Two Taiwanese soldiers may face up to 10 years in prison for stealing face masks as demand for them rises amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s Defense Ministry had mobilized its forces in February to boost the production of masks in the early stages of the pandemic.

The soldiers were deployed to a mask factory in New Taipei City to supervise a mask production line, daily Taiwan News reported.

But prosecutors in the capital Taipei alleged Monday the soldiers “teamed up” to steal a total of 6,000 face masks.

The duo is being investigated for “stealing public assets and corruption”.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Tuesday that the island nation has donated nearly 51 million surgical masks worldwide.

“We even had to give these supplies quietly in some locations to free the recipients from trouble. Yes, trouble from Beijing,” Wu said before his meeting with visiting US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

This is the highest-level visit by any US official in last the 41 years since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979.

Taiwan has reported only 480 coronavirus cases since the outbreak receiving international praise for its management of the pandemic. Seven people have died due to the COVID-19.

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