Foreigners without Taiwan NHI card can still get masks: official

The Central Epidemic Command Center said Taiwan health insurance cards are required for purchase, but foreigners on various types of visas can also obtain face masks with proper identification

A post reading
A post reading "this store no longer sell masks" is seen in this photo taken on Feb. 4, 2020. (CNA)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — Foreigners without National Health Insurance (NHI) card will still have access to face masks when a new policy goes into effect on Thursday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) said on Tuesday.

Foreigners will be required to provide their own identification information to local pharmacies where staff will make records accordingly, Director General of Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Administration (健保署) Lee Po-chang (李伯璋) said at a press conference earlier today.

Other rules are consistent with those applied to Taiwanese residents, Lee added.

The announcement comes as a relief to many non-nationals visiting Taiwan without health insurance.

Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Immigration (MOI) show that there were almost 200,000 foreigners residing on various types of visas by the end of 2019.

To clarify, foreign residents including those with Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) and Alien Permanent Resident Certificate (APRC) will be eligible to masks as long as they provide their NHI cards at pharmacies under the new policy.

Others, including visitors, people on a business visa, those whose residency applications are pending should bring their passport. Authorities are still working on the details.

Confusingly, Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 食藥署) Director-General Wu Shou-mei (吳秀梅) said that those in Taiwan on tourist visa cannot get our masks.

According to CECC Chief Commander Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), locals will only be allowed to buy two face masks per week at NHI contracted pharmacies starting on Thursday.

Everyone is allowed to purchase for maximum one friend or family as long as they bring their national health insurance cards along with their own.

In order to avoid long queues, residents should go to pharmacies according to the last digit of their ID number or residency number.

If the latter ends in an odd number, you are eligible to buy masks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; holders of even NHI numbers should go on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Sundays are open to all.

The flat fee per piece will drop by NT$1 (US$0.33) from NT$6 (US$0.2) to NT$5 (US$0.16), and locals will need to show their health insurance card to make a purchase, the minister added.