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Taiwan pledges military aid to boost mask supply

Shortages of masks experienced across island as people seek to ward off potentially lethal Wuhan virus

Mask factory in Taiwan

Mask factory in Taiwan (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s armed forces will be mobilized to help increase the supply of surgical masks as the country sees a soaring demand for protective gear amid the coronavirus outbreak that has inflicted over 14,000 globally.

Soldiers will be dispatched to the production line at local mask factories per request of the Central Epidemic Command Center, reported CNA. Relevant work will be arranged in a meeting participated in by officials from the defense and economic ministries as well as manufacturer representatives, said military spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) on Sunday (Feb. 2).

According to the Cabinet, an additional 62 surgical mask production lines have been put in place, 10 percent of which will be dedicated to manufacturing those intended for children. This is expected to boost the capacity of local mask supply from 4 million to 10 million units a day, wrote UDN.

There has been growing public resentment about the shortage of surgical masks on the market after the government moved to centralize their distribution to avoid hoarding. Queues have become a normal sight at retailers and convenience stores across the island, with customers restricted to buying no more than three at a price of NT$6 each.

Taiwan has temporarily banned the export of a range of masks, including N95 respirators. Those attempting to smuggle masks overseas through mail or international delivery will be subject to penalties in compliance with the Customs Anti-smuggling Act.