Photo/Illutration Shigeru Omi, second from left, the chairman of the government panel of experts dealing with COVID-19, prepares to convene a meeting on Jan. 25. (Shinnosuke Ito)

The government approved on Jan. 25 pre-emergency measures aimed at stemming the outbreak of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that will cover about 70 percent of the nation's 47 prefectures.

The latest decision, in effect from Jan. 27 until Feb. 20, will be for the three Kansai prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo; Hokkaido; Aomori, Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures in the Tohoku region; Ibaraki and Tochigi in the Kanto region; Ishikawa; Nagano; Shizuoka; Okayama and Shimane in the Chugoku region; and Fukuoka, Saga, Oita and Kagoshima on the main southern island of Kyushu.

In addition, the first three prefectures to be covered by pre-emergency measures--Okinawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi--will have the period extended from the scheduled Jan. 31 deadline until Feb. 20.

Sixteen other prefectures had the pre-emergency measures approved last week. In total, 34 of the 47 prefectures will fall under those measures.

Under the basic policy regarding measures to deal with COVID-19, prefectures can lift the pre-emergency status before their deadlines if there is a lessening of the strain on the local medical care system.

But Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has also indicated that his administration will, in principle, approve pre-emergency measures for any prefectural government that requests it so there may be more prefectures covered in the future as new COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the nation.

The government panel of experts gave its consent to approve pre-emergency measures at a meeting on the morning of Jan. 25.