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Return of 'sense of normalcy' observed at supermarkets and shops, say ministers

Return of 'sense of normalcy' observed at supermarkets and shops, say ministers

Part of the refreshed NTUC FairPrice housebrand range at the official launch on Oct 8, 2019. (Photo: NTUC FairPrice)

SINGAPORE: The last few days have seen snaking queues, frenzied shopping and panic buying at supermarkets and shops across the island as Singaporeans stocked up amid the coronavirus outbreak.

But on Sunday (Feb 9), some shopkeepers and residents told ministers that a "sense of normalcy" has returned at the counter.

Ministers Chan Chun Sing and Desmond Lee were at a community walkabout at Jurong West, joined by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister of State Sam Tan and Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling.

They visited the Jurong West 505 Market and Food Centre, shops and eateries to gather feedback from patrons and stallholders, particularly on the situation of panic buying.  

Reports of people stocking up on groceries and personal hygiene items have surfaced since the Government raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to Orange over the global coronavirus outbreak on Friday.  

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, along with the authorities and the supermarkets came out to assure the public that Singapore had ample stockpile of essentials.  

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said that residents have told him they felt assured there is enough stock of household essentials. 

He said shop owners and supermarket representatives have also told him they are able to meet demand.  

READ: ‘Buy what you need, no need to create your own stockpile’: FairPrice Group CEO

READ: FairPrice imposes purchase limits for paper products, rice and instant noodles amid coronavirus outbreak

From Sunday, Fairprice also implemented limits on paper products, rice and instant noodles for customers.

In a notice put up at stores across Singapore on Sunday morning, FairPrice said the purchase limits were put in place “to ensure more customers have access to high demand items”. 

The S$50 limit for vegetables also remained in place. 

Ministers Chan Chun Sing, Desmond Lee and Tharman Shanmugaratnam during a community walkabout at Jurong West on Sunday Feb 9, 2020. (Photo Rachel Phua)


Speaking to reporters, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said: “Major suppliers like NTUC Fairprice and Sheng Siong, they have doubled, if not tripled the number of supply runs that they're doing."

“So today, you can see that actually most of the essential items are back on the shelves.” 

Mr Chan also reiterated Singapore’s four-pronged stockpile strategy.

This includes having sufficient reserve of food items, diversifying food sources, having local production capabilities, and working with regional partners to secure supply lines., he added.

Mr Chan also said that it is important for residents to remain calm at this juncture, and that Singaporeans must take care of the vulnerable and not just themselves.

As of Saturday evening, Singapore had seven new cases of novel coronavirus, taking the country's tally to 40. 

Globally, more than 37,000 have been infected and at least 800 have been killed by the coronavirus outbreak, surpassing the death toll of the the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic.

READ: PM Lee urges Singapore to take courage amid coronavirus outbreak, see through stressful time together

“If in a crisis all of us only care for ourselves, and it's only the strong taking care of themselves, then I think it will be a bad testimony to the kind of society that we want,” Mr Chan said.

On bad behaviour displayed by some shoppers, he said that it “undermine(s) our reputation in the international community” as other countries are looking at how Singapore is responding to the situation.  

“If we don't do this collectively, we undermine the international confidence in our system, in our society, and that will have long term implications,” he said.  

One of the priorities right now is to make sure that the vulnerable and the old are able to meet their needs, particularly on securing medical supplies, Mr Chan said, sharing an example of diabetic patients who were not able to purchase alcohol swabs for their insulin jabs.  

Giving an update on the collection of masks, Mr Lee said that nationwide, about 54 per cent of households have collected theirs so far. 

Remaining stock after the end-February collection deadline will be given to vulnerable communities.  

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Source: CNA/mn


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