Wuhan virus: Situation in Singapore

Ministers laud calm and orderly collection of free masks

Almost no queues at collection sites visited by ST; 6% of households have taken masks

Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee (in red) visiting a mask collection counter manned by volunteers at the residents' committee centre at Block 47 Telok Blangah Drive yesterday. Distribution of the masks began on Saturday and will end
Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee (in red) visiting a mask collection counter manned by volunteers at the residents' committee centre at Block 47 Telok Blangah Drive.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

The disciplined and orderly way the public has responded to the islandwide mask distribution shows a society that is cohesive and resilient, said Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran yesterday.

On the sidelines of a Chinese New Year celebration for residents at West Coast Vista Residents' Committee (RC) centre, Mr Iswaran said: "I've had many examples of people I've met who basically said that they won't be collecting the masks because they have enough of their own, and that it's better to leave them for others who need it more.

"I think this speaks volumes about the kind of society that we are. This is something we should cherish and continue to reinforce in Singapore."

The Government said last Thursday that all 1.3 million households will each get a pack of four masks amid reports of shops running out of stock. Distribution began on Saturday and will end on Feb 9.

Around 6 per cent of all households had collected their masks by the end of distribution on Saturday, said Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee at a separate event yesterday.

Mr Lee said after visiting a mask collection centre at the RC centre at Block 47 Telok Blangah Drive: "People have been very calm. There's been a steady stream of Singaporeans and households collecting the masks. There aren't any reports of anxiety or distress."

He added that the authorities are pacing the distribution to ensure that it is orderly.

There were almost no queues at collection centres visited by The Straits Times yesterday. There were more volunteers and staff manning the desks than residents arriving to collect masks.

A 68-year-old housewife, who wanted to be known only as Madam Chan, said she was pleasantly surprised that she could collect her pack of masks at West Coast Heights RC within minutes.

She said in Mandarin: "I thought that there would be a crowd because everyone kept saying that the stores have run out of stock. I'm very happy with how well-organised this has been."

Any masks left over will be put to good use, said Mr Iswaran.

The Ministry of Health will decide on the next step in such a case, he said. "Clearly, our highest priority is to ensure that our healthcare services are well supplied with these masks because they are at the front line in many ways, and therefore we need to ensure that they are well resourced to do the job that they're doing."

Mr Lee noted that the country has multiple layers of defence against the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, including tighter restrictions at land, sea and air checkpoints, while temperature-taking and other forms of health screening are being carried out in the community, along with travel declarations.


Staff from the Ministry of Social and Family Development have been visiting facilities such as pre-schools and homes for people with disabilities to support front-line officers.

They have been going over specific public health plans and safeguards, and getting feedback on how to improve on working together.

Mr Iswaran said: "Our public sector, officials and our various agencies have all had to respond to a very fast-evolving situation, and then come together with a very clear plan of action, and then execute.

"That, again, attests to the mettle of our society and our public service, notwithstanding the fluid nature of the situation."

Mr Lee and Mr Iswaran also stressed the need to weed out falsehoods and inaccurate information and urged people to turn to official government channels for updates.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2020, with the headline 'Ministers laud calm and orderly collection of free masks'. Subscribe