Coronavirus outbreak

No risk of shortage of essential food, household items

Shoppers urged to be calm amid panic buying at supermarts as S'pore has sufficient stocks

Shoppers queueing to pay for essential items at the FairPrice supermarket at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh yesterday. Items began flying off the shelves at some supermarkets here after Singapore announced earlier in the day that it would be raising its diseas
Shoppers queueing to pay for essential items at the FairPrice supermarket at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh yesterday. Items began flying off the shelves at some supermarkets here after Singapore announced earlier in the day that it would be raising its disease outbreak response to the coronavirus situation by a notch to "orange".ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Government leaders and supermarket chain representatives yesterday called on shoppers to remain calm, saying Singapore has sufficient stocks of essential supplies and food.

This was after items began flying off the shelves at some supermarkets here after Singa-pore announced earlier in the day that it would be raising its disease outbreak response to the coronavirus situation by a notch to "orange", just below the highest level of "red".

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing gave his assurance in a Facebook post that Singapore's supply lines for essential supplies such as rice and instant noodles are intact.

"There is no risk of us running a shortage of essential food or household items. We also have our national stockpile for essential items," said Mr Chan, adding that his ministry is in close contact with retailers here.

Other politicians who also encouraged the public not to hoard groceries included labour chief and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ng Chee Meng, and Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh.

Mr Singh shared a Facebook post by supermarket chain FairPrice's chief executive Seah Kian Peng telling people not to panic buy, and added: "There is no need to hoard items. We will all get through this together."

Under the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon), "orange" means the outbreak is deemed to have moderate to high public health impact.

The Government's announcement of moving its disease outbreak response up a level to "orange" came after three more Singaporeans, who did not have any links to previous cases or travel history to China, were confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus originating from China's Wuhan city.

Representatives from supermarkets also assured the public that Singapore has enough stocks of food and groceries, and urged shoppers to exercise restraint.

 
 
 
 

FairPrice's Mr Seah said there was a surge and some panic buying of food and groceries at its physical and online stores, resulting in some shelves being emptied.

He urged people to remain calm as stocks are being replenished.

Mr Seah said: "We have stocks and they are being replenished from our warehouse, but if everyone starts to buy a lot more than what they need, there will never be enough.

"I hope we all stay calm and not get into this mode of behaviour."

FairPrice has also stepped up the cleaning regime for all its stores, made available hand sanitisers for customers to use in-store, and put in place twice-daily temperature screening for all staff. Masks are distributed to staff for their use should they feel unwell.

A spokesman for Sheng Siong, another supermarket chain, also called on shoppers to avoid over-buying.

"Currently, we have sufficient inventory in Singapore for food supplies and toiletries to meet customers' usual daily needs," she said.

"Customers do not need to over-purchase on groceries and necessities. Our sources of supply are well diversified, and we will continue to work closely with our suppliers."

Meanwhile, a Singapore Food Agency (SFA) spokesman told The Straits Times that Singapore does not import livestock or raw meat from China.

 
 
 

But as there is no evidence that coronavirus infections are linked to food consumption, no restrictions have been imposed on food imports from China, she said.

Still, in the event of any food supply disruptions caused by the outbreak, Singapore's food supply is unlikely to be affected as Singapore imports its food from more than 170 countries.

While fresh food items such as vegetables, fruits and fish are imported from China, the country is not the Republic's only source, said the SFA spokesman. Singapore also imports from Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the United States, Australia and South Africa.

"Diversification has always been one of our key strategies to ensure a secure supply of safe food," said the SFA spokesman. "Our importers are ready to tap other available sources should there be a disruption of food supply to minimise the overall impact on our food supply."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2020, with the headline 'No risk of shortage of essential food, household items'. Subscribe