Taiwan hospitals, clinics get extra face masks amid dwindling supplies

Hospitals usually maintain a safety reserve of 15 days of face masks, but reserves had fallen to seven days or less at several hospitals, according to local media. (CNA)
Hospitals usually maintain a safety reserve of 15 days of face masks, but reserves had fallen to seven days or less at several hospitals, according to local media. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s hospitals and clinics began receiving an additional 850,000 medical grade face masks a day on Tuesday to help rebuild depleted stocks amid coronavirus fears that have led to government rationing of the masks.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said on Facebook that daily mask production has risen to 4.2 million a day from 3.2 million previously, and the daily quota sent to hospitals and other medical institutions rose to 1.7 million a day on Tuesday from 850,000 previously.

Of that, about 1.2 million a day are being allocated to hospital staff (including medical workers, cleaners, interns and health care administrators who come in contact with patients) and 370,000 are going to clinic staff, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday.

A traveler pulls a suitcase at Taiwan Taoyan International Airport. (CNA)
A traveler pulls a suitcase at Taiwan Taoyan International Airport. (CNA)

Hospitals usually maintain a safety reserve of 15 days of face masks, but reserves had fallen to seven days or less at several hospitals, according to local media.

The head of the CECC, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), said the government is hoping to rebuild those stocks to 15 days with the additional supply, and at least maintain them at a minimum of seven to eight days.

The reserve standard for Western and Chinese medicine clinics and dentists is seven days, and the government is hoping to maintain reserves of at least three to four days of face masks at those facilities, the CECC said.

The remaining 130,000 masks will be distributed to people with chronic diseases and patients with special needs, according to the MOEA.

No additional masks will be allocated for use by the general public, who can buy two masks per week under a rationing program that began Feb. 6 and was scheduled to end Feb. 15

According to the Central Epidemic Command Center, those under "home quarantine" will receive daily health-check calls from their ward chief, and will also be under electronic surveillance through their cell phones. (CNA)
According to the Central Epidemic Command Center, those under “home quarantine” will receive daily health-check calls from their ward chief, and will also be under electronic surveillance through their cell phones. (CNA)

When asked whether the rationing program would be extended, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said Tuesday it will remain in place pending a government review of the mask supply and demand and the epidemic situation.

Meanwhile, to boost face mask output, 1,800 soldiers were dispatched to help 28 factories pump out more masks from Feb. 3 to 11, according to Ministry of National Defense data, and they will continue to be deployed to further strengthen production.

The MOEA has also invested NT$200 million (US$6.6 million) to buy production equipment to help manufacturers build up capacity to 10 million face masks a day by early March.

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