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Japan gov't aims to secure over 600 million masks in March amid supply shortage: Suga

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga holds a press conference following a Cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Feb. 21, 2020. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Japan is aiming to produce over 600 million surgical masks in March, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference on Feb. 21.

Due to a scarcity of masks as the spread of the coronavirus and pollen allergy season hit Japan, the government, which has tried to make 100 million masks available per week, is still struggling to reach its goal.

"There has been a sudden surge in demand (for masks) since January, and compared to last year, the number of masks being sold in stores has ballooned. We'd like to encourage increased production to alleviate the shortage as soon as possible through cooperation of the public and private sectors," Suga said.

He added, "Major domestic companies are working around the clock, supplying at least twice the number of masks than other years, and we are gradually restarting imports from China as well. We are calling on manufacturers to secure the supply of at least 100 million masks this week, and to exceed monthly production of 600 million next month."

The government believes that the demand for masks is hovering at about several times their supply. Due to panic purchasing, supplies run out as soon as they're restocked. At the same time, however, imports from China, which at one time had dwindled to zero, are on an upward trend.

(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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