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Taiwan's 3 mask rationing system kicks in, tensions flare

Taiwan's new rationing system for masks raises limit to 3 per person per week at NHI-contracted drugstores

Photo of the two women who allegedly cut in line. (Facebook, Bao Yuan Commune screenshot)

Photo of the two women who allegedly cut in line. (Facebook, Bao Yuan Commune screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As Taiwan's production of face masks is gradually starting to catch up with the massive demand due to panic over the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), the ration limit was raised to three per adult and five per child on Thursday (March 5), but long lines were still a problem in some areas.

Nearly a month ago on Feb. 6, the Taiwan government launched a new rationing system for masks that was based on IDs and limited the quantity to two per person per week. As Taiwan ramped up manufacturing with the goal of becoming the second-largest surgical mask producer in the world, production rose to 8.2 million per day last week.

In order to diminish the crowds of people swarming around stores, those whose NHI cards end with odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) are restricted to purchasing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while those whose cards 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.

Taiwan's 3 mask rationing system kicks in, tensions flare
Surgical face mask factory in New Taipei City (CNA photo)

On Monday (March 2), the country's health authorities announced that a new ration of three masks per adult per week and five per child under the age of 13 would go into effect on Thursday. However, on the first day of the new system, there were still reports of tensions at drug stores as people jostled for their new quota of masks.

A user of the Taiwanese Facebook page Bao Yuan Commune (爆怨公社) on Thursday complained that as she was lining up to buy masks for her daughter, a middle-aged woman wearing a red shirt cut in front of her. Next, another middle-aged woman wearing a blue shirt approached the woman in red, began talking to her, and the two ultimately shared a spot in line.

When the netizen asked the woman in red to step to the back of the line, she snarled "There's enough masks to go around." The Facebook user then bitterly wrote, "When a dama [big aunty] says these kinds of shameless things, you know there is no need to continue communicating. Is it really that hard to stand in line?"

Many netizens were angered by the account:

"She really has thick skin."

"The next time this happens, shout 'someone cut in line!' Use a loud voice to make her lose face all the way back home."

"Cough uncontrollably behind her and see if that will get her to leave."