Japan has logged record numbers of COVID-19 deaths in recent days, with experts saying the constantly mutating and highly transmissible omicron variant is infecting far more people than what government data shows.

The discrepancy between official case counts and how the country's eighth COVID-19 wave is playing out on the ground is complicating the debate on when and how the nation should end its remaining pandemic measures, the focus of which is whether to downgrade the classification of the disease to be on par with that of seasonal influenza.

While the government is eyeing a possible downgrade of COVID-19 as early as this spring, medical experts advising a health ministry coronavirus panel called for a “gradual” approach in a report released Wednesday, pointing to the unpredictability of the future course of the pandemic, which will soon enter its fourth year.