Following the ‘circuit breaker’ measures that have taken effect this week, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said it may be extended beyond 4 May if the COVID-19 situation does not improve over the next month, The New Paper reported earlier today (7 April).
People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Tampines GRC Cheng Li Hui asked Mr Chan in Parliament on Monday (6 April) about the impact of the enhanced measures and the adequacy of Singapore’s stockpile of goods and essential items.
In response to the questions, Mr Chan said the success of the enhanced measures depends heavily on Singaporeans to remain united and take the measures seriously.
“On the other hand, if we do not take the measures seriously, and if in the next one month we are unable to control the situation, then that might require us to extend the period which such measures are necessary, and that will inflict even greater damage to our economy,” he remarked.
Mr Chan further asserted, “So it’s in our collective interest to try our best to work together, bear with the inconveniences in the coming month, but let us get over this part together. Otherwise it becomes recurring waves of infections that we have to deal with, and it will be very difficult for us to gradually, progressively attain normalcy.”
As for the size of the nation’s stockpile, he explained that it is determined based on factors such as consumption rate, supply chain reliability, resupply rate and frequency, shelf life of the products and the cost of storage, the duration of potential disruptions, and Singapore’s own production surge capacities.
“For food, we have a strategy developed over many years that entails a combination of stockpiling, import diversification and local production,” noted Mr Chan, as he reassured that the country has enough stockpile.
He went on to say that the country is working with like-minded partners to ensure clear trade flows and critical infrastructures like the air and seaports remain open to support supply chains globally.
Nevertheless, Mr Chan highlighted that Singaporeans also play a part in ensuring the adequacy of supplies. He hinted that panic buying can severely disrupt the usual consumption rate and the government’s stockpile efforts, adding that no amount of stockpile will be sufficient if people hoard.
Panic-buying also disrupts domestic last-mile logistics from the warehouses to the retailers, he stated.
“We will have to mobilise logistic players from other sources to restock our supplies, in turn impacting those supply chains and creating a cascading effect,” Mr Chan expressed. “If we are not careful, it becomes a self-fulfilling and self-feeding frenzy.”
He further noted that instead of resorting to protectionism, Singapore’s position is to keep working with other countries to ensure supply chains remain open.
Singapore imposed ‘circuit breaker’ measures to curb the local transmission of the COVID-19 virus
Earlier on 3 April, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his televised address on the COVID-19 situation in Singapore announced that the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19 has imposed “significantly stricter measures” to curb the local transmission of the virus.
The enhanced measures, Mr Lee said, will act as a “circuit-breaker” in terms of slowing down or stopping the local transmission of COVID-19. He added that such measures “will help reduce the risk of a big outbreak occurring” and “should also help to gradually bring our numbers down”.
“This circuit breaker will apply for one month, in the first instance,” Mr Lee noted.
Following that, workplaces islandwide except those of essential services and key sectors will be closed starting on Tuesday (7 April).
Those working in “strategic” economic sectors or those that “form part of a global supply chain” are also exempted from the workplace closure. However, they are urged to work with “safe-distancing measures in place”.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) will also work with schools and higher learning institutions to roll out full home-based learning starting Wednesday (8 April).