Chan Chun Sing: S'poreans who hoard supplies or 'behave inappropriately' undermine our international reputation

He explained Singapore's four-pronged stockpile strategy, which ensures that Singaporeans have enough food for prolonged contingencies.

Syahindah Ishak| February 09, 07:49 PM

Since Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level to orange, photos and videos of people clearing out shelves in local supermarkets have gone viral.

Like these, for example:

Singaporeans urged to stay calm

In response to all the hoarding, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech on Saturday (Feb. 8) that Singaporeans should stay calm in the face of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

He also reassured Singaporeans that there is no need to stock up on essential supplies, as Singapore possesses ample supplies.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing echoed PM Lee's remarks a day earlier.

In a Facebook post on Friday, he urged Singaporeans to exercise individual responsibility and not hoard items unnecessarily.

Singapore's four-pronged stockpile strategy

On Sunday (Feb. 9) morning, Chan reiterated his points after a community walkabout at Jurong West.

He was accompanied by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, Minister of State Sam Tan and Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling.

They visited Jurong West 505 Market and Food Centre to gather feedback from patrons and stallholders on the panic buying situation.

This is the third time in three days that Ministers have addressed the supermarket panic buying frenzy.

Speaking to the media after the walkabout, Chan said that bigger suppliers like NTUC Fairprice and Sheng Siong have "doubled, if not tripled their number of supply run".

Most of the essential items are back on the shelves.

Chan explained that this is thanks to Singapore's four-pronged stockpile strategy, which ensures that Singaporeans have enough food for prolonged contingencies.

1) Sufficient stock

The first prong is to ensure that Singapore has its own sufficient stock of food items.

These include food items that can last for a long time, particularly rice.

Chan reassured Singaporeans that there are enough stockpiles and essential items for everyone.

He said: "We have our national stockpile and we have more than enough to last us some time in an emergency."

2) Diversifying food sources

For proteins such as meat or fish, Chan said that Singapore sources these items from all over the world, even as far as Europe and South America.

He added that diversifying Singapore's food sources will help to make sure that the country's supply line is in tact.

3) Local production

The third prong is to have local production capabilities.

In Singapore, Chan said that there are a few noodle manufacturers. This includes both instant and fresh noodles.

He also said that these manufacturers can help to ramp up the supplies in times of emergencies.

"We are quite confident with our stockpile of flour and component materials. We are able to produce goods for ourselves," Chan said.

4) Working with trusted partners to secure supply lines

The last prong is to ensure that Singapore is working with trusted partners in the region to secure supplies.

Chan, once again, reassured Singaporeans that there are enough supplies for everyone and that there is no need to rush for food items as they are all in stock and can be resupplied as soon as possible.

Singaporeans must be united in times of crisis

Chan emphasised that it is vital for Singaporeans to go through a crisis as a united and cohesive community.

On top of that, he urged Singaporeans to act in a calm and collected manner.

"When the vulnerable amongst our community look at how we take care of each other, it gives them confidence that we can go through this together. But in a crisis, if all of us only take care of ourselves and it's only the strong taking care of themselves, then I think it will be a bad testimony on the kind of society that we want and that we can have."

Chan added that Singaporeans must prioritise taking care of the vulnerable first.

He cited the Japanese as a prime example.

In Japan, he said that the citizens still behave calmly in times of crisis, such as during an earthquake or typhoon.

They also ensure that the vulnerable gets what they need, instead of only prioritising themselves.

"One day, we might be the ones that are vulnerable in society. We have to go through this collectively rather than just survival of the fittest...people who hoard, what they don't realise is that they undermine our reputation in the international community. Many countries are facing the same situation. But everybody is also looking at how the respective countries respond to the situation.

When we respond well as a cohesive and calm community, it gives people the impression that after the crisis, they would want to continue to do business with us. If we don't do this collectively, we undermine the confidence in our system, in our society, and that will have long term implications."

Chan warned Singaporeans that suppliers might take advantage of all the panic buying to increase the prices of their items.

He said that it is important to call out the people who do irresponsible things such as hoarding their own supplies.

At the same time, Chan expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the vast majority of Singaporeans who have remained calm and composed during this trying period.

"We went through SARS, we went through H1N1 and we went through global financial crisis. Each time, we came out strong. Each time, we emerge stronger. And I think I have confidence that if we do this calmly and collectively, we can once again emerge stronger."

Top images from Chan Chun Sing/FB.