Coronavirus News Asia

‘Abenomasks’ inspire plague year levity in Japan

A pledge by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to send two reusable cloth face masks to every household as the country battles the coronavirus outbreak has been met online with derision and humor.

Within hours of the announcement, the hashtag “Abenomasks,” a play on the prime minister’s signature “Abenomics” economic policy, was trending on Japanese Twitter.

“A night has passed and it was not a dream,” Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease specialist at Kobe University, tweeted Thursday, referring to Abe’s Wednesday announcement.

He denounced the proposal as a “waste of money,” pointing out that hospitals would never use cloth masks of the sort proposed by Abe.

The pledge came after Abe himself began sporting a small cloth face mask in parliament, and one widely circulated image reacting to his proposal showed him wearing two cloth masks – one over his mouth, the other covering his eyes.

The decision to issue just two masks per household left many in Japan confused, wondering what homes with more than two members were supposed to do.

One cartoon shared widely showed multiple members of one family standing in a line, with the person at the front wearing a mask and the ear loops stretched all the way to the member at the back.

The timing of the announcement also raised eyebrows, with some Twitter users questioning whether it was an April Fools’ joke.

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