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Taiwan's mask rationing system could end by late Feb.

Taiwan premier says increased production of face masks should ease shortage and end rationing system by late February

People wait in line for face masks.

People wait in line for face masks. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Tuesday (Feb. 11) announced that as production has ramped up significantly, the face mask rationing system will likely be phased out by the end of February.

While visiting a Chunghwa Post Co., Ltd. branch to encourage postmen in their delivery of face masks, Su fielded questions from the media regarding the Wuhan virus outbreak. He said that Taiwan is the first country in the world to successfully implement a real-name registration system for face masks and that the country's superior healthcare system has enabled it to successfully roll out a real-name system that can provide up-to-date reports.

Su said that thanks to efforts to educate the public about giving priority to frontline medical staff, medical clinics, patients with special needs, patients in need of hospitalization, and those accompanying patients, demand has diminished. In addition, Su said that the production of face masks has increased significantly over the past few days.

According to Su, the daily number of masks produced rose from 3.2 million to 4.2 million per day last week, reported Up Media. He estimates that the production capacity of face masks will climb to 10 million per day by the end of February, when the rationing system will likely be discontinued as supplies are replenished.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs' Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) Deputy Director Yang Chih-ching (楊志清) told CNA that from next week, with an average daily production capacity of 4.6 million masks as the goal, the ministry will invest NT$200 million (US$6.6 million) to purchase equipment and add production lines. It is estimated that the new machines will be in place in early March and that by that time the daily production will have increased to 10 million masks.

In order to fill the gap in manpower, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) dispatched Army Reserve officers and enlisted personnel to aid in the production of masks. From Feb. 3 to Feb. 11, more than 1,800 Army Reserve troops have been assigned to 28 manufacturers to help boost production, according to the MND.

In response to the panic buying of masks, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) implemented a new rationing system on Feb. 6 that requires Taiwan residents to present their National Health Insurance (NHI) cards when purchasing masks at the over 6,000 drugstores and pharmacies that are contracted with the NHI. In addition, consumers are limited to buying two masks per week (seven days).