Japan to lift ban on reselling face masks

Kyodo -- Aug 01
The Japanese government said Friday it will lift a ban on reselling face masks and disinfectant as suppliers have ramped up production enough to resolve a nationwide shortage spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

Punishable with a prison sentence of up to one year or a 1 million yen ($9,500) fine, or both, the ban was imposed in a bid to deter scalpers. It is expected to be lifted in August, although the exact timing was not immediately clear.

The government is also scrapping its plan to deliver an additional 80 million cloth masks to nursing homes and other high-risk facilities, health minister Katsunobu Kato said, amid criticism it was a waste of taxpayers' money.

"Supply has increased significantly and consumers are no longer having difficulty buying (face masks and disinfectant)," Kato said at a press conference, adding the ban may be reinstated if deemed necessary.

The ban was imposed on face masks in mid-March and disinfectant in late May through a revision to the law on "emergency measures for stabilizing the living conditions of the public," which was enacted in 1973 in response to panic-buying of daily necessities such as toilet paper during the oil crisis.

The government has already provided 130 million cloth masks, dubbed "Abenomask," meaning Abe's mask and a play on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's signature "Abenomics" policy mix, to households nationwide.

- Kyodo