Taiwan's online mask-rationing system to take pre-orders Thursday

Real-name mask system 2.0: Pre-orders for online mask-rationing system start on March 12

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Chen Shih-chung.

Chen Shih-chung. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In an effort to more efficiently distribute surgical face masks as the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, a new online system for real-name mask-rationing will be taking pre-orders on Thursday (March 12).

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Tuesday (March 10) announced on its Facebook page that pre-orders for a new system for mask purchases dubbed "Real-name Mask System 2.0" (口罩實名制2.0) will begin on Thursday and will last until March 18. On March 19, those who placed such orders will receive a notification to make payment.

The total cost for three masks will be NT$22 (US$0.73), including an NT$7 shipping fee. The CECC estimates that 2.33 million people can purchase about seven million masks over the course of a week.

CNA cited Economic Affairs Vice Minister Wang Mei-hua (王美花) as saying that the distribution of masks will still mainly go through drugstores and pharmacies which have contracted with Taiwan's National Health Insurance (NHI). He said that the online purchase option is meant as an alternative for those workers who do not have time to wait in line and assured the public that online sales would not reduce supplies in pharmacies.

During a press conference on March 10, Health and Welfare Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that the center would monitor the results of the trial period and make subsequent adjustments. He said that because it is a real-name system, there will be more flexibility in adjusting to the situation and carrying out a rolling review.

The CECC said that the masks can be picked up any day between March 26 and April 1. It added that there will be no restriction on NHI IDs that end in even or odd numbers.

If the number of pre-orders is too large, masks will be allocated through a lottery system instead of a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, people do not need to rush to place their orders on the first day.

Those wishing to place a pre-order can use their NHI card, Citizen Digital Certificate, and download the NHI app on Apple or Android.