Sun, Feb 02, 2020 - Page 2 News List

Ko urges clarity on allocation of masks across the nation

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je talks to reporters prior to a meeting in Taipei’s Beitou District yesterday.

Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times

The central government should explain how surgical masks are allocated across the nation to prevent 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection, or there might be a political backlash if an outbreak occurs and people cannot purchase masks, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday.

As the Central Epidemic Command Center has centralized distribution of masks, local governments might “inflate” the numbers they need, so they can “grab” more masks, Ko said, adding that the central government should make public how supplies are to be allocated.

“There has not yet been an outbreak of 2019-nCoV in communities, but if there is an outbreak, panic buying of masks would become more serious,” Ko said.

A political backlash would ensue if the government is not open and transparent about the distribution process, he added.

Ko, a doctor, said he believed the coming week would be the most critical time for disease prevention, and that if an outbreak does not occur, then mask supply and demand would reach a balance.

Taiwan should implement more stringent preventive measures in the coming week, because there might be some infected people who have not yet shown symptoms given the virus’ 14-day incubation period, he said.

These measures could be loosened if no outbreak occurs in the coming week, he said.

Instead of adding production lines, Ko said that boosting production of existing lines to 24 hours a day might be a more practical solution to address a potential mask shortage.

In related news, police seized tens of thousands of masks in outbound postal packages, as the government continued its crackdown to secure supplies in Taiwan.

As of yesterday noon, a total of 87,180 masks have been found in overseas-bound parcels at Chunghwa Post’s mail processing center in Taipei, the Aviation Police Bureau said.

The government has imposed a ban until Feb. 23 on mask exports, including through the postal service, unless the exporter has received authorization from the Bureau of Foreign Trade, it said.

Additional reporting by CNA

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