SINGAPORE: Singapore has ample supply of essential food and household items, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Friday (Feb 7), as he sought to reassure the public amid a surge in demand for groceries after the Government raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to Orange.
Empty shelves and trolleys loaded with items such as instant noodles, toilet paper and milk were seen at several supermarket stores across the country, with NTUC FairPrice reporting "a sudden surge in demand" for groceries and personal hygiene products.
"There is no need to rush for essential supplies like rice or instant noodles," said Mr Chan in a Facebook post.
"Our supply lines for these essentials are intact and there is no risk of us running a shortage of essential food or household items. We also have our national stockpile for essential items," he added.
He urged the public to exercise individual responsibility and not hoard items unnecessarily.
“This will create undue panic and is unhelpful to the situation at hand,” he said.
READ: Coronavirus outbreak: Singapore raises DORSCON level to orange; schools to suspend inter-school, external activities
TOILET PAPER, INSTANT NOODLES "EMPTIED" FROM SHELVES
Supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice on Friday reported that several stores experienced "high traffic", leaving some outlets temporarily short of stock.
Items including toilet paper, instant noodles and vegetables were “emptied from the shelves”, said FairPrice in a media release.
It said that it had available stock in its warehouses and was looking to re-stock stores “expeditiously”.
“Stocks for these items remain available and are being dispatched to the stores,” it said.
This comes as Singapore on Friday raised its DORSCON level to Orange from Yellow in light of the novel coronavirus situation.
Three new cases of novel coronavirus were confirmed on Friday, taking the total number of cases in the country to 33.
“As of today, we have seen a sudden surge in demand for groceries and personal hygiene products today, resulting in stores temporarily running short of stock in some instances,” said Group CEO of FairPrice Group Seah Kian Peng.
“We call for calm as supply of daily essentials remains available and there is no need to stockpile,” he said.
Mr Seah reiterated his call for calm in a Facebook post, cautioning that "if everyone starts to buy a lot more than what they need, there will never be enough".
"For the others who have not bought yet, give us some time to replenish the items. Let us look out and help each other and I am sure we can ride through this together," he added.
The supermarket chain has stepped up its cleaning regime for all stores and implemented measures such as making hand sanitisers available for customers to use in-store as well as twice-daily temperature screening for all staff members.
Masks have also been distributed to staff members to use if they feel unwell.
FairPrice said it employs an “ongoing strategy of source diversification” and works with suppliers from multiple countries to ensure a stable supply of daily essentials.
Another supermarket chain Sheng Siong said it had “sufficient inventory” in Singapore for food supplies and toiletries.
“Currently, we have sufficient inventory in Singapore for food supplies and toiletries to meet customers’ usual daily needs,” said a Sheng Siong spokesperson.
“We will be replenishing our stocks regularly, therefore customers do not need to over purchase on groceries and necessities,” it said, adding that its sources of supply are well-diversified.
Online supermarket RedMart appealed to customers not to "panic buy", saying it had seen a "sudden increase" in orders after the DORSCON level was raised.
"We are working on increasing our delivery capacity to ensure everyone can get their daily essentials on time - however, we need you to do your part too," said a notice on its website.
Customers who have already checked out and secured a delivery slot should use the site's "order amend" function if they want to add to an existing order, so that other people can secure delivery slots too, it said.
The online supermarket also said it was increasing its delivery capacity to ensure a "strong supply" of necessities.
"Do not panic buy," it said. "We have sufficient stock if everyone just buys what they need."
Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress Ng Chee Meng also called for calm, saying there was no need to "overbuy" essentials.
"My colleagues at NTUC FairPrice have told me that there has been a rush to stock up on groceries," he said in a Facebook post. "Photos are being circulated of empty shelves in several of our stores."
"Please rest assured that we will be replenishing the shelves soon. There’s no need to overbuy."