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Abe pledges national mask reserve as virus fears create shortfall

Prime minister urges mass production, saying state will buy surplus

Monthly supplies of surgical masks in Japan are expected to reach 600 million units in March.

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday sought to assure the country's mask makers that the government will assume any risk of overproduction by creating a national stockpile of the protective gear.

"If there's a surplus [of masks], the state will take responsibility for them through stockpiles," Abe said while answering questions in parliament.

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