National

'Abenomasks' swapped for meal tickets and other items

Jiji

Efforts are spreading in Japan to promote the donation of “Abenomask” cloth masks by providing meal tickets and other items in exchange for the masks distributed nationwide by the government.

Abenomasks, given away at the initiative of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the fight against the new coronavirus, have drawn complaints that they are too small and that they are arriving too late.

“It’s a shame to waste the masks even if they were distributed under a policy that is beside the point,” said Tsutomu Ikeda, 73, the second-generation owner of Ikejyu, a restaurant in Nantan, Kyoto Prefecture, western Japan.

The restaurant, founded in 1937, is giving away a meal ticket worth ¥300 in exchange for an unopened pack of two masks, hoping to donate them to the city.

“We more than welcome the masks as we have places to distribute them,” a Nantan official said.

Customers visiting the restaurant started decreasing in late March due to the coronavirus outbreak. Sales in April more than halved from normal levels.

“We hope the mask campaign will help bring back customers,” Ikeda said.

Bon Arm, which operates pharmacies in the western city of Tokushima and sells edible indigo plants, launched in April a project to send Abenomasks to those in need.

The company offered an indigo-dyed handkerchief per pack of masks, and then it was overwhelmed by masks sent from across the country.

Initially, the company planned to hand out 1,000 handkerchiefs to Abenomask donors by around Saturday. Although the company increased the number to 3,000 by boosting production, it had to stop receiving applications for exchange on June 5.

The company will donate the masks it received to elderly nursery facilities, welfare service providers and municipal governments.

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