Updated: Jan 18, 2022
"I was quarantined in Singapore from 8th to 29th April 2021 during the COVID pandemic, so here what it's like." - Adam Hyslop
I was travelling from the UK and needed to go back to China where I currently live. There were no direct flights from the UK, but I was lucky to be able to travel to Singapore first since I have my PR (permanent residency) there. Only Singaporean Citizens and PR can travel to Singapore and some transit passengers. There was just one flight from the UK to Singapore per week and it was with Singapore Airlines. I must say that the fare with Singapore Airlines was normal and was a fair price.
Adam Hyslop Staying Safe and Sane during Quarantine
Countries around the world have gone through their cycles of infection, lockdown, restrictions, opening up, quarantines. Getting through this seemingly neverending experience of COVID-19 can feel like asking someone who has never run in their lives to suddenly do an ultramarathon race. It is hard to see the end in sight.
The saving grace of the human species is, we do our best to survive, and adaptability is one of our strengths that help us to move through a difficult situation. In our current climate, quarantine has now become something common, and like it or not, it is something that we have to experience if we need to travel to specific locations that are more affected by COVID-19.
I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences during one of my recent quarantine periods. Why would anyone want to read about what someone has been doing cooped up inside a room for two weeks you ask.
Everyone has a different way of coping, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. There were many little things that made my quarantine experience bearable and I even found moments of surprise and delight. A friendly chat with a stranger. A balcony. Technology giving access to so many things. Ordering a yoghurt.
For those who need to travel during this time, quarantine may elicit a groan. Read on, and perhaps you may feel some relief knowing that there are many workers in the entire system doing their best to ensure people in quarantine are taken care of.
The prerequisite to fly to Singapore
Have your entry permit and pay for the COVID test upon arrival (SDG160). That’s all. No COVID test was needed before my departure from London. There were around 50 people on board, appropriately distanced, and the service was simply the best from SQ as usual. Many people, particularly the younger ones, had full hazmat suits on. To each his own. The menu is now digital and the care package with the socks and eye mask has been replaced with hand sanitisers, face masks and antibacterial pads to wipe the touch screens.
Upon entering Singapore, we were split into groups of 8 and greeted by medical staff who took us through a concise and well organised process of meet and greet, COVID test, immigration clearance, baggage collection and then transport to the hotel. Definitely appreciating efficiency and organizational skills here.
COVID tests are never nice so one must be brave! I spoke with a Singaporean passenger on the mini bus to the hotel and this had been the third time he had been through this process since he has business in the UK and still needs to travel. The total quarantine time is 2 weeks in a dedicated hotel facility plus a 1-week stay at home notice. I was wondering what to do for the rest of the time. We joked that we were lucky this time because the US Masters Golf competition was about to start, so that would take up the first 4 days.
Guess the Hotel
I did have a look at the list of approved quarantine hotels in Singapore and stay at home notice and the list is long. Literally hundreds of hotels.
I had a hunch that we would be placed downtown. I was thinking about Swissotel Stamford and guessed it out loud on the bus. We continued driving over the bridge and turned off at the Singapore Flyer, then made our way onto North Bridge Road, Bras Basah and finally ... turned into the Swissotel! Wish I could be this accurate with guessing lottery numbers!
So that was really lucky for us to get this hotel. Check-in was quick. Again, appreciation for efficiency! I paid the standard SGD 2,000 for the 14 days, signed a few documents about abiding by the rules, e.g. not to leave the room and to wear a mask on the balcony. A balcony? Seriously, I cannot get luckier than that.
I said my goodbyes and wished good luck to the other quarantine participants. They were my last face-to-face contacts and now I had to be ready to be cocooned by myself for the next two weeks.
I made my way to my room and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised, even delighted with the room. Imagine this - 35th floor, spacious, two beds, LED TV, fridge, bath, desk, balcony and a view overlooking one of Singapore best skyline, the Padang, Cricket Club and CBD area — spectacular!
We had to order food on the day before by scanning a QR code and filling out the menu online. There were three options each for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was good, mainly a fusion of Singaporean, Malay and Indian with some western options. The portions were decent, adequate and served in a plastic tray and always piping hot. There were some vegetarian options too which were good. I was grateful for the attention to detail and options.
I managed a few days on these meals alone but then discovered Deliveroo and did on occasion succumb to ordering a sandwich or two and some items from Cold Storage including fruit, nuts, yoghurt, some chocolate and dare I say it, some Carlsberg. Items were delivered to the door within 30 minutes of being delivered downstairs. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved that I was able to get the food I needed (or craved) and all with such excellent organisation.
I received a daily call from the Ministry of Health to check in on my mental health and I was given a number to call should I have any questions about the stay or the process.
Stay Safe, Stay Busy
In terms of keeping occupied, I was provided with options.
I kept active by doing some basic exercises everyday with a stretch band. There was an option to hire an exercise bike from the hotel but I never got around to doing that.
I brought an encyclopaedia that I had since 1995 and finally got round to reading it. Yay! I managed 350+ pages including everything from the origins of the universe, geology to the Doppler effect to chaos theory. So my quarantine helped give me a brain boost as well.
I also had my PS4 which I managed to hook up to the LED TV but didn't end up playing it much. My iPhone has access to our tv box in China, so I hooked up the iPhone to my Mac and then to the LED TV via HDMI cable … visual check … then connected the iPhone to the bluetooth speaker in the room for the sound ... and ... we’re in business!
Staying in contact with family and friends on messenger and video calls really helped pass the time and before I knew it, I was 1 week in and received a nice note from the hotel with some chocolates to say that I had passed the halfway mark. That was a nice touch to keep the spirits going. Before I knew it, it was time for a COVID test which we went to receive on the 4th floor and thankfully I received a message the next day to say the result was negative.
Upon check out on the 14th day, we had to provide our address for the next 7-day stay at home notice and were also given a tag to wear around the wrist. This was connected to a detector device that would be plugged into the wall. This is to make sure that you stay within the address that you have identified. You are not allowed to leave the room or use the hotel facilities for example.
I had booked a service apartment, so I was lucky to have slightly more space, a washing machine, a basic cooking area and even a small balcony. Yes, I am so into balconies now and they are a godsend!
For the third week, I received daily calls and this time even video calls so they could ensure that I was inside the apartment, where I was supposed to be. The service apartment staff also checked on my whereabouts every couple of days.
What struck me was the polite treatment and the seriousness in which things were properly carried out to ensure everyone's safety. We are in the midst of a pandemic afterall, and it would make a lot more sense to respect the gravity of the situation. It really made the whole quarantine experience so much more bearable because people made the extra effort to provide for so many creature comforts.
Road to Freedom after 21 days of quarantine
I continued the routine that I had built for myself during the first two weeks.
Two days before the end of the three weeks, I was given the closest address to take the third COVID test. After a short taxi journey, the staff were on hand to take my details, conduct the test and deliver the results the next day.
The day before I left, the Ministry of Health staff came to the apartment to collect the detector device and I was at last free to leave after 21 days of quarantine.
First thing I did after being solo and confined all that time? I gave my legs a good stretch by walking about 22,000 steps that day followed by meeting up with two family members and of course, a good feast!
A quarantine is not a holiday nor a fancy retreat, and having to stay in a limited space for an extended period of time is not a walk in the park. But it was all made so much more bearable, because everyone involved did their best to ensure everything proceeded smoothly, and people in quarantine were taken care of.
Singapore is currently going through a rough phase after things had settled for a while. Restrictions have started again and social gatherings have been reduced to only two people, and the total number of imported cases as of 31st May stands at 4,633 (+7). I hope we can soon see an end to this rollercoaster ride.
It is starting to sound like a mantra, but it is relevant for the pandemic and actually, for every day of our lives - Stay safe, everyone!
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