11 million ‘Abenomasks’ in government stockpile found defective

Some 11 million, or 15%, of 71 million cloth face masks in stock prepared by the Japanese government in the early stage of the novel coronavirus crisis but left unused have been found defective, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday.

The substandard masks were found in inventory inspections by the health ministry, Kishida said at a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet.

The so-called Abenomasks were procured at the initiative of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid a mask shortage during the pandemic.

At the meeting, Kishida also said his government has spent a total of ¥2.92 billion in additional costs for mask inspections by the ministry and suppliers.

“We’ll consider appropriate measures from the standpoint of cost-effectiveness, including distributing the inventory to care facilities as needed,” he said, reiterating his plan to distribute them.

On the planned release into the ocean of treated radioactive water from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Kishida said that this is an issue that cannot be avoided to achieve the reconstruction of the northeastern Japan prefecture.

On Tuesday, TEPCO submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, seeking regulatory approval of its plan to release the treated water into the Pacific Ocean about 1 kilometer from the plant, which suffered an unprecedented triple meltdown accident after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

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