SINGAPORE - Long queues formed at supermarkets islandwide on Friday (May 14), as people stocked up on groceries and essentials after the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force announced tightened measures that begin on Sunday.
This prompted Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing to give the assurance that all retail outlets, including supermarkets, will remain open during the period of tightened measures from May 16 to June 13.
While eateries and hawker centres will be closed for dining in, takeaways and deliveries are still allowed, he noted in a Facebook post.
"Our stocks are adequate. Our supply lines are intact," Mr Chan said. "Let us continue to remember to buy only what we need and look out for the more vulnerable among us."
In a separate Facebook post, NTUC FairPrice group chief executive Seah Kian Peng said the supermarket chain's inventory and stockpiles are at higher levels than before, and it is better prepared compared with last year when the coronavirus broke out in Singapore.
Said Mr Seah: "We are seeing more traffic and bigger purchases at our FairPrice stores and online platform since the announcement at midday.
"No need to rush and buy what you need; our stores will always remain open. More importantly, take care and stay safe."
In a statement, FairPrice said it will not impose any limits on purchases. It also said it has an established and diversified network of suppliers, carrying products from more than 100 countries.
It added that it practises stockpiling - for instance having more than three months' worth of rice - to ensure undisrupted supplies in the event of a crisis, and buffer against potential supply shocks.
The multi-ministry task force had announced that dining in will not be allowed from May 16 to June 13, with group sizes for social gatherings reduced from the present five to two, among other stricter measures.
After the news broke, people began lining up at supermarkets in various areas including Jurong East, Waterway Point in Punggol, Nex in Serangoon, Tampines Hub and the FairPrice Finest in Marine Parade.
At the FairPrice outlet in Clementi Mall, crowds began to form at around 1.30pm and customers were seen buying bags of rice, bottles of oil, eggs, vegetables, bread and other essentials.
FairPrice staff started restocking bread and meat at around 2pm after the shelves with those items emptied out.
There were around 50 people queueing to enter the supermarket at 2.50pm at Clementi Mall. Two police officers and three safe distancing ambassadors turned up to observe and manage the crowd.
One shopper in the queue, who only wanted to be known as Mrs Chin, said she bought more pasta, flour and toilet paper than usual for her family of five.
"After going through panic buying last year, I think I'm better prepared and knew to come to NTUC as soon as possible because the weekend supermarket crowd would be worse," said the 40-year-old.
"When I came in, I saw crowds buying so much groceries and I also felt the pressure to buy a bit more since my family will be staying at home more."
Police officers and safe distancing ambassadors were also at the FairPrice outlet in Jem shopping mall, which also saw long lines of shoppers.
FairPrice employees were restocking vegetables and canned foods.
A shopper named Mr Soh, who only gave his surname, went to Jem with his mother to buy groceries for their family of five after hearing the news, ahead of the evening crowd. They had two trolleys of groceries such as meat, vegetables, instant noodles and cartons of eggs.
Said the 27-year-old, who works in a logistics company: "After the (circuit breaker) last year, we are a bit more prepared and know we shouldn't overhoard and what groceries to buy."
A spokesman for Dairy Farm, which owns supermarket chains Cold Storage and Giant, said the group has seen an increase in store traffic since the task force's announcement.
"We want to encourage customers to shop safely and responsibly as they can be assured that we have sufficient stock across our stores and warehouses," said the spokesman, adding that Dairy Farm has deployed more staff to mange crowds and ensure they follow safe distancing measures.
"We have put in place measures to ensure that our supply chain remains diversified and robust, and is able to evolve with the changing environment and any anticipated challenges."
A spokesman from Sheng Siong said it has sufficient inventory locally for food supplies and toiletries to meet customers' daily needs, and its supply sources are well-diversified. "Our stores will remain open and we will continue to replenish our stocks regularly."