Face masks have become a key fixture across the world as part of efforts aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Most countries in Africa have turned to local production to cater for needs of the population.
In Taipei City’s Xinyi District Health Center people take patiently to the queue. But they are not waiting to see a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
They’re here to use a vending machine. Taipei has started selling face masks in automated machines like this. A technological slant to a medical purchase.
The method lightens the workload of pharmacists who were spending precious time distributing the gear to people. The surgical masks are purchased through the Name-Based Mask Distribution System amid the COVID-19 epidemic.
“There has to be sets of equipment at certain places to help us implement the Name-Based Mask Distribution System and determine who can buy,” says Lu Hsin-ke, Commissioner at Taipei City Government’s Department of Information Technology.
“When a buyer is certified, allowed to buy and has paid, the buyer has to obtain the masks. Automatic mask vending machines can implement this whole procedure to make it even simpler with less or no workforce and more efficiency. They can also lower the risks of infection via human contact,” he added.
The Department of Information and Technology is in charge of putting up the mask vending machines. It has taken three weeks of intensive work with private sector companies to get the machines in place.
“Each machine is able to serve two people within one minute. Therefore, each machine can serve 1,100 customers a day. Taipei City Government has set a goal of serving 1,200 people in total (at each machine). Now, each machine’s performance is exceeding what we have been expecting. Their speed is really fast.”
Cheng, a Taipei city housewife, finds the vending machines helpful. “With these machines, we don’t have to line up in clinics (pharmacies). When it is your turn, you just have to insert a card, and you can buy your masks,” she says.
Each Taiwanese resident with a National Health Insurance card is allowed to buy a set of nine masks every 14 days from these vending machines or pharmacies.
The vending machines are part of a strategy by the authorities in Taiwan to reduce human contact between people.