Singapore. Quarantine. 3 Weeks.
Now to something completely different. Usually my articles are about programming and software development topics but this time I decided to share a personal story. During the difficult pandemic time I was still able to relocate to Singapore, my long awaited destination . Jeez, that wasn’t easy! If you heard anything about current restrictions of the city-state then you should know that the majority of inbound travelers are obligated to serve Stay-Home-Notice (SHN, for short) for 3 weeks. I was incredibly lucky to be here as just a few days after my arrival the cases went up, restrictions were tightened and entry approvals ceased. This article is about my experience staying isolated in a hotel room for 21 days.
On 28th April I took off from Colombo to get to Singapore, the place I was planning to reach a few months back. That was the first time I was travelling with that many documents — In-principle approval letter, entry approval notice, COVID-19 test results and some others in electronic form on the phone. To my surprise (and relief) the border control process went smoothly and fast and after taking yet another test on arrival I hopped on the bus that was supposed to bring me somewhere — at this point there was still no information about the quarantine hotel. After approximately 25 minutes we arrived at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, a place I would be staying for the next 3 weeks.
Week 1. Curiosity
Likely, many of you at least once in life had that wild thought about being imprisoned and deprived of freedom of movement. Certainly, staying in a 5 star hotel is not anyhow an extreme situation, but nevertheless you are confined to a small place you are not allowed to leave.
Initially I was preparing for 2 weeks of “house arrest” and to be frank that sort of challenges always arouses my interest, after all one doesn’t experience that often. But then something changed. On 30th April Ministry of Health (MOH) issued a notice that:
From 1 May 2021, 2359 hours all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or transit through Singapore. All travelers with recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka who have yet to complete their 14-day SHN by 2 May 2021, 2359 hours, will need to complete an additional 7-day SHN at dedicated SHN facilities.
That was indeed a special day I will never forget! Staying one week longer in the hotel room wasn’t planned but that was an incredible luck to get here in the nick of time. I don’t even want to think about what I would be doing had that happened a few days earlier.
Staying at one place with food provided you will have an abundance of hassle-free time! I certainly didn’t want to dawdle and came up with a plan for 3 weeks. My main routine was working and pet-project development. Additionally I had those activities that any newcomer should do upon relocation such as opening a bank account, finding a permanent place to stay and figuring out how to live in this new country. Lastly, due to the obvious lack of physical activities I intended to do sports with YouTube. Here I discovered the BullyJuice channel, an absolute must if you want to build up your body! Even today I’m still working out together with Bully.
A few words about the room itself — it was a 26 sqm Superior Room with a queen-size bed. There was a table, two chairs, a TV that I never turned on, a mirror on the wall and a walk-in shower. Nothing fancy, yet sufficient.
All in all, the first week passed by quickly but at the same time a feeling of being “locked up” started to grow.
Week 2. Struggle
Going into the second week of isolation I realized that I’m missing fresh air as the only source of it was an AC with a fan function. That was obviously not enough. There was a big window in the room but no way to open it. Sometimes, even with the fan turned on I felt suffocated. It wasn’t lack of oxygen as such but rather a psychological reaction of not being able to get some from the outside.
In order to keep my sanity intact I doubled my sport and pet-project activities. Talking to friends and family also helped a lot. But in fact, having a job was the biggest saver of my mental health. Were you ever unhappy because the weekend is approaching? Me neither until this May. Weekend meant no work, no communication with colleagues and a lot of free time. As I have already mentioned previously there were things to arrange, such as a bank account and a place to stay. I’ve heard that Singapore is an advanced city but it for sure surpassed my expectations. I was able to rent temporary accommodation, including onsite online viewing, directly from my phone! This is incredibly efficient as well as eco-friendly, as there is no paper involved.
As per the bank account — I submitted all the required documents online as well. But as it turned out later they have quite peculiar requirements so in the end I had to go to a bank branch to open an account.
On 11th May I had the first COVID-19 test, meaning I could finally leave the room to at least go down to the hotel lobby! And that was truly an incredible moment, I even had a tiny vertigo while waiting for the elevator. I haven’t received any feedback about the test results, meaning it was negative. It’s not like I had any symptoms, but the prospect of spending the next weeks in a hospital wasn’t particularly appealing.
In general, the second week was the toughest period of the whole quarantine. Practically, you are in between and time kind of slows down and even stops at times.
Week 3. Acceptance
By the start of the third week I clearly felt that the end was near. When you can calculate days in single digit numbers it gives extra strength. I carried on all the above-mentioned activities, at this point it was already a routine.
A few words about food, there were 3 meals a day — breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was delivered in a plastic box and placed outside of the room on a table standing right next to the door.
There was a choice — Asian-vegetarian (my choice), Indian-vegetarian or regular meal. There were various dishes served, to name a few: tofu, fried pumpkin cutlet, fried soya stripes, steamed vegetables, potato veggies and a lot of rice.
As a vivid follower of Zero Waste lifestyle I was devastated by the amount of plastic being consumed. Unfortunately there was no other way. The little I could do was to ask them to stop bringing single-use cutleries (which they still kept on leaving on the table). Having one pair of spoon and fork and washing them after a meal was acceptable for me.
Initially, I also didn’t want to use the plastic trash bags (because why waste it), but hotel staff insisted on me keeping the plastic boxes in the bag and not just on the table outside. So I ended up piling it up like this:
The same goes for water — every day I was provided with two 0.5L oxygenated water bottles that I was collecting in yet another separate plastic bag:
Simply put, there is a lot of waste generated by a single traveler serving SHN! I sincerely hope that all of the plastic is being properly recycled.
I had my last COVID-19 test on 18th May, results came back the next day at 10:06:
That was my freedom ticket! I grabbed the suitcases and ran away from the room to the next, Singaporean, page of my life.
Staying three weeks in an isolation of a hotel room is mentally tough. Definitely it is not something I would like to experience again. If you absolutely must come to Singapore do make sure to have proper preparations with your inner self.
Also, bring something that usually cheers you up. In my case it was a bag of Lankan green tea and a tea strainer. Luckily there was a kettle in the room!