Taiwan economics minister unveils new coronavirus mask policy

June 1 will mark end of mask export ban

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Bus passengers wearing masks 

Bus passengers wearing masks  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic slows down in Taiwan, face masks will become more widely available from June 1, Economics Minister Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) said Wednesday (May 27).

No new domestic infections have been reported for 45 consecutive days, while the total number of coronavirus cases stands at 441, including seven deaths.

Over the course of the epidemic, Taiwanese mask makers ramped up their production from 1.88 million to 20 million per day, but demand has now fallen to about 8 million masks a day, CNA reported.

As a result, it was deemed possible to end restrictions on the distribution and export of masks beginning June 1, Shen told the daily Central Epidemic Command Center news conference Tuesday. He added that the new price for the masks would fall below the current NT$5 (US$0.16).

The government's mask policies have made sure that by now, 200 million to 300 million masks have been kept in storage, according to the minister. Only if that reserve dropped below 100 million, might there be a return to a required production of more than 12 million masks per day. The military would gradually withdraw from the manufacturing sector, while the production in excess of 8 million would be available for export.

The restriction that each Taiwanese can only send 30 masks to relatives overseas every two months would also be lifted, CNA quoted Shen as saying.

While the export of masks was banned during the height of the virus pandemic, Taiwan donated millions of face masks to diplomatic allies and to numerous friendly countries around the world, including the United States, Japan, and several nations in the European Union and in Southeast Asia.