Japanese health authorities’ decision to distribute more than 300,000 face masks to pregnant women has been marred by complaints about mold, insects and stains in some masks handed out so far.
Reports of soiled or defective products came just days after authorities started supplying every household with two washable, reusable masks.
Public broadcaster NHK reported that the number of defective masks distributed to pregnant women had risen to 300,000 out of 500,000 by Tuesday.
The masks are also sent to care homes for the disabled at the head of the list, though private households in Tokyo are also starting to receive theirs.
“It’s of top priority to guarantee the quality of the masks so pregnant women can use them with relief,” Health Ministry Katsunobu Kato told a press conference that the safety of all masks would be verified.
The government reportedly asked five companies to manufacture the masks and had originally said only three were providing some for pregnant women.
Masks remain a sought-after item in Japan. Sharp Corp said in a statement on Tuesday that 4.7 million people applied for 40,000 boxes of face masks.
Last week, overwhelming demand crashed the Japanese electronics firm’s website soon after the company started taking orders online. It then changed to sell the masks through a lottery to avoid more crashes and said it was ramping up production to meet demand.