Taiwan mulls ID-based system for surgical mask acquisition

Limited surgical mask availability fuels public dissatisfaction as island scrambles to protect citizens against Wuhan virus

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Surgical masks out of stock at a convenience store.

Surgical masks out of stock at a convenience store. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party has proposed an identity-based system for the purchase of surgical masks as Taiwan continues to see shortages amid Wuhan coronavirus fears.

Echoing a suggestion by New Taipei Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), KMT member Wang Yu-min (王育敏) said she believes regulating mask sales through identity verification to be a viable approach. Those who wish to acquire masks should present their National Health Insurance Card or other ID documents to ensure limited resources are fairly distributed, she reckoned.

The government has implemented a series of measures to ensure public demand for masks is met, including ramping up supply, imposing an export ban, centralizing distribution, and putting in place price controls and buying restrictions, but mask supply still appears considerably inadequate, spurring growing public discontent.

Wang also suggested distribution by government institutions instead of retailers to cut down on logistics and other costs, as well as more transparency regarding the availability of the protective gear, wrote Liberty Times. This will help address public panic and reduce disinformation, she added.

The ID-based system for mask sales is being considered by the Central Epidemic Command Center. It will review how similar schemes are introduced in other countries, such as Singapore, reported CNA.