Mask shortages prompt Sharp to make them at display plant

surgical face mask
Sharp will try to address surgical mask shortages by using one of its display plants in central Japan to manufacture them. (freeimages.com)

The rapidly escalating COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis has led to shortages of surgical masks in many global regions. Electronics maker Sharp Corp. has responded by saying it will start making surgical masks at a plant in central Japan that usually makes displays, according to a Washington Post report.

Sharp is owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., also known as FoxConn. Mask production will start at the Mie Prefecture plant by the end of this month, starting at 150,000 masks a day then rising to 500,000 a day, the Washington Post story said.

According to several online reports, some plants in China that normally manufacture electronics and other high technology products are also be used to manufacture masks, in response to global shortages as shoppers hoard masks out of fear of the spreading virus.

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The Washington Post report noted that electronics displays are generally made in plants where contaminants are carefully controlled to maintain high product quality. The plants often use clean rooms that control worker access and keep out microscopic particles, making for a highly controlled manufacturing process that is conducive to mask making.

According to the report, Japanese have long worn face masks to prevent spreading colds or alleviate allergies, a practice that has obviously increased since the outset of coronavirus. As elsewhere, Japanese shoppers have been snatching up masks as well as other goods such as toilet paper and rice.

Sharp said in a statement that mask prices, sales channels and other details are still undecided.

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