Panic buying returns to Singapore after Malaysia announces lockdown; new church cluster emerges (map)

Shoppers queue at around midnight at Bukit Timah Plaza. Photo: Alex Yam/Facebook
Shoppers queue at around midnight at Bukit Timah Plaza. Photo: Alex Yam/Facebook

Scenes of panic buying erupted anew in Singapore amid fears of shortages following news of nationwide lockdown in Malaysia. Coronavirus cases in the city-state had risen to 243 by this morning. 

Long queues of shoppers in places like Bukit Timah Plaza surfaced online around midnight last night, hours after Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a lockdown of the country for two weeks starting tomorrow, purportedly contributing to fears among Singaporeans of a grocery supply shortage in the city-state, which depends on foreign countries like Malaysia for items such as fruit, vegetables, and poultry. 

Singapore Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing quickly took to social media to urge calm, saying the government has been “actively working” with local supermarkets for the past two months to increase supplies of food and essentials. 

“The Government has been actively working with essential firms such as NTUC Fairprice, Sheng Siong and Dairy Farm International to increase our stock of food and essential supplies over the last two months,” Chan wrote yesterday. “This means that we are not in danger of running out of food or other supplies brought in by our retailers.” 

All shops except those selling staples must close, gatherings banned and overseas travel barred from Wednesday through the end of the month in Malaysia, where the most coronavirus infections – 566 as of this morning – have been detected in the region.

Panic buying hit Singapore last month after the government raised the disease threat alert level from yellow to orange. But calls for calm from politicians did not stop many from ambushing local supermarkets as long queues emerged late last night.

A number of other Singapore politicians also took to social media to call for calm. 

“Our food supply is from all over the world and not just Malaysia. We understand people are concerned about the news from Malaysia but there is no need to panic buy,” Louis Ng, the Member of Parliament for the Nee Soon constituency wrote online.

Coronavirus cases rose to 243

Seventeen new infections were reported yesterday – the highest single-day rise for Singapore so far – and they mostly involved people who had contracted COVID-19 overseas.

The latest group of foreign nationals to test positive include two Australians, an Indonesian, three British nationals and one Belgium national. 

More Singaporeans believed to have contracted COVID-19 overseas before testing positive here include an adjunct teaching staff for the Republic and Singapore Polytechnics, who was in Eastern Europe from March 3 to 14. Another is an employee of the Lighthouse Evangelism Church who was in France from March 7 to 12. 

The coronavirus continues to spread locally as new clusters emerge. The Health Ministry revealed yesterday that two cases linked to the SAFRA Jurong private dinner are also linked to infections sprouting from the Boulder+ climbing gym in Kallang and the Church of Singapore in Bukit Timah, respectively.

Case No. 142 is a 26-year-old employee of a local marketing agency linked to the two infected climbing gym-goers, also known as cases No. 162 and 163.

Case No. 144 is a 58-year-old hairdresser who had come into contact with an infected person from the SAFRA Jurong cluster (case No. 140) and also linked to the three other infections at the Church of Singapore. Infected churchgoers also include a Singapore General Hospital staff, also known as case No. 208. 

Click the top left icon for a list of all cases or on a colored marker directly for more information.

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