Panic buying takes hold of Japan once more, only this time it’s for oxygen.

How should we keep safe against the coronavirus? Arguably, the most science-backed method would be to get vaccinated, like our reporters at SoraNews24 have.

But while more and more people here in Japan are receiving their shots, some people are looking for other ways to keep safe, like panic-buying and hoarding. Panic-buying isn’t something new, or even exclusive to Japan — the No Toilet Paper Era is sure to remain in our memories for years to come.

Japan had a pretty big flour shortage last year as well, but while brick and mortar stores were flour-free, a quick glance on Japanese flea market app Mercari saw unscrupulous users offer bags of flour for sale at a significantly higher price than normal.

▼ Enjoy this cake, because the ingredients cost a small fortune.

A year on, flour stock seems to have returned to normal, but Mercari has a new hot ticket item that users are rushing to buy — canned oxygen. Usually used by athletes, mountain climbers, and those who need an oxygen boost after a workout, oxygen cans have been flying off the shelves in shops as COVID-19 cases surge.

Naturally, with any “high demand low supply” item, Mercari users have started rubbing their hands in anticipation of some quick cash grabs. According to retailers Iwatani, a normal can of oxygen sells for about 700 yen (US$6.40), but listings on the site have asked for tens of thousands of yen for them.

The representative of the manufacturer was perplexed, saying, “We have had a surge of inquiries about oxygen canisters this month, and since they are not for medical use, we would like people to stop buying them up and reselling them.

What’s more, some of the descriptions in the Mercari listings state the oxygen cans are “in preparation for catching corona” or “good for treating chronic illnesses”, despite the fact that in a real corona-related emergency, canned oxygen would only offer temporarily relief.

▼ A listing here selling a number of cans for 55,000 yen (US$500).

As a result, Mercari added canned oxygen to its list of items prohibited to be sold on the site. Canned oxygen now sits alongside other prohibited items like illegal drugs, weapons, and human organs.

Mercari also banned the sale of pulse oximeters, used to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood, and oxygen concentrators, machines which filter the air to provide users with pure oxygen. All three banned items were being sold at a significantly higher price than normal.

While canned oxygen still appears to be selling at an inflated price on other websites like Yahoo! Auctions and Amazon, Japanese netizens welcomed the announcement from Mercari.

“I actually sent a report to Mercari myself asking them to look at these scalpers. I’m glad they made this decision.”
“Good decision.”
“It’s appalling that people are selling oxygen cans as ‘life-saving items’ at such a high price.”
“Ban the PS5 resellers next.”

Hopefully the ban on canned oxygen on Mercari will encourage users to remain calm and act on proper, scientifically backed information, not just unsubstantiated theories.

If you want actual information about keeping safe, the current head of the Japan Community Health Care Organization just joined Instagram, so maybe he’ll have some answers for you.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima Kiko, via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso

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