Around 82 million cloth masks procured by Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic, dubbed "Abenomasks" by the public, have gone unused, a government spokesman said Wednesday, sparking criticism that taxpayer's money has been wasted.

The number of masks in storage as of March accounts for more than half of the 140 million the government had intended to supply to older people and child care facilities amid shortages of nonwoven and other types of mask.

Then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plan to distribute two cloth masks to each household in the nation last year was widely derided by the public, with many complaining the Abenomasks were too small and arrived too late or not at all.