Given Singapore's international transport links, it is "only a matter of time" before the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) hits the country, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.
He was speaking at the launch of an awareness programme by the People's Association (PA) in which 2,000 grassroots volunteers will be trained over the next four weeks to cope with any outbreak of haze and Mers.
Recalling how Singapore suffered an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003, Mr Teo told the audience at the event, held in Pasir Ris: "We have succeeded in tackling this kind of healthcare crisis before, and we can learn from that experience to do even better."
The first of the four training sessions, involving about 360 volunteers from Pasir Ris West grassroots organisations, was held yesterday.
They learnt facts about the haze and Mers, tips on healthcare, personal hygiene, preventive measures and ways to build their immunity against the haze.
Grassroots volunteer Goh Soo Theng, 59, said in Mandarin: "Mers hasn't arrived here yet, so our understanding of the disease is more limited. The training will help us to better explain it to residents during house visits."
Mr Teo said it may be a good idea to have such training in schools too, as children helped to institute good habits among their parents during the Sars crisis.
About 300 essential packs were given out to needy families yesterday. They contained various items, including haze and Mers advisory leaflets, N95 masks and thermometers.
A further 25,700 vulnerable households will be receiving these packs in the next two months.