With mounting concerns about a bigger coronavirus outbreak on the horizon, the Japanese government has decided to distribute masks to the general population. On April 1, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that authorities will send cloth face masks to roughly 50 million households. Since early February, Japan has been facing an unprecedented shortage of sanitary masks and many stores continue to sell out as soon as they refill their stock.
The good news is that the masks are supposed to be reusable. The bad news? It’s a one time deal of only two masks per household. Japanese folks thought Abe’s “Two Mask Policy” was a clever April Fools Day prank, but it turns out the Japanese government is serious.
Some Twitter users pointed out the difference between how the situation is being handled in other countries vs. Japan.
— 竹花 貴騎 (@takaki_takehana) April 1, 2020
“U.S., $2 trillion stimulus package.
Japan, two masks.
Oh, it’s April Fools Day, right?”
— 大神ひろし (@ppsh41_1945) April 1, 2020
“South Korea: person under forced quarantine receives supplies like in pictures one and two.
Taiwan: Nine masks are distributed to one adult and 10 to each child every two weeks.
Japan: Two masks are distributed to one household (one time only).
The Japanese administration is too incompetent. #DoNotCheatUsWithTwoMasks”
Wait, it’s not a joke…?
When Japanese people realized it wasn’t a joke but actual news, a collective facepalm was heard across the country—despite doctors telling people not to touch their faces.
— モブ式 (@ao158ao158) April 1, 2020
“Everyone’s reaction when they heard about the two mask policy.”
Two is better than one
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also demonstrated how to use two masks efficiently.
— 令和速報 (@Reiwa_Sokuhou) April 1, 2020
“Newsflash: distribution of two masks per household.”
What to do…
If you have more than two heads? Well…
— ティルティル (@nemulink) April 1, 2020
“Asura when he heard that they’ll distribute only two masks.”
— 佐野丁寧 (@sano_no_teinei) April 1, 2020
“Hydreigon after receiving only two masks.”
Three is a crowd
— ⛩️失敗即位⛩️ (@sokuishippai) April 1, 2020
“Shizuku, we have only two masks…”
Chihiro, from Spirited Away, can relate.
— ろんげーin Da ワインラウンジLonge【公式】 (@Longe0829) April 1, 2020
Elementary, my dear Watson
Thankfully, Japanese Twitter was kind enough to explain how bigger families can share the masks equally.
— ｍｏｉｓｔｏａｓｔ 災 (@moist0ast) April 1, 2020
The popular comic strip, Sazea-san, was also put to good use in showing us how to make sure everyone can use the masks—even the family cat.
“Last night, I received this image from a friend and laughed so hard I almost woke up my kids”
When the news starts to sound like satire
On a serious note, the mask shortage is getting real—and dangerous. Up in Hokkaido, a man left an elderly couple 10 masks as an “apology” after breaking into their house and robbing them.
“In Iwamizawa City, Hokkaido, a man broke into an elderly couple’s house on the 29th. The criminal wielded a saw and demanded a meal. On top of asking for a second serving of rice, he stole ¥2,000, and left 10 masks (to make up for it).”
No, this is not a story from The Onion or the Rising Wasabi.
On the bright side
While sending two masks to every home in the country feels like a costly measure with very limited benefits, let’s at least give the Japanese government credit for doing some things right. Last month, they distributed 15 million masks to hospitals in Japan and are planning to do the same in April. Additionally, while the details aren’t yet clear, a plan is in place to distribute cloth masks to facilities for the elderly and disabled.
Good luck out there.