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Japan local gov’t distributes masks to most vulnerable as ‘Abenomasks’ hit by delays

In the city of Ise in Mie Prefecture, western Japan, the local government has started delivering 25 non-woven fabric masks each to pregnant women in the city, and from May 20 it also started supplying masks to 75 disability welfare services centers, with between 50 and 300 delivered depending on the size of the facilities.

From The Mainichi

May 22 2020

ISE, Mie Prefecture — With the Japanese government’s so-called “Abenomask” deliveries of cloth masks to every household in Japan yet to be completed, municipal governments are stepping in to distribute their own stocks of masks along with others donated by private entities.

In the city of Ise in Mie Prefecture, western Japan, the local government has started delivering 25 non-woven fabric masks each to pregnant women in the city, and from May 20 it also started supplying masks to 75 disability welfare services centers, with between 50 and 300 delivered depending on the size of the facilities.

The masks for pregnant women are aimed at the around 590 people in the city currently in possession of a mother-child health handbook, along with newly pregnant women who will be receiving the handbooks within fiscal 2020. The city government purchased the masks in April as part of its emergency stockpiling, and expectant mothers can receive them at their clinics or receptions where they collect the handbooks. Women living outside of the city who have returned to give birth will be given financial aid in an amount equivalent to the cost of the masks at a later date.

A person in charge at the city government told the Mainichi Shimbun, “We don’t know when masks for pregnant women from the national government will reach residents here due to issues around substandard quality. For that reason, we decided at the end of April to hand out masks ourselves.”

Additionally, the city is also making adjustments internally to speed up the dispatch of masks donated by companies and individual donors. It has also begun delivering 4,000 masks to welfare facilities that were given by a local firm with the hope they could be of use for the welfare of the disabled.

If masks are donated to specific fields such as health care, education, care and nursery services, the city’s corresponding departments are responsible for planning their distribution destinations, but in other cases, role of adjusting where items go to falls to the municipal government’s personnel department. “We are responding to this situation while taking speed of delivery seriously so as not to delay people’s acts of good faith,” an Ise government employee said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial initiative to distribute cloth face masks across the nation as part of a government program to help contain the coronavirus’ spread has been sarcastically dubbed “Abenomask” by the Japanese public, a take on the prime minister’s “Abenomics” economic policies.

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