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Output of masks with Japan flag logo halted amid false online claim

This photo taken in the central Japanese city of Toyohashi in June 2015 shows "Pittarich," a high-performance mask sold for 9,980 yen (about $81). Since the first MERS patient in South Korea was confirmed the previous month, the mask, boasting a filter made with a 0.06-square micrometer-mesh to shut out viruses, has been scooped up by trading firms and customers in South Korea, China and Thailand, according to its manufacturer, Clever. The daily production volume jumped 10 times to about 10,000 from a year earlier. (Kyodo)

NAGOYA (Kyodo) -- A company in central Japan said Monday it has suspended production of face masks with a logo incorporating the Japanese flag after a false accusation began circulating online.

The maker of mesh products in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, said it decided on the suspension after it was falsely accused of producing the masks to provide support to the Japanese government amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"We do not have any ties with the government whatsoever," said Eri Ishibashi, president of the company called Clever, adding it had stated this on its official website and through other channels, but the groundless accusation had continued to circulate.

The company started selling the masks with the logo incorporating the Hinomaru flag in 2015 for supporters of Japanese sports personalities.

The masks became widely known after Japanese figure skating star Yuzuru Hanyu wore one at the world championships that year.

But the false accusation began circulating on the internet around late February, when Japan faced a shortage of face masks due to the spread of the virus.

Some online critics said the company should focus on increasing its production of face masks rather than wasting time putting the logo on them.

Clever now sells reusable Pittarich masks bearing the company's logo without the national flag.

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