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Fast Retailing Co. plans to start selling face masks in the summer to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus, company officials said Sunday.

The company changed its cautious stance on selling masks in response to strong customer needs, according to the officials.

It plans to sell masks made from the highly breathable and fast-drying materials used in its AIRism functional underwear at its Uniqlo casual wear store chain and on its online shopping website.

At a financial result briefing in April, Fast Retailing Chairman and President Tadashi Yanai sounded cautious about selling face masks, saying the company’s main line of business is the manufacturing of clothing.

But the company decided to meet growing customer demand for masks, the officials said.

Serious mask shortages are being resolved gradually. But demand for masks that are suitable for summer use is expected to increase, especially with no prospects in sight for an end to the coronavirus epidemic.

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