Personal and familial insecurities came to the fore in a surge of panic buying after Singapore’s disease outbreak response level went up to orange. There are four levels of increasing concern – green, yellow, orange and red – that reflect the severity and spread of the disease. Each status details the impact on the community, and the response needed – for example, temperature screening and border measures – as well as advice to the public. During the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003, the status was orange, meaning that the disease was severe and spread easily but still was contained.

The current coronavirus outbreak, now at code orange, has triggered feral instincts that began with the buying of face masks and hand sanitisers, assumed to be the first line of defence against the viral outbreak. The authorities have come out to insist that masks are needed only by those who are unwell, in order to not infect others, and not by healthy persons. Frequent washing of hands with soap and water might serve as a better safeguard.

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