Foreigners without Taiwanese health insurance cards can still get masks

Foreigners in Taiwan without National Health Insurance cards will still have access to face masks

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Foreign engineers at opening of MRT Circular Line.

Foreign engineers at opening of MRT Circular Line. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Administration reassured foreigners living in Taiwan without National Health Insurance (NHI) cards that they too will be able to receive face masks under the new rationing scheme which goes into effect on Thursday (Feb. 6) as infections of the Wuhan virus continue to spread.

On Monday (Feb. 3), the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that it will implement a new rationing system for face masks that requires Taiwan residents to present their National Health Insurance (NHI) cards when purchasing masks at the over 6,000 drugstores and pharmacies which contract with the NHI. In addition, consumers will be limited to only buying two masks per week (7 days).

This raised fears among foreign residents, migrant workers, and Chinese students who do not have NHI cards that they would not be able to receive the face masks. However, at a press conference on Tuesday (Feb. 4), Director General of Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Administration (健保署) Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) said that foreigners can use their own identification information such as passports and Alien Resident Certificates (ARC) when picking up masks at NHI-contracted pharmacies, reported UDN.

Lee said that staff at drug stores and pharmacies are being instructed to write the passport and ARC numbers of foreigners who receive masks by hand. Lee added that a more streamlined method for foreigners to apply for masks is still being planned.

In order to diminish the crowds of people swarming around stores, those whose NHI cards end with odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) will be restricted to purchasing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while those whose cards end with even numbers (0, 2, 4, 6, 8) will be limited to buying masks on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with both allowed to make purchases on Sundays, reported CNA. Lee said that in the case of foreign residents, migrant workers, and Chinese students, this rationing system will apply to the last digit of their ARC numbers or passports.

As for foreigners who come to Taiwan on a tourist visa, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that they will not be eligible for the rationing system at NHI-contracted pharmacies, reported NOWnews. He, therefore, recommends that foreigners planning to visit Taiwan prepare their own masks before they arrive.