Taiwan's ban on mask exports to be extended until end of June

04/13/2020 06:07 PM
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Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (front)/ Photo courtesy of the CECC
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (front)/ Photo courtesy of the CECC

Taipei, April 13 (CNA) Taiwan will extend its ban on exports of surgical masks and continue its requisition of factories that produce surgical masks until the end of June, from the original deadline of April 30, the health minister announced Monday.

The current ban on exports of other protective items, such as protective and isolation gowns, could be eased, however, so that manufacturers can sell their products abroad, said Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), at a daily press briefing.

Chen, however, did not elaborate as to when the ban on exports of protective garments will be eased.

Taiwan stopped exports of all surgical masks on Jan. 24, three days after it confirmed the first case of COVID-19 infection and domestic demand surged.

One week later on Jan. 31, Taiwan requisitioned all factories able to produce face masks so that it could control the distribution and output of masks, as panic buying emerged after more cases of the new coronavirus infection were reported in the nation.

From Feb. 6, a rationing system was launched, with each person in Taiwan, no matter whether they are locals or foreign nationals, allowed to buy three masks per week at a price of NT$5 each at pharmacies, using their National Health Insurance cards or other forms of ID.

The rationing was not eased until April 9, when the number of rationed masks was increased to 9 pieces every two weeks, after mask output was significantly increased to 15 million per day from the 1.88 million before the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to government data.

Meanwhile, after inaugurating three vending machines selling surgical masks two days earlier, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said he plans to install more such machines in all 12 administrative districts of the city next week as an alternative option through which citizens can purchase masks.

At present, the purchase of rationed masks can only be made online or in person at pharmacies.

In normal circumstances, each vending machine can sell 60 packages of adult masks (nine pieces each) per hour, according to Ko, meaning that the three machines currently running on a trial basis in the Xinyi District Health Center near Taipei 101 can sell 180 packages per hour.

Each day the machines can sell up to 1,800 packages in total, said Ko, who added that the vending machines will be an additional option that could help disperse the long queues of buyers outside pharmacies.

(By Chen Wei-ting and Elizabeth Hsu)

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