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As the coronavirus pandemic continues its rapid spread globally and in Singapore, a growing number of governments–including Italy, Spain, Philippines, and Malaysia–have imposed lockdowns like the ones first introduced in Wuhan. Given that Singapore relies heavily on imported food, with about 90% of its food needs coming from overseas, it’s understandable if you’re concerned about the associated economic impact of the virus, alongside disruptions to supplies of food and essential items. Paired with the possibility that you might need to either self-isolate or quarantine yourself, should you stock up now? Below, we examine the benefits and drawbacks of stocking up, as well as tips to keep in mind in these uncertain times.
Have Enough Necessities for 14 Days of Quarantine
Should there be a stay-home-notice (SHN) issued–or you choose to impose a quarantine on you and your family–it may last up to 14 days (perhaps more). In fact, all Singaporeans coming back from anywhere in the world will have to serve a full 14-day self-isolation period. Thus, it would be wise for you to stock up on what you and your family would need during a two-week span. Being prepared in advance can prevent you from panicking at the last minute–especially if you’re suddenly informed that you can’t leave the house.
As for what you should buy, there are three main categories you'll want to prioritise: food, medicine, and daily necessities. When stocking up on food, keep your focus on the non-perishables, like canned foods and frozen products. Since you can’t predict when you’ll need them, you don’t want these food products to spoil before you get to them. You should also ensure you have sufficient daily necessities, including toothpaste and toilet paper. Also, remember to keep a 14-day supply of any prescription medicine.
Only Take What You Need and Leave the Rest
Stocking up or being prepared does not mean stockpiling or hoarding. Over-buying supplies will deprive others who need these things–more specifically, the vulnerable populations (i.e. the elderly and poor). To discourage such behaviour, FairPrice has also implemented a per-customer limit on select items. Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing has directed Singaporeans to purchase responsibly and only what is needed (i.e. enough for 14 days).
Singapore is not facing any immediate risks of running out of food or other supplies brought in by retailers. The government has been actively working with supermarket chains to increase the country’s stock of food and essential supplies over the past few months. Not to mention, Singapore has local production capabilities for products such as noodles, infant milk powder, and canned goods, amongst others.
It Is Illegal for Retailers to Profit from Inflated Prices
If you’re worried about possible price inflation, there's some good news. Authorities are cracking down on retailers looking to profit from supplies or necessities amidst the surge in demand. Merchants found guilty will be subject to penalties (S$10,000 for the first offence, S$20,000 for second and subsequent ones). As a result, waiting to make purchases down the line does not mean you'll necessarily have to pay higher prices driven by lower supply or higher demand.
Stay Calm and Rely on Information from Official Sources
Ultimately, the sentiment is that yes, you should stock up in preparation for the coronavirus. However, you shouldn’t hoard or panic-buy as you likely won't need to worry about rising prices and because truly vulnerable people need access to supplies as well. Stay calm, get enough for 14 days and rely on information from official sources. In the meantime, take the necessary hygiene precautions and stay safe!