MOH Responds After People Hoarded Flu & Cough Medicine to Send to China

With China moving away from its strict zero-COVID policy, it’s no secret that the country has since seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases due to their latest COVID-19 wave.

As such, many Chinese nationals in Singapore have resorted to purchasing medicine in Singapore to send back to their family members in China, whether it’s because their families have run out of medicine back in China or so that they can stock up on medication out of the peace of mind.

(Yes, I guess you could say it’s like The Hunger Games. But for medicine, which sounds even more dystopian.)

In particular, the most popular medications bought by the Chinese include over-the-counter medicine for fevers, coughs and colds.

Many have also pointed to reasons such as prices being marked up in China and a shortage of medicine when asked why they have chosen to purchase medicine in Singapore to send back to China.

However, these medications being hoarded in large amounts has also seemingly resulted in a shortage for others in Singapore.

And the Ministry of Health (MOH) has just responded to this issue.

Here’s what MOH has to say.

MOH’s Response to Huge Amounts of Medication Being Bought and Sent Back to China

Just yesterday (21 December), MOH acknowledged that retailers and retail pharmacies “have seen increased demand for over-the-counter medicines” and that the ministry is observing the situation closely.

As for the popular medications, such as Panadol, that have been out of stock since the hoarding began, MOH mentioned that it might take longer for specific brands to be restocked.

However, MOH also encouraged the public to consider alternative brands if they need the medicine and highlighted that most retailers carry various brands for the same kind of medication.

This also includes “generic medicines”, which, according to MOH, “are just as effective as branded medicines”.

Apart from that, MOH emphasised the importance of purchasing medicine in reasonable quantities.

“We also advise the public to purchase medicines, particularly paediatric medication, in quantities that are sufficient only for their own consumption, in order to avoid wastage,” MOH said.

Limit on Amount that Each Customer Can Purchase

And with the increasing shortage of fever, cough and cold medicines, some companies have decided to limit the amount of medication each customer can purchase from their store(s).

One of those companies is Shun Xing Express, which specialises in courier services to China.

Shun Xing, which has a store at Paya Lebar Square, has chosen only to allow 50 customers to send medical supplies to China.

An employee also told CNA that the cap, introduced on Tuesday (20 December), was implemented after the outlet saw snaking queues that apparently went all the way to the bus stop outside the shopping mall.

However, those who are not shipping medical supplies to China will be unaffected by this 50-customer limit.

By 10.30 am yesterday (21 December), all 50 spots had been filled up, and one woman even claimed that she could not get a spot even though she reached the store at 8 am.

Shun Xing put up a notice to inform customers that there were no more spots available for the day and requested that customers not join the queue if they did not have a queue number.

Apart from that, Shun Xing also announced that each customer would only be able to purchase and send a maximum of eight boxes of either Panadol or Lianhua Qingwen, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, to one address.

The courier company charges $10 to mail a package with eight boxes of Panadol or Lianhua Qingwen to China. It has separate by-weight charges for other items, such as cough syrup.

A notice put up earlier this month on 19 December also informed customers that shipments to 17 provinces and municipalities in China will be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These regions include Beijing, Shandong and Jiangsu.

Other stores that have seen queues and a decrease in the supply of medications, such as Panadol, include Anjie International Express, Essentials Pharmacy, Guardian and Watsons.

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Current Medication Stocks in Singapore

Currently, it seems like popular medicines such as Singapore are running low for some variations, but plenty of options are still available in the market.

On the Watsons online store, the company has updated that two Panadol medications, namely the 12-capsule pack of Panadol Cold Relief PE Caplets and 16-capsule pack of Panadol Actifast, are currently out of stock.

However, other similar items, such as the 20-capsule pack of Panadol Actifast, Panadol Cough and Cold, as well as Sinus Remedy products from Panadol, are still available for purchase on the website.

As for Guardian, products such as the Panadol Mini Caps, Panadol Hot Relief and Panadol Children Pain and Fever Relief are currently out of stock on its website.

The 120-capsule pack of Panadol Extra and Panadol with Optizorb are also out of stock.

On the NTUC website, the 20-capsule pack of Panadol Extra is currently out of stock.

Other medications that have been selling fast in Singapore include Nurofen, a brand of ibuprofen medication.

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Featured Image: Lianhe Zaobao