CORONAVIRUS/More masks, easier access coming in April under rationing program

03/30/2020 06:30 PM
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Taipei, March 30 (CNA) Taiwan's mask rationing system will see significant changes in mid-April that will give local residents easier access to more surgical face masks under the country's mask rationing system, the Central Epidemic Control Center (CECC) said Monday.

Starting April 9, residents will have access to nine masks for adults every 14 days, up from three per week at present, while the quota for children's masks will remain at 10 every two weeks, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said at his daily press briefing.

Also, consumers will be able to buy all nine adult masks or all 10 children's masks in one purchase on any day of the week, Chen said, eliminating the need to line up for the masks once a week on specific days depending on whether a person's ID number on their national health insurance (NHI) card is odd or even.

Chen said the changes were made possible by increased production of the surgical masks that were in extremely short supply in late January and much of February as fears over the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mounted.

The masks will still be available at designated drugstores and pharmacies at a cost of NT$5 per mask by presenting one's NHI card.

Also, starting April 9, people can send up to 30 masks every two months by mail to their first- or second-degree relatives living in foreign countries, Chen said.

He explained that the new measure will be instituted out of concern that overseas Taiwanese may need masks but have none to use.

Foreign nationals in Taiwan will not be allowed to do this, said Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), deputy director-general of the Centers for Disease Control, because the government has no way of confirming who their relatives within a second-degree are.

The only exception would be if the relative was a Taiwan national, he said.

(By Chen Wei-ting, Chang Hsiung-feng and Elizabeth Hsu)

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