The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday that it is testing an online system for buying masks using National Health Insurance (NHI) cards, while no new cases of COVID-19 were reported for a third consecutive day.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), head of the center, was asked to elaborate on Premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) remark earlier in the day that people could be allowed to order masks online and collect them at convenience stores, and he confirmed that such a program was in the works.
The system was being “pressure-tested” yesterday in a bid to prevent a crash if too many people tried to log on at the same time, Chen said.
Photo: Chang Tsung-chiu, Taipei Times
If the test went smoothly, the center would likely announce details of the plan today, he said.
He said the number of COVID-19 cases in Taiwan remained at 45, including 15 people who have been discharged from hospital.
The Executive Yuan banned mask exports on Jan. 23, began the requisition of masks on Jan. 31 and on Feb. 6 launched a policy requiring people to purchase masks with National Health Insurance (NHI) cards — currently three masks every seven days for adults and five masks every seven days for children.
Photo: Sam Yeh / AFP
However, an online option was proposed to help people who work during the day and cannot line up to buy masks at NHI-connected pharmacies, Chen said.
Using convenience stores for collecting online mask orders was one of the options being considered, he said.
Since the mask rationing policy was launched, the most masks purchased have been for children aged five to 15, and people aged 65 and older, he said.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said that details, such as whether people would have to insert their NHI card into a card reader to order masks online, are being discussed.
The CECC is continuing to supply healthcare facilities with masks, N95 respirators and protective clothing, bringing their inventory levels up to a safe level of 35 days, and 580,000 masks would be allocated by local health departments to social welfare, long-term care and mental health facilities every week, Lo said.
A daily supply of about 700,000 masks for certain sectors, such as the taxi and airline industries, and pharmaceutical factories, would also be increased to about 800,000 masks per day, allocated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, he said.
Masks for students at special education schools would be allocated by the Ministry of Education, he added.
In related news, Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) said that the Taipei MRT metropolitan rail system is to expand its ban on passengers with high temperatures to five more stations by the end of this month.
Infrared thermometers would screen people’s temperatures before they enter the stations, and if they measure more than 37.5?C, MRT employees would take the temperature again with an ear thermometer, Huang said.
Anyone with a temperature of more than 38?C would be barred from entering the station, while those with a temperature of 37.5?C to 38?C would be advised to wear a mask, she added.
The policy, which has been in effect at Taipei Main Station since Feb. 29, would be rolled out at Ximen Station, Banqiao Station, Taipei City Hall Station, Longshan Temple Station and Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, Taipei Rapid Transit Co employee Ling Chi-yao (凌啟堯) said.
Sixteen infrared thermometers will be set up at the six stations, in addition to the one in use at Taipei Main Station, Ling said.
Additional reporting by CNA
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