SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Fear can do more harm than the spreading coronavirus, Singapore’s prime minister said on Saturday, a day after the city-state raised its alert level, prompting residents to clear out supermarket shelves of rice, noodles and toilet paper.
Singapore raised its response to “orange” – the same as during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak and the 2009 H1N1 influenza, which indicates the virus is severe and passes easily between persons.
“There is no need to panic. We are not locking down the city or confining everybody to stay at home,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
“We have ample supplies, so there is no need to stock up with instant noodles, tinned food, or toilet paper, as some people did yesterday.”
The city-state has 33 coronavirus infections, with some cases not linked to travel to China, where more than 700 people died from the virus.
If cases kept growing and the fatality rate stayed low, the government may encourage those with mild symptoms to rest at home instead of going to hospital, which would allow healthcare workers to focus on the most vulnerable patients, Lee said.
While the epidemic began in Wuhan in China, it has been spreading rapidly in other countries and sparking wider precautionary measures.
French health officials said on Saturday that five British nationals including a child had been diagnosed with the coronavirus in France, after staying in the same ski chalet with a person who had been in Singapore.
Britain has included the city-state in a list of countries from which returning travelers who developed symptoms should self-isolate, while Kuwait has asked its citizens not to travel to Singapore.
A second evacuation flight bringing back Singaporeans and family members from Wuhan was expected to arrive on Sunday.
The Pentagon is shrinking the size of its delegation traveling to the Singapore air show and U.S. defense firms Lockheed Martin Corp <LMT.N> and Raytheon Co <RTN.N> said they would not attend.
(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; editing by Nick Macfie)