Hairs, insects and stains found in masks distributed by Japanese government -- Apr 21

Ever since the novel coronavirus began making news at the beginning of the year, masks have become almost as valuable as real-world currency, with people going to great lengths to stockpile them, resell them, and purchase them at exorbitant prices.

The government has put a number of measures in place to try and alleviate the resulting mask shortage, by enacting a mask resale ban with prison time for violators, and spending 46.6 billion yen (US$432 million) to send out two reusable cloth face masks to every household in the country.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is also stepping up to help provide people with cloth masks, specifically pregnant women, who have been receiving them with the Maternity Health Record book issued by their local municipality. According to a number of municipalities, though, the masks have been arriving with defects like hair and stains on them.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare made the admission on 18 April, saying they had received 1,901 reports of defective masks from 80 municipalities. About 500,000 cloth masks for pregnant women were posted nationwide from 14 April, but a number of them were reported to be discoloured and found to have hair in them.

The ministry has asked municipalities to refrain from distributing the defective products, saying they will be replaced with new ones.

A representative from the ministry says 19.3 million cloth masks were already distributed to nursing homes around the country. To date, reported defects include one case of hair found in a mask given to a nursing home and one case of insects found in another, which was sent out as part of the distribution to elementary, junior high and special needs schools.