Taipei, March 23 (CNA) A second round of online ordering of surgical face masks will be held for three days beginning Wednesday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has announced.
Though the ordering period will last only until Friday, the process will remain unchanged from when the online system was first introduced earlier this month on a trial basis, the CECC said Monday.
To use the online ordering system, consumers either need to have a card reader to access the government website -- https://emask.taiwan.gov.tw/msk/index.jsp -- or need to download the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) mobile app.
Once an order for three masks is placed, the maximum allowable per purchase, users will need to pay for them between March 28 and 30 with a credit card or through an ATM or online banking system.
Between March 31 and April 1, a notification with the serial number for the mask pickup will be sent to consumers' mobile devices, and consumers will be able to pick up their orders at designated convenience stores of their choice from April 2 to 8, the center said.
The first round of online sales from March 12 to 18 got off to a rough start, with many people complaining they could not access the system due to heavy traffic.
In the end, however, nearly 1.8 million people in Taiwan succeeded in ordering face masks online during the period, according to CECC figures, and Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said efforts are being made to improve the system so that it can handle more traffic in the future.
With face masks in short supply in Taiwan since the outbreak began, the government eventually requisitioned all mask production in the country and rationed masks to the average consumer, starting at two per week and then increasing that to three per week as stocks increased.
The masks have been distributed through NHIA-contracted pharmacies, but people have had to wait in long lines during pharmacies' regular business hours to get them, leaving people who have to go to work during the day out of luck.
The online purchasing system was set up to help them gain access to the masks.
Similar to the first trial run, online buyers of the masks will have to show their national health insurance (NHI) cards when making the purchase and proof of purchase when picking it up, the CECC said.
The only difference this time, Chen said, will be that the pickup time will be shortened to about a week, so that users can receive their weekly quota of three face masks sooner.
During the system's previous week-long run, the pickup period was set between March 26 and April 1, two weeks after the first ordering day.