Japan is considering raising the daily cap on overseas arrivals to 10,000 from the current 7,000 starting in April, further easing its COVID-19 border controls, government sources said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the government would relax the border control measures — which have been criticized for being too strict — in stages, taking into account the infection situation at home and abroad as well as border control steps implemented by other nations.

The spread of omicron has been slowing in many parts of the country, and some urban areas such as Tokyo want to have the quasi-emergency measures end as scheduled next Monday, rather than endure further extensions.

Japan effectively banned the entry of nonresident foreign nationals in late November in response to the emergence of the highly transmissible variant.

The government has gradually eased the rules since March and the daily cap on people entering Japan, including Japanese nationals returning from overseas, was raised to 7,000 on Monday. Foreign tourists are still not allowed entry.

April marks the start of Japan's business and school year and demand for travel normally increases at this time of year.

As many foreign students are waiting to study in Japan, the government has unveiled a plan to give them entry priority. Most of them are expected to arrive by the end of May, the top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno has said.