Foreigners need NHI card, card reader to access Taiwan's mask website

Foreigners can only use NHI card and must buy card reader to register on Taiwan's mask-ordering website

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(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After trial operations for a new website for real-name mask-rationing went online on Thursday (March 12), Taiwanese officials announced that foreigners only have the option of using their National Health Insurance (NHI) cards, and they must use a card reader to enter them into the system.

A new website for real-name mask-rationing titled emask.taiwan.gov.tw went live on Thursday, and pre-orders began that day, which will last until March 18. When asked if foreigners can buy masks through the new website during a press conference that morning, Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Ho Chi-kung (何啟功) said foreigners must use their NHI cards and that other forms of identification such as Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) are inadequate, reported CNA.

When the new site went live at 9 a.m., the site was flooded with 80,000 users causing it to crash, according to the National Health Insurance Administration. By 10 a.m., 100,000 people had accessed the site, but only 20,000 had been able to pre-order masks.

By 7 p.m. that evening, 290,000 users had swarmed onto the site and 200,000 had managed to make a successful pre-order. As of Friday morning (March 13), 467,727 had successfully placed pre-orders.

However, many foreigners were vexed to find that instructions are only in Chinese and they must use a card reader to register their NHI card in the system. Fortunately, card readers (讀卡機) are quite inexpensive at around NT$200 (US$6.60) and easily purchased at electronics stores and ecommerce sites in Taiwan.

The card reader is needed to complete the process of registering their NHI card online. The registration process also requires the installation of a plugin, preferably on a desktop computer, as mobile devices require authenticating their mobile device.

Once the plugin is installed and the card reader is plugged into the computer and NHI inserted, the user will need to fill out information about their ARC. Next, they will need to choose the nearest branch of one of 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 (ARC, 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.

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

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 to purchase about 7 million masks over the course of a week.