.