Faulty masks for pregnant women are latest problem for Japan

FILE PHOTO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declares state of emergency during a meeting of the new coronavirus task force at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, April 7, 2020. Franck Robichon/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Some 300,000 coronavirus masks sent to pregnant women in Japan as part of a government handout have been found to be faulty, media reported on Tuesday, the latest in a string of complaints about how the government has dealt with the epidemic.

The efforts of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to distribute protective cloth masks in the fight against the coronavirus have been marred by complaints about mould, insects and stains.

Just days after the government began supplying every household with two washable masks at a total cost of $430 million, complaints emerged of soiled or defective products, many of them from pregnant women.

By Tuesday, the number of defective masks distributed to pregnant women had risen to 300,000 out of 500,000, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The masks are being sent out in order of priority, with pregnant women and care homes for the disabled at the top of the list, though private households in Tokyo are also starting to get theirs.

The Health Ministry was not immediately available for comment, but the minister, Katsunobu Kato, told a news conference the safety of all masks would be verified.

The government asked five companies to manufacture the masks and had originally said only three – Kowa Co Ltd, Matsuoka Corp and trading house Itochu Corp – were providing some for pregnant women.

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