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Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang calls for end of mask hoarding

New system begins on Thursday for fairer distribution of facial masks

Premier urges health people stopping buying limited facial masks. (Su Tseng-chang Facebook screenshot)

Premier urges health people stopping buying limited facial masks. (Su Tseng-chang Facebook screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) announced a new mask-rationing system will kick off on Thursday (Feb. 6) amid a shortage of facial masks in the country.

In a Facebook video that Su uploaded on Monday (Feb. 3), he praised the efforts of frontline medical staff in Taiwan for preventing the further spread of the novel coronavirus while reminding the public to leave the facial masks for those in need.

His remark is addressing the recent mania of mask-hoarding in Taiwan. Even though the government has been banning the export of facial masks since Jan. 24 and mobilizing military manpower to increase production, the unreasonably high demand is still causing a shortage of facial masks in the market.

He mentioned that Taiwan has long been a mask-importing country. To deter the current coronavirus outbreak, countries around the world have begun stocking facial masks and limiting their export, causing a short supply in Taiwan.

The Premier admitted that the decision to distribute additional facial masks to convenience stores was a failure because of the lack of a monitoring system; it also led to a waste of resources as healthy people keep buying facial masks that they do not actually need.

The aforementioned mask-rationing system will tackle this problem since residents will now need to present their National Health Insurance (NHI) cards to buy facial masks in pharmacies with a 7-day interval between each purchase.

According to the latest data from the Customs Administration, Taiwan imported about 46 million non-woven facial masks in January, 0.4 percent fewer than last December, mainly because of the enormous drop in imported masks from China.

On the other hand, the export of both non-woven and N95 masks tremendously increased in the same period. Since last December, they increased by 57.1 percent and 62.9 percent, with Hong Kong becoming the top export destination.