Mixed reactions from foreigners as Taiwan adopts new mask plan

Alex Wu holds his drawing that reads
Alex Wu holds his drawing that reads "give me masks" in a line outside a pharmacy in Taipei on Feb. 6, 2020. (Courtesy of Vivian Hsiao.)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — Foreign nationals sent mixed reactions to a new mask-rationing policy that excludes people on tourist visas from purchasing at local pharmacies starting today.

Rodolphe Ruffié of France, who had previously spent almost two years living in Taiwan and visited frequently afterwards, told The China Post that he thinks that if the supply of masks is not unlimited, then “those who live or are going to stay durably…should be given priority over those who come and go.”

Ruffié, who plans to visit Taiwan again next month, added that “I will definitely make sure to buy masks of my own back home beforehand.”

This echoes with increasing calls for more rational using and purchasing of face masks on social media, as people are starting to see the overdrive as unreasonable and perhaps fueled by fear-mongering news reports.

Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) Chief Commander Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) has reiterated at multiple daily press conferences that non-sick individuals are not required to wear masks all the time because there as yet no evidence of widespread community transmission in Taiwan.

People queue outside a pharmacy in Taipei to buy masks on Feb. 6, 2020. (Courtesy of Mimi Hsin Hsuan Sun.)
People queue outside a pharmacy in Taipei to buy masks on Feb. 6, 2020. (Courtesy of Mimi Hsin Hsuan Sun.)

On the other hand, some people found the exclusion of tourists inconsiderate and hypocritical for a nation that takes pride in its hospitality towards visitors.

Albina Maricris F. Enriquez of the Philippines told The China Post that she has made plans to visit Taiwan with her 68-year-old mother next week, for whom she is now worried, because they cannot get masks in their home country either.

The Philippines recorded the first death by the novel coronavirus outside China, the origin of the outbreak and where the majority of deaths have been reported, on Sunday (Feb. 2).

Commenters online have also expressed concerns for their health, calling the new plan upsetting and unnerving.

While global health experts work to better understand this new virus, reports so far lean towards that regular masks are not effective enough to block out the novel coronavirus.

Despite so, should the situation escalate in Taiwan, the new policy may raise the question as to whether tourists would become a loophole in the battle against the outbreak.

Read More from The China Post