COVID Series: Quarantine Diaries in Singapore

The father of a Singapore Coronavirus case kindly shared a real-life story of COVID-19 quarantine on social media.

“Since Covid-19 is something new to us and it is spreading like wildfire, I thought it will benefit many by sharing what I have learnt from my personal experience. My son will be entering university in August. As he was bored at home, he took up a part-time job at Wizlearn Technologies. He was supposed to work until end of February. As fate would have it, he became one of the luckiest guys in Singapore.

On Wednesday 26th February, he was informed that someone in the building had contracted Covid-19. All the staff in his office were told to work from home. The next day, he told us he had a mild fever in the evening. We gave him some Panadol and he went to bed. The following morning, he still had a fever, so we asked him to visit a GP a few blocks away from our home. During his visit, he told the GP about his colleague at Wizlearn. The GP did an influenza test on him, which turned out to be negative. 30 minutes after he arrived home, the Ministry of Health (MOH) called him and told him that an ambulance would be sent to take him to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) for tests.  If this is not efficiency, I don’t know what is!

At the NCID, they did a nasal swab and told us he would be admitted for the night for observation with a subsequent test done the next morning. We were allowed to bring some clothing and personal belongings to him. We could only do this once and after, we were not allowed to see him. We left the bag at the reception. MOH started contact tracing that very evening.

On Saturday morning (29th February), my son told us that NCID had confirmed he was positive for Covid-19. Within hours, MOH contacted us and subsequently, two Cisco officers and a nurse came to our house to issue the quarantine orders. The nurse gave us a thermometer and 2 face masks each. We were given a form to record our body temperature 3 times a day. The Cisco officers explained the conditions of the quarantine order to us in detail. Surprisingly, he was not able to answer some of our questions and had to call his boss to seek clarification. He did tell us that the rules and regulations from MOH kept changing from time to time.

Here are some of the things we have learnt from the quarantine order –

(1) It was actually 13 days (not 14). Our quarantine order started on Saturday 29th Feb at 12 pm and ended at 12 pm on Friday 13 Mar.

(2) The government quarantine facility is only available to people who rent a room or stay in a dormitory. MOH will assess the application on case by case basis.

(3) MOH only provides food to those who stay in the government quarantine facility. For the rest of us quarantined at home, we have to depend on ourselves for our meals. We are lucky to have kind neighbours and friends who were free and could send us food. Of course, the quarantine officers told us we could always order food from Grabfood and Deliveroo (expensive suggestion!).

(4) Each day, we received 3 Whatsapp video calls from an MOH officer. On certain days, 2 video calls and a surprise home visit by a Cisco officer. They called to check our body temperature and also to check on our health conditions, if we had any symptoms. On the first day, they asked us to show them 3 locations in our house which would be used to identify and ensure we were staying at home. The video calls were made by different people every time. Sometimes, it was a man. Other times, a lady. We could hear their voices but could not see their faces – we were always shown colourful walls and ceilings. It was very inconvenient. Sometimes, they called us at 7am while we were still sleeping.

On the same day we received the quarantine order, we were visited by an officer from the National Environment Agency (NEA). He issued us a bottle of Clorox, one face mask and a pair of gloves. An officer also called us later to inform us that they would provide a one-time disposal of bio-hazardous waste. We were expecting someone from NEA to clean and disinfect our house. As it turned out, we were told to do it ourselves!

My two other sons stayed with us throughout our quarantine. They are usually boarders at school from Monday to Friday. MOH contacted their school and the boys were sent them home on Leave of Absence (LOA) until further notice. They were not served a quarantine order because the last time they saw their brother was on Sunday, 23rd February before he had showed any symptoms. Under the conditions of the LOA, they were allowed to go out for a short duration to buy food. They became our personal GrabFood.

My son had a bit of cough and a serious sore throat after his admission to hospital.  Throughout his stay, he was only given cough medicine and some lozenges. No other medication at all. Thankfully, he recovered on Sunday, 1st March (after three days). His symptoms were confined to only low-grade fever and sore throat (making him one of the 80% of Covid-19 patients who only show mild symptoms). However, he could only be discharged after he had two consecutive “negative” test results from nasal swabs. Finally, he had those “negative” results on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th March.

Upon discharge, the doctor told him that he now has zero chance of being re-infected as his body has already developed strong antibodies against the virus. It means he can walk out freely without wearing a mask. We are so envious of him. He said it was his reward after spending 16 days in isolation, eating only boiled and steamed food (not even one meal was served with fried food). He even went to Universal Studios Singapore yesterday and told us: “there were no queues on any of the rides”!

I have learnt three important lessons from Covid-19:

(1) Freedom is something we take for granted until you lose it. Cherish your freedom. You never know when you will be served a quarantine order.

(2) Stocking up of essentials is not a stupid thing to do. My wife had always insisted we must have all the basic necessities, groceries and cleaning agents stored away, in case of emergencies. Our three-tiered freezer was filled to the brim with frozen food. This availed us with the welcome option of fresh home cooked meals.

(3) Thank God for the internet. Otherwise, we would have been bored to death.

We are thankful for supportive family and friends who check in on us daily. All these small little things made a big difference during difficult times. It seems like Covid-19 is not going away soon. Please adhere to all the health and travel advisories by the Singapore government.

Practise social distancing. Stay safe and stay home as much as you can.”