The Japanese government is setting up a special headquarters on coronavirus as early as Thursday (Mar 26) afternoon.
It is a step that could set the stage for declaring a state of emergency over the outbreak, after the capital of Tokyo saw a sharp rise in cases this week.
Under a law revised earlier in March to cover the coronavirus, the prime minister can declare a state of emergency if the disease poses a "grave danger" to lives and if its rapid spread threatens serious economic damage.
The virus has already increased Japan's recession risk.
If a state of emergency is declared, governors in hard-hit regions would have to take steps such as asking people to stay home, closing schools and other public facilities and cancelling large events.