Taiwan adds more masks to rationing system amid Wuhan coronavirus scare

From Feb. 20, Taiwanese citizens and expatriates are allowed to buy two more masks for their children in a week

People are in a queue waiting for buying masks in front of a drugstore in Taipei City. 

People are in a queue waiting for buying masks in front of a drugstore in Taipei City.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced a new rationing system on Monday (Feb. 17), adding an additional 200 adult-size surgical masks and 150 child masks for each drugstore and district-level public health center nationwide beginning Thursday (Feb. 20).

By then, 400 adult-size masks and 200 child-size masks per day will be distributed to each outlet.

However, the weekly quota for each National Health Insurance (NHI) card-holder and expatriate aged over 12 remains at two, with four for children aged under 12 under the new system. Expatriates in Taiwan can purchase masks with their passports or Alien Resident Certificate (ARC).

Those whose ID number ends with odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) are restricted to purchasing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; while those whose number end with even numbers (0, 2, 4, 6, 8) are limited to buying masks on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with both allowed to make purchases on Sundays. The rationing controls also apply to expatriates. People on visitor visas are not allowed to buy the masks.

The price for each mask is NT$5. In the case of those purchasing for multiple family members or friends, each person can only make purchases with one additional NHI card at a time.

Demands for child-size surgical masks grew exponentially over the past week as elementary and junior high schools set to reopen on Feb. 25. Many parents scrambled to find masks for their school kids but to no avail as there are only 50 child-size masks allocated for each drugstore under the existing rationing system.

Meanwhile, the quota for medical workers at hospitals nationwide remains at 1.7 million masks combined per day this week.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs pointed out that mask production has been ramped up significantly, with a daily capacity increased by 1.3 million units to 5.5 million in a week thanks to the newly-added production lines as well as manpower from the military. The official is expecting daily capacity to reach 10 million units in early March upon the arrival of necessary new equipment.