COVID-19: Singapore looking at new sources, local manufacturing for essential supplies such as masks

COVID-19: Singapore looking at new sources, local manufacturing for essential supplies such as masks

RC members preparing face masks for distribution (5)
Face masks packed for distribution by members of Woodlands Zone 1 Residents' Committee on Feb 1, 2020.

SINGAPORE: The Government is taking proactive steps to secure essential supplies, including masks, in light of tightened export regulations in other countries, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said on Tuesday (Feb 18).

In a written response to a parliamentary question from Ang Mo Kio MP Gan Thiam Poh, the ministry also said that the Government is strengthening the resilience of its supply chain.

This includes looking for new sources, and developing local manufacturing capabilities.

"In peacetime, we had built up a stockpile of surgical and N95 masks.  As we draw down on this stockpile, we will also need to replenish it with new supplies," said MND.  

"In recent weeks, some places like Taiwan, Thailand and India have banned or tightened regulations on the export of masks. We are therefore strengthening the resilience of our supply chain, including looking for new sources, and developing local manufacturing capabilities."

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Mr Gan had asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong about what lessons could be learnt from the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as what can be improved to better equip and prepare Singaporeans, including education in total defence against a pandemic outbreak.

Mr Gan also asked if the Government will include production of masks and other medical protective gears as a strategic facility and support of the investment of such a facility in Singapore.

MND referenced the various infectious disease outbreaks that Singapore has faced - SARS, H1N1, Zika and Monkeypox - and said that the lessons drawn from these past experiences had improved Singapore's readiness for the next outbreak.

"Over the years, we have strengthened our epidemiological surveillance and containment capabilities, and held regular emergency preparedness exercises to keep ourselves operationally ready," said MND, adding that the setting up of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) has enhanced Singapore's infrastructure and capabilities to manage a disease outbreak.

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MND said it alerted all healthcare institutions and put in place precautionary measures according to its response plans when COVID-19 emerged.

"Even before Singapore had its first confirmed case, we anticipated that we would need a whole-of-Government effort to respond effectively to this threat and we set up the Multi-Ministry Taskforce on Jan 22, 2020 to coordinate our responses and measures," said MND.

The Taskforce has since put in place a range of measures, from border controls to extra precautions within Singapore.

MND said that it recognises that an important part of Singapore's defence system is also the role that each individual plays, and encouraged Singaporeans to not behave irrationally, selfishly or irresponsibly due to fear.

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The importance of not spreading unverified information or false news was also highlighted by MND, as this can cause panic and fear. It said that the Government has and will continue to push timely information through various platforms, so that Singaporeans can easily refer to authoritative sources for news, health advisories and the latest updates.  

"We will continue to do everything we can, to keep Singaporeans safe, and to overcome this challenging situation together," said MND.

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Source: CNA/ic(mn)

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