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Enough supply of essentials, Govt assures S’poreans after panic buying at supermarkets

SINGAPORE — The Government has come out to assure Singaporeans that there is an ample supply of essentials, after the raising of the risk assessment level of the novel coronavirus situation here sparked panic buying at supermarkets.

Shoppers at Fairprice Finest in Bukit Timah Plaza reaching out for toilet paper even before it got stocked in the shelves.

Shoppers at Fairprice Finest in Bukit Timah Plaza reaching out for toilet paper even before it got stocked in the shelves.

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SINGAPORE — The Government has come out to assure Singaporeans that there is an ample supply of essentials, after the raising of the risk assessment level of the novel coronavirus situation here sparked panic buying at supermarkets.

Photos of long queues and empty shelves at supermarkets have been circulating on social media after Singapore raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) alert level to Orange on Friday (Feb 7) afternoon. This refers to a situation in which a virus is spreading in Singapore but not widely, and is being contained.

Shoppers have also encountered difficulties buying groceries online due to high demand.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing sought to assure Singaporeans that there is no need to rush for essential supplies like rice or instant noodles. 

“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,” Mr Chan said in a Facebook post.

“However, we must all play our part, exercise individual responsibility and not hoard items unnecessarily. This will create undue panic and is unhelpful to the situation at hand.”

The NTUC FairPrice Finest outlet at Bukit Timah Plaza was a scene of long queues, shoppers pushing full trolleys and rows of empty shelves when TODAY visited on Friday evening.

Several items like antiseptic germicide, bleach and tissues were sold out. When one employee tried to restock toilet paper, shoppers took them off the crate before they even hit the shelves.

One staff member TODAY spoke to said the crowds started coming in from the afternoon.

He was stocking up vegetables meant for Saturday on a shelf, which was empty when TODAY visited.

Near empty shelves of toilet paper at FairPrice Finest in Bukit Timah Plaza. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY

But not all shoppers were there with the intention of stocking up.

Retiree Chia K S, 63, said he went there to buy milk powder for his grandchildren, after he heard that the alert had been raised, as well as fruit and vegetables because his family was having a party on Saturday. 

“I think it (raising the alert level) does create some unease among the general population. I suppose when you want to think about making these kind of alerts, you have to prepare for the expected reaction from the public.”

Another shopper, IT manager Anto Chew, 45, said that he was not planning to stock up initially.

“I see the crowd, since I have to queue so long, I added a few more items,” he said.

In a Facebook post, Mr Ng Chee Meng, secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said that NTUC FairPrice will be replenishing the shelves soon. “There’s no need to overbuy,” said the labour chief, who is also a Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

NTUC FairPrice said in a statement: “Several stores throughout the island experienced high traffic volume today where items like toilet paper, instant noodles and vegetables were emptied from the shelves. Stocks for these items remain available and are being dispatched to the stores.”

Mr Seah Kian Peng, Group CEO of FairPrice Group, said that the sudden surge in demand for groceries and personal hygiene products resulted in stores temporarily running short of stock in some instances.

“We have stocks and they are being replenished from our warehouse but if everyone starts to buy a lot more than what they need, there will never be enough,” said Mr Seah, who is also a Member of Parliament for Marine Parade Group Representation Constituency.

“Hence I hope we all stay calm and not get into this mode and behaviour. There really is no need to buy and stock up as we have supplies.”

Related topics

NTUC FairPrice supermarket Wuhan coronavirus

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