Singapore – There is still a “lack of clarity” that led to a “misunderstanding” among the public when the DORSCON level was raised to Orange on February 7.
On February 12, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong held a media briefing to address some issues on public awareness regarding Covid-19 and what the multi-ministry task force is doing to manage the health crisis.
Mr Wong noted that it is challenging to disseminate accurate information about Covid-19 despite efforts to brief media outlets on the facts. “In today’s world of social media, fear, uncertainty and panic spreads a lot faster on social media than the truth, which is boring and nobody wants to share,” said the minister.
When the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) alert level was raised from yellow to orange, many went into a shopping frenzy and emptied out supermarket shelves of daily essentials such as toiletries, tinned goods, rice and noodles.
The panic-buying mode even reached Johor Bahru.
“We can understand why people are concerned and anxious, and wanted to go out to do something to take extra precautions,” said Mr Wong.
Mr Wong also mentioned that the empty shelves in supermarkets are not due to a shortage of supplies but a lack of manpower and increased logistical constraints.
“We expect all outlets of the major retailers to have normal stock levels in a day or two,” said the minister. “We just want to assure Singaporeans that our supply chains, when it comes to food and grocery items, remains robust,” he added.
The DORSCON system was established to categorize the current situation during a disease outbreak and assess the crisis management plan to be implemented. For the Covid-19 epidemic, it means that the virus is spreading, although not widely, and is being contained.
“When we went around asking, there was some misunderstanding, or even lack of clarity around what was going on, what DORSCON Orange meant, despite our best efforts at explaining to all of you,” said Mr Wong, in a Today report.
As a countermeasure, the Government will “double down” on initiatives to ensure that accurate information is released.
Minister Wong admitted, however, that the Government does not know the full extent of the situation, especially since the health crisis concerning Covid-19 is rapidly evolving. “If it is something that we do not know about or are unable to make an accurate assessment, I think we will have to be honest, and we will tell you that we do not know,” said the minister. He said this in response to numerous inquiries asking how the situation will unfold in the coming days and weeks. “The honest answer is – it is too early to tell.”
The Government was not able to track down the source or origin of infection for some of the cases. “What we do know is that the virus is circulating within our population. That is the reason we raised the alert level to orange.”
Meanwhile, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong addressed the anxiety people may have about the severity of the virus. He said that most confirmed cases would recover, although some may become seriously ill. “A small number” may even succumb to Covid-19, said the minister, so the need to be aware and prepared still remains. -/TISG