SINGAPORE: The panic buying situation that was seen after Singapore raised its coronavirus risk assessment level last week has stabilised, although some outlets may not be fully stocked yet due to manpower and logistics issues, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.
Even so, Singapore's supply chain remains robust and the major retailers should resume "normal stock levels in a day or two", he said at a press conference on Wednesday (Feb 12).
During the surge in demand, retailers had to move stock very quickly from the warehouse into their stores, he said.
Many of them activated extra people to stock shelves and contracted additional logistics companies to support their operations, Mr Wong added.
Many people had to work overtime as well in order to make sure shelves were restocked, said Mr Wong, as he thanked those involved for stepping up their response.
Last week, Singapore raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) to Orange after clusters of the coronavirus surfaced locally.
This prompted a "wave of panic buying", said Mr Wong. Stores in Singapore saw a sudden surge in demand for groceries, leaving some shops temporarily out of stock.
But the fact that Singapore was able to meet that sudden demand proves that its diversification strategy is able to protect the system from any sudden shocks, Mr Wong said.
"So we just want to continue to assure Singaporeans that our supply chains, when it comes to food and grocery items, remain robust. Our diversification strategy ensures that we are protected from any sudden shocks," he said.
"We were able to meet that demand. It was simply a matter of getting the supplies out from the warehouse into the retail outlets, and the supply chain that we have remain robust," he added.
PANIC "SPREADS FASTER" ON SOCIAL MEDIA THAN THE TRUTH
Authorities can understand why people were concerned and anxious, said the minister, but the response from the public last week demonstrates the challenges in conveying "accurate information" to the public in such situations.
"When we went around asking, there was some misunderstanding, or even a lack of clarity around what was going on, what DORSCON Orange meant, despite our best efforts at explaining to all of you," he told reporters.
"We briefed editors beforehand, but you know, in times like this, it just goes to show how challenging it is to get accurate information out," he said.
"In today's world of social media, fear, uncertainty and panic spreads a lot faster on social media than the truth, which is boring and nobody wants to share."
READ: Coronavirus outbreak: Singapore raises DORSCON level to Orange; schools to suspend inter-school, external activities
The authorities will "double down" on efforts to "continue to push out information in a timely manner".
"We are doing daily briefings now to the media. We hope all of you will help us too, to get the information across," he told reporters.
The Government will disseminate any information it has that is "relevant and useful", said the minister.
However, if it is something it does not know about or is unable to make an accurate assessment of, "we will have to be honest and we will tell you that we do not know," he added.
He gave the example of people asking how the novel coronavirus situation will unfold in the coming days and weeks.
"The honest answer is – it is still too early to tell," said Mr Wong. "We really can't say whether it will get better, whether it will get worse, what sort of situation is going to unfold."
As Singapore steps up its surveillance and does more testing of cases, the country can expect to see more cases coming up "in the coming days and weeks", he said.
DON'T SPECULATE ABOUT WHETHER DORSCON WILL CHANGE COLOUR
The minister also spoke about the DORSCON framework, saying that people should not speculate about when the colour-coded framework will change.
"Let's not get into this thing about speculating, anticipating, worrying whether it's going to turn from Orange to Red, which I think to some extent happened when it went from Yellow to Orange, and then it created that sense of panic and concern," he said.
The focus instead should be on the measures put in place, because each colour can contain a range of measures.
"We are in Orange, and within Orange we can put in place a whole range of measures that are more than what we have today," he said.
Singapore authorities on Wednesday confirmed three new cases of the novel coronavirus, taking the total number of people who have tested positive in Singapore to 50. Eight of them are in critical condition.
Six more patients have been discharged, the authorities said on Wednesday, meaning that 15 people have fully recovered.