Taiwan's new face mask ration kicks in today

Taiwan residents can now receive 9 masks every two weeks starting April 9

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(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's new rationing scheme for surgical face masks allows residents to purchase nine masks every two weeks, starting Thursday (April 9).

Previously, National Health Insurance (NHI) cardholders could only purchase three masks once a week. Starting on Thursday, the ration has been increased to nine adult masks and 10 children's masks every two weeks.

In addition, restrictions on days of the week the masks can be purchased based on even and odd final digits on NHI cards has been lifted. NHI cardholders can now choose any day of the week to purchase masks.

As Thursday was the first day of the increased ration, lines began forming as early as 5 a.m. outside many drugstores. Some pharmacies estimated they were seeing three times the normal number of people queuing up, reported UDN.

However, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Wednesday criticized the new rationing system, arguing that people should be allotted one mask for every day of the week, or at least 28 per month. "It is not like I don’t have to breathe on weekends and holidays," said Ko.

The mayor added that face mask vending machines are in the works. Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) responded to the mayor's criticism by saying rationing was needed to prevent demand from surpassing supplies.