Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Sunday the government will take “a few days” before deciding whether to expand a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic to include Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures.

The comment came after the governors of the three Kansai prefectures asked the government to extend the emergency, which took effect Friday for the Tokyo region, to their jurisdictions in response to the resurging coronavirus, Ryusei Takahashi reports.

On Friday, Osaka Prefecture said it was considering making changes to its COVID-19 contact-tracing system so that more infected people would be able to use it to report their infection status. During its seven months of operations, the system issued alerts to users only six times, reports Osamu Tsukimori, although that’s six more alerts than Tokyo’s similar system has issued.

COVID-19 update, Jan 8: Japan's Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures eye state of emergency | CNA
COVID-19 update, Jan 8: Japan’s Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto prefectures eye state of emergency | CNA

The nationwide daily total of new COVID-19 cases dipped below 7,000 for the first time in three days on Sunday, NHK reported, as Tokyo confirmed 1,494 infections. However, the pace of deaths linked to the coronavirus is accelerating. It took less than 20 days for the toll to top 4,000 on Saturday after exceeding 3,000 on Dec. 22, while it took more than a month for deaths in Japan to rise from 2,000 to 3,000.

The health ministry said Sunday that a new coronavirus variant had been detected in four travelers from Brazil’s Amazonas state at Haneda airport. Brazil’s Health Ministry says it has been notified by Japanese authorities that the new variant has 12 mutations, one of which is also present in the new U.K. and South African strains, which implies “a potential higher virus infectiousness,” it said.

Sunday’s (and Saturday’s) new COVID-19 cases by prefecture (50 or over): Tokyo 1,494 (2,268), Kanagawa 729 (999), Osaka 532 (647), Saitama 414 (518), Chiba 388 (477), Aichi 343 (362), Fukuoka 284 (327), Hyogo 269 (324), Hokkaido 188 (215), Kyoto 146 (126), Shizuoka 127 (116), Tochigi 118 (138), Ibaraki 84 (109), Kumamoto 82 (86), Gunma 74 (63), Okinawa 74 (70), Nagano 68 (41), Gifu 64 (105), Miyagi 63 (72), Hiroshima 53 (63). Source: Japan COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker