In a Facebook post on Tuesday (28 January), Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min reassured the public that the supply of masks in the country is sufficient if they are used “sensibly and responsibly”.
He made this announcement after the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed that two more imported cases of Wuhan coronavirus were reported in Singapore, bringing the total number of cases to seven.
“We would like to reassure Singaporeans that there is sufficient supply of masks in Singapore, if we use them sensibly and responsibly. There is no need to rush to buy masks,” Dr Lam wrote.
He added that that the Government is working closely with retailers like NTUC FairPrice and Unity Pharmacy to push out the stocks.
In the post, Dr Lam noted that he along with NTUC Fairprice’s CEO Seah Kian Peng were earlier at a warehouse to check on masks stockpile.
As to why some retailers have started rationing the sale of masks, Dr Lam explained that this was to ensure that there is adequate supply for all Singaporeans and to avoid unnecessary hoarding.
He went on to state that the Government is working hand in hand with retailers to manage the pricing of the masks and “reminded them not to profiteer from the increased demand”.
“As there is currently no local transmission of the 2019-nCoV infection, masks are generally not needed in our normal daily activities,” he said.
He added, “However, do put on a face mask if you have respiratory symptoms like a cough or runny nose to prevent the spread of the flu or the common cold.”
Dr Lam also urged everyone to remain calm and vigilant.
One day after Singapore confirmed its first case of Wuhan coronavirus in the country, several retail outlets ran out of both surgical and N95 masks that day. However, on Friday (24 January), the MOH reassured the public that there were enough N95 masks in the country for the public.
However, since then, social media has been rife with comments from people in Singapore talking about how many retail outlets are still out of masks. On top of that, outlets with masks have to contend with growing queues.
Last week, Channel NewsAsia reported that a check showed that Guardian and Watsons stores in Paya Lebar Quarter, Clementi Mall and Tiong Bahru Plaza were out of the masks.
Upon reading Dr Lam’s latest remarks about having sufficient supply of masks is in place for Singaporeans, many online users voiced their disagreement with the Senior Minister.
Writing on the Facebook page of Channel News Asia, many of them stated that most of the shops in the country have run out of stock for the masks. They explained that they’ve been to multiple stores in Singapore, some up to 10 pharmacies, but none of them had any luck in purchasing a mask.
James Bonding urged Dr Lam to “walk the ground and stop staying in your ivory towers” in order to know the real situation out there.
Some suggested that the Government should perhaps supply masks to all households in the country as they cannot purchase it at the stores. One user even asked the Government to supply the masks in the stockpile to Polyclinic pharmacies as these outlets will be “in a better position to control the quantities and prices”.
As a recommendation, Derrick Yeo opined that the Government should “control nos of mask each citizen can purchase”, deal with those who resell masks for a profit and tourists should only be allowed to buy one mask per person.
A bunch of online users also said that people are indeed profiteering due to the lack of supply of the masks, suggesting they should be “arrested and prosecuted”.
Some said that even NTUC and other outlets are hiking up the price in the current situation.