Tokyo police’s tip is quick and easy, but may or may not provide any real protection against the virus.

Surgical masks are a common sight on the streets of Japan, but these days they’re not nearly as easy to find in stores, as demand is surging due to three different factors.

First up, it’s still cold season, meaning both commuters who’ve already come down with a case of sniffles as well as those who don’t want to have been wearing masks on trains on their routes to/from work or school. Second, a warmer-than-usual winter has kickstarted pollen production from Japan’s trees, with hay fever sufferers starting to strap on masks. Third, and most dramatically impacting demand for masks, the coronavirus outbreak continues to be at the front of people’s minds, especially with more than 20 confirmed cases of infection in Japan.

The combined effect has been that many stores in Japan are sold out of masks, and so a tweet from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Disaster Response Division has been getting renewed attention. Originally posted three years ago, the tweet shows how to easily make your own masks with nothing more than paper towels, rubber bands, and staples.

The process is pretty simple. First, take a paper towel and fold it repeatedly back onto itself, with each fold being about as wide as your index finger, which will create a bellows-like pattern. Place the edge of a rubber band at each end of the folded paper and attach it with a staple. Finally, loop the rubber bands around your ears and unfold the central part of he paper, slipping it over your mouth and nose.  The Disaster Response Division says that the mask is effective in protecting against the inhalation of dust and sand, and odds are it’s pretty good at keeping out pollen too.

However, while the technique is quick and clever, it’s worth remembering that the tweet was made long before the coronavirus outbreak occurred. The tweet makes no comment, though, as to whether or not the material and fit are up to the task of protecting wearers from viral infection, and the police have not made any sort of follow-up announcement in the wake of the renewed interest the tweet has been getting during the coronavirus outbreak, so if the continuing health crisis is why you’re looking to wear a mask, going with a store-bought variety is probably still the far wiser choice, especially if you remember to wear it the right way.

Source: Twitter/@MPD_bousai via Livedoor News/J-Cast via Jin
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