CORONAVIRUS/Convenience stores, supermarkets to stop selling masks via NHI system

Convenience stores and supermarkets in Taiwan will discontinue the sale of locally made surgical face masks through the National Health Insurance (NHI) system, as demand via that channel has dropped sharply over the past few months, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday.

With an increase in supply and wide availability of face masks, sales through the NHI system have declined 82.5 percent since late last year, dropping from 189,000 pieces per day in late December 2020 to 33,000 in late August 2021, according to the CECC.

Acting on the CECC's advice, therefore, Premier Su Tseng-chang (???) has issued a directive for online pre-purchasing sites, convenience stores and supermarkets to stop selling face masks via the NHI system, the center said.

However, pre-ordering and sale of face masks at NHI-contracted pharmacies and health centers in remote areas will continue, to ensure supply to residents there, according to the CECC.

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sale of face masks through the NHI system was introduced in February 2020 to ration distribution to consumers, ensure universal access, and curb panic buying and hoarding, amid a shortage, according to Taiwan's government.

Under the system, holders of NHI cards were allowed to purchase 10 masks every two weeks.

The masks were available only through NHI-contracted pharmacies and health bureaus, four major convenience store chains, supermarkets and some online channels.

Taiwan still maintains a mask mandate for most public areas, but its production of masks has increased sharply since early 2020.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel