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Rush for supplies unnecessary: Chan

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Trade and Industry Minister says Singapore has sufficient stockpile of food and diverse, trusted supply chain

Supermarket shelves across the island were restocked with staple food items yesterday following a surge in panic buying after Singapore's disease outbreak response level went up to orange last Friday.

At a walkabout in Jurong West, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said Singapore has a sufficient stockpile of food and a diverse and trusted supply chain, making the rush for supplies unnecessary.

Rather, such a "survival of the fittest" mentality in a crisis also affects vulnerable groups of society and reflects poorly on Singapore in the world's eyes, he added.

He highlighted four ways the Government was ensuring the Republic's food supply needs.

One, a national stockpile of food items like rice that can last some time.

The size of this inventory is not disclosed as doing so would compromise Singapore's ability to secure supplies internationally.

Two, diverse sources so that Singapore will not be held ransom by any single supplier, especially for protein which is sourced from as far as Europe and South America.

Three, Singapore has some local production capability, including over 40 fresh and instant noodle manufacturers, some of whom ramped up supply in recent days.

Four, Singapore works with trusted suppliers, both regionally and globally, to secure its supplies.

Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee, who accompanied Mr Chan, welcomed the sense of normalcy they felt on the visit to a market and coffee shops.

"Some were a little unhappy at the rush yesterday to buy more things than needed. Today they felt reassured that the supermarkets near to their home will be restocked, and are being restocked," said Mr Lee.

Mr Chan said that if Singapore responds well as a cohesive and calm community, it gives others confidence to continue to want to do business with it after the crisis.

Yesterday, FairPrice outlets put up notices to inform customers they could buy up to four packs of paper products such as toilet paper and tissues, two bags of rice and four pillow packets of instant noodles, each.

Separately, Mr Chan also said that officials should not spread information prematurely as this could cause confusion and alarm during a crisis situation.

"Internally, we will make sure that our processes are strengthened and our people involved in all these know their roles well," said Mr Chan, who is part of the multi-ministry coronavirus task force.

The minister was responding to a question from The Straits Times about a Health Ministry press release last Friday announcing Singapore was moving to the code orange disease outbreak response status.

While the news officially broke after 5.20pm that day, an earlier version of the release was leaked to the public several hours before and was circulating widely on WhatsApp and other channels.

Mr Chan said officials should have the discipline and maturity not to share information prematurely.