All foreigners in Taiwan can buy masks: health officials

Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) speaks at a press conference on Feb. 4, 2020. (CNA)
Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) speaks at a press conference on Feb. 4, 2020. (CNA)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — Foreign tourists, students, and others on various types of visas will be allowed to buy masks at pharmacies once the incoming mask policy goes into effect tomorrow, the National Health Insurance Administration (NHI, 健保署) confirmed on Wednesday.

The comment contradicts an earlier report from the state-run Central News Agency (CNA) that said foreign nationals without NHI cards would be left out of mask rationing plan.

The NHI official in charge of the implementation of the new mask policy, Lin Yo-chun (林右鈞) told The China Post on earlier today that foreigners who don’t have a NHI card can purchase masks at designated pharmacies with their passports. 

To clarify, another NHI official, Chang You-hsuan (張鈺旋) told The China Post that she never said foreigners are not entitled to masks, but they require different identification from those who have NHI cards.

Tourists, diplomats, or other non-Taiwanese nationals visiting on business or toursits visas should bring their passports, Chang said.

Foreign residents who have health insurance, usually those who hold an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) or an Alien Permanent Resident Certificate (APRC) should still use their health insurance card to purchase masks, Chang said.

Those who have residency but health insurance coverage are pending, or foreign spouses from China should bring their resident certificate or exit/entry permits, she added.

Starting Thursday, people in Taiwan will only be allowed to buy two face masks per week at NHI contracted pharmacies, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心).

CECC Chief Commander Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that 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, residency number, or passport number.

If the latter ends in an odd number, you are eligible to buy masks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; even 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.