People in Taiwan would be able to purchase 10 medical-grade masks every 14 days at NT$4 per mask through the government’s rationing program, likely starting from Jan. 1, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Wu Shou-mei (吳秀梅) said yesterday.
The current mask rationing program allows each person to buy nine masks per 14 days at NT$5 per mask by using their National Health Insurance card at contracted pharmacies or pre-order masks online through the National Health Insurance Administration’s mobile app before picking them up at chain retailers.
Wu told reporters during a telephone interview that as the material and production costs of medical-grade masks have dropped, and there is a stable and sufficient supply of masks in the nation, the government is considering allowing people to buy more masks at a lower price.
Mask production in the nation has reached about 35 million per day, which is much more than the 1.88 million per day in February, when the government began requisitioning medical-grade masks, she said.
The FDA has negotiated with the “national team” of mask manufacturers, which produce masks for the rationing program, about pre-packaging the masks into 10-piece packets at their factories before shipping them to pharmacies and chain retailers, Wu said.
Pharmacists and clerks at chain retailers have since February worked extra hard packaging the masks for the rationing program while also attending to customers, so the new mechanism would take some of the burden off their shoulders, she said.
However, the FDA is still checking with the manufacturers whether they could get their pre-packaging machines operating by the end of the year so that the policy can start on Jan. 1, she added.
Asked how many masks the government would continue to requisition from the companies and how long the mask rationing program would last, Wu said that these decisions are up to the Central Epidemic Command Center.
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