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Face shields might offer lifeline for restaurants

TOKYO >> Using the Fugaku supercomputer, the world’s fastest, Japanese researchers have developed a wrap-around face shield for bar and restaurant patrons that can more effectively reduce exposure to the coronavirus.

With so many restaurants struggling to make ends meet, Toppan Printing Co. and Suntory Liquors Ltd. launched an initiative to develop a face shield that could be worn while dining out. They sought help from the state-backed Riken research institute.

Research indicates that a typical face shield covering just the mouth blocks about 30% of oral droplets from spreading through the air. After studying options using the supercomputer, the team confirmed that the shield’s bowl-shaped design, covering nose to chin, can block about 70% of droplets. It also protects the eyes.

It can be worn while eating because its mouth covering easily moves to the side. It is being tested at several Tokyo restaurants.

Toppan plans to make the final design of the shield available to the public for free so that any manufacturer can produce it. In addition to developing the shield, Toppan is charged with manufacturing and said it would take orders from businesses.

Researchers hope sales of the shield will begin in time for December bonenkai, traditional year-end drinking parties.

“By making it possible for everyone to produce and use it, we’re hoping that it can be disseminated rapidly,” said Kenji Yamada, president of Suntory. “I hope this could serve as a catalyst to revitalize the restaurant industry.”

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