Taipei, Feb. 21 (CNA) A Taiwan-based startup has developed face mask vending machines that could eventually be used to distribute the product under a government rationing scheme aimed at ensuring everyone has access to masks amid the novel coronavirus scare.
Yallvend Co., founded in January 2019, has installed a smart vending machine at the Ningxia Night Market and another at the Taiwan Tech Arena office at Taipei Arena to demonstrate the technology, developed with other startups Biilabs, Drippp and AuthMe.
During the demonstration, 2,000 general-use masks will be distributed for free over a week's time through the machines.
But the company stressed that the masks only block dust and are not the surgical masks capable of combating the coronavirus that are currently being rationed.
Yallvend CEO Duncan Huang (黃建堯) said the company is hoping that the demonstration will convince the government to work with Yallvend to distribute the rationed surgical masks through the machines in view of the burden the rationing program has put on pharmacies.
Taiwan's government has requisitioned all domestically produced masks since Jan. 31 and implemented a rationing system under which people are allowed to buy masks only at national health insurance (NHI)-contracted pharmacies and drugstores, as well as public health centers by showing their NHI card.
Yallvend chief information officer Lee Yu-en (李育恩) told CNA on Friday that the idea of developing mask vending machines with ID verification was done with the public's welfare in mind given the long lines that have formed to buy two rationed face masks a week.
During the test run that began Thursday, the company will make available about 160-320 of the general-use masks per day, Lee said.
People can get two masks after the machines verify the identity of each user through their ID cards and mobile phones.