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The government’s effort to distribute two cloth masks to each household will likely be nearly complete on Monday, some two months after the project began, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday.

About 120 million of the reusable cloth masks, or 96 percent of the total, had been distributed by the end of Friday, according to Suga.

“While making efforts to expand supplies by boosting domestic production, we want to proceed steadily until the end so we can deliver cloth face masks to nationals, which can also help curb demand,” Suga told a news conference.

On April 1, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that the government would distribute two cloth face masks to every household after demand for surgical masks surged for the coronavirus pandemic. Distribution started on April 17.

The government aimed to ease people’s frustrations by providing masks made of cloth, which are washable and can be reused more often.

But the masks, dubbed “Abenomasks” as a pun on Abe’s economic policies, are viewed as a symbol of the government’s failure to meet people’s needs due to its huge cost of about ¥46.6 billion and the fact that mask shortages were eventually eliminated by other means, including initiatives by private-sector leaders.

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