Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced last night (March 16) that the country will be imposing a ban on Malaysians traveling overseas and on visitors entering the country from March 18 to 31.
Only shops selling essentials, including food stores and pharmacies, would be allowed to stay open, he said in a televised address.
These rules are part of a Movement Control Order to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
In response to this, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chung Sing said today (March 17) that Singapore is already in touch with the Malaysia authorities “as they work out their operational details.”
“Our priority is to ensure that our people and our businesses are able to continue with their lives and their livelihoods,” he added.
With Malaysia’s lockdown, Mr Chan noted some rising concerns among Singaporeans, especially since Malaysia is a close neighbouring country.
So how does this lockdown affect us?
Some Singaporeans are concerned with the supplies of food and essential items, while many companies with Malaysian workers are concerned with business continuity.
He assured that Singaporeans should not be worried about the disruption of supplies from Malaysia, as Singapore has been planning a “contingency scenario … for many years.”
We have plans to manage this contingency, with a combination of stockpiling, building up our domestic production capacities, and diversifying our supply sources to many countries.
This combination of stockpiling and local production will provide us time to bring in alternative supplies, should our usual supply lines be disrupted, as in Malaysia in the current context.– Minister Chan Chun Sing
The Government has been actively working with essential firms such as NTUC Fairprice, Sheng Siong and Dairy Farm International to increase Singapore’s stock of food and essential supplies over the last two months.
“This means that we are not in danger of running out of food or other supplies brought in by our retailers,” said Mr Chan in a separate Facebook post.
He went on to list a breakdown of Singapore supplies, though he declined to reveal actual numbers:
- For carbohydrates like rice and noodles, we have more than three months’ worth of stockpile at the national level. For noodles, we also have domestic production capabilities.
- For proteins like meat and vegetables, we have a combination of fresh, frozen and canned options to meet our demand.
- For both proteins and vegetables, we have more than two months’ worth of normal consumption.
- For eggs, we have local production and we have activated other air freight options to substitute the Malaysian supplies should they be disrupted.
Since we have local production capabilities for products such as noodles, infant milk powder and canned goods, we can “quickly and easily” increase supply for our domestic consumption if need be.
Singapore has also continued to diversify its sources of essential goods. “For example, we get a good amount of vegetables from China and even go as far as Australia and Spain to secure our supply of eggs,” he explained.
While we may have to make some adjustments to our choices, we do have sufficient food supplies for all Singaporeans, as long as we buy responsibly.– Minister Chan Chun Sing
He stressed that although we are not facing any shortages, it’s imperative that everyone purchase only what they need.
“Otherwise, no amount of stockpiling will be sufficient,” he added.
With regards to the issue of the Malaysian workers, Mr Chan said that many employers have enquired if they can provide temporary accommodation to Malaysian workers who may wish to stay in Singapore during this period.
He added that our economic agencies are currently working with the companies, dormitory operators, and hotels to provide options for companies.
Companies who need help for their workers’ accommodation can also contact the economic agencies and also work with their trade associations.
While many of these new restrictions and announcements may be “overwhelming for many people”, Mr Chan stressed that we should “draw strength as a community” and collectively work as one united Singapore to overcome these short-term challenges together.