Cities in Osaka and two other Japanese prefectures are battling a resurgence of coronavirus infections. The central government is set to designate those areas as places in need of stricter antivirus measures for one month starting Monday.
The government's panel of experts approved the designation on Thursday morning.
It would authorize governors to request that residents take preventive steps -- without an emergency declaration by the central government.
That would be a first for Japan since the Diet revised an anti-virus law in February to allow for tougher enforcement.
Government officials say stronger measures will be taken in the city of Osaka, four cities in neighboring Hyogo Prefecture, and the northern city of Sendai.
They plan to ask bars and restaurants in those areas to close by 8 p.m., and call on people to stay away from karaoke bars, a common site for cluster infections.
The minister in charge of the coronavirus response says more contagious variants are spreading in Osaka and Hyogo. He says he wants to work with the two governors to reduce people's movements to and from the Kansai region.
Economic Revitalization Minister Nishimura Yasutoshi said, "I would like to work with each governor closely to take intensive and effective measures. We will do everything we can to contain infections in the region and prevent the virus from spreading quickly across the country.
Meanwhile the governor of Osaka prefecture says the public's cooperation is essential to stop another surge in cases.
Yoshimura Hirofumi said, "As for refraining from non-essential outings, I personally think this should be done intensively in areas where the designation is in place."
The central government is set to make an official decision on the matter at a taskforce meeting later Thursday.