Coronavirus: Singapore has robust strategy to ensure it doesn't run out of essentials, says Chan Chun Sing after Malaysia restricts movement

Shoppers at a supermarket in Serangoon North after midnight on March 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN
Shoppers queue up at a supermarket in Clementi after midnight on March 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Shoppers queueing up to buy food products at Bukit Panjang NTUC on March 16, 2020. Many flocked to supermarkets following Malaysia's announcement of new measures to restrict movement nationwide. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Shoppers at NTUC in Block 414, Yishun Ring Road on March 16, 2020. Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said the Republic is not facing any immediate risks of running out of food or other supplies brought in by retailers. ST PHOTO: FABIAN KOH
Shoppers buying food products at Bukit Panjang NTUC on March 16, 2020. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - The Republic has a robust multi-pronged strategy that will ensure the country does not run out of the essentials it needs, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday night (March 16).

This is on top of building up the country's inventory of food and essential supplies, he said on Facebook.

He gave this assurance following concerns among Singaporeans over the implications of Malaysia's announcement earlier on Monday that it will restrict all movement throughout the country from Wednesday until March 31 to prevent further spread of the coronavirus within the country.

All Malaysians will be barred from travelling abroad. For those who are returning from overseas, they must undergo a health inspection and undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.

There will also be a ban on all foreign tourists and visitors.

Photos of queues at various supermarkets here on Monday evening started circulating online after Malaysia's announcement, with shoppers snapping up food products and daily necessities.

Mr Chan added that the Republic is not facing any immediate risks of running out of food or other supplies brought in by retailers.

He explained that this is because the Singapore Government has been actively working with supermarket chains such as NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong and Dairy Farm to increase the country's stock of food and essential supplies over the last two months.

On ensuring the country does not run out of essentials, Mr Chan said that Singapore has local production capabilities for products such as noodles, infant milk powder and canned goods among others.

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"In the event that we need to increase supply for our domestic consumption, we can ramp up quickly and easily to do so," he said.

"We have also continued to diversify our sources of essential goods, for example we get a good amount of vegetables from China and even go as far as Australia and Spain to secure our supply of eggs."

Even so, Mr Chan urged Singaporeans to continue to purchase in a responsible manner and to purchase only what they need. "Otherwise, no amount of stockpiling will be sufficient."

On Monday night, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced movement restrictions on the country, from Wednesday until March 31.

Shoppers queueing at Giant supermarket in Toa Payoh on March 16, 2020. ST PHOTO: LINETTE LAI

Mr Muhyiddin urged Malaysia to abide by the restrictions, adding that the country's national security council will meet daily to monitor the situation.

He also said that food and medical supplies including face masks will be sufficient.

The limits include a ban on mass gatherings, including religious, sports, social and cultural events.

With the latest development in Malaysia, Mr Chan said that businesses that employ Malaysian workers who commute between Singapore and Malaysia daily may have to activate their business continuity plans.

"If they need assistance, they should contact our economic agencies who stand ready to assist," he said, adding that Singapore will also continue to stay in touch with Malaysia, and to ensure that businesses and people are able to continue with their lives and livelihoods.

"I am aware that many of these new restrictions and announcements may be quite overwhelming for many people. I ask for your continued trust and support as we work hard with all stakeholders to ensure that we get through these short-term challenges together," said Mr Chan.

For now, consumers like Madam Catherine Heng, 50, are worried about Malaysia's restrictions but also note that it lasts about two weeks.

She decided to stock up for the weekend just to be on the safe side, buying potatoes, carrots, spinach and a tray of eggs.

"You can't keep fresh vegetables for too long anyway - the only things that can keep are the potatoes and carrots," she said.

Another shopper, who only wanted to be known as Madam Ng, said she went to a FairPrice outlet in Yishun to stock up on essential supplies as she was afraid the Malaysia restrictions would result in a supply cut.

Madam Ng, who works in telecommunications, went to the supermarket with her daughter and two sons after reading about Malaysia's move, and said that among the things she bought were two 10kg bags of rice.

"When we came at about 11pm, it was not so crowded. But the crowd suddenly grew very big," she said, adding that she will return on Tuesday to stock up on vegetables which were not available.

Mr Kelvin Sin, 38, said he rushed down to the FairPrice outlet near his Yishun home with his brother on hearing the news.

"Everyone feels nervous. We are afraid we can't get supplies of things like fresh meat," he said.

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Financial analyst Radhika Singh, 36, also headed to the Giant supermarket in Toa Payoh on hearing of Malaysia's announcement and got a large tray of eggs, canned tuna, pasta and spinach. She said she needed to stock up as her three children will be eating most of their meals at home this week, as it is the school holidays.

"This should be enough for two weeks and hopefully the situation will be resolved by then," she said.

As for one owner of a food import-export firm at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, he was not too worried.

The owner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chia, believes there are definitely enough stocks, in part because the market has been very slow and "we have a lot of vegetables coming from other countries".

"We don't know the full impact of the situation yet, but my friends in Malaysia, the suppliers, say the supply coming into Singapore will not be affected," he added, though he noted things could change later.

- Additional reporting by Linette Lai, Fabian Koh, Tee Zhuo

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