SoftBank CEO Son says will supply 300 million masks per month to Japan 3

People walk on the crosswalk, downtown, which has less than usual passersby after the state of emergency was announced, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shinjuku City, Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 11, 2020. Mandatory credit Kyodo via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank Group Corp CEO Masayoshi Son said he has secured a monthly supply of 300 million face masks for Japan from May after reaching a deal with Chinese electric vehicle maker BYD Co Ltd, which has also started producing masks.

SoftBank will supply two different kinds of mask, initially for medical staff, in cooperation with the Japanese government’s “mask team”, set up to tackle shortages due to the coronavirus outbreak, Son said on Twitter.

Addressing the supply crunch is a priority for the Japanese government, which will begin delivering two washable masks to households next week — a move that has been widely criticised on social media as inadequate.

The government is also targeting domestic production of 700 million disposable masks.

Son, who has a long history of partnering with and investing in Chinese firms, said BYD is setting up a new line to produce the masks.

BYD’s production capacity has reached 15 million masks a day, a company spokeswoman said, confirming the firm will supply masks to SoftBank.

SoftBank’s supply will consist of 100 million N95 masks, which can filter very small particles, and 200 million regular surgical masks.

The coronavirus pandemic has spurred Son’s return to Twitter, where he has complained that Japan’s response is being spearheaded by politicians rather than scientists and polled users on their view of the government’s response — adding to pressure to increase social distancing measures.

(Corrects headline, second paragraph to make clear masks will be supplied rather than donated.)

Reporting by Sam Nussey; Additional reporting by Yilei Sun; Editing by Helen Popper