[Daily Observation] Hunting surgical masks: Taiwan’s restrictions on surgical mask.

To buy or not to buy? That’s a question.

On January 20, the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV, also known as Wuhan pneumonia) broke out in China. On January 23, Wuhan city was locked down as they tried to block the virus’s spread. At the same time, Taiwan faced a shortage of surgical masks.

Surgical mask has become the most popular gift and buzzwords of the — year. People greet by “Have you bought masks yet?” instead of “Happy New Year” in Taiwan.

On January 22, I had a lunch date with a friend. -On my way to the subway, I dropped by a convenience store and bought two protective masks.

It was the last time that I bought masks. After that day, I can’t get anymore.

Masks sold out in every supermarket

A good reason to become a couch potato

On January 23, the New Year holidays just began. Instead of images of new year’s celebrations around the island, all news broadcasts were about Coronavirus’s outbreaks and preventive measures. I began to worry…just a little. Since I still have more than 20 new masks in stock, I decided not to take any action particular: I didn’t rush out to join the panic buying of masks or disinfection products.

On January 24th, the Taiwan government announced a one-month ban on the export of medical masks, for overseeing the shortage of supply and putting first priority on Taiwan people’s needs . Thus another war started, not in the hospital but on the internet, not against the virus but each other. Some people blamed the decree (mostly based on humanism concern), while others cheered for it. And I still couldn’t find any mask available in stores nearby.

So I determined to be a couch potato during the holidays with this good reason. No family visits, no trip, no virus. I had my whole new year with only my food, my laptop, and my buildup fat.

To buy or not to buy? Wear it or not? That’s the question.

On January 28th, the limitation of buying a maximum of three masks per person was declared. Although the government has controlled the supply nationwide, it was simply not way enough. No matter how hard you tried to buy a mask in pharmacies and stores, all you found is “Sold Out” notices.

Taiwan government has been managing to secure the supply, allocation, and market prices at the earliest stage. But as soon as the purchase restriction came out, it felt like that people “should” to buy it. If I don’t buy it, do I “waste my quota”? What if people who really need masks still can’t find any left? If I don’t buy one today, what should I do if I need it later and can’t find anymore? Every day I wondered.

As panic buying of face masks griped Taiwan, Central Epidemic Command Center call for healthy people’s mask-off to free up the supply for those in need, especially the sick and the medical staffs . However, there are still many people with mask on streets.

People line up at drugs store to buy masks.

Being strong and healthy.

Another key to protect against the new type of coronavirus is to frequently wash one’s hands with soap, so hand sanitizer and disinfectant alcohol were also out of stock in a short time. Fortunately, I got a bottle of disinfectant alcohol to clean my house. Also I try my best to take good care of my body. After all, no matter whether I am infected, a healthy body is the most important thing!

On February 6th, the Taiwan government launched a new rationing practice with a real-name system as well as a 7-day purchase limit. Still hard to say it can solve the problem, after all, each pharmacy is allotted 100 pieces only.

The government is fully committed to the prevention and control of the Wuhan coronavirus in Taiwan and called on the public to pay attention to proper hygiene and cooperate with government epidemic prevention measures. Then appealed for the public to leave the face masks to those most in need.

Some friends heard that I don’t have a stock of masks at home, generously gave me some, which was really the most heartwarming gift in 2020.





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Gina Hsu

Gina Hsu


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