Coronavirus: Heedless of crowds and bug, some rush to stock up on goods

The FairPrice Finest outlet at myVillage in Serangoon Gardens. Toilet paper rolls, rice, instant noodles and cooking oil were among the items flying off supermarket shelves.
The FairPrice Finest outlet at myVillage in Serangoon Gardens. Toilet paper rolls, rice, instant noodles and cooking oil were among the items flying off supermarket shelves.ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN

Toilet paper rolls, rice, instant noodles, cooking oil and other essentials are among the items flying off supermarket shelves amid concerns over the coronavirus, even as stores work steadily to restock products and reassure shoppers that there is no shortage.

A check of more than 10 supermarkets across Singapore yesterday morning saw larger than usual weekend crowds; the frenzy starting on Friday after the coronavirus outbreak alert was raised a notch from yellow to orange.

The Sunday Times visited FairPrice, Cold Storage, Sheng Siong, Isetan, Meidi-Ya and Prime supermarkets in areas like Canberra, Serangoon North, Hougang, Orchard, Holland Village, Clementi and Pasir Ris.

At the FairPrice outlet in Joo Koon, a customer had 16 bags of rice in his trolley.

Over at Pasir Ris West Plaza, domestic worker Miu Miu, 30, who queued for 45 minutes to buy the last available carton of eggs, said: "So many items are missing; it's as though the store is giving them away for free."

Cargo driver Ben Aguilar, 33, who was shopping at FairPrice in Hougang 1, said: "It has never been this crowded. I bought a lot of processed meat since all the fresh meat has already run out."

Insurance agent Jeff Chiew, 29, and his wife, who made a trip to Sheng Siong supermarket in Canberra just as it opened, said they are stocking up on instant noodles, which they do not usually eat.

He said: "Since everyone is stocking up, we're also doing the same but just buying a little more for standby. Nothing too crazy."

But not everyone is buying into the frenzy.

 
 
 
 

Mother of one Latifah Kamil, 31, described the situation as "ridiculous" and said she will not be buying anything she does not need.

"I'm a bit worried because my kid is five months old and I will take extra safety precautions, but I won't go out and stock up on food. It's not like we're stuck at home; life still goes on as usual," she said.

IT consultant Howard Chong, 39, and his wife, who were out on their weekly grocery run, decided to buy only a few more packets of frozen processed food items "just in case".

Grocery delivery slots have been snapped up, as more opt to stay home or avoid crowded places amid the spread of the coronavirus.

Checks by The Sunday Times showed that delivery slots on RedMart, FairPrice and Amazon's Prime Now were sold out.

• Additional reporting by Cheryl Tan

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 09, 2020, with the headline 'Heedless of crowds and bug, some rush to stock up on goods'. Print Edition | Subscribe