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Panic buying will undermine international confidence in Singapore: Chan Chun Sing

SINGAPORE — The panic buying at supermarkets will signal to other countries that Singaporeans cannot react well in times of crisis and could be taken advantage of in the future, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing warned on Sunday (Feb 9).

Panic buying will undermine international confidence in Singapore: Chan Chun Sing

Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development Sun Xueling at Project 100=50, an initiative by Heartwarmers Volunteer Group, where low- and middle-income households can come and buy S$100 worth of household products for S$50.

SINGAPORE — The panic buying at supermarkets will signal to other countries that Singaporeans cannot react well in times of crisis and could be taken advantage of in the future, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing warned on Sunday (Feb 9).

For the third time in three days, Government leaders have come out to address the supermarket shopping frenzy among some Singaporeans which started after the alert level for the coronavirus outbreak was raised to Orange on Friday.

Mr Chan was speaking to reporters at a community event at Jurong Spring, where he was joined by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development Sun Xueling.

While emphasising the need for Singaporeans to stay calm during the global health crisis, Mr Chan said that the irresponsible behaviour displayed by the panic buyers will undermine Singapore’s reputation in the international community.

“Many countries are facing the same situation, and everybody is also looking at how the respective countries respond to the situation… If (we do not respond) collectively, we will undermine the international confidence in our system and in our society, and that will have long-term ramifications,” he said.

One potential consequence, Mr Chan warned, is that suppliers and retailers who observe the panic buying might take advantage of the situation and jack up prices of goods.

This is already happening here, he said, citing examples of shop owners selling a bundle of five instant noodle packets for over S$20. Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng had also put up a Facebook post on Saturday about a retailer who marked up the prices of N95 masks to S$138 for 20 pieces, more than triple the usual price.

“Singaporeans should have the confidence that we do not need to succumb to the ploys of errant retailers... as we have enough stock,” Mr Chan said.

This is why the authorities will not publicly reveal the amount of rice available in the national stockpile, despite calls from some to do so, as disclosing such information will undermine Singapore’s collective interests, he added.

Mr Chan also reassured Singaporeans that there are enough essentials and food items as aside from the national stockpile, the authorities also ensure that food items are sourced from diverse places.

He referenced FairPrice Group CEO Seah Kian Peng’s comment on Saturday on the amount of toilet rolls the supermarket chain has in its warehouse.

“We have about 10 million toilet rolls but we only have five million Singaporeans and residents here, right? So we have more than enough… We must make sure that we prioritise the supplies to those who need it the most and not just take it all for ourselves,” Mr Chan said.

In particular, he said, Singaporeans should not hoard medical supplies as snapping up products such as alcohol swabs may endanger those who need them the most.

‘SENSE OF NORMALCY’ RESTORED

Overall, a sense of normalcy seems to have been restored among residents the MPs met, although they are aware that they need to take extra precautions, Mr Lee said.

“Of course there were some people who were a little unhappy by the rush yesterday… but today they felt reassured that the supermarkets near their homes are being restocked and there is a sense that life will carry on as per normal,” he said.

Mr Chan added: “In fact many of the people in the coffee shops and the markets were expressing their disappointment on some of the irresponsible behaviour of some Singaporeans.”

Separately, the Government will ensure that processes are strengthened after a Ministry of Health press release was leaked on Friday prior to the announcement that the virus situation alert would be raised to Orange.

The press release was circulated on social media and through messaging platforms such as WhatsApp hours before the announcement was officially made.

Mr Chan said that in a crisis, information has to be shared with as many agencies as possible so that they can respond quickly.

The agencies will continue to do this, but will remind staff that they have a professional responsibility not to prematurely share information that has not been finalised, Mr Chan added.

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Wuhan Wuhan virus coronavirus panic buying supermarket

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