Singapore — When the risk assessment of the coronavirus infection was raised last Friday (Feb 7), it set off the panic-buying of food and other essential supplies.
Long queues formed at supermarkets and people were seen buying trolley-loads of stuff. This happened when the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) was raised from Yellow to Orange.
DORSCON Orange, the status just below DORSCON Red, means that the outbreak is deemed to have moderate to high public health impact. While there will be mild disruptions to daily life, like increased temperature screenings outside venues and stronger quarantine measures, the situation is not dire enough for a strict lockdown.
However, it led to panic-buying from Friday to Sunday. Calm returned somewhat on Monday after Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, on Friday and Sunday, called for calm and gave the assurance that there were enough supplies of food and other essentials.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a statement on television on Saturday (Feb 8), also said that there was no need to panic. He warned that fear and panic could do more than than the coronavirus.
During the panic-buying, videos were circulated online showing shoppers and their purchases. One video showed a man unloading bags of rice from a trolley. The family’s domestic helper then carried the 50-kilogram bags into the flat.
As the video panned through the kitchen, it could be seen that the family had a total of eight 50-kg bags or a total of 400 kg of rice.
Meanwhile, photos circulating online showed refrigerators filled with vegetables and groceries.
The long queues and the long wait to make payment had an unfortunate result. Many shoppers abandoned baskets and even trolleys full of groceries near the cashier counters and self-checkout stations.
Supermarket staff were unsure if the shoppers would return so they did not empty the trolleys and baskets, leaving perishables to possible rot and wastage.
As of Sunday (Feb 9), all NTUC FairPrice outlets began limiting each shopper to four packs of paper products, two bags of rice and four bundle packs of instant noodles. The S$50 limit for vegetables per customer also remained in place. /TISG