Japan’s attempt to distribute protective cloth masks in its coronavirus fight has been marred by complaints about mold, insects, and stains, fuelling further concern that the government has botched its handling of the pandemic.
Just weeks after it started supplying every family with two washable, reusable masks at the cost of $430 million in the technique to contain the virus, the federal government has been forced to replace some masks following reports of defects from recipients.
In a manga sketch posted by another user, two dirty masks crash through a bedroom window to wake a man from sleep. The issue has generated its own Twitter hashtag, #Abenomask, a pun on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” economic technique.
The Health Ministry confirmed that by Friday, it had distributed nearly 30 million masks to pregnant women, medical and nursing facilities, and schools. These drew 1,903 complaints of dirty or defective products, the vast majority from pregnant women.
Japan’s toll of infections stood at 11,500 by Wednesday. As cases rise, Abe’s government faces rising pressure over what many see as delays prompted by a desire to avoid a closure of the financial system.
Abe declared the policy of masks for Japan’s 50 million households on April 2, as calls mounted for a lockdown nationwide. Last week, he broadened to the entire nation a state of emergency declared in the biggest cities on April 7.