The government plans to purchase 4 million masks a day to ensure continued supply and availability of masks during heightened alert over the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said yesterday.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday announced that it would be releasing 6 million masks a day onto the market for three consecutive days.
However, that measure was insufficient, as there was still a shortage of masks yesterday.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday said that between Wednesday last week and Wednesday, more than 19.7 million masks were distributed to the nation’s four major convenience store chains, as well as pharmacies.
In addition to purchasing 4 million masks a day, the Ministry of Economic Affairs would also be supplying health ministry staff with masks, Kolas said.
The government has imposed a standard price on masks — NT$8 (US$0.26) per pack of three — to prevent stores or individuals from driving up prices, Kolas added.
The economics ministry is also investigating ways to step up the production of masks from 4 million to 6 million a day, she said.
Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Ho Chi-kung (何啟功) said that the ministry is monitoring the number of mask sales.
“Continued difficulty in obtaining masks could lead to the ministry establishing a logistics platform and a task force,” Ho said.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Protection Committee warned that anyone found guilty of driving up the prices of masks could face a fine or be subject to imprisonment.
Citing Article 251 of the Criminal Code, the committee said that intentionally inflating the price or stockpiling masks could be penalized with up to three years of imprisonment, as well as a NT$300,000 fine.
The practices could also contravene the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法), resulting in fines of NT$50,000 to NT$25 million, the committee said.
The committee is inspecting distributors of masks, to observe demand and whether there are any incidents of prices being inflated.
Additional reporting by CNA
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