Japanese media caught the rise of Covid-19 cases in Wuhan in China in early January. Face masks were one of the first items consumers started panic-buying. It has been almost three months and the issue of the shortage has not still been solved. Therefore, there is a rising question about how the Japanese Government is addressing the supply issues under the crisis.
The shortage of face masks started due to Chinese New Year and the emergence of Covid-19. China also implemented lockdown in some areas, which limited distribution. According to the Japan Hygiene Products Industry Association, in general, approximately 60% of face masks sold in Japan are made in China. Thus, it hit shelves in Japan. However, this was in late January.
To respond to the high demand generated by Covid-19, Japanese manufacturers such as Uni Charm and Kyowa have been producing three times more than usual, but the supply has not been able to keep up with the demand. In early March, the Japanese Government started to support these manufacturers to produce even more masks.
Now, April has begun and the shortage problem still persists. The government asked other manufacturers to join forces, including Sharp, an electronic company, and Iris Oyama, a home appliance and consumer goods manufacturer. However, the latter can only start producing face masks from June. It seems the Japanese Government’s reaction to resolving the shortage is slow.
Meanwhile, in Japan’s neighbouring country Taiwan, the government has developed an eMask app that displays data about mask inventories at local stores. The app helps the government implement a rationing system and it also helps consumers to alleviate confusion and anxiety over the supply. Its first version was launched early March and the second version was introduced to consumers at the end of March.
Outside of China, Japan is one of the first countries that implemented school closures. However, other than that, the actions taken by the government seem to be hesitant. Now, the increase of Covid-19 cases has accelerated. The nation was shocked by the death of one of the most famous comedians on 30 March, which has significantly raised the fear of the virus among consumers.
Sustaining the supply chain is essential for maintaining their level of anxiety. The example of prolonged shortage of face masks indicates a great concern about how the country addresses the crisis.