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'The kampung spirit is still alive': Punggol residents step up amid coronavirus outbreak

'The kampung spirit is still alive': Punggol residents step up amid coronavirus outbreak

A hand sanitiser and alcohol swabs in a lift at Block 261B, Punggol Way. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

SINGAPORE: In several HDB blocks in Punggol West, you can almost smell the kampung spirit in the air - through the faint scent of hand sanitisers and alcohol wipes in the lifts.

Amid fears that the novel coronavirus might spread widely in Singapore, some residents have taken steps to help prevent that.

The virus which originated in China has since killed more than 560 people and infected more than 20,000 globally.

Singapore announced this week that seven Singapore residents with no recent travel history to China had tested positive for the virus, including a six-month-old baby. This takes Singapore's total number of confirmed cases to 28.

Face masks and hand sanitisers have disappeared from store shelves, prompting the Government to release masks directly from the stockpile to households.

Hand sanitiser in a lift at Block 233C, Sumang Lane. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)


When CNA visited Punggol West on Wednesday (Feb 5), bottles of hand sanitisers and baskets of alcohol wipes were strapped to the railings in several lifts across multiple HDB blocks.

Handwritten notes encouraged residents to use or take the items.

"Use what you need," read one note.

"Please take one ... From your neighbour, with love," read another.

READ: Singaporeans have been 'pitching in' to deal with Wuhan coronavirus threat: Shanmugam


Residents told CNA that face masks were also available previously in the lifts.

"It's great, everyone provides these things to bring down the fear of the virus, it's a community effort," said Lawrence, a resident of Block 261B, Punggol Way.

The 40-year-old engineer said he believes there are at least two residents placing the sanitisers and wipes in the lifts, as the items appeared at different times.

"Even if you don't need or use the items, you feel a sense of security, and it makes you really feel the kampung spirit - if you have extra, why not share it?

"Who knows, when the sanitiser runs out, I might contribute too - if I can find any," said Lawrence.

"It's a pretty nice gesture, especially since it might be hard to get hand sanitisers now," said resident Leung Hoi Ki.

"Someone is willing to give one bottle away just so that everybody can use it. I feel that it is quite nice of them," Ms Leung added.

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


Speaking to CNA, Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Sun Xueling said that the actions of those residents reflect "the goodness in humanity".

"When things are organic and people really feel it and want to do it, that's when outcomes are best. It comes from the heart and doesn't have to be forced," said Ms Sun.

"It's not just the lifts, quite a few residents in Punggol West have been very kind to bring down or deliver food items (for volunteers giving out masks)," she added.

"In difficult times, the best and the worst in people come through," said Ms Sun. 

"And here, the goodness in humanity shines through - people caring about each other, sharing scarce resources, encouraging each other to be responsible towards community health."

READ: What we know about the locally transmitted coronavirus cases in Singapore


When he heard about the shortage of masks in Singapore, Punggol resident Adrian Tan knew he had to do something.

The 39-year-old and his 34-year-old wife Vy Chen were in Vietnam with their children over Chinese New Year when he heard how some people were reselling face masks for a profit.

"Having gone through SARS, we know it's crucial to prepare not only for our family and friends but the public too," said Mr Tan.

Mr Tan and his wife roped in the help of friends and family, visited multiple pharmacies over three days in Vietnam, and purchased more than 10,000 masks for about S$1,000. 

When Mr Tan and his family returned to Singapore, they organised their first giveaway at Punggol MRT station on Jan 31, distributing 4,000 masks.

They distributed the remaining 6,000 masks at Punggol MRT station on Feb 1.

Initially, Mr Tan limited the face masks to 10 per person, but later reduced it to five in order to accommodate more people.

His actions also prompted his wife's friends, also residents of Punggol, to contribute funds for newer batches of face masks.

An additional 7,000 masks were distributed on Feb 4, with another giveaway planned for Feb 8.

READ: Wuhan coronavirus: 1,500 SAF personnel packing 5.2m masks in 24-hour operation

Mr Tan says that the reaction from the public has been good, with many thanking him for his contribution.

"We believe that the kampung spirit is still alive, we just need to set an example," said Mr Tan.

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Source: CNA/ic


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