When Singapore’s response to the pandemic is one of the world’s best (as compared to countless other developed countries), you feel a sense of gratitude. You feel comfortable. Like there’s nothing to complain about. You feel safe. There are inconveniences like being required to wear a mask in public or checking into malls and restaurants using an app. But most of these measures are fine. They are necessary. Since the pandemic began, we had one large shutdown called the “circuit breaker”. Afterwards, an organised shift from Phase 1 to 3. With each phase number came lesser restrictions and more mobility for everyday life to resume.
And then, May 2021 happens. Almost right after a news article declared the Lion City as the safest place in this pandemic, a cluster forms at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3. Cases appear at different parts of the city. It’s silly to compare this to countries like India which, as of this writing, is ground zero of the pandemic. This proves that the virus can turn things around quickly for even the most highly prepared countries. It really is true… “no one is safe until everyone is safe”. And Singapore had another wake-up call in the past three weeks.
I’ve had my first exposure alert borne from a single visit to White Sands Shopping Mall on May 4. I went to White Sands to eat a late lunch in a near-empty restaurant. I went downstairs to the basement to dapao my favourite kopi C. I was in the mall for less than an hour on a Wednesday when it was probably the least crowded. And yet, an infectious case was working at a pharmacy in the basement area. Alerts, as I understand, are generated if you are in the same postal code / building as an infectious case during a set amount of time. If I recall that afternoon, my visit was brief and rather transient: (1) eating in an empty restaurant on the third floor and (2), buying kopi C from Ya Kun Kaya Toast. I remember that visit to Ya Kun, I was attempting to use my Apple Watch to pay for kopi C — and it didn’t work. I ended up paying in cash.
White Sands eventually had some COVID-19 cases. The man at the pharmacy and then a cluster from Wok Hey… which is also at the basement. Ya Kun, if I’m not mistaken, is actually the mid-way point between the pharmacy and Wok Hey. But never mind, my visit was brief. Three minutes according to my SafeEntry. But this is enough for me to get included into the government’s surveillance operations for White Sands. They are “strongly encouraging” anyone at White Sands between May 2 and 11 to go for free testing at a regional testing centre. I was apprehensive at first (scared of getting swabbed, I haven’t experienced it yet). But then I felt strongly that it’s my duty as a resident of Singapore to check my health and my status. I’ve felt okay the past two weeks. Perhaps only anxious at times with the news. MOH and the news outlets publish information about the day’s COVID-19 cases (places where they’ve been) in the late evening hours. LOL. That’s not helping me catch any sleep.
I’m going for my first COVID-19 swab on May 29 as part of the government’s programme to conduct surveillance to see if there are more cases at White Sands. Two of my flatmates, who were also at White Sands during those dates, are going for testing as well. None of us at home are sick. We all feel fine. We are just doing our part. Plus, the test is free anyway.
After the latest string of clusters, home is now the default. It’s recommended by government. Work from home is also the default. I think it’s a soft circuit breaker. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the next week or so. If cases die down to below ten, below five, or back to the ones and zeroes we’ve gotten used to in recent months. Or if it goes the other way and we have a full lockdown.
Many of the recent cases are close to home: White Sands (where I do groceries normally), Pasir Ris Elias Community Club McDonalds (where we order our McDonalds from occasionally),and Changi Airport (I frequent Jewel Changi Airport, we even had a staycation there). Recent cases are distributed in diverse spaces from the country’s top hospital, to schools, shopping malls…
I’m writing this to document this period. I’m waiting for my turn to get vaccinated. As of this writing, they are vaccinating those who are 40 and above. Be safe, everyone.