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Government taking steps to guarantee surgical face mask supply: Premier

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Premier Su Tseng-chang speaks to reporters at the Central Epidemic Command Center on Wednesday/Photo courtesy of CNA

Taipei, Jan. 29 (CNA) Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang on Wednesday said the government is taking measures to guarantee the domestic supply of surgical face masks, and urged the public not to hoard masks amid fears over the spread of a new form of coronavirus.

During a visit to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Su said the Ministry of Health and Welfare will release 23 million masks onto the market in the coming days, and has prohibited their export as a precautionary measure.

Combined with the government's efforts, manufacturers will increase daily production of masks to 4 million following the Lunar New Year holiday, Su said.

The premier's remarks follow the CECC's confirmation Tuesday night of Taiwan's first domestic case of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-cCoV).

According to the CECC, the man, in his 50s, is believed to have contracted the virus from his wife, who returned from the Chinese city of Wuhan Jan. 20 and was diagnosed with the virus on Monday.

The husband, who began to show symptoms on Sunday before testing positive for the virus on Tuesday, is the eighth confirmed case of the virus in Taiwan, and the first one with no recent travel record to China.

Regarding the possibility that the CECC could raise its response level, in which case the premier would personally assume control of the command center, Su said conditions did not currently justify such a move.

Echoing remarks made by Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung the day before, Su said the sole domestic case was spread in a family setting, and not through the public sphere, as is required to raise the CECC's response to its maximum level.

Separately on Wednesday, contract electronics maker Foxconn said that it had set up an internal epidemic response center to deal with potential impacts of the coronavirus.

The company, which operates in dozens of locations across China, said it is undertaking response measures including deploying medical supplies, carrying out employee training, and setting up health observation areas at each of its Chinese factories.

The virus is not expected to affect manufacturing timelines, the company said.

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