Parliament: Circuit breaker measures may be extended if coronavirus situation not under control, says Chan Chun Sing

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Tampines Mall on April 6, 2020. Most workplaces and retail outlets will be closed from April 7 as part of Singapore's "circuit breaker" measures. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Circuit breaker measures that take effect this week may be extended beyond May 4 if the spread of the coronavirus is not controlled over the next month, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (April 6).

And Mr Chan stressed that the success of the containment measures depends heavily on Singaporeans.

"If we all remain united, if we all take the measures seriously, and if we are successful in controlling the spread in the next one month, then we will be able to progressively resume normalcy and to reduce the impact of the measures," said Mr Chan.

"On the other hand, if we do not take the measures seriously, and if in the next one month we are unable to control the situation, then that might require us to extend the period which such measures are necessary, and that will inflict even greater damage to our economy."

He added: "So it's in our collective interest to try our best to work together, bear with the inconveniences in the coming month, but let us get over this part together... Otherwise, it becomes recurring waves of infections that we have to deal with, and it will be very difficult for us to gradually, progressively, attain normalcy."

He was responding to a series of questions in Parliament from Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) about the impact of the enhanced measures and the adequacy of Singapore's stockpile of goods and essential items like protective equipment for healthcare workers.

Mr Chan explained that the size of Singapore's stockpile is determined by a range of factors such as our consumption rate, supply chain reliability, resupply rate and frequency, shelf life of the products and the cost of storage, the duration of possible disruptions and Singapore's own production surge capacities. He reiterated reassurances that the country has enough to meet its needs.

"For food, we have a strategy developed over many years that entails a combination of stockpiling, import diversification, and local production," he said.

He added that Singapore is working with like-minded partners to ensure that trade continues to flow unimpeded, and that critical infrastructure such as the air and sea ports remain open to support supply chains globally.

He also highlighted a joint ministerial statement with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Myanmar, New Zealand, Laos and Uruguay, affirming their collective commitment to ensuring supply chain connectivity to facilitate the flow of goods including essential supplies. He also shared about last week's Group of 20 Trade Ministers Meeting, where countries agreed to work together to maintain global productions systems and trade links, and engendering long-term confidence in investors, businesses and consumers.

But on the adequacy of supplies as well, Mr Chan stressed that Singaporeans had a part to play.

"Panic buying severely disrupts the usual consumption rate and our stockpile efforts. No amount of stockpile will ever be sufficient if individuals hoard."

He also said that domestic last mile logistics from the warehouses to the retailers can be disrupted by panic buying: "We will have to mobilise logistic players from other sources to restock our supplies, in turn impacting those supply chains and creating a cascading effect. The compounding disruptions further increase fear and heighten the possibilities of more irrational behaviours. If we are not careful, it becomes a self-fulfilling and self-feeding frenzy."

Ms Cheng had also asked about Singapore's own capacity to manufacture masks and reports of other countries trying to hijack masks.

Mr Chan said that Singapore is building up its own ability to manufacture masks, though he said it was not yet appropriate to talk about the capacity.

He also said that Singapore's position was to keep working with other countries to keep supply chains open rather than resort to protectionism.

"It makes more sense for all of us to work together to keep the supply chains open. It benefits not just us, it benefits everybody. But when every country starts to shut down their own production system only for themselves, actually it reduces the entire global capacity."

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