As the number of coronavirus infections soars to unprecedented levels, Japan will allow prefectural governments to take stronger COVID-19 measures tailored to their own needs, Daishiro Yamagiwa, the minister in charge of the government's COVID-19 response, announced Friday.

Governors can declare that their prefectures are in need of measures to counter the BA.5 subvariant when their health care systems are severely strained, such as when a prefecture's hospital bed occupancy rate tops 50%, he said.

But the move is not meant to restrict people’s movement or business activities, Yamagiwa said, noting that the goal is to achieve infection control and the continuance of economic and social activities at the same time.