Japanese government officials are divided on whether to reclassify the coronavirus as an infectious disease on par with the seasonal flu.
Sunday marked three years since Japan confirmed its first case of coronavirus infection.
COVID-19 is currently in category two, the second most severe level under the infectious diseases control law. The seasonal flu is in category five, the bottom level in Japan's five-tier classification system.
Category two allows the government to impose wide-ranging restrictions, but obliges it to bear the costs of tests and treatment.
A government official has called for an immediate review of the legal status of the coronavirus to ease the pandemic's impact on socioeconomic activities.
The official cites the need to continue easing measures, such as simplifying the system for reporting new cases and shortening periods of recuperation at home. The official says unless a review is carried out now, it's not clear when it can be done.
But some officials are calling for careful discussion, citing a sharp increase in the number of virus-related deaths in Japan, as well as a recent explosive surge in infections in China. One of the officials says it would be difficult to carry out a reclassification amid the current increase of new cases.