Keep calm, go about daily routine: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong helping resident Lee Ah Tee, 69, wear an N95 mask on Sunday. PM Lee and several other ministers and MPs fanned out in their respective constituencies to distribute masks.

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday urged Singaporeans to stay calm and carry on with their normal routine, even as the country faced the possibility of the haze not abating any time soon.

"This is a problem that will last at least a few weeks, maybe a couple of months until September or October, so I think we have to be psychologically prepared," he told some 300 residents during a dialogue in his ward of Ang Mo Kio GRC.

"Keep on working, keep on living. But be ready, if it gets worse, we know what to do."

He sought to draw the distinction between the haze and the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) crisis.

Noting that Sars was deadly and infectious, he added that the haze was "not something which is so poisonous that you must avoid all contact".

"The haze can make your illness worse if you are ill. But for most people, the haze is an inconvenience, life can carry on."

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan made a similar point on Sunday, adding that most people should have "no problem" with the haze especially if they stayed indoors.

And face masks are not needed indoors, PM Lee pointed out.

"If you are normal, healthy, you should not need the mask. Unless it's really bad outside," he said in Mandarin.

He also emphasised that there is no danger of a shortage of the masks, after major pharmacies temporarily ran out of stock last week amid panic buying.

The Ministry of Health has begun distributing its stockpile of nine million N95 masks to pharmacies, clinics and retailers, as well as free to low-income households, he said.

Over the weekend, more than four million masks were pushed out - a million to constituencies, and the rest to retailers.

PM Lee also paid tribute to Singapore Armed Forces personnel and People's Association employees who worked through the night to get the masks to constituencies around the island.

Apart from PM Lee, several other ministers and MPs also fanned out in their respective constituencies to distribute masks.

At the dialogue, PM Lee said that ministries have plans in place to deal with the haze, and the Government is also keeping an eye on the Middle East respiratory syndrome.

rchang@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Lim Yi Han