Face mask price drops as gov’t weighs in, factories return to work

People queue for face masks in Taipei on Jan. 30, 2020. (CNA)
People queue for face masks in Taipei on Jan. 30, 2020. (CNA)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN)  — The flat price for face masks will be lower to NT$6 (US$0.2) per piece starting Feb. 1, authorities announced on Thursday.

The price will be reduced by NT$2 per piece from the current NT$8 after discussions with manufacturers and retailers, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA,經濟部) said in a statement released on Thursday.

The original price was set by the epidemic response command center during the Chinese New Year holiday as an emergency measure to take control over the face mask business in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Thursday’s announcement came after growing concern that NT$8 per piece is far too expensive. Before the outbreak, masks could be purchased at convenient stores at NT$2 per piece, or NT$40 per box of 10 pieces.

The ministry said in Thursday’s statement that the reason behind the original price during the holidays was the cost for logistics and manufacturing was higher then. Now that the country has returned to normal workdays, the cost went back to normal, hence the price drop.

“Once market supply and demand are restored to normal in the future, the price will again be determined by the market mechanism,” the statement added.

Government to Release Four Million Masks per Day

Earlier this week, the epidemic response command center announced that the government will release four million face masks from local manufacturers every day to ensure that the general public has access to protective gear amid the novel pneumonia outbreak.

Two out of the four million will be appropriated to convenience stores, where the general public can purchase up to three masks per transaction.

The remaining will be sent to hospitals, medical institutions, and professional medical supply stores near hospitals, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said on Thursday.

The policy is set to remain in place until Feb. 15, according to Chen.

The epidemic command center advised the public to call 1950 if they see any irregularities in masks’ price.

Masks Not Always Necessary: CDC

Thursday marks the first day of work after the Chinese New Year holiday and the tenth day since Taiwan reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, while approximately 80 percent of the commuters on the subways and buses in Taipei are seen wearing masks, officials at the CDC and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) at the address to the nation have remained unmasked.

Chen downplayed the necessity of face masks at Thursday’s press conference, saying that only those with respiratory symptoms, chronicle diseases, visiting the hospital, or cramped in spaces with bad air circulation, need to wear masks.

This coincides with the World Health Organization’s (WHO, 世界衛生組織) guidelines issued on Jan. 29, which advised that masks are not required for individuals without respiratory symptoms as “no evidence is available on its usefulness to protect non-sick persons.”

However, it added that “if masks are used, best practices should be followed on how to wear, remove, and dispose of them and on hand hygiene action after removal.”