On Monday, Alibaba began preparations to ship one million face masks to Japan as a donation from the Alibaba Foundation and Jack Ma Foundation, as the island nation implements measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to a post on Alibaba’s official WeChat account.
Philanthropists and well-meaning individuals in both countries have been sharing crucial supplies in the past weeks. One month ago, a group of Japanese donors, including politician Nikai Toshihiro, donated 125,000 protective gowns to China when medical workers in the country needed them the most, said Jack Ma on his personal Weibo account on Monday. These gowns were later sent to hospitals in more than 12 Chinese cities including Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou—all located in in hardest-hit Hubei province—as well as Zhengzhou in Henan province and Sanya in Hainan province.
“The situation is changing now. Our friends, who did their best to help us, face the same difficulties. The epidemic in Japan is also very serious now,” said Ma. “This is what we have just gone through and we know what we need to do.”
Ma added that Nikai Toshihiro and real estate developer Jiang Xiaosong will distribute masks to where they are needed the most in the island country.
This donation comes as confirmed infections spike in Japan, the fifth hardest-hit country globally, following China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. The country has more than 980 confirmed infections as of Tuesday afternoon.
China’s daily production output for face masks reached 116 million units on Saturday—12 times the figure reported on February 1. Production expansion is moving into top gear, the country’s official Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday, indicating the mask shortage in the country may be gradually easing.
Alibaba’s Tmall marketplace has set up a special channel since Monday for residents in Hubei province to buy masks priced at RMB 2 apiece. Three million masks are being supplied to the province each day. Each resident in the province can buy up to four packs of 50.
JD.com has set up a similar channel in its app since Tuesday, offering Hubei residents a stock of 15 million masks, which are priced at RMB 1.98 apiece.
And starting on Tuesday, Pinduoduo is reserving three million masks per day for Hubei’s population. Each will sell for less than RMB 2.
Elsewhere in the country, masks are harder to come by. Many stores on Tmall are out of stock but accepting orders that will be shipped at least five days later.
Several of Jack Ma’s followers on Weibo, including one living in northeastern China’s Anshan in Liaoning province, left queries for the billionaire, asking him how they might be able to acquire masks.
The coronavirus has inflicted illness in more than 80,300 individuals in the Chinese mainland, killing an accumulated 2,947 patients as of 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Around 48,100 have recovered, while more than 6,800 people are still in critical condition.