Taipei, Feb. 18 (CNA) Taiwan-based manufacturing giant Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. is planning to produce face masks in Taiwan amid a supply shortage in the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic.
Hon Hai, known as Foxconn in the global market, said Monday that it already has a plan in place to set up a surgical mask production facility in New Taipei's Tucheng District, where the company is headquartered.
Hon Hai said the company has been in communication with raw material and production equipment suppliers, and expressed gratitude for assistance lent by the New Taipei city government, although it will be the central government that will have the final say on the matter, as masks are classed as medical equipment and therefore require proper certification.
While Hon Hai did not disclose how many face masks it will produce per day, local news media reported that operations at the new facility will start in March, with 10 production lines providing a capacity of 1 million masks per day.
Ho Yu-ming (何怡明), head of the city's Economic Development Department, said that ever since the city government became aware of Hon Hai's mask production plan in early February, the department and health and environment protection agencies have been in contact with the company and have voiced support for the plan.
Ho said that as face masks are classed as medical equipment, production facilities have to meet special requirements, so the city government is providing one-stop services to help Hon Hai through the administrative procedure.
She said after the virus broke out at the end of December in Wuhan, in China's Hubei Province, New Taipei has encouraged manufacturers with spare clean rooms to go into face mask production.
Ho said the Hon Hai masks will be requisitioned by the government. Government requisition began on Jan. 24 and will run through the end of April.
After the requisition order ends, Ho said, Hon Hai will give priority for its masks to the underprivileged groups and the city's education sector.
Sources close to the plan said surgical mask products need certification from the Ministry of Health and Welfare before mass production can begin, while how Hon Hai will secure raw materials for the production also needs central government approval.
Last week, Hon Hai said one of its production bases located in China's Shenzhen had started trial production of face masks, with daily production expected to hit 2 million by the end of the month.
Hon Hai, one of the largest Taiwanese investors in China, with a workforce of more than 1 million, will distribute the masks produced at the Shenzhen site to its workers there.
The Shenzhen mask facility is operated by Foxconn Industrial Internet Co. Ltd. (FII), a Hon Hai subsidiary based in Shanghai.
FII has said if possible, the subsidiary will provide its masks to non-Hon Hai users in the future.
The sources said Hon Hai is expected to work with FII to run its mask production lines in Tucheng.
Taiwan has reported 22 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection with one fatality, while more than 73,000 people around the world have been infected, mostly in China, with a death toll of 1,873, only five of which have been outside China.