On Sunday, Trade and Industry Minister, Chan Chun Sing, cautioned that panic buying at supermarkets would indicate to others that Singaporeans are unable to react rationally in times of crisis and this could be taken advantage of, in the future.
It is the third time in three days that government leaders have gone on the offensive advising Singaporeans not to go on a shopping mania at supermarkets, following an upgrading of the alert level for the coronavirus outbreak to Orange on Friday
Speaking to reporters at a community event at Jurong Spring, Mr Chan was joined by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development Sun Xueling.
Mr Chan emphasized that Singaporeans should allow cool heads to prevail and remain stay calm during the global health crisis. He added that it was irresponsible to resort to panic buying as Singapore’s reputation in the international community would be tainted by such behavior.
Mr Chan highlighted a potential consequence of this act would be that suppliers and retailers might take advantage of the situation and jack up prices of goods.
He cited an example where shop owners were selling a bundle of five instant noodle packets for over S$20.
Louis Ng, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency had also shared a Facebook post on Saturday of a retailer who marked up the prices of 20 pieces N95 masks to S$138. This was thrice the original price.
Meanwhile, Mr Chan reassured Singaporeans there are sufficient food items and essentials available apart from the national stockpiles. He said authorities will also ensure that food items are sourced from diverse places.
He particularly highlighted the hoarding of medical supplies such as alcohol swabs. This act of buying up in bulk of medical products would endanger those who need them the most.
However, Mr Lee allayed fears that “Of course there were some people who were a little unhappy by the rush yesterday… but today they felt reassured that the supermarkets near their homes are being restocked and there is a sense that life will carry on as per normal,” he said.
At the same time, Mr Chan took to task those responsible for the leaked press release on Friday regarding the Orange alert which caused undue concern among the public and assured that officials will ensure that government processes are strengthened following the incident.
Hours before the announcement was officially made, the press release was circulated on social media and through messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.
Mr Chan explained that in times of crisis, information should be shared with as many agencies as possible so that they can respond quickly. However, he reminded staff that they have a professional responsibility not to prematurely disclose information that has not been finalized.