A grim piece of advice is trending on Weibo.

‘Cut up your masks before you throw them out’ is one of the top trending topics on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, with the hashtag being shared by many popular influencers on the site. But why has this strange piece of advice become so popular?

Coronavirus is trending all over the world right now. The outbreak of the mysterious illness originated in the Chinese province of Wuhan, and people are rushing to take preventative measures against the disease. Check any news channel and you’re bound to see scenes of people wearing surgical masks to protect themselves, as with the appearance of the coronavirus, people have been buying up surgical masks in bulk to the point where they are becoming increasingly hard to find. Some shops have even drastically increased the price due to the high demand.

As a result, people are recommending people to cut up their used masks before disposing of them to avoid them being resold. Weibo is warning that some unscrupulous individuals may collect masks that have already been used and resell them to unaware shoppers. And while there have been no confirmed cases of this happening yet, the hashtag quickly spread and entered the top five trending topics on the site.

With Japan on edge about the health crisis in one of its Asian neighbors, Japanese Internet commenters’ reactions have included:

“This is really necessary, especially now that masks are becoming too expensive. There’s no way to guarantee someone won’t do that.”
“What? Do they want to spread the virus even further?!”
“I feel like you can tell if a mask has been used or not… before you throw it away, smudge a little bit of lipstick on it! Then it can’t get reused!”
“If you spray the white ones black, you can get away with ‘recycling’ them, too.”

It goes without saying, but reusing a mask, especially by someone who is infected with the disease, will only lead to the virus spreading further and further. Stay safe out there, readers, and if you use surgical masks regularly, make sure you’re buying them from a trustworthy retailer.

Sources: Itai News, Recored China
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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