Long queues at supermarkets in Singapore after announcement of ‘circuit breakers’ to contain Covid-19

A queue at the NTUC FairPrice outlet in Woodlands Civic Centre at about 6.30pm on April 3, 2020. — TODAY pic
A queue at the NTUC FairPrice outlet in Woodlands Civic Centre at about 6.30pm on April 3, 2020. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, April 4 — Hours after the Government announced a stepping up of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, snaking queues were spotted at supermarkets across the island, with at least 20 people in line at any one time.

This was despite FairPrice Group’s chief executive officer Seah Kian Peng assuring the public earlier in the day that the supermarket chain’s outlets would remain open “come what may”.

At Cold Storage in Bugis Junction mall, a long line of 20 was formed every few minutes outside the supermarket, which limited the number of shoppers entering each time to 10 people.

An employee manning the queue told TODAY that this was done to prevent overcrowding.

The queue of people waiting to enter Cold Storage in Bugis Junction on April 3, 2020.—TODAY pic
The queue of people waiting to enter Cold Storage in Bugis Junction on April 3, 2020.—TODAY pic

A similar scene was played out at the NTUC FairPrice supermarket in Chinatown Point.

Kiang Phuengsuwan, 31, who works as an engineer and visits the outlet once a week, told TODAY that the crowds were “abnormal”.

“I think most people are worried about food supply and whether food places will still open since things seem to be changing every day,” he said.

While he does not believe in stocking up food, he is worried that more restaurants might close from the lack of business after the “circuit-breaker” measures kick in next Tuesday.

The Government on Friday announced stringent measures that would empty workplaces in non-essential industries, restrict people movement and drastically scale down the operation of schools from April 7 to May 4.

Hours after the announcements, the FairPrice website was down while throngs of people were seen at supermarkets.

But unlike the panic buying seen after the Government raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level from Yellow to Orange in early February, shoppers on Friday were seen buying in smaller quantities.

Most people interviewed by TODAY that they were merely making their weekly grocery runs.

Ken Yap, 38, who is self-employed, said that he wanted to buy facial tissues, which had just run out in his household.

Another shopper, May Goh, a 36-year-old business analyst, said that she was at the supermarket to buy just potatoes and tomatoes — enough to last her for the weekend.

An auditor, 37, who declined to give his name, observed that the number of shoppers was “higher than usual” at the supermarket. He makes grocery runs every two days to buy food for himself.

“I am buying my normal supply of snacks and staple food, but looking at how much others are buying, I have reservations on the food supply and I might be stocking up on more food in the next few days,” he said.

Over at City Square Mall near Little India, Edmund Yeo, 57, who works as a manager at an engineering firm, was spotted stocking up on wine — five bottles — enough to last him for the next three weeks.

“We are just buying a little more than usual to keep ourselves entertained at home.”

He lamented that the vegetable supply at the supermarket has been wiped out, but said that while this was unusual, he was not very concerned.

“We will just go to the wet market tomorrow to buy some,” he added.

A large crowd was also seen at Giant supermarket in Tampines later on Friday. — TODAY

Shoppers outside Giant supermarket in Tampines at around 10pm on April 3, 2020.—TODAY pic
Shoppers outside Giant supermarket in Tampines at around 10pm on April 3, 2020.—TODAY pic