Singapore minister cannot mask scorn for coronavirus panic-buyers – dpa international


Fruit and vegetables for sale at Tekka Market in Singapore’s Little India (Simon Roughneen)

Leaked audio has emerged of Singaporean Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing criticizing both Singaporeans for hoarding and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam for wearing a medical mask while holding at a press conference.

The source of the audio is unknown, but appears to be a recording of a closed-door meeting last week at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Drawing laughter from his audience, Chan criticized as “disgraceful” and “idiotic” alleged hoarding and panic-buying of food and household goods in Singapore, where 81 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.

The recording, which has been widely shared on Singaporean social media, features Chan claiming that the sight of the mask-clad Hong Kong leader Lam prompted panic-buying in Hong Kong. If Singaporean officials had emulated Lam, Chan said, “our hospital system would have broken down” as there would be “no more masks.”

Lam wore a medical mask during a January 28 press conference about the coronavirus which has been spreading across the region. The sight of Lam trying to speak to the press behind the mask prompted scorn and criticism in Hong Kong, where the wearing of masks in public was banned during months of anti-government protests in 2019.

Masks have divided opinion since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatening to eject anyone wearing a mask from his press conferences, but with Thailand’s Health Minister criticizing foreign visitors for not wearing masks.

In a post on his personal Facebook on Monday, Chan acknowledged that the meeting had taken place, but did not confirm or deny making the comments heard in the recording.

Chan said he had a “frank discussion” with the chamber, concluding his post by writing that “hearsay taken out of context will be unhelpful to trust-building and collective actions in these difficult times.”

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