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    Sep 07, 2016

    Zika unlikely to hit economy hard: MAS chief

    THE Zika virus outbreak here is not likely to hurt Singapore's economy in a big way, according to Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

    "It's too early to tell. You could say early indications are that there could be some small impact, but not likely to be significant for overall economic outcome," he said yesterday.

    "But really it's still early days," Mr Menon added.

    The central banker was fielding questions from journalists at a lunch hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of Singapore.

    In a noon update on the disease outbreak yesterday, the Health Ministry (MOH) reported 17 new cases of infection across Singapore, 10 of which have links to the first cluster in the Aljunied area.

    This brings the total number of cases to 275.

    A potential new Zika cluster has been identified around Bi-shan Street 12, said MOH in a joint statement with the National Environment Agency (NEA).

    The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to severe birth defects if pregnant women become infected.

    The outbreak of Zika in the nation coincides with a dip in economic growth.

    It also comes nearly two weeks before Singapore is due to host the Formula One Grand Prix, a major sporting and tourist draw.

    Singapore last month narrowed its economic growth forecast to 1 to 2 per cent from a 1 to 3 per cent growth range previously expected, citing concerns over Brexit and weakening global demand.

    China, trade-dependent Singapore's top overseas market, is also experiencing lower economic growth.

    In a research note, economists at OCBC bank said the Zika outbreak could have a "near-term anticipated effects on visitor arrivals and possibly even domestic consumption" this month, Reuters reported.

    Meanwhile, Singapore's largest supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice has urged customers not to horde anti-mosquito products.

    Sales of these items have ballooned to 10 times the usual before local transmissions of Zika were reported here.

    More than 115,000 products were sold between last Thursday and Sunday.

    The supermarket chain, which has 130 stores here, said last Friday that some anti-mosquito items were out of stock.

    But in a release yesterday, FairPrice said it has placed an additional order for 175,000 pieces of various types of insecticides and repellents, which will be delivered in batches to all its stores this week.

    "We want to assure the community that additional stocks of anti-mosquito products are being sent to our stores and we will keep prices stable," said NTUC FairPrice chief executive officer Seah Kian Peng.

    "There is no need to stock up as we will continue to bring in more supplies and we urge customers to only buy what they need," he added.