With the coronavirus confirmed in Japan people should be taking precautions to protect themselves from further spreading or catching the contagion. Face masks have always been a good way to limit your exposure to germs, especially for those who have long commutes on crowded trains or buses, but the supplies of masks in Tokyo and its surrounding areas are scarce. Here are a few tips and tricks to securing a face mask in Tokyo’s current climate.
Rise and Shine
Waking up a few hours early and patiently waiting outside a drug store before it opens may be the best way to secure a mask. Lines of elderly people and concerned citizens can be seen waiting outside of drug stores up to an hour before opening in order to secure a mask.
Before you randomly camp outside a drug store, you should probably check if the store has any masks in stock. A few days before, ask the staff when and what time their next delivery of masks will arrive so you can plan your day accordingly.
Sometimes we’ll open at 10 with a fresh delivery [of face masks] and by 10:20 we’ve sold out.
The big drug stores and superstores, such as the ever-popular Don Quixote, usually have daily deliveries of goods, and in much larger quantities. Still, one drug store worker from a popular chain told us that “deliveries of masks really can’t keep up with demand at the moment.” She continued, “Sometimes we’ll open at 10 with a fresh delivery [of masks] and by 10:20 we’ve sold out.”
The store may have a larger number of masks, but this means there are just more masks for the early birds to buy in bulk. With people reselling masks online for exorbitant prices, you definitely want to pick yours up at retail price.
The Japanese government says face mask manufacturers are working "around the clock" to increase mask production amid the coronavirus outbreak. https://t.co/z0pQJV7VhK
— CNN International (@cnni) February 10, 2020
Local Drug Stores
Instead of checking giant stores in the middle of Shibuya or Shinjuku how about checking your local drug store? Once again you most definitely are going to have to wake up early in order to get a few masks but it should be all worth it when you can breathe easy on that morning commute.
Smaller drug stores might still have a few secret hidden stocks of masks hidden in the depths of the store. I managed to acquire a few masks from my own local drug store. In the panic to stock up on masks, some have completely written off smaller stores without so much as a second look.
How to protect yourself against coronavirus? Take the same precautions you would during flu season: Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, avoid close contact or large gatherings, and wear a face mask https://t.co/v0RvhSQpyg
— CNN (@CNN) February 9, 2020
When all other paths fail there’s always online. There have been a few stories about people selling faulty masks from unreliable distributors in China and around Asia. As such even when shopping online the utmost caution should be taken. Amazon still has various masks available in their online stores and can be purchased in bulk. With hay fever season approaching there are other reasons besides the coronavirus to purchase face masks, causing even the online reserves to dry up.
The coronavirus isn’t by any means a death sentence, but with over 400 confirmed cases in Japan currently and one death in Kanagawa (south of Tokyo), a little caution goes a long way. It’s in situations like these where prevention and a little common sense can keep you from becoming a statistic. Avoid unnecessary public gatherings, wash your hands regularly and if you can secure a face mask make sure you’re wearing it on public transportation.
Feature image: Michael von Aichberger / Shutterstock.com