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Panic buying expected given effects of social media, S’poreans ‘must learn to take care of each other’: Chan

SINGAPORE — The panic buying seen at several supermarkets across Singapore on Friday (Feb 7) evening after the risk assessment level of the novel coronavirus situation here was raised did not come as a surprise to the authorities, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Saturday (Feb 8).

A customer at Fairprice Finest in Bukit Timah Plaza looking at a shelf that was nearly emptied of flour.

A customer at Fairprice Finest in Bukit Timah Plaza looking at a shelf that was nearly emptied of flour.

SINGAPORE — The panic buying seen at several supermarkets across Singapore on Friday (Feb 7) evening after the risk assessment level of the novel coronavirus situation here was raised did not come as a surprise to the authorities, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Saturday (Feb 8). 

Speaking to reporters after attending Saturday’s Thaipusam festival, Mr Chan said the reaction among a “small segment of Singaporeans” was expected. 

This is especially so in today’s context where the use of social media is rampant, he added. 

Photos of long queues and empty shelves at supermarkets went viral after Singapore raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) alert level to Orange on Friday (Feb 7) afternoon, prompting Mr Chan and several other political office holders to take to Facebook to urge calm.

An Orange alert refers to a situation in which a virus is spreading in Singapore but not widely, and is being contained. The alert was raised after the Ministry of Health announced three new confirmed coronavirus cases, all of them local ones without any apparent links to previous cases or travel history to China. 

Despite some shoppers expressing general unease at the situation, Mr Chan said on Saturday that he was also heartened by the fact that a large majority of Singaporeans were “calm and rational”. 

“In fact, since last night we hear many people on social media urging people not to indulge such behavior because it really harms those people who really need the supplies, especially for the medical supplies,” he added. 

Mr Chan also added that many Singaporeans have displayed “the best of the Singapore spirit” by coming forward to thank the cashiers and supermarket staff constantly working behind the scenes to restock the empty shelves. 

When TODAY visited the NTUC Fairprice Finest supermarket at Bukit Timah Plaza on Friday, there were long queues, shoppers pushing trolleys that were filled to the brim and rows of empty shelves. 

Several items like tissue paper, toilet rolls and antiseptic germicide were sold out. 

“I think through all these episodes we hope that there are more Singaporeans that will come forward and help take care of one another instead of succumbing to the fear for themselves only. Because for us to get through this crisis, we must make sure that we do it collectively as one people,” said Mr Chan. 

Separately, in a Facebook post on Saturday, Mr Chan thanked all supermarket staff who worked through the night to replenish food items and household supplies that were swept off the shelves on Friday. 

“In times of uncertainty, it is natural that we want to protect ourselves and the ones that we love. However I urge all of us to think of the larger communities we belong to. Hoarding means that we deprive others of things that they really need. That could be your neighbour who needs to buy rice for her children’s meals or even organisations looking after the vulnerable who require cleaning supplies,” he wrote on Facebook. 

He also reiterated that there are enough supplies in Singapore for everyone.

FAIRPRICE RAMPS UP SUPPLIES, DELIVERIES

In a press release on Saturday, FairPrice said it has ramped up its delivery schedule over the weekend to cater to the sudden surge in demand, following Friday’s Dorscon Orange announcement.

The co-operative said that daily essentials like toilet paper, instant noodles and rice saw demand surge by as much as five times on Friday compared to the week before.

The sudden increase resulted in a bottleneck of deliveries to stores, causing a temporary shortage of products in the evening, with several stores emptied of their shelves, FairPrice added.

To cater to the expected high demand over the weekend, FairPrice said it has tripled the volume of daily essentials being sent to its stores. Delivery trips have also been doubled.

It said it is also working with suppliers from multiple countries to ensure customers have a stable supply of daily essentials at affordable prices.

Prices of daily essentials, meanwhile, will be kept stable in an effort to deter profiteering during this period, added FairPrice.

Related topics

Chan Chun Sing Wuhan virus Fairprice Dorscon

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