Nearly 20 percent of nursing care service providers in Japan have run out of face masks, which have been in short supply in the country as the COVID-19 outbreak continues, a recent survey by a labor union has shown.

Out of providers of home-visit nursing care services, almost 30 percent have seen their face mask stocks depleted, the survey also showed, underscoring the serious situation facing those who have regular contact with elderly people, who tend to develop severe symptoms once they are infected with the virus.

“The government should control distribution so that necessary sanitary products such as masks are preferentially allocated to nursing care service providers,” an official with the Nippon Careservice Craft Union said.

The labor union for nursing care workers conducted the emergency survey with 4,043 offices of such service providers nationwide from Friday. The results reflected replies from 1,117 offices obtained by Sunday.

Asked about the number of days left before they run out of masks, 18.8 percent said their stocks had already been depleted.

Meanwhile, 7.3 percent said they would run out of stock within one to three days, 9.8 percent in up to seven days and 16.6 percent in up to 14 days.

Among home-visit service providers, the largest portion, 27.8 percent, said they have no stock left. Meanwhile, 9.0 percent said they have stock for one to three days, 12.9 percent for up to seven days and 16.8 percent for up to 14 days.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government is considering supplying its stockpiled face masks to medical institutions facing shortages.

The government will consider the possibility of offering its stockpiled masks to institutions of high importance, Abe told a meeting of executives from the Upper House Budget Committee.

At the meeting, the government reported that it had stockpiles of 7,431,300 face masks as of Monday, including 2,719,000 at the Justice Ministry and 2,034,500 at the Finance Ministry.

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