With the worsening 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in China, panic buying of face masks was spurred worldwide. In order to curb panic buying and the hoarding of face masks in Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced a name-based rationing system for face masks will be launched on February 6, 2020 to ensure universal access to face masks as well as fairness and transparency of resources allocation on February 3.
CECC pointed out highlights of the change in the sale of face masks:
1. Convenience stores will stop selling the face masks requisitioned by the government to fulfill livelihood needs starting from February 4.
2. The National Health Insurance Administration (NHI) will make some changes to national computer database and complete related tests in two days. Face masks will be distributed to 6,505 NHI contracted pharmacies or drugstores through postal services. Each drugstore or pharmacy will give out 200 adult face masks and 50 face masks for children whereas local district public health centers will perform the distribution in rural areas. The public can bring their (NHI) cards to purchase face masks starting from February 6. Each person is allowed to buy two masks per NHI card at a price of NT$10 in a week.
3. To reduce the queue for face masks, the policy allows the people whose ID card numbers end with an even number to buy masks on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and the people whose ID card numbers end with an odd number to buy masks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while everyone can buy them on Sundays. Furthermore, office workers and people with disabilities can ask their family members or friends to buy face masks on their behalf. However, each person is allowed to buy face masks for another person by presenting the person’s NHI card, and the abovementioned rules of purchase apply. Moreover, face masks for children are only allowed to be purchased when NHI cards of children under 12 are presented.
4. Regarding the elderly living alone and physically or mentally challenged people in need of face masks, local social welfare bureaus and public health bureaus will cooperate to provide face masks from the local government’s stockpile of face masks in order to prioritize them for these minority groups.
CECC emphasized that domestic experts have reiterated three appropriate situations where people should put on face masks: when visiting hospitals, accompanying patients and visiting patients; when people are sick with symptoms of respiratory infections; and when people with chronic diseases go outside. The healthy public and students don’t need to wear face masks. It is advised that face masks shall be prioritized for the people in great need of masks in order to maximize the efficacy of resources.