Japan electronics maker Sharp to make masks at display plant

International

A man with a mask walk through torii gates at the Hie Shrine In Tokyo, Sunday, March 1, 2020. The coronavirus has claimed its first victim in the United States as the number of cases shot up in Iran, Italy and South Korea and the spreading outbreak shook the global economy. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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TOKYO (AP) — Electronics maker Sharp Corp. said Monday it will start making surgical masks, which are in high demand because of the virus outbreak, using a plant in central Japan that usually makes displays.

Sharp, owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., also known as FoxConn, of Taiwan, said mask production at its Mie Prefecture plant will start by the end of this month, at 150,000 masks a day, rising to 500,000 a day.

Electronics displays are generally made in what are called “germ-free” plants for the sake of high quality. So small particles can’t get into the manufacturing process, making it a good place for mask-making.

Masks are hard to find on store shelves in many places. In Japan, long lines form outside some drug stores, even before they open.

Japanese have long worn face masks to prevent spreading colds or alleviate allergies. That practice has grown more widespread since the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus that causes the disease known as COVID-19.

Shoppers have been clearing store shelves of other supplies seemingly directly unrelated to viruses, such as toilet paper and rice.

Sharp, based in Osaka, Japan, said in a statement it hoped to contribute to society by making the masks.

Their prices, sales channels and other details are still undecided, it said.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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