Taiwan to distribute extra masks in swine flu scare

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The government said Wednesday it would distribute an additional 1.5 million surgical masks against the H1N1 swine flu virus to local pharmacies after complaints about hoarding.
A total of 2 million masks are expected to become available at four major convenience store chains nationwide between Tuesday and Thursday noon, but consumers have complained they are selling faster than they appear. Medical staff reportedly wrote to officials saying business people had been hoarding the masks in the hope of making a quick profit.
Residents of countryside areas also complained it was difficult to find convenience stores outside the major towns, while local pharmacies had run out of supplies.
As a result, the Centers for Disease Control announced Wednesday they would distribute 1.5 million masks to about 8,000 pharmacies. The price will still be NT$6 per mask, or NT$30 for a packet of five, the CDC said.
CDC spokesman Shih Wen-yi said the authorities were investigating reports of hoarding, and would take the necessary steps.
The Department of Health has advised consumers against buying the masks, saying that at this stage only medical staff and customs officials need them for work. Taiwan still has not recorded any cases of H1N1, though arriving passengers with high fever have been intercepted and sent to hospital for quarantine and tests on a daily basis, the CDC said.
A total of 12 out of 85 cases were still under investigation, Shih told reporters Wednesday. The latest were a boy from the Philippines and a flight attendant from an unidentified airline. Both had arrived from the United States, according to the CDC.
At the Metropark Hotel in Hong Kong, an estimated 19 Taiwanese tourists were spending their sixth day of quarantine Wednesday with up to 300 people. However, one Taiwanese guest reportedly evaded the quarantine and left for China, Shih said Wednesday. Taiwanese authorities had the woman’s passport number, so they would know when she returned, the CDC spokesman said.
If the woman arrived in Taiwan after May 8 and did not show signs of a fever, there would be no problem, because the risk of contagion would be over in any event, Shih said.
Hong Kong is planning to end the quarantine period for about 300 guests and staff at the hotel Friday evening.
President Ma Ying-jeou said that a planned trip to Central America would still go ahead under the present circumstances because the situation was not grave yet.
Ma is scheduled to attend the inauguration of Mauricio Funes as President of El Salvador on June 1 as well as visit other Taiwanese allies such as Guatemala. Attention focused on Ma’s plans after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a yellow alert for El Salvador, warning Taiwanese travelers to be cautious during an eventual visit.
“I will respect the advice of the Department of Health,” the president said in an interview with cable station ETTV. DOH Minister Yeh Chin-chuan reiterated Wednesday that there was no reason to cancel the trip under present conditions.
The swine flu also started affecting Asian show business, with Hong Kong top entertainer Maggie Cheung canceling a trip to Taiwan Wednesday because she felt ill, reports said. Media first reported she had fever after a flight from New York to Hong Kong, but a spokesperson for the actress later said she only had a headache.

Updated : 2021-03-02 05:33 GMT+08:00