TOKYO -- The Japanese government announced on June 25 that distribution of pairs of cloth face masks to all households in the country has been completed -- some 2 1/2 months after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the distribution program as a key policy to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
"The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare was informed by Japan Post Co. that the masks had been delivered to all households by June 20, including households on islands where delivery takes a longer time," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a June 25 news conference.
It took about two months for the government to deliver the masks, dubbed "Abenomasks," a pun on the "Abenomics" economic policy mix promoted by the Abe administration, after the nationwide delivery contracted out to Japan Post began on April 17.
The mask handout initiative has faced severe criticism, with some online users saying that they thought it was "an April Fools' Day joke" when Prime Minister Abe announced the move on April 1. The government initially had allocated 46.6 billion yen (approx. $435 million) for the program, but the actual cost is believed to total around 26 billion yen as the mask outsourcing costs turned out to be lower than it had anticipated.
(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)