Coronavirus pandemic

Rush for acupuncture treatments at TCM clinics as Covid-19 circuit breaker curbs ease

Some physicians fully booked by customers who had put up with aches for past month

Physician Li Huarong preparing Chinese herbs for her patients. She received advance bookings for acupuncture treatments after Saturday's announcement that they could resume.
Physician Li Huarong preparing Chinese herbs for her patients. She received advance bookings for acupuncture treatments after Saturday's announcement that they could resume. ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN

Customers rushed back for acupuncture treatments at traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics yesterday, the first day such treatments were allowed to resume since the start of circuit breaker measures on April 7.

Ms Lim Swee Cheng, general manager of clinic services and operational excellence at Eu Yan Sang, said its clinics saw a surge in acupuncture appointments yesterday, with some physicians being fully booked.

Physician Li Huarong, who owns Yu Sheng Tang TCM Clinic, said that she received advance bookings for acupuncture treatments after the announcement was made on Saturday.

"Many of my customers complained that they had endured body aches for close to a month now, so they are glad to be able to resume treatment," she said.

Her first patient of the day was oil and gas technician Yeo Cheow Juan, 60, who has been receiving regular TCM treatment for around two years for lower back and knee pain.

"I've been trying to bear the pain for the past month, so I'm glad to be able to resume my regular acupuncture treatments again," he said.

Since the introduction of circuit breaker measures, TCM clinics were allowed to only provide consultation and dispense herbal medicine to their patients.

Yesterday, apart from needle acupuncture, TCM halls with registered practitioners will also be allowed to sell retail products.

However, services like cupping, guasha and tuina are still not allowed.

Pre-school educator Eliz Lim, 42, prefers tuina and cupping for easing pains and aches.

"My husband and I do sports regularly, so we often see TCM practitioners for these traditional remedies. We've been stretching on our own and using medicated plasters until (tuina and cupping) can be resumed," she said.

ENDURED BODY ACHES

Many of my customers complained that they had endured body aches for close to a month now, so they are glad to be able to resume treatment.

TCM PHYSICIAN LI HUARONG

HOLDING OUT

My husband and I do sports regularly... We've been stretching on our own and using medicated plasters until (tuina and cupping) can be resumed.

PRE-SCHOOL EDUCATOR ELIZ LIM

Mr Tan Ooh Chye, honorary secretary of the Public Free Clinic Society, said: "During the circuit breaker, customers have dropped to between 30 and 50 per cent, as more refrain from TCM visits unless they experience acute or intolerable pain, which is hardly the case."

Others lamented that most TCM halls selling general wellness products will not resume operations on May 12, unlike cake shops and confectioneries.

Ms Joy Tay, 46, founder of an enrichment centre, regularly buys nourishment products from these shops.

"It's important to people, especially among the older generation, as these herbs and tonics can help us to build our immunity during this crucial period," she said.

These sentiments were echoed by Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah, who requested in Parliament on Monday that the re-opening of these TCM shops be prioritised.

In response, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that people can buy these products from TCM halls with registered practitioners, though the multi-ministry task force is looking to see how this could be expanded further.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2020, with the headline 'Rush for acupuncture treatments at TCM clinics as curbs ease'. Subscribe