The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said it has started distributing masks for the children of foreign representatives in Taiwan, after the wife of the Slovakian envoy said she had difficulty buying children’s masks, amid fears over the COVID-19 outbreak.
Starting on Feb. 6, Taiwanese buying masks are required to present their National Health Insurance (NHI) cards or identification cards, while foreigners are required to present their NHI or Alien Resident Certificate cards, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
Liang Chen (梁晨), the wife of Slovak Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei Representative Martin Podstavek, wrote on Thursday on Facebook that she had visited a pharmacy in Taipei to purchase masks for her children before school opens next week.
Liang told a store clerk that she only has a diplomatic identification card issued by MOFA for family members of foreign representatives, but was rejected.
She wrote that she burst into tears when the clerk told her to go home and figure it out herself how she could buy masks, adding that he would call the police if she did not leave.
Born in Beijing, Liang first arrived in Taiwan in 2017, when Podstavek was assigned to Taipei.
After learning what happened, the two ministries discussed how to distribute masks for children of foreign representatives in Taiwan, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said.
Each child is to be given four masks a week, the same as the number of masks that Taiwanese can buy at pharmacies, she said, adding that MOFA would send masks distributed by the health ministry to the foreign representatives’ offices.
Masks for foreign representatives and their spouses — two for each person a week — had been forwarded to each representative office, she said.
Later yesterday, Liang thanked friends and Facebook users who had offered to send her children’s masks, saying she can wait for the ones sent by MOFA.
Liang said she has lived and worked in Taiwan for nearly three years, and has warm and lovely memories about many friends or strangers.
“I will not change my view about Taiwanese just because of one incident,” she wrote.
The Slovak Economic and Cultural Office yesterday also issued a statement praising Taiwan’s successful containment of COVID-19 compared with other Asian countries.
While some medical products have been in short supply, the Taiwanese government has exerted its greatest efforts to respond to the crisis, Podstavek said in the statement.
He praised the Taiwanese government for its expertise and action, and thanked the foreign ministry for its assistance in many matters.
Taiwan should and must claim a seat in the WHO’s expert sessions, with the EU supporting Taiwan joining the global body as an observer, he said.
It is “unforgivable” that Taiwan’s 23 million people cannot obtain timely information, or only partial information, about health and life, he said.
Additional reporting by CNA
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