Taiwan mask-ordering website now live

Pre-orders for online mask-rationing system start on new website today

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Hi-Life clerk handing masks to customer. (Hi-Life photo)

Hi-Life clerk handing masks to customer. (Hi-Life photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In an effort to more efficiently distribute surgical face masks as the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, trial operations for a new website for real-name mask-rationing went online on Thursday (March 12).

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Tuesday (March 10) announced on its Facebook page that pre-orders from a new website titled emask.taiwan.gov.tw will begin on Thursday and last until March 18. On March 19, those who placed orders will receive a notification telling them 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 will be able 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 that 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 he assured the public that online sales would not reduce supplies at 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 and make subsequent adjustments. He added 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 at any of the four participating convenience store chains 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.

The CECC said that the procedure to purchase masks online is as follows:

Enter the number of an NHI card, Citizen Digital Certificate, or download the NHI app on Apple or Android. Next, choose the nearest branch of one of these four convenience store chains: 7-Eleven, OK-Mart, FamilyMart, or Hi-Life.

Those who successfully place their pre-orders will receive a payment notification on March 19, and payment can be made by ATM transfer (including mobile bank, internet bank, internet ATM, and physical ATM) or credit card within the designated payment period. Mobile app pre-purchases can only be paid via ATM transfer.

After the transaction is successful, the purchaser will receive a delivery number via SMS. After receiving the delivery notification, customers can pick up their masks anytime between March 26 and April 1.

Customers need to bring their delivery number and a form of identification (ID card, NHI card, or driver's license) to the convenience store. Next, they need to enter the delivery number and their ID card number at multi-function kiosks (such as ibon, FamiPort, Life-ET, OK-go) and print out a receipt.

Lastly, customers will need to hand the receipt to the convenience store clerk to obtain the masks that were ordered.