The Executive Yuan last night announced new measures to regulate purchases of masks, including requiring people to present their health insurance cards to purchase them at pharmacies.
The decision was made during a meeting presided over by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Exectuive Yuan officials said.
Effective Thursday, people will have to present their National Health Insurance (NHI) cards when purchasing masks at 6,505 contracted pharmacies across the nation, they said.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center, told a press conference at 9pm that starting today, convenience stores would stop selling masks.
People whose identification cards end with an even number can buy masks on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, while those that end with an odd number can buy masks on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he said, adding that the restriction does not apply on Sunday.
Each person can purchase only two masks every seven days, with each mask priced at NT$5, Chen said.
People can bring one family member’s NHI card to buy masks on their behalf, while children’s masks can only be purchased with an NHI card belonging to a child 12 years old or younger, he added.
The center urges people to wear masks when they visit healthcare facilities or if they have a chronic disease or respiratory problems, as well as in crowded spaces, Chen said.
People who are healthy do not have to wear a mask outdoors, he added.
The new measure was adopted on the recommendation of New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜).
“There is indeed a shortage of surgical masks,” Hou said yesterday morning. “There is a lack of transparency on information about mask manufacturers and distribution. The central government should clearly tell people how many masks each person can purchase.”
There are about 1,000 drug stores in New Taipei City, he said, adding that people are less likely to panic if they know that they can buy masks by presenting their NHI cards.
Taiwan can learn from Singapore and Macau, where people are required to present their national identification cards and household certificates to buy masks, he said.
If the government adopts such a policy, everyone would be able to purchase masks and no one would stockpile them or rush to buy more, he said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) agreed.
Even though the Democratic Progressive Party administration has imposed a month-long ban on mask exports, and closely monitors their purchase and distribution, most people still have trouble finding masks and have to wait in line to buy them, she said.
This shows that the government still has room for improvement in terms of regulating mask sales and increasing transparency of information, she added.
Wang also suggested that masks procured by the government be distributed to township offices and borough warden offices nationwide, to be purchased by registered residents.
Not only would this ensure that everyone has a mask, but it would also spare people the trouble of waiting in lines or being unable to find masks, she said.
Transparency is key in alleviating people’s doubts and concerns, she added.
Additional reporting by Chiu Yen-ling and CNA
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