SINGAPORE – When Teck Ghee Parkview resident Lini Chew, 36, learnt about the panic-buying driven by the coronavirus outbreak, she felt she had to do something.
Hand sanitisers were sold out in shops – so why not make her own?
Last Saturday (Feb 8), the marketing manager and about 10 neighbours rolled up their sleeves to produce hand sanitisers from scratch, bottle them, and left them in Housing Board lifts in their estate for others to use.
“When Dorscon Orange (was activated), people were scrambling to clear the shelves. Even before that, masks and hand sanitisers were sold out,” Ms Chew told The Straits Times. “We don’t want to succumb to this kind of behaviour. If we are to come together as a community and stand strong, it has to start from our own actions.”
Ms Chew took the initiative and roped in some members from her “TGPV Super Mummies” WhatsApp group. One of them, who has an essential oils business, provided the formula. The others scoured their shelves and medicine cabinets at home for the key ingredients – vodka, essential oils and aloe vera gel. A friend from Queenstown taught them how to put these ingredients together.
The fruits of their labour – 14 bottles of homemade hand sanitiser – can now be found in the lifts of four housing blocks and a carpark in their estate.
While hand sanitisers – with at least 60 per cent alcohol – can help, health experts recommend that the best way to remove germs from a person’s hands is to wash them with water and soap. So regular hand washing should keep them clean.
Some people in Singapore have been criticised for panic-buying grocery items and hoarding masks amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak – which has killed more than 1,000 people in mainland China and infected more than 43,000 people worldwide.
But it has also brought out the best in people here, with children leaving notes of gratitude for healthcare workers; private companies distributing free masks and sanitisers; and some residents in Punggol, Sengkang, Serangoon and Ghim Moh leaving these items for neighbours.
Punggol resident Jason Ho, 47, had a “nice surprise” when he saw bottles of hand sanitiser and masks appear in the lifts of Block 267B a fortnight ago.
“I didn’t expect that one of my neighbours would do that. We have been trying to find out who he or she is,” the freelance kin-ball instructor said. “After that first gesture, other neighbours have also started contributing – leaving alcohol swabs, and more masks after the original ones ran out.”
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong praised these acts of kindness in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Feb 11).
“You don’t have to be on the frontline fighting the coronavirus to make a difference. The acts of neighbourliness and kindness happening across our island show that the Singapore spirit is alive and well.”
Others have also stepped up to help.
Student volunteers from the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University have been delivering food and supportive messages to their peers who have been placed on leave of absence.
Outdoor camp operators Innotrek and FutuReady Asia prepared face masks and hand sanitiser bottles for more than 5,000 seniors, which were distributed from Monday onwards.
One senior, 80-year-old Limau Estate resident Eric Teo opened his semi-detached house as a mask collection point last week (Feb 4).
Royal Plaza on Scotts has also opened up hotel rooms for at least four of its housekeeping staff – who were sharing rented apartments with other foreign workers placed on leave of absence.
“We would prefer them to stay with us rather than seek other temporary housing for them where there may be other concerns of the environment and their safety,” said general manager Patrick Fiat.
Additional reporting by Tiffany Fumiko Tay, Linette Lai, Jean Iau and Joel Chan
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This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.