As a result the face mask covers that prisons make can come in handy — they are used to cover surgical masks to extend their duration.
Yen Chih-hong, a Taipei Prison official who helps run the scheme, said inmates in the prison now make around 1,000 face masks daily, up from an initial 450 as orders keep increasing.
“They are very willing to work extra shifts to fill in the orders… sometimes I have to ask them to take a break,” he said.
Nearby Hong Kong, which is suffering widespread face masks shortages, has long used prison labour to make surgical masks, primarily for government and healthcare workers.
The operation there is far larger with prisoners able to churn out more than a million masks a month.
In recent weeks, prison staff have even joined inmates to bolster their ranks.
Last week, officials said they would launch an investigation after some of the prison made masks had made their way onto pharmacy shelves for sale.
by Sean Chang and Amber Wang
PICTURES BY SAM YEH/afp