Taipei, Feb. 13 (CNA) The Taiwan government said Thursday that it will continue to requisition all domestically produced surgical masks and maintain its ban on their export until the end of April.
The ban on the export of disposable surgical masks was imposed Jan. 24 and was due to end Feb. 23, while the government requisitioning of the product was scheduled from Jan. 31 to Feb. 15, as part of the efforts to ensure a steady domestic supply amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
On Thursday, however, Vice Economics Minister Wang Mei-hua told reporters that the government's requisitioning of surgical masks and ban on their export will continue until the end of April.
If the coronavirus situation improves, those measures may be lifted earlier, she added.
Currently, all commercial exports of surgical masks are banned, and members of the public are also prohibited from mailing masks overseas.
The penalty for violation of the ban is confiscation of the masks and a fine of up to three times their value.
Faced with a shortage of surgical masks amid the coronavirus outbreak, the government has also been requisitioning and distributing domestically produced supplies to healthcare workers and professionals and to 6,000 pharmacies and drugstores for regulated sale to consumers.
Under the government rationing system, Taiwanese and foreign nationals are allowed to buy two masks per week, with sales staggered based on the last digit of the ID number on their national health insurance (NHI) card, Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) or entry permit.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, masks are sold to people whose ID numbers end with an odd digit, while Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are for those with even-digit last numbers on their ID.
On Sundays, anyone can buy the masks, which cost NT$5 (US$0.16) apiece.
To date, there have been 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Taiwan, while more than 60,000 cases and 1,360 deaths have been reported worldwide, mostly in China, where the disease originated.