Calvin, Yang. (2020). ‘Coronavirus: Singapore looking for new sources of masks, looking at manufacturing them locally’, The Straits Times, 19 Feb.
SINGAPORE – Singapore is looking for new sources of supply for masks and developing capabilities to manufacture them locally as other Asian countries clamp down on mask exports, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong has said.
“In recent weeks, some places like Taiwan, Thailand and India have banned or tightened regulations on the export of masks,” he said in a written parliamentary reply on Tuesday (Feb 18).
“We are therefore strengthening the resilience of our supply chain, including looking for new sources, and developing local manufacturing capabilities.”
The Government is taking proactive steps to secure essential supplies such as masks, Mr Wong shared. “In peacetime, we had built up a stockpile of surgical and N95 masks. As we draw down on this stockpile, we will also need to replenish it with new supplies.”
He was responding to Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who had asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong what lessons can be learnt from the recent coronavirus situation and what can be improved upon to better prepare Singaporeans against a pandemic outbreak.
Mr Gan also asked if the Government will include production of masks and other medical protective gear as a strategic facility and support investment in such a facility here.
As of Tuesday, Singapore had 81 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Mr Wong, responding on behalf of PM Lee, said the various infectious disease outbreaks that the country has faced – including the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H1N1, Zika and most recently monkeypox – have improved its readiness for the next outbreak.
“Over the years, we have strengthened our epidemiological surveillance and containment capabilities, and held regular emergency preparedness exercises to keep ourselves operationally ready,” he said, adding that the setting up of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases has enhanced the country’s capabilities to manage a disease outbreak.
Mr Wong said that all healthcare institutions were alerted when Covid-19 emerged, with precautionary measures put in place according to the Government’s response plans. “Even before Singapore had its first confirmed case, we anticipated that we would need a whole-of-government effort to respond effectively to this threat,” he added.
The multi-ministry task force on the coronavirus, set up on Jan 22 to coordinate responses, has since put in place a range of measures from border controls to extra precautions within Singapore.
Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force with Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, said: “An important part of our system of defence is the role that every individual plays, by exercising social responsibility, practising good personal hygiene, and supporting our fellow citizens, especially our healthcare workers on the front line.”
“We must not let our fears overwhelm us and cause us to behave irrationally, selfishly or irresponsibly. Instead, let us support and look out for one another, so that we can all get through this together and emerge stronger,” he added.
Mr Wong also highlighted the importance of not spreading unverified information, adding that the Government “has and will continue to push timely information through various platforms”.
“We will continue to do everything we can, to keep Singaporeans safe, and to overcome this challenging situation together,” he said.