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6,000 masks disappear from west Japan hospital as coronavirus spikes demand

The Japanese Red Cross Kobe Hospital, from which 6,000 medical masks have disappeared, is seen in Kobe's Chuo Ward on Feb. 18, 2020. (Mainichi/Takuya Kurozume)

KOBE -- A total of 6,000 medical masks have disappeared from storage at the Japanese Red Cross Kobe Hospital in this western Japan city's Chuo Ward, the facility and police reveled to the Mainichi Shimbun on Feb. 18.

There is a possibility that the masks were stolen because of high demand due to the new coronavirus. The Hyogo Prefectural Police's Fukiai Police Station is investigating the case on suspicion of theft. The products have a total market value of about 40,000 yen.

Some 120 boxes, each containing 50 surgical masks, were stored in four cardboard boxes in a machine room on the third floor of the hospital. An employee confirmed the masks were there at around 6 p.m. on Feb. 3 but found they had disappeared during a check at 10 a.m. on Feb. 13. The machine room was usually locked. The hospital filed a damage report with police on Feb. 17.

An employee of the hospital commented, "There is no immediate influence on our operations as enough masks are in stock. However, it's very regrettable if they were stolen."

(Japanese original by Takuya Kurozume, Kobe Bureau)

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