With the total count of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Singapore going up to 16 this week, people have gone to extreme measures such as hoarding masks.
According to Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Thursday (Jan 30) who addressed this problem, he said that saying that doing such things out of fear and panic will do nothing but “destroy the entire system.”
With fear hanging in the air, people have gone to drastic measures in order to secure protective face masks amid the growing concern over the Wuhan outbreak. Recently, long queues outside stores selling masks have become quite a common sight in Singapore–not to mention unreasonably high prices re-sellers have listed them for online. Online prices have gone as high up as S$288 for a box of 20 N95 masks.
In order to help meet the need of the growing demand, in the past nine days, the Government took 5 million masks from its stock and gave them to retailers. However, only after a few hours of the release, stocks were depleted. The Government bases its management of Singapore’s national mask stockpile by taking into consideration the current number of masks in its stockpile, the rate at which Singaporeans are consuming this stockpile, and the rate and quantity of its resupply. However, with some people resorting to rather selfish methods of ensuring their safety, Mr Chan says that the equation has been upset.
“We understand that when people are fearful, there’s a tendency to panic buy or hoard. But this is not very useful to the entire system,” he reminded.
On Thursday (Jan 30), Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry task force for combating the Wuhan outbreak, said that Singapore would best be prepared for the implications of the banning of mask exportation in countries worldwide. “The current rate of consumption of masks in Singapore is not sustainable… especially with the global shortage and the likely export bans,” he said.
Though many are following the advisory to stay calm and to remain vigilant, some have let fear get the best of them, leading them to hoard supplies. Mr Chan referred to such actions as “selfish” and “inappropriate.”
“Prepare for the long haul but never, never succumb to short-term fears and panic buying and hoarding behaviours, because this will destroy the entire system we have,” he said. He also urged people to be aware of the fact that Singapore is not the only country in need of such supplies, mentioning other crises around the world such as the Australia bushfires. “Collective defence is our strongest defence. We must all act in unison and not jeopardise the entire system by doing things that we think might benefit and protect ourselves, to the detriment of all else and everyone else in society,” he said.
On the other hand, with regard to resellers who seek to take advantage of the high demand for masks given the frightening situation, the Government is set to take action against such over-chargers.
Mr. Wong assures that if people will cooperate and act responsibly, then Singapore will not have to worry about an insufficient mask supply as there will be enough to go around. /TISG
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