• Kyodo, Jiji


The Osaka Municipal Government requested Tuesday that citizens offer unused raincoats as an alternative to protective gear that is in short supply at medical institutions amid a surge in coronavirus infections.

In issuing the request, Mayor Ichiro Matsui said medical professionals at some institutions in the major Japanese city have no choice but to wear trash bags when treating patients.

“If doctors get infected, we can never beat coronavirus,” Matsui said. “We’re totally short of (protective gear), so we’d like (people) to offer as much (gear) as they have.”

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura made a similar call to citizens in the western Japan prefecture.

Matsui said when a person wears and takes off a trash bag from the head, the risk of infection rises because the virus attached to the surface of the bag could be transmitted through the nose and mouth of the person.

The mayor quoted doctors as saying a raincoat that opens in the front would be useful in the fight against the pneumonia-causing virus.

The Osaka Municipal Government said it will accept raincoats of any type and color but they have to be unused.

“We’d like to seek cooperation from those who have raincoats that have never been used,” Matsui said. “And for business operators that have a stock (of such raincoats), we’d like to purchase them at a regular price if possible.”

In coordination with the prefectural government, the city government will collect raincoats at the city office building, ward offices and branch offices of the prefectural government.

As Osaka Prefecture is under a state of emergency issued by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 7, together with Tokyo and five other prefectures, the Osaka prefectural government will accept raincoats by post.

While Japan’s scarcity of protective gear is becoming more severe, health minister Katsunobu Kato and industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama asked industry organizations last week that companies produce more facial masks and other medical necessities.

Social media users have reacted in a surprised way to Matsui’s request.

“It’s like wartime procurement,” a Twitter user said in a post. “I’m scared that the crisis is escalating to that level,” another user said.

“We’re in short supply of protective suits, but it’s not that we’ll run out of them as soon as tomorrow,” an official of a major hospital in the city said.

“Nylon raincoats that liquids cannot penetrate could be used as a substitute, if the worst happens,” the hospital official said.

“We have enough protective gear now, but may need even raincoats if the epidemic spreads further,” an official of a hospital in the city of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, said.

Meanwhile, an official of a hospital in Toyonaka in the same prefecture raised doubts about the effectiveness of raincoats, pointing out the risk of contracting the coronavirus through the eyes.

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