Shoppers snap up items at S'pore supermarkets again after Malaysia announces travel ban

Submitted by Stomper Jai, Lawrence

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Clement Yong
The Straits Times
Mar 17, 2020

Singapore has made contingency plans for a disruption of food supply from Malaysia and has more than three months worth of stockpile if Singaporeans buy responsibly, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday (March 17).

Employers of Malaysian workers who need to put up their staff in temporary accommodation can also get help from government agencies and trade associations, he said in a doorstop interview on Tuesday.

He gave the assurances following concerns among Singaporeans over the implications of Malaysia's announcement on Monday that it will restrict all movement throughout the country from Wednesday until March 31 to prevent further spread of the coronavirus within the country.

All Malaysians will be barred from travelling abroad. For those who are returning from overseas, they must undergo a health inspection and undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.

There will also be a ban on all foreign tourists and visitors.

On food supplies from Malaysia, Mr Chan said that Singapore has made contingency plans for the disruption of food supply and it has more than three months worth of stockpile.

He added that although not all details with Malaysia have been worked out, Singaporeans have no cause for worry, as Singapore has plans to manage the contingency with a combination of stockpiling, local production and diversification of overseas sources.

In the event that supply from Malaysia is disrupted, Singapore also has enough food to last the country three months if everyone buys responsibly.

"This combination of stockpiling and production will allow us time to bring in alternative supplies," he said.

On the size of the stockpile, Mr Chan said: "I appreciate that Singaporeans will know that we cannot reveal all the actual numbers, as it will affect how the negotiations with our overseas suppliers for carbohydrates, like rice and noodles."

Photos of queues at various supermarkets here on Monday evening started circulating online after Malaysia's announcement, with shoppers snapping up food products and daily necessities.

(Videos taken by Stomper Jai at a Sheng Siong outlet in West Coast at midnight)

(Videos from Stomper Lawrence at a Sheng Siong outlet in Bukit Batok)

On the accommodation for Malaysian workers, Mr Chan noted that many employers have been worried since last night on how to provide short-term housing for their Malaysian workers in Singapore.

"During this period, our economic agencies are working with the companies' dormitory operators and hotels to provide options for the companies. So, companies that need help for their workers accommodation can contact economic agencies, and also work with their trade associations," he said.

On Monday night, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced movement restrictions on the country, from Wednesday until March 31.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin urged Malaysia to abide by the restrictions, adding that the country's national security council will meet daily to monitor the situation. He also said that food and medical supplies including face masks will be sufficient.

Mr Chan said he understood the fear and anxiety of Singaporeans and urged Singaporeans who are calm to reach out to those nervous about the situation "so that we can go through this together as one united people".

"While we may be anxious individually, we can also draw strength as a community, and we must remember to reach out to the weaker and more vulnerable ones in our society."

View more photos in the gallery.

The Straits Times

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