Local supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice announced Tue (28 Jan) that it has extended the scope of its face mask purchase limit to include hand sanitisers and thermometers in response to “a sudden surge in demand”.
NTUC FairPrice on Facebook today explained that the extension was made “to ensure more households are able to obtain these items”.
The purchase limit is set at 10 pieces of face mask — whether surgical or N95 — as well as two units of hand sanitiser and two units of thermometers and their probe covers, according to the supermarket chain.
NTUC FairPrice also urged customers not to “hoard” the above items “as doing so will deprive others who need them as well”.
“We will continue to keep the prices of face masks, hand sanitisers and thermometers steady and make them affordable in our commitment to curb profiteering,” said NTUC FairPrice, adding that it will also continue to work with suppliers to stock more of said items.
Some consumers have appeared on NTUC FairPrice’s Facebook page to express their dissatisfaction with the shortage of supplies as a result of hoarding committed by certain parties.
Consumer Cindy Wong shared a photo of a long queue outside of the Simei branch of NTUC Fairprice Unity, noting that there is a limit of 10 masks sold at $2.30 and no availability of hand sanitisers.
She added that the consumers were told that the stock had came earlier at 10am, but was sold out. At 12pm, stock for the masks arrived, but unavailability of stock for hand sanitisers remained.
“NTUC unity is putting us consumers [in] a hide-and-seek game. They keep stock and only took out at random. Poor elderly folks queueing for it. Can someone from NTUC pls clarify,” wrote Wong.
Consumer Noreen Tan urged the Government to “consider to taking control over the supplies”, lest “some inconsiderate Karsu [sic – kiasu] citizens will over purchase n not bother about other ppls need[s]”.
“Why don’t they be the distributor n supply to ever household needs for free, like during SARS they also distribute to residents,” she added.
The demand for face masks in Singapore has reportedly increased even prior to the first confirmed case of the coronavirus infection in the Republic last Thu (23 Jan).
TODAY reported that the sales of surgical masks have jumped by four to five times since the start of 2020, according to data provided by pharmacy chains Watsons and Guardian.
Even online marketplaces have experiences a surge in face mask sales.
A Qoo10 spokesperson told TODAY that there has been a “steep” increase in the sales of N95 masks, with a 26 per cent jump over just two days on 21 Jan and 22 Jan compared to the beginning of the month.
Personal sellers have also been taking advantage of the exponential increase in the face mask demand, as seen by Mothership on Carousell, with a box of 20 N95 masks going for as high as S$288.
MOH, however, recommended the use of surgical masks over N95 masks, as the former “were designed to protect the surrounding environment from the user’s own spit or mucous”.
“Healthcare professionals use them (e.g. in an operating theatre) to prevent their own germs from infecting the patient,” said MOH.
N95 masks, on the other hand, are designed to filter out fine air particles, which may be more useful during the yearly periods of haze due to open burning.
S’poreans advised to postpone all travel arrangements to Hubei Province, adopt precautions including wearing masks: MOH
The Ministry of Health (MOH) last Thu said that a Chinese national — who is a resident of the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak — had developed a fever and cough the day after his arrival in Singapore on 20 Jan.
The 66-year-old man was then immediately admitted and isolated upon his arrival at the SGH Emergency Department on 22 Jan, where he was subsequently diagnosed with pneumonia. MOH was notified of his case. The next day, he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Four other imported cases have been confirmed by MOH since then, including the latest one involving a 56 year-old female Chinese national from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with her family on 18 Jan.
In light of the outbreak, the Government has released an advisory for Singaporeans to postpone all travel to Hubei Province and “all non-essential travel to Mainland China”.
“All travellers should monitor their health closely for two weeks upon return to Singapore and seek medical attention promptly if they feel unwell.
“Travellers should inform their doctor of their travel history. If they have a fever or respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath), they should wear a mask and call the clinic ahead of the visit,” added MOH.
MOH also reminded members of the public to practice the following at all times:
- Avoid contact with live animals including poultry and birds, and consumption of raw and undercooked meats;
- Avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness;
- Observe good personal hygiene;
- Practise frequent hand washing with soap (e.g. before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing);
- Wear a mask if you have respiratory symptoms such as a cough or shortness of breath;
- Cover your mouth with a tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, and dispose the soiled tissue paper in the rubbish bin immediately; and
- Seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell.