Facing an insufficient supply of masks, the Executive Yuan yesterday decided to purchase 30 million masks from around the world and dispatch charter flights to bring them home if necessary.
The government also pledged to investigate and mete out punishments to those exploiting the SARS epidemic by gouging customers or hoarding masks.
"With the procurement of the masks, we hope to ease the insufficient supply," said Premier Yu Shyi-kun. "The justice ministry and Fair Trade Commission will also step up efforts to investigate such irregularities such as hoarding or overcharging for the masks."
According to the Fair Trade Law (
The Fair Trade Commission yesterday said that if the retail price of a N95 mask costs more than NT$100, it's too much. The price of a regular mask should be no more than NT$18. The wholesale price of a N95 mask is NT$29 and that of a regular mask is NT$5.
Yu added that local governments can make use of their annual budget to cover SARS-related expenses before the legislature passes the NT$50 billion budget earmarked to subsidize medical expenses and mitigate the economic impact of industries affected by the outbreak.
"If it's still not enough, they have their individual secondary emergency fund and disaster relief fund at their disposal," Yu said.
Yu made the remark yesterday afternoon after he inspected the Center for Disease Control, where the Cabinet's SARS command center is situated.
According to Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Yi-fu (
"While the demand for the N95 masks is estimated at 100,000 pieces a day, or about 3 million pieces a month, we hope to see local manufacturers provide 60,000 pieces daily and 80,000 May 20, with the remainder imported from other countries," Lin said.
The demand for regular masks is estimated at 600,000 pieces a day, or about 28 million pieces a month, the government plans to bring in 30 million more from abroad, while local manufactures are projected to provide 350,000 pieces a day.
The defense ministry's logistics administration is expected to churn out 80,000 pieces of regular masks daily starting next Tuesday. The economic ministry will also earmark NT$10 million to contract out manufactures to enter the market.
According to Yang Ching-chuan (