Minimal queues, thin crowds: First day of free mask collection largely proceeds without a hitch

Minimal queues, thin crowds: First day of free mask collection largely proceeds without a hitch

When the Hougang Community Club opened its doors at 2pm on Saturday (Feb 1) for the first day of mask collection, there were as many volunteers waiting as there were residents in line. Tan Si Hui reports.

SINGAPORE: When the Hougang Community Club opened its doors at 2pm on Saturday (Feb 1) for the first day of mask collection, there were as many volunteers waiting as there were residents in line.

“We had about 10 to 20 people in the queue in the first hour so we cleared that very fast,” said Community Club Management Committee chairman for Hougang SMC Joel Leong. “It was a very small queue ... We haven’t seen a big crowd (in the first two hours).”

These scenes were similar to those at other distribution centres across the island, during a largely uneventful first day of mask collection for members of the public.

Mask collection at Kampong Chai Chee Linear Green RC (3)
Residents collecting face masks at a Residents’ Committee centre on Feb 1, 2020. (Photo: Rauf Khan)

masks being distributed at Hougang
Face masks being distributed at Hougang Community Club on Feb 1, 2020. (Photo: Rauf Khan)

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Earlier in the week, it was announced that each Singapore household will receive four surgical face masks, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said, amid worries over the Wuhan coronavirus and long queues for masks at retailers across the island.

The masks – a pack of four sealed in a bag – will be progressively made available at 89 Community Centres (CCs) and 654 Residents' Committee (RC) centres, he said.

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Collection of the masks, which are free, is expected to be completed by Feb 9.

A total of 1,500 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel from Thursday packed 5.2 million surgical masks for distribution to the public.

In a Facebook update on Saturday, SAF said the packing of masks had been completed.

SAF also commended all personnel who worked around the clock to pack the masks for delivery to community centres and community clubs. 

residents entering or leaving rc after collecting their masks
A resident collecting face masks at a Residents’ Committee Centre in Woodlands, Feb 1, 2020. (Photo: Rauf Khan)

residents entering or leaving rc after collecting their masks (1)
A resident collecting face masks at a Residents’ Committee Centre in Woodlands, Feb 1, 2020. (Photo: Rauf Khan)

When CNA visited Woodlands Zone 1 Residents' Committee Centre at 1.30pm, distribution counters had been set up, with fewer than five residents milling about, hoping to secure a mask early.

Five minutes before distribution time, queues of about ten people had formed.

“I expected (a line of people) that’s why I came here to see my chances of getting it earlier,” said a resident who only wanted to be known as Mr Tan. “I came here to collect it just in case myself or my family members needed it, it’s nice to know that at least this is being issued.”

At the Kampong Chai Chee Linear Green Residents’ Network (RN) at Bedok, there was a steady stream of residents collecting masks but no queue when CNA visited at 5.30pm.

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RN chairman Jason Ng described the collection process as “orderly”.

“We thought there would be more people ... but end up it turned out quite okay,” he said. “This was because we staggered the collection time for different blocks ... We were worried it would be overcrowded in the first place, (so this was) to make sure that they come down in different timings.

“Initially it was slightly more but as time went by, the crowd is got lesser and lesser. It was quite orderly.”

Mask collection at Kampong Chai Chee Linear Green RC (2)
Residents collecting face masks at a Residents’ Committee Centre, Feb 1, 2020. (Photo: Rauf Khan)

While residents were pleased with the initiative, it was pointed out that four masks could potentially not be enough for larger families.

“There are times when we need to bring the kids to the hospital or clinic so this will come in handy,” said Mdm Ng Wei Ping, who has three children. “This initiative is good but it’s just that for my family, we have more than four people.”

At the Hougang Community Club earlier in the evening, only about 15 people collected masks within 40 minutes.

masks being distributed at Hougang (1)
Face masks being distributed at Hougang Community Club, Feb 1, 2020. (Photo: Rauf Khan)

Residents unable to collect masks at Hougang Community Club, Hougang Avenue 3 (2)
A resident at the mask distribution centre at Hougang Community Club. (Photo: Rauf Khan)

One of those who had collected the masks was Mr Tan Kim Keong.

“I expected there would be a lot of people at 2pm," said Mr Tan, who also echoed Mdm Ng's comments that more masks would have been useful. “I think most Singaporeans would have wanted to come later ... The process was quite fast.”

To find out when and where you should collect your set of masks, check maskgowhere.sg or call 1800-333-9999.

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Source: CNA/ga/zl

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