TOKYO, July 29 (Reuters) - Japan could announce as early as Friday plans for a new system to allow regional authorities to take counter-measures against the spread of a new coronavirus variant, Kyodo News said, citing government sources.

Despite record new infections in a surging seventh wave of COVID-19 that pushed Japan's tally to 233,100 on Thursday, the government says there are no plans yet for more curbs, but the new system would let regional officials adopt their own.

While the government said there had been fewer deaths than in previous waves, the number of those critically ill has been increasing in some parts of the country, putting medical systems under pressure.

Japan has never ordered national lockdowns on the scale of some other nations, instead periodically calling on people to stay home as much as possible and limiting the opening hours of restaurants and bars.