If people can’t buy new masks, is using old ones more than once the next best option?

Japan is currently experiencing its most severe surgical mask shortage in recent memory. Coronavirus fears have triggered bulk buying by those concerned for their personal and loved ones’ health as well as profiteering resellers who’ve been offering their stashes for inflated prices through online auctions.

Manufacturers have been ramping up production to try to meet demands, but the country has still seen shocking cases of street fighting and theft by those trying to get their hands on the face coverings. As stores continue to sell out as soon as they get new shipments in, TV Asahi reports that the government may be planning to ask people to cope with the supply bottleneck by reusing their masks.

That’s not to say that the government wants people to just keep strapping on the same dirty mask day after day, though. According to the report, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering encouraging people to reuse their masks after treating them with ethanol or some other antiseptic solution to disinfect the material.

Such a measure would only be recommended to currently healthy ordinary individuals looking to avoid infection, not those who have already contracted the virus, and masks soiled by mucus, phlegm, or other particles expelled by coughing/sneezing, which can’t be sufficiently cleaned with a quick antiseptic spray, would ostensibly still be thrown away after a single use. In addition, the reuse of masks would also not be recommended to health care workers.

A potential difficulty with such a countermeasure is that while the shortages aren’t as severe as those for masks, many stores have also seen their supply of hand sanitizer quickly bought up since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, and it’s likely consumer-available antiseptic goods in general are harder to come by than usual.

The Ministry is yet to officially make the reuse recommendation, but with the mask shortage not yet showing any signs of letting up, it may be coming sooner rather than later.

Source: Tele Asa News via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
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