Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday he has stopped wearing his much-touted government-sponsored mask, which drew criticism for its poor quality and slow delivery to the public, as different options have become available.
Since Saturday, Abe has stopped donning what became known as the "Abenomask," a tiny washable cloth face mask which has been derided by critics as a symbol of an out-of-step policy against the coronavirus pandemic. The premier began wearing the controversial mask, which rode up on his face, in April.
Donning a mask that fully covered his lower chin, Abe told reporters, "This is also a cloth mask. Since various masks are now available, I would like to ask all people to cooperate in preventing infection" by wearing face masks.
The government started providing the tiny cloth masks to every household in April to solve the mask shortage at the time, but they proved highly unpopular and soon earned the name Abenomask, a pun on his signature "Abenomics" economic policy mix.
So far, 130 million of the masks have been provided to households nationwide, with billions of yen spent on the policy.
While there was a plan to deliver an additional 80 million cloth masks to nursing homes and other facilities, the government is scrapping it after opposition parties and some of the public criticized the move as inefficient and wasteful.
The government is now considering giving the masks only to those who wish for them and stockpiling the remainder.