Panic buying empties shelves after Singapore raises virus alert level

People queue at a grocery store in Singapore after panic buying swept the city amid growing alarm over the coronavirus. (AFP)
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Updated 09 February 2020

Panic buying empties shelves after Singapore raises virus alert level

  • Hong Kong has also been hit by a wave of panic buying in recent days as it seeks to battle the virus, with supermarket shelves emptied of crucial goods

SINGAPORE: Anxious Singapore shoppers formed long lines at grocery stores Saturday and cleared the shelves of essential items after the city-state raised its alert level over China’s coronavirus outbreak.

Since emerging late last year, the virus has killed over 700 people and infected more than 34,000 in China, and spread to many other countries.

Singapore, which has reported 33 cases, raised its alert level Friday to “orange” — the same as during the deadly 2003 SARS outbreak, indicating the virus is severe and passes easily between people.

The announcement triggered panic in the city-state of 5.7 million starting late Friday, with shoppers — many wearing masks — rushing to stock up on items including rice, noodles and toilet paper.

Pictures circulating on social media showed empty shelves in some stores, carts filled with goods and long lines at counters, which continued into Saturday.

“I’m afraid that if they further raise the alert level, we will not be able to go out,” a 50-year-old housewife, who did not want to be named, said after leaving a grocery store.

The highest level on Singapore’s four-point scale for dealing with disease outbreaks is “red,” one above “orange.”

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There were, however, ample stocks of other items such as fruit, meat, fish and alcohol.

The government urged calm, with Trade Minister Chan Chun Sing saying there was no need to rush out to buy crucial supplies.

“There is no risk of us running a shortage of essential food or household items,” he wrote on Facebook.

Singapore raised its alert level amid a growing number of virus cases in citizens with no recent travel history to mainland China and no known links to previous infections.


British Airways burning through cash, CEO urges unions to engage

Updated 04 June 2020

British Airways burning through cash, CEO urges unions to engage

  • Job losses necessary as cash reserves of IAG, British Airways’ parent company, would not last forever

LONDON: The boss of British Airways said its parent company IAG was burning through $223 million a week and could not guarantee its survival, prompting him to urge unions to engage over 12,000 job cuts.
British Airways came under heavy attack from lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday, who accused it of taking advantage of a government scheme to protect jobs while at the same time announcing plans to cut its workforce by 28 percent.
Planes were grounded in March due to coronavirus restrictions, forcing many airlines to cut thousands of staff as they struggle without revenues. Airlines serving Britain now face an additional threat from a 14-day quarantine rule.
In an internal letter to staff seen by Reuters, Alex Cruz, the chief executive of British Airways said the job losses were necessary as IAG’s cash reserves would not last forever and the future was one of more competition for fewer customers.
BA also wants to change terms and conditions for its remaining workers to give it more flexibility by, for example, making all crew fly both short and long-haul.
Cruz said IAG, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, was getting through $223 million a week, meaning that it could not just sit out the crisis. The group had €10 billion of liquidity at the end of April.
“BA does not have an absolute right to exist. There are major competitors poised and ready to take our business,” Cruz said in the letter.
He urged two unions which represent cabin crew and other staff, GMB and Unite, to join in discussions to mitigate proposed redundancies. Pilots union BALPA is “working constructively” with the airline, he added.
Cruz also joined other airline bosses in criticizing Britain’s quarantine rule, due to come into effect on June 8, calling it “another blow to our industry.”