SINGAPORE: Even though the country has tightened its measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there is no need to stockpile food and other essential supplies, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. 

His comments came a day after a slew of initiatives – such as limiting gatherings outside of school and work  and closing all entertainment venues such as night clubs, karaoke outlets and cinemas – was announced to curb the coronavirus outbreak. 

Mr Wong, who is co-chair of the multi-ministry taskforce on COVID-19, said he understood why people might be concerned about the availability of essential supplies and buy more than immediately needed, in light of the announced measures. 

“In fact we have been planning for potential disruption of supplies, be it food or medical supplies, over many years through stockpiling, local production and diversification of our overseas sources,” he said, delivering a ministerial statement in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 25). 

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Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing is overseeing this together with his ministry, and they have been “ramping up their efforts across all fronts”, said Mr Wong. 

People unnecessarily building up their own stockpiles at home would lead to an “apparent shortage” on supermarket shelves, he added, noting this would deprive others who may have a more urgent need for food and other essentials. 

“Such a perception could precipitate more panic buying, which can quickly spiral out of control,” he said. 

The was some initial concern after Malaysia’s movement control order – which saw the country barring its citizens from going overseas and foreigners from entering the country from Mar 18 – but that situation has now stabilised, he noted. 

“The flow of goods and cargo including food supplies are largely continuing, although we still have to be prepared there may well be disruptions along the way,” said Mr Wong. 

Separately, accommodations in Singapore have been found for the Malaysian workers who cross the border daily to work, which has allowed essential services such as public transport to continue “without interruption”, he said. 

“Going forward, the Singapore-Malaysia Special Working Committee, co-chaired by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and Senior Minister Dato Sri’ Ismail Sabri, is discussing a joint mitigation plan to ensure the safe and sustainable movement of people, goods and essential services between our two countries,” said Mr Wong. 

He noted that Malaysia had on Wednesday (Mar 25) extended its movement control order, which was originally intended to expire by the end of March but will now last until Apr 14.  

Cross-border movement cannot go back to business as usual, with large groups of people crossing the land checkpoints on a daily basis, “if and when” Malaysia’s order is lifted, said Mr Wong, noting this would be too dangerous from the perspective of public health.

“So we will need extra precautions on both sides – which are being worked out – so as to minimise the spread of the virus across our land borders,” he said. 

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