There are concerns over an increase in coronavirus infections in Tokyo ©Getty Images

Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures have asked the Japanese Government to declare a state of emergency as coronavirus cases escalate in the Olympic and Paralympic host city.

The Governors of Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa all met with Economic Revitalisation Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is in charge of the Japanese Government's response to the crisis, to make the request.

"We agreed that we are in a severe situation that warrants us considering the declaration of a state of emergency," Nishimura said after the meeting, as reported by Kyodo News.

Nishimura insisted, however, that the Government would "hear the opinions of experts" before deciding whether or not to implement a state of emergency.

Former Prime Minister Shinzō Abe declared a state of emergency in Japan in response to the pandemic on April 7 last year - two weeks after the Olympics and Paralympic were postponed until 2021.

It was lifted at the end of May.

However, with the Japanese capital reporting record infection rates and people living in the four petitioning prefectures set to be told not to leave their homes unnecessarily after 8pm, a fresh state of emergency could be on the horizon.

Off the back of a warning from Governor Yuriko Koike that Tokyo was facing an "explosion" of infections, it reported 783 new COVID-19 cases today, with 88 of those people said to be seriously ill.

Tougher social restrictions are expected in Japan in response to rising coronavirus cases ©Getty Images
Tougher social restrictions are expected in Japan in response to rising coronavirus cases ©Getty Images

The Olympic and Paralympic host city reported more than 1,000 daily cases for the first time earlier this week, and a new, faster-spreading variant of the virus has been detected in Japan.

This led Japan to shut its border to foreign travellers until at least the end of January, and elite athletes are no longer exempt from the travel restrictions.

Yesterday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga promised to hold "safe and secure" Olympics in 2021 despite rising concern over the infection rate.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach also insisted the Games "will be the light at the end of the tunnel", and underlined the organisation's "determination" to stage the Olympics as planned.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8, with the Paralympics due to follow from August 24 to September 5.

Should they go ahead, they will do so with a series of COVID-19 countermeasures in place.

Athletes will be encouraged to limit their stays in Japan and steps which can reduce the spread of the virus, such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing, are expected to be compulsory.