An advisory panel to the Japanese government has approved an extension of emergency coronavirus measures for Tokyo and eight other prefectures.
Emergency declarations for Hokkaido, Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Okayama, Hiroshima and Fukuoka are set to end on Monday.
On Friday morning, the experts endorsed the government's plan to extend the measures to June 20 -- the same day that Okinawa's declaration is due to expire.
The minister in charge of the coronavirus response, Nishimura Yasutoshi, explained the plan at the panel meeting. He said the number of new infections remains high, and there are not enough hospital beds, especially in the Kansai region.
He said the highest level of caution is necessary, as there are growing concerns about the further spread of a variant that was first identified in India.
He added that the number of patients in serious condition remains at around 1,400 nationwide, and this is putting strain on the entire healthcare system.
Nishimura said the government is also seeking to extend the intensive anti-virus measures for Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Gifu and Mie to June 20. These are also set to expire on Monday.
He said similar measures for Gunma, Ishikawa and Kumamoto will not be extended beyond their expiration date of June 13.
Nishimura stressed the importance of vaccinations, saying they play a key role in preventing serious cases. He cited reports that the Pfizer vaccine is effective against the British and Indian variants.
He said the government will speed up the vaccine rollout in a bid to complete the inoculation of senior citizens as soon as possible.
The government's task force is expected to make a final decision after taking questions in the Diet in the afternoon.
Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide is expected to hold a news conference at around 8 p.m. to explain the plan and call for continued vigilance.