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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 April 15 - 21  > JCP urges gov’t to purchase medical-grade masks to address stock shortages among coronavirus frontline health workers
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2020 April 15 - 21 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

JCP urges gov’t to purchase medical-grade masks to address stock shortages among coronavirus frontline health workers

April 21, 2020
Japanese Communist Party Vice Chair Tamura Tomoko on April 16 at a House of Councilors Cabinet Committee meeting stated that amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, medical institutions and nursing-care facilities are struggling with stock shortages of surgical disposable face masks, and urged the government to purchase a sufficient amount of masks to medical facilities.

The government’s corona emergency policy seeks to provide surgical masks to medical institutions by asking cooperation from domestic makers to increase mask production and imports from foreign companies. Under this policy, the government plans to procure a total of about 270 million masks within six months and distribute them preferentially to frontline health workers. The specifics of this plan, however, are not clear.

Meanwhile, a huge amount of face masks, including medical-grade masks, are available on online shopping websites. On Japan’s major online shopping retailer, Rakuten, for example, the number of mask items supposedly to be sold to individuals exceeded 620.

The government prohibits the resale of masks while allowing the ordinary selling of masks bought from makers and wholesalers.

An apparel company in Osaka Prefecture which recently began selling surgical masks in collaboration with a Chinese firm said to Akahata, “We sometimes receive an order of more than ten thousand masks. We recognize that medical and nursing-care facilities are in critical need of masks. But, we do nothing wrong because we have not received a notification or instructions from the Welfare Ministry.”

In the April 16 Upper House Committee meeting, JCP Tamura criticized the government for failing to have a clear understanding of the mask supply and demand market in the frontline fight against COVID-19. Stressing that the government should implement a strategy to obtain a stable supply of masks for medical institutions using government influence over manufactures and retailers, Tamura urged the government to secure mask production lines and purchase a sufficient amount of masks that will meet frontline demands.
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