The Latest | Tourists can’t buy masks in Taiwan with new system

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — After two hectic days of mixed information, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) confirmed Wednesday that foreign tourists won’t be able to buy face masks provided by health authorities under a new rationing policy.

The new name-based system requires customers to present valid ID documents to make a purchase. That includes National Health Insurance (NHI) cards, resident certificates, or Exit and Entry Permits (出入境許可證), CECC Chief Commander Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said at Wednesday’s press conference.

Under this system, foreigners on tourist visa will not be allowed to buy masks starting tomorrow.

Central Epidemic Command Center officials prepare for a press conference on Feb. 5, 2020. (CNA)
Central Epidemic Command Center officials prepare for a press conference on Feb. 5, 2020. (CNA)

Foreign residents who are already covered by the NHI program should bring their health insurance cards.

Foreign residents whose health insurance hasn’t kicked in will be entitled to face masks as long as they present valid Alien Resident Certificates (ARC) or Alien Permanent Resident Certificates (APRC).  Chinese spouses and students must present their Exit and Entry Permits.

The system will record purchase history and upload it to an online database shared nationwide. Each person is entitled to two pieces every seven days and can only buy them at designated pharmacies.

Everyone is allowed to purchase for a maximum of one friend or family as long as they bring the person’s ID along with their own. Children’s masks are available to those under 12 years old. Parents must present the kid’s ID document/NHI card to purchase.

The announcement came after the National Health Insurance Administration (NHI, 健保署) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 食藥署) gave contradicting information to reporters on Tuesday.

NHI official Chang You-hsuan (張鈺旋) told The China Post that the agency reconvened with the FDA shortly after The China Post pointed out to them that their take on the incoming plan were inconsistent.

In order to avoid long queues, you 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; 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.