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Ironworks in Japan hammers out animal 'button pressers' to avoid direct touching amid virus

A "Hibatouch" button pressing tool is used to indirectly turn a switch at Hirose Engineering Co. in the city of Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, on May 11, 2020. (Mainichi/Kiyomasa Nakamura)

AMAGASAKI, Hyogo -- An ironworks in this western Japan city has developed animal-shaped iron tools that allow children to press buttons and switches without directly touching them in a bid to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The tools were conceived by Sachiko Nakashioya, 44, a public relations employee at local ironworks Hirose Engineering Co. She came up with the idea after seeing her 6-year-old son touching an elevator button at a supermarket. She was worried that he could pick up the virus, and found other mothers had similar concerns.

The tools, named "Hibatouch," come in cat and monkey variations, so children can enjoy using them. They are each about 10 centimeters by 10 centimeters in size and weigh roughly 70 grams. They can be used for touchscreens by attaching conductive foam.

Hirose Engineering produces tanks for vessels as well as equipment for concrete factories and other iron products, and is using scrap metal to make the button pressers. The firm began to sell the tools via its website at the end of April, and has already received more than 400 orders.

"We got a better response than we had expected. We'll continue to take measures against the virus as an ironworks firm," Nakashioya said.

(Japanese original by Kiyomasa Nakamura, Hanshin Bureau)

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