Taiwan's Face Mask Rationing System Comes Under Fire

Mainland-produced non-medical masks found in Taiwan's mask rationing system . . . 

Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration revealed on Thursday that Carry Hi-tech Co, one of the participating manufacturers in the country’s much-lauded mask-rationing system, was found to have supplied over 3 million non-medical grade masks produced in mainland China, which were repackaged and relabeled with the company’s logo. A probe into Carry Hi-tech and another unnamed mask manufacturer are ongoing. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has called the behaviour “absolutely unforgivable” and severely damaging to the credibility of the face mask rationing scheme. The government has ordered Carry Hi-tech to halt all operations, and arrangements are being made for customers who purchased the Carry Hi-tech masks to return them for replacement.

Broader issues of public safety?

Carry Hi-tech’s owner said his company’s actions were motivated by a steep production quota, and that he was not selling Mainland-made masks to profit. He also argued that the masks are of ‘industrial grade’ and offer an even higher level of protection. Nevertheless, the incident has sparked public concern and debate about the Taiwanese government’s ability to ensure quality and public safety. Many are linking the mask incident to the recent announcement about easing restrictions on U.S. pork imports containing ractopamine. This additive, which enhances the meat leanness, has been banned in Taiwan since 2006. Critics have questioned Tsai’s government for loosening food safety standards in exchange for a potential trade deal with the U.S.

Canada also facing mask, PPE challenges . . .

While Taiwan’s mask rationing scheme and its broader pandemic management effort has received much international acclaim, the incident highlights a significant challenge in designing and administering successful public health responses. Canada has experienced personal protective equipment (PPE) supply problems of its own, having to rely on importing N95 and surgical masks early in the pandemic. As Ottawa works to decrease reliance on imported PPE, such as recently signing a mask production contract with Montreal-based company AMD Medicom, there are lessons for the federal and provincial governments to take from Taiwan’s ongoing controversy.