A Japanese restaurant issued an apology on Friday after a viral photo showing a face mask placed on a tube of chopsticks sparked concerns over public hygiene amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The restaurant Ca-Tu-Ya apologised a day after a customer was photographed at its branch in Yau Ma Tei. The man was seen having a meal, while a face mask was placed on a tube of chopsticks next to him.

A man is photographed at Ca-Tu-Ya’s store in Yau Ma Tei, with a face mask placed on a tube of chopsticks next to him. Photo: Facebook.

In its statement on Facebook, Ca-Tu-Ya dismissed claims that the man was a restaurant staffer, saying the mask was not used by their employees. But the eatery apologised for not spotting and handling the situation immediately: “We bear unshirkable responsibility. We apologise for the incident and we will review it seriously,” the restaurant wrote.

Ca-Tu-Ya said all the chopsticks and tissue napkins in the Yau Ma Tei branch had been disposed of and the shop was fully sterilised. It added that individually packed disposable chopsticks had been used since the beginning of the outbreak, and tables would be cleaned after use.

The restaurant also pledged to improve staff training to ensure they follow cleaning guidelines and anti-epidemic policies to prevent similar incidents from taking place again in the future.

As of Friday evening, Hong Kong has 106 confirmed cases of Covid-19, which was first detected in Hubei, China. To cope with the outbreak, some local restaurants implemented disease prevention measures by placing plastic boards between customers to prevent transmission of the virus through droplets.

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.